Updraft vs Downdraft Systems: Choosing the right ventilation for your kitchen

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Have you ever paid attention to the role that your kitchen’s ventilation system plays in keeping it fresh and airy? Well if you haven’t, let us break it down for you – a kitchen without a properly functioning ventilation system will be hot, smoky, and messy.

There is so much heat (and smoke!) coming in from cooking pans that windows or basic exhausts are often not enough. It’s really important to extract all the smoke out of the kitchen so that the space doesn’t become suffocating or dangerous. 

You must also protect the walls from staining smoke! Be sure to also check our guide to the best quiet bathroom fan!

Now, just a singular exhaust fan above your stove is not a ventilation system. A proper ventilation system is decided by the kitchen’s interior, its orientation, how you cook, and the atmosphere you're living in. 

There are a lot of ventilation systems you can choose from, but it needs to be a really informed decision since it’s a long-term investment and will affect the functionality of your kitchen. 

hoods in kitchen
Image credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

Ventilation systems come in basic two categories: Updraft and Downdraft. 

Updraft Ventilation

Updraft ventilation systems are considered to be really effective. They involve three basic components:

  • A Hood
  • A Blower
  • An external pathway to vent the smoke and heat 

Modern designs are fitted with more centralized systems that have sleeker designs to fit the modern requirements of kitchen interiors. They often come with self-cleaning options as well!

The reason they are really effective is because they are located right on top of the stove and the new and improved designs serve as a style statement in their own right as well! They’re really popular in minimalistic kitchens and spaces that have high traffic. 

 A good quality updraft system will cover an area of about 3” – 5” in depth and will give you an excellent long lasting ventilation system!

The only drawback to updraft systems is that even self-cleaning systems might need some extra cleaning, but if you do a lot of cooking and have frequent BBQs, then updraft systems are definitely an excellent option for you to consider for your next kitchen upgrade! 

Kitchen Ventilation Updraft vs Downdraft

Downdraft Ventilation

Downdraft ventilation systems are integrated into your kitchen’s base cabinets or countertops. 

There are vents located on the sides, at the back, or sometimes they are centered around the stovetops. New and improved designs include an extra blower and vent that resemble an updraft system and some can even be adjusted using a remote control!

These downdraft systems are a good option for kitchens that have functional stoves on the islands or generate a lot of steam. They’re really easy to clean and they can clear out nasty smells from the kitchen! 

Both updraft and downdraft systems come in variations that suited to different kitchens depending on their usage and many other factors. 

Now once you decide which type or system you need, the work doesn’t end there. There are many other factors that need to be considered, such as the size of the ventilation hood, the volume of air, the style of your kitchen, and more.

downdraft ventilation in kitchen
Image credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

The two most important factors you need to consider before finalizing a ventilation system for your kitchen:

Kitchen Orientation

Every kitchen has a different layout and working triangle – the space between the stove, the sink, and the food prep area. Your ventilation system needs to be placed in a way that's either right above or placed closed to the stovetop.

The dimensions of the kitchen and the size of appliances also affect the size of the hood.

Cooktops without hoods in front of them can benefit from downdraft systems, while high traffic kitchens with less natural ventilation should consider updraft systems. 

kitchen orientations examples
Image credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

Air Capacity of the blower

Both updraft and downdraft systems use blowers to vent out the air. Now the size of the blower matters a lot because it directly affects the functionality of your ventilation system. Two things come into play here:

  • The heat output of the cooktops
  • The air pumped out (per minute) by the blower

Depending on these two factors, you can choose the blower and the width of the ventilation hoods!

Not just the size of the kitchen but also the theme of the kitchen should be considered while choosing the best ventilation solution. Even with a lot of natural ventilation and air flow, a kitchen cannot go without some extra ventilation and you can keep in mind our handy tips while choosing the perfect ventilation system for you! The professional kitchen remodelers at Kitchen Infinity can help you to choose the right ventilation in the form of quiet exhaust fans for your next home improvement project. 


Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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