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Few activities bring a family closer together than food, and that is no less true outside than it is inside. However, with cooking comes smoke—and that’s sure to put a damper on even the merriest of gatherings. The solution is the same, no matter where the kitchen is: a vent hood. That said, if you’re bringing it outside, it has to be sturdy enough for the outdoors, and that’s where this article comes in! Here we’ll review the best outdoor vent hoods for their overall quality and design.
Choosing the Best Outdoor Vent Hoods
If your outdoors area is covered—such as a lanai, or a roofed patio—, then the answer is a most resounding yes. The lack of walls won’t be of much help in dissipating the smoke generated by your cooking: if you don’t have something to funnel it away right as it comes out, it will become a nuisance pretty quickly.
If you cook in an uncovered area, a vent hood is not so critically important, but it is still worth considering: starting with the fact that local regulations in many places all but require the installation of a vent hood, smoke is also well known for smearing the surrounding walls and surfaces—and who wants to deal with cleaning that?
How To Choose: Your Step-By-Step Guide
Even when we’re talking about a regular kitchen, picking the right vent hood takes some careful planning. What follows is a breakdown of the features that will be most relevant when choosing: nobody wants to buy a pricey item that ends up not fitting where we want it.
Your vent hood should, ideally, be larger than your range or BBQ, at least by a little; this will help it catch more smoke as it is emitted. You can also refer to your user manual, as most manufacturers will include vent hood size guidelines.
What is even CFM? It stands for Cubic Feet per Minute, and it is a volumetric unit of measurement used to express the flow of air. You will see it commonly associated with fans, and that is what makes it relevant to our current topic. The fan is what enables the hood to pull the smoke up and through the chute and, therefore, the stronger the better.
Bonus: adjustable speeds. This feature is useful for adapting to shifting wind conditions, so that the fan won’t be consuming more power than necessary.
3. Roof Cap
Or lack thereof. This essentially relates to how the smoke will escape the chute, and there are two options: either out the roof, or through a wall. The former is a more common and convenient choice, but some times a wall escape is better, depending on your area’s layout. The professional you hire for installation can always provide you with some advice.
All Flavor, No Smoke: Our Picks
The following models are all suited for their intended job; depending on their unique characteristics, one of these might just be the one you’re looking for.
Broan EPD6148SS 48″ Pro-Style Outdoor Hood
This one deserves extra consideration if you happen to be looking for an option capable of dealing with the smoke from your grill, as it is not only potent enough for the job (1,100 CFM), but it is also 27″ deep, so that a bigger volume of smoke will be funneled in. The fan does not have to work at full capacity if you don’t need it to, as the speed can be adjusted to any of 3 levels available. Unit comes with 2 slots for 2 36″ halogen bulbs built in, though the bulbs themselves are not included.
- Capable of redirecting large volumes of smoke, thanks to its size.
- Proprietary Heat Sentry system can detect heat variations and adjust the blower speed automatically.
- Filters are dishwasher safe.
- Unit will not be useful for grilling past midnight right out of the box; to gain lighting, a separate search and purchase must be made.
If, to you, variety is the spice of life, then this particular choice might speak to you more loudly than most, as it offers a total of six sizes and six styles for you to choose from. It’s even possible to choose the sort of venting it does—conventional or ductless—, due to it being designed to accept carbon filters, although said filters have to be procured separately. The fan can be set to any of 4 speeds available (120, 240, 320 and 400 CFM), for optimal control on the unit’s performance. For duct installations, package includes 2 telescopic chimney pieces.
- Wide variety of sizes and shapes make it easier to find the right fit for the location and budget available.
- Sound level is quite low, comparable in intensity to that of a running refrigerator.
- Fan potency is remarkably low—about half the level of a great many other alternatives.
Made in 19 gauge (i.e. 1mm thick) stainless steel, this one comes with most of the standard offer that can be expected for this market segment: 900 CFM maximum power, 4 speed levels to set the fan to, 2 LED lights for when you’re cooking past sundown, and baffle filters that can be put through the dishwasher. The hood comes with a remote control, and it can also be operated through a touch control panel at the front; this includes a fairly uncommon (for this type of product) timer function that allows you to set a running time of 1 to 9 minutes.
- The timer feature makes it possible to let the unit run for only as long as necessary, without any need to worry about forgetting to turn it off after cooking is done.
- Far easier to operate at a distance, thanks to the remote control it includes.
- Remarkably noisy operation at maximum speed.
This one is a potentially good pick if you tend to gravitate towards more sophisticated looks, as the backlit touch control pad gives the entire thing a decidedly modern vibe. The fan can run at a maximum speed of 900, and features 4 speed levels to select from. 2 LED lights at the bottom provide lighting should you need it, and the baffles protecting the ductwork are dishwasher safe. A 6″ round duct is required during installation, for optimal external ventilation.
Should you be often concerned about forgetting to turn the unit off, you can rely on a delayed auto-shutoff feature, with a fixed duration of 15 minutes.
- Additional emphasis on its good looks thanks to the backlit control panel.
- Positively regarded for its relatively easy installation.
- Some of the grates can fall off without warning, which can be particularly inconvenient while cooking.
- Frequent issues reported with the built-in lights, such as flickering or failing to turn on/off.
Blaze 42-Inch Stainless Steel Outdoor Vent Hood
This one is somewhat expensive aside from large, but it does justify its price quite well: it comes with not one, but two blowers with a maximum speed of 1000 CFM, and they feature 4 potency levels to choose from, so they don’t have to work harder than the volume of smoke actually requires. This one has nothing to fear from heavier work such as when grilling, thanks to the commercial grade baffles that act as protection to keep any stray grease away from the duct, and it includes lights so your cooking doesn’t have to stop when the sun sets.
- More potent than average thanks to its dual blower system.
- The ability to control each fan individually grants additional control over the vent hood’s performance and power consumption.
- Unit is particularly heavy—close to 140lbs; this could make it difficult to move around prior to installation.
The One We Like Most: ZLINE KB-304-36
It’s true that in terms of potency it may be found severely lacking, compared to many others that are currently available—to the point that it might be unqualified for areas that often see strong winds. That said, the unit is still designed for outdoors operation, and its lower CFM rating means a lower price to match, making it accessible to a wider range of budgets.
Another point in its favor, is the variety of sizes and configurations on offer: one of them features a far higher 1200 CFM power rating, quite a comfortable level for just about any lanai. The one drawback, understandably, is that it is priced twice as high as the specific option we presented here.
Going in between your patio and house often while you’re cooking outdoors? Consider upgrading your patio screen door with some of the models we’ve reviewed!