Venting the Range Hood

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Dear NH,
When placing an over-the-range microwave along an exterior wall, is it best to vent to the outdoors or recirculate the air with the filter? What are the advantages/disadvantages of each option?
MH from Lincoln, NE

In my homes, one of my first repair priorities has always been to vent the range hood to the outside. Of all the appliances in your home, the kitchen stove is by far the most polluting.

Steam-carried particles and the byproducts of frying or baking will make a mess of your kitchen walls and ceiling in short order, while in other rooms not only painted surfaces but draperies and furniture will also become soiled.

Of course, venting is sometimes impractical due to cost or impossible due to structural features in the home. In these circumstances, a recirculating vent hood is better than nothing.

Though the combination charcoal/mechanical filters have some effectiveness, they have some serious drawbacks. Just the resistance in the filtering medium alone decreases the effectiveness of the fan, allowing more smoke to escape filtration completely. Also, the well-intentioned charcoal filters in many hoods do a meager job of odor removal because they contain minimal amounts of activated charcoal.

You would think that a manufacturer would offer a range hood with serious air-cleaning capabilities. So far I've yet to discover one.

Until then, I must recommend external venting, without reservation, for any home that can accommodate it.

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