Do I Need An Exhaust Fan In My Kitchen?

Date Published: June 5, 2023

Having good indoor air quality in the residential setting is essential to healthy and safe living. The kitchen is one of those rooms that can heavily influence the content of your indoor air – think steam, smoke, grease, fumes etc. It’s no wonder then that so many kitchens are equipped with exhaust fans.

As an experienced Colorado Home Inspection company, we have grown accustomed to varying scenarios of kitchen ventilation. And the fact is that not all kitchens have exhaust fans. Many of our clients tend to find this odd. Some even think it is in violation of some type of code.

But are exhaust fans actually required in residential kitchens? In this blog, we will discuss it in more detail and hopefully help to clear up the air (pun intended).

The Truth About Kitchen Exhaust Fans

Believe it or not, exhaust fans are not technically required in residential kitchens. If you take a look at Section 501 of the International Mechanical Code (IMC), you will find extensive rules regarding commercial kitchen ventilation, but the same rules do not apply in the domestic setting.

While it is not mandated by code, it is certainly still a good idea to equip your kitchen with some solid ventilation. We’ve all been in those situations when a hot pot of pasta billows steam into the air, or a plume of smoke exits the microwave when popcorn is left in for too long. Now all of a sudden you have a cloud of haze that needs somewhere to go. In these common scenarios, exhaust fans come in clutch!

That’s why we are always on the lookout when conducting home inspections. If our inspectors notice that a kitchen exhaust fan is missing or defective, they will be sure to make note of it in their report.

Ducted vs Ductless Exhaust Systems

There are two primary exhaust systems – ducted and ductless. Ducted systems are a common configuration, generally seen as a range hood set up over a stove top. When configured properly, their ducts should be set up to terminate at the outside of the home.

kitchen with range hood exhaust fan

Our inspectors keep a close eye on these exhaust systems. Any duct that is terminating inside the home will definitely be flagged for repair. Section 505 of the 2018 IMC has a breakdown of all the requirements for exhaust duct design.

Even though it is not required by code, we still strongly recommend ducted exhaust systems in kitchens with gas stoves. This is the most effective way to direct potentially harmful fumes, moisture and even carbon monoxide out of the house and away from fresh breathing air.

On the other hand, ductless exhaust systems (sometimes known as recirculation exhaust systems) do not terminate outside. Instead, these devices take in kitchen fumes and run them through charcoal filters. The remaining byproduct is a much more reduced and neutral vapor, which is expelled out of the exhaust device.

We have had many clients who are skeptical about ductless exhaust fans. However, as long as you have an electric stove and good filters in your system, this a perfectly viable option. In fact, it is a great alternative when building a duct system is not a feasible option.

Ducted vs ductless exhaust fans

Ducted (left) vs Ductless (right) exhaust fans. Image sourced from:

Clearing Up The Air

Here at Scott Home Inspection, a division of Scott Home Services, we are all about helping Colorado Families live in safe, healthy, and comfortable homes. So it follows that, regardless of national code, our inspectors will usually advocate for some type of sufficient ventilation method.

If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to us on our Ask Your Inspector page. Also, if you are in need of home inspection services, feel free to visit us online or contact us today!

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About the Author: Chris Kimmel

Chris Kimmel worked as an Associate Home Inspector for two years, handling numerous services including sewer scope inspections, pest inspections, mold air sample testing, radon testing, and water quality testing. Chris now works with Scott Home Inspection as a Content Writing Specialist.

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