Like bathrooms, kitchens need to be well ventilated. From time to time, I come across houses during inspections that have no mechanical ventilation, and this is an issue that should be remedied as soon as possible to ensure cleanliness, health and longevity of the kitchen components.
Kitchens and bathrooms both experience high levels of moisture (bathrooms more), but kitchens are also prone to something that bathrooms aren’t – cooking residue. To ensure good indoor air quality, kitchens need a way of filtering food particles in addition to expelling moisture.
There are two methods used in most kitchens to accomplish this important task, and both can be either direct to the exterior or recirculating. The most common forms of kitchen ventilation are above-range microwaves and vent hoods. Typically (but not always) vent hoods expel air to the exterior and above-range microwaves provide recirculating ventilation. In both cases, the venting equipment contains a filter screen intended to trap cooking residue as it is drawn upwards, and the screens – like all filters – need to be cleaned periodically to function well.
Fortunately, microwaves and vent hoods both usually have multiple fan speeds, so you can adjust the power of ventilation to suit your cooking needs (low or medium when boiling water and high when cooking a steak on the stovetop, for example).
While either method of ventilation works, venting directly to the exterior is preferred so the air is removed from the interior of the home. This is much easier when the range (stove) is against an exterior wall, and ventilation often proves difficult when a range is centrally located in a kitchen.
If you don’t know whether your kitchen ventilation is recirculating or direct to the exterior, you can easily find out. If a vent hood is present on the exterior behind where the range is located, your kitchen air is almost certainly vented to the outside. If you have a microwave above your range, you can put your hand above the top front portion of the microwave. If the microwave is providing recirculating ventilation, you will feel air coming out the top.
Likewise, if the air is vented to the exterior there is typically square ducting above the vent hood or in the cabinetry above the microwave or vent hood.
If you aren’t already familiar with your kitchen’s ventilation system or don’t know if it is properly ventilated, take the time to check based on the guidelines of this article. If you don’t have adequate ventilation, make getting it installed a priority. If ventilation exists, ensure you are cleaning the filter screens on your above-range microwave or vent hood as often as needed.
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