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Agonizing over Downdraft vs Hood

April 19, 2011

We are replacing an very very very old JennAir downdraft clunker when we install granite counters on our peninsula. Since we already have downdraft it's the less expensive option for us to stick with downdraft. We are planning on a 36 induction cooktop, and would need to go with a pop-up vent hood if we stick with downdraft. I know an island hood would be much more effective, but it will be more expensive and my DH is concerned about it looking ugly (I like the hood look).

My concern is the reliability of a pop-up. Even if I can live with the downdraft being less effective, is it a huge risk to be stuck with the cutout for the pop up if it stops working or we just plain hate it? I'm thinking both of our satisfaction and of future resale value. Granite is not something I want to replace down the road to keep up with my appliances.

How reliable are the pop-up vents? We are looking at a Kitchenaid, but have not made a purchase yet. DH is pressuring me to make up my mind, and I have to decide if I want to push the hood issue knowing that it's money he'd rather not spend.

Comments (23)
  • stooxie

    What about getting a popup and spending another couple hundred bucks on lengthy service contract? Seems like most appliance makers sell service contracts for 5 years or more. I think places like Sears will keep them going somewhat indefinitely, too, if it's been under maintenance.

    Might be a good way to get a popup but still be protected.

    I had a GE Profile popup. It worked. It did break, however, when it got caught up on a utensil vase that was sitting next to it. I freed it and the unit dropped the rest of the way down as opposed to being lowered. Never worked again and we remodeled the kitchen to go with a hood.


  • eandhl

    I had a Thermador pop up for 5 years and had no problems. It worked "good" but I did have to tilt pan lids on the front burners to direct steam toward the vent. On the back burners it was very good. I now have a hood and without doubt it is better.

  • happycooker

    Thanks for the replies. I consider myself and avid cook, and we prefer to cook rather than eat out (time permitting with kids' many after-school activities). What I am hearing on GW is that very few actually LIKE their downdraft and that it's grudgingly accepted when there are no other options. It seems the pop-ups will break eventually, possibly beyond repair. I could live with the pop-up's ineffectiveness if it was not such a commitment in a granite cut-out.

    I see a hood in my future :)

  • kaseki

    The question of whether an effective pop-up can be built is interesting.

    In my view, in order for a pop-up to conceptually approach the effectiveness of a properly selected hood, it would have to provide a air flow field at the front of the cook-top of the order of three feet per second horizontal. This would "bend" the upwelling effluent vector at about a 45-degree angle toward the pop-up. the pop-up would have to be taller than the front-back dimension of the cook-top for capture. (The actual trajectory would be curved due to the rising velocity as the air neared the pop-up, and would have to be modeled to determine the necessary pop-up height.)

    The problem with this is that the air flow outside an aperture drops rapidly with distance, so the velocity at the pop-up would have to be a significant multiple of 3 ft/s. To flow this much air would force the pop-up to be moderately deep, and then the pop-up cavity would have to transition to a large duct in the cabinet below.

    To pull the few thousand cfm that this would imply through all these transitions and the filter mesh would require a healthy commercial sized exhaust fan. The air passing the mesh would be noisy, and the ability of the mesh to capture grease at that velocity would need analysis. Vertical baffles might be better for such a system.


  • John Liu

    The few times I've cooked with a pop-up, in other people's kitchens, the rising pop-up has always caught a pot handle and nearly caused a spill. You'd get used to this if it were your own kitchen, of course.

    The pop-ups have never been particularly effective, and forced me to do my searing and frying on the back burners, reaching over the pots on the front burners.

    I really don't like pop-ups, or downdrafts in general.

    I'd never thought of the counter replacement issue. Can't pop-ups be removed and replaced from below, inside the cabinet? I admit to never having studied how they are constructed.

  • judeNY_gw

    I have a downdraft and made a conscious choice to trade off some functionality for an unobstructed sight line. It works for me and I am not disappointed. I don't fry frequently and don't wok. Cutouts are pretty standard and I don't expect that the counter cutout will be the biggest issue when it is time to replace it. The taller the rise, the better.

  • mojavean

    Personally, I'd just get a hood. It will work much better, be less complicated (no extension or retraction) and thus less prone to failure, and it will be in the proper position to catch all the greasy smoke. Also, if you get one with halogen lighting, it makes the cooking a lot more pleasant. I don't always turn on the venting fan, but I use the lights every time I cook.

  • maire_cate

    We didn't want a hood dominating our kitchen and blocking the view out our bay window. We had a Thermador popup for 18 years and when we remodeled 6 years ago we went with a Dacor cooktop and pop up vent with a remote blower. We never had a problem with either brand.

  • xand83

    This might be completely unhelpful, but what about some of those brands (Jenn Air comes to mind) that include a down draft vent in their ranges/cook tops? That way, it's combined with the standard-sized appliance and not to a special granite cutout.

    Of course, this only addresses your aesthetics concern, maybe not so much the effectiveness issue some have with downfrafts.

  • happycooker

    Thanks again for all the great feedback.

    johnliu - my cutout concern is if I (or future owner) no longer want the pop-up, you are left with a hole in the counter or a non-functioning pop-up to plug the hole and support the cooktop.

    xand83 - unfortunately, the induction cooktops are not offered with the integrated downdraft. According to my appliance guy, there is not enough damand for induction to offer additional formats.

