Ventilation is the process of exchanging fresh air from the outside with indoor air. Exhaust is the process of expelling indoor air to remove an unwanted substance such as moisture, smoke or food particles. Exhaust vents for kitchen cooktops are used to expel the unwanted airborne material caused by cooking. In the state of Oregon, it has been a legal requirement that all cooktops and ranges must be equipped with an exhaust vent that connects to the exterior. Check your local building codes to see what the requirements are in your area.
Ductless vents provide air cleaning through a filtration system where the air from the stove top is sucked through a charcoal or other type of filter then expelled back into the air. Charcoal filters can remove smoke and particulates, but they do not address carbon monoxide emissions.
Ducted vents exhaust the air through duct work to the outside (they should not exhaust to a wall space or attic for fire safety reasons). They provide the ideal amount of airflow for exhaust, but they can block sight lines and be expensive to install for a kitchen island, especially with tall ceilings.
Vents that suck the air from the cooktop down then exhaust it are much better for sight lines since they are underneath the cooktop and kitchen island. They require more fan strength, however, to overcome the tendency of hot air to rise, so they may be louder than overhead installations.
Carbon monoxide fumes are only a concern with natural gas cooktops, not electric ranges. Still, however, cooking can produce smoke, moisture and airborne food particles that need to be exhausted. Check your local codes for the legal requirements in your area. If it's not legally mandated, it's still a good idea to have some sort of exhaust system in place.
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