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Do You Need an Exhaust Fan in Your Kitchen?

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By Blake Lockwood | Curated by Blake Lockwood | Reviewed by Blake Lockwood

Blake Lockwood, the seasoned interior designer behind Decor Snob, has made a name for himself with over 30 years of industry experience. As a member of esteemed associations such as the NCIDQ, CIDA, NAAB, and CCIDC, he upholds high standards in his work.  His content is always people-first, reliable, and engaging.

Is an Exhaust Fan Required in a Kitchen

If you are remodeling your kitchen, you may wonder, “Do I need an exhaust fan in my kitchen?” Some kitchens have hoods or vents. Others don’t seem to have any kind of vent system at all. What’s going on here?

An exhaust fan is required in a kitchen. A kitchen exhaust fan removes particles, smoke, carcinogens, and odors from your kitchen’s air. They prevent your house from filling up with cooking smoke and setting off alarms. Many local residential building codes require them. For the sake of your family’s health, it’s always best to have one.

If you don’t have a kitchen exhaust fan, you may end up with a major mess. Smoke can fill up your house and set off alarms. The smoke and food smells leftover can stink. Smells might even linger for a few days afterward. And that same stink gets on your clothes. Finally, it’s bad for your health to inhale cooking smoke and carcinogens.

Overall, the answer will depend on your location. A general rule for exhaust fans in kitchens does not exist. That said, some residential building codes do require a hood or a vent. Wherever you live, you need to know the law and the pros and cons of kitchen exhaust fans.

According to Zillow’s Mary Boone, “Most residential building codes do not require a range hood above a stove or cooktop.” That’s good news if you weren’t planning on adding one.

Boone goes on to say, “But you’d be wise to ensure your locale is not the exception. Even if it’s not legally required, you should think long and hard before forgoing a hood altogether.”

The reason for this is simple. Hoods provide kitchens with needed ventilation during cooking. While cooking on the stove, particles often come out of the food. These can end up all over the place if not vented out of the room right away.

On the flip side, hoods do require more work and expense to install. Better kitchen fans tend to exhaust on the outside. If your stove doesn’t sit on an exterior wall of your home, it can take even longer.

So, let’s first take a look at the law. Then, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of each type in more detail.

Is an Exhaust Fan Required in a Kitchen by Law?

The law does not state that you must have a kitchen fan. But, your local residential building code might have its own guide to follow.

If your building code says you need an exhaust fan in your kitchen, get one. That said, you do have a couple of options. Two main types of kitchen exhaust fan exist.

Once you’ve decided on the type, you can install the exhaust fan in your kitchen. Let’s take a look at the main kinds of kitchen exhaust fans available.

What Are the Different Types of Kitchen Exhaust Fans?

The popular TV channel HGTV says that you’ve got a few choices. They write, “Homeowners have various options that can be grouped into two categories.” The two options are “exhaust fans that vent outdoors and exhaust fans that don’t.”

You might wonder how each one of these works. On the first hand, you can have the exhaust fan exit outside your home. On the other hand, your kitchen exhaust fan can recirculate your air indoors.

Both do fit the description of an exhaust fan. That said, one is better than the other.

Which Exhaust Fan Is Best for My Kitchen?

Any exhaust fan’s primary goal is to clean out the air in your kitchen. As you might expect, fans that blow the air outside the home work best for this. You can cook without worrying about what particles soar around your home.

HGTV writes, “It pulls polluted air out of the kitchen through ducting and exhausts it through a vent in the roof.” Zillow adds that “airborne grease, moisture, and cooking odors” all get removed by good fans.

The other type of fans function like those on an airplane. They clean off the air before blowing it back into the room. They’re also often quite a bit louder than exterior venting fans. It’s no surprise then that these exhaust fans aren’t the fan-favorite.

Even so, the recirculating type does cost less and can get installed almost anywhere. Kitchen exhaust fans that vent outside the home do cost more. They also require a longer install process that involves your home’s walls.

Summary of Kitchen Exhaust Fan Requirements

While some residential building codes may not require you to have a kitchen exhaust fan, it’s wise to have one. They remove all sorts of particles and odors from your kitchen air.

These include grease out of the pan, moisture floating around, and cooking smells. It’s better for your family to have an exhaust fan installed in your kitchen.

If you do get a kitchen exhaust fan, try to find a good exterior venting one. These allow your indoor air to stay clean and clear, and they’re often quieter too. More expensive? Yes, but worth it in the end.

The indoor recirculating vents do not offer the same kind of results. Air gets brushed off, but it comes right back in. This means you get stuck with nasty kitchen odors. Particles can even get plastered to your wall and cabinets.

You’ll wish you had gone for the better kind anyway. Why not get it to begin with?

At the end of the day, remember these 4 quick facts.

  1. Kitchen exhaust fans are not required in most places.
  2. While not required, you should still have one installed.
  3. Outdoor venting fans function better overall.
  4. Indoor fans cost less, but create loud sounds and don’t work as well.

It’s up to you whether you install a kitchen fan. It’s better to have one than not. But, if you can opt for the exterior venting solution.

Do you still have questions about exhaust fans in your kitchen? Wondering which one to get or how to get it installed? Let me know! I love to answer your decor questions and respond to each and every one.

Photo: Santa I Contracting Corp

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