    I am not willing to budge on the induction, we don't have gas on our street, and I've never had a good experience with the smooth surface electric hobs. I once had a JennAir with smooth surface on one side, and coils on the other. I always used the coils to boil water for pasta, as the smooth side took so much longer. And since DH doesn't like potatoes, we cook a LOT of pasta. I do rice in my microwave - I love the automatic rice program (brown or white) on my GE Profile microwave!! But that might change when I get my pans on the induction :)

  • jsceva

    Theoretically, there actually is one induction with a built-in downdraft...but (a) they don't seem to have actually shipped any of them yet, despite having announced them quite a while ago (you can "reserve' one for $100, but no buy one), (b) IMHO it is very fugly and (c) though the company is apparently established as an OEM manufacturer, this is their first foray into producing a residential appliance under their own name..so they have essentially zero relevant track record.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Western Premium downdraft induction

  • eandhl

    I had a JenAir with the downdraft in a kit and it was pretty much worthless. The telescopes do a better job and hood better yet.

  • billy_g

    I'll be direct but I hope this doesn't come across wrong. A hood is for venting cooking fumes and a downdraft is a marketing joke that doesn't work. I have never seen one that is effective. The physics and mother nature are not on your side with downdraft...

    Have you ever lived in a house with one? If not it might be a good idea for you to find a friend who has a downdraft and do some cooking on it.

    It might be OK if you don't cook much or use high heat or boil liquids in tall pots.

    I hope you find something that works well for you in your kitchen! I'm sure you'll love the induction.


  • tarheel72

    We had a piece of crap downdraft Amana that was all we could get when we built the house in 1998. There is a window behind the cooktop to a hood vent is out. Last year when we updated I thought we were stuck but found out we could squeeze in a new Dacor cooktop with a Dacor pop up vent in the space and we were all over that. The vent works great and looks sexy. To be honest, we have a large kitchen/great room area and we really never need the venting anyway. With 15 foot ceilings in the kitchen that open into 20 foot ceilings in the great room, the venting is not that important. But the pop up works great. We were told that Dacor sold one of the thinnest pop ups and it did indeed work on our countertops. It had to clear a granite window sill and it did, by about 1/16th of an inch.

  • kaseki


    Is the intended point of your message that it is harder to see condensed grease when it is 20 feet up instead of 8 feet, or is it that your total surface area for deposit is so large that you can cook in the house for the length of time you expect to live there before the grease becomes obvious?


  • stacieann63

    I kept my Jennair downdraft cooktop with my recent remodel. I cook every night and have not had an issue with the downdraft not venting properly. I do hate how loud it is and how large pots do not fit well. If centered on the burner they want to sit on the vent. Its good to know other options may be available soon such as the induction downdrafts. That said, if I had a choice, I would go for the hood.
    My last house had a 10' kitchen ceiling that opened to a 20' familyroom. I would never dream of cooking without using the vents. We had windows 15' up. Can you imagine what they would look like?

  • lolog72

    I did a Miele induction cooktop with a KA retractable downdraft. I think it works just fine. I didn't want a big hood, but wanted something that disappeared when not in use. I love it. The only time it doesn't work so well is with really tall stock pots where the top of the pot is higher than the downdraft.

  • happycooker

    It's been a while, but we did finally make a decision. While my new induction cooktop is still in the box, waiting for the granite to arrive, we have already installed a 36" KitchenAid island hood. In general I am happy with the choice. My DH is not so happy.
    The hood seems to work great, though a little hard to tell since our old cooktop is 46" and my favorite cooking spots don't fall directly beneath the hood.
    The one issue we ran into was the height. We do not have high ceilings (9ft?). Turns out, the "adjustable" height of the unit is designed to accomodate the extra high ceiling, not the average. The installer could not make it any shorter than the fixed part of the hanging bracket and outer cover. So, it is lower than we wanted. I'm fine, because I am only 5'3". DH is a little taller and he keeps worrying he will hit his head on a corner. I think if I had known about the height thing, we might have kept looking at other models. But this is in our price range, and we have other KA appliances, including the induction cooktop that will soon live beneath it.

  • ApplianceSalesVet

    I would suggest the Bosch or Thermador pop-up for 2 reasons:

    1. They pop-up 13" tall, 3-5" more than typical pop-ups and will perform better, especially for taller pots.

    2. The plenum is raised up about 6" off the cabinet floor allowing the ducting to be easily connected at the existing location where the pipe comes into the cabinet. Other pop-ups will require modification to the existing duct work and cabinet flooring.

  • bherbst

    Go with the island hood. We just did a remodel and I faced the same dilemma. I actually had purchased a downdraft when a friend with one warned me against it. I ended up getting a Zephyr Napoli island for a good price through homeeverything.com and it works really well and looks great.

  • mltoms

    So happy cooker, what all did you have to do to get an island hood?

    I'm in a similar boat, watching my 20 year old jenn-aire die, hating downdraft, but not ready for a complete kitchen remodel.

  • Serene55

    Is there any problem with mixing and matching cooktop and downdrafts?

  • oasisowner

    We replaced our Jenn Air electric coil with a Jenn Air smooth top because of the integrated downdraft. We love the downdraft but hate the Jenn Air - some burners just will not boil water, oven temp is very uneven. If we went to a hood, could the exhaust be connected to the present downdraft venting? Otherwise, we would have to replace a piece of siding to cover up the old hole.

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