What Is A Downdraft Extractor? – A Helpful Guide
Looking for a discreet and stylish cooker hood for your kitchen? Then a downdraft extractor could be the answer.
These extractors are a great solution if you have a hob on an island or simply don’t like the look of overhead cooker hoods.
Downdraft extractors are relatively new to the cooker hood market. They provide an elegant answer to a common kitchen design conundrum.
In this post, I’ll explain what a downdraft extractor is and how it works. I’ll also take you through the pros, cons and installation information so you’ll know if it’s the right choice for your kitchen.
What Is A Downdraft Extractor?
A downdraft extractor is a cooker hood that’s fitted flush into the kitchen countertop behind a hob. When in use, it rises out of the work surface about 30-40cm and extracts the air over the hob.
Downdraft extractors are most commonly used on kitchen islands, although you can fit one in a run of cabinets. You just need to have sufficient space between the hob and the wall.
They’re a good choice if you want extraction on an island but you can’t have (or don’t want) a cooker hood on the ceiling above or hanging down blocking your view, or if you’d rather have some nice pendant lights overhead instead.
How Does A Downdraft Extractor Work?
Downdraft extractors work by drawing back steam and smells horizontally across the top of the pots and pans on your hob.
Unlike overhead cooker hoods, downdraft extractors suck in the air (steam, grease and smells) directly from the source as you cook and don’t allow the air to rise into the room.
The extracted air passes through grease filters and is then either vented out via ducting or recirculated back into your kitchen after passing through carbon filters to remove the smells.
Top tip: Check if you need to purchase a motor and/or ducting kit separately as some models may not include these as standard.
Also, if you’re using the extractor in recirculