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Your outdoor kitchen is going to produce heat and gas pressure that needs to be released, and that is where your outdoor ventilation comes into play. This guide will touch on the basics of outdoor ventilation including vent hoods, fans, and vent panels. We hope to clear up any confusion about this crucial safety feature for your new outdoor kitchen.
The reality is, all grills and smokers release smoke – even if they claim to be smokeless. This mix of carbon, animal fat, and other chemical molecules is happy to cling to your ceilings, walls, and other kitchen surfaces. This can result in compromised electrical equipment, gunk caked on everything, clogged ports and burners, corroded stainless steel, and more. Not only will a vent hood help maintain cleanliness in your outdoor kitchen, but it will help you avoid having to make expensive restorations over time.
Additionally, a vent hood is legally required for safety reasons in most cases, depending on your local legal codes and laws. You can contact your local building code or code inspection office to find out what these restrictions are for you. As a general rule, we highly recommend a vent hood if your grill is under a roof with at least two adjoining walls and/or has poor cross-ventilation. You should also always check what your grill’s manufacturer suggests.
One of the first things you’ll need to consider is the CFM, or cubic feet per minute. This is the air volume a vent hood can move from a room. The construction, size and number of blowers, and ducting requirements can impact the CFM. There is a large range of CFM choices among the large selection of vent hoods available.
Indoor cooktops look at the maximum BTU count (British Thermal Units). You’ll want a vent hood with at least one CFM per 100 BTUs indoors. Similarly, you should stick to at least one CFM per 100 BTUs outdoors, but we suggest you always have a minimum of 1,200 CFM for any outdoor application. More CFM is only going to make your outdoor living space safer and healthier, so as far as we’re concerned, you should go big!
Your vent hood should cover the entire cooking surface of your grill, plus cover at least 3 inches extra on both sides. It should also be as deep as the grill (or bigger). You might want to get an even wider hood if you plan to use it for more than one appliance. If needed, you can purchase extensions to install behind your vent hood so the entire cooking surface is covered.
How you choose to mount your vent hood is going to depend on the placement of your outdoor appliances. You can choose a wall-mounted, island-mounted, or under-cabinet vent hood, or even vent inserts.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that wall-mounted vent hoods are the best option for built-in or freestanding grills that you put against a wall in your outdoor kitchen. Again, make sure the vent hood will cover the entire BBQ grill or smoker – both in width and depth. Barbecue grills often vent their heat and gas up the back of the appliance, so you’ll want that full coverage to protect your walls. Speaking of, wall-mounted vent hoods require vertical ducting to run up the wall and through the ceiling or out the back wall horizontally.
If you opt for an island-mounted vent hood, it will hang down from the ceiling over the island/barbeque grill. These vent hoods will have a flared-head design. Island-mounted vent hoods also have skinnier ducting, where wall-mounted vent hoods usually incorporate the wall into the ducting.
An under-cabinet vent hood moves the smoky air out of your outdoor cooking space where vent inserts use more of a catch-and-release method to filter out the smoke molecules. Under-cabinet vent hoods work well for outdoor grills, but inserts usually work best with low-BTU appliances and are often used indoors. Regardless, the smoke needs a way out, so your under-cabinet vent hoods still need to be ducted.
Ducting isn’t exactly the prettiest part of a ventilation system, so you may want duct covers to disguise your ducting. Duct covers can blend the ducting with your stainless steel components to make it less obvious, and these are usually available as accessories to your specific manufacturer’s models.
Another thing you might want to add to your outdoor ventilation system is ceiling or wall-mounted outdoor fans. Not only do these help with cross-ventilation, but they also will help keep you and your guests cool when you’re running the grill on a hot day.
If you’re adding a built-in grill, smoker, refrigerator, freezer, icemaker, or kegerator to your BBQ island, you will need island vent panels. These can dissipate heat, gas, and pressure before they have a chance to build up in your island and damage or explode your appliances and island.
In short, we are big “fans” of outdoor ventilation (sorry, we couldn’t resist). If you still have questions about what type of ventilation you should go with in your outdoor kitchen, please feel free to give us a call at 800-437-4188. We’re happy to talk you through these systems in more detail so you can be sure your outdoor kitchen is up to code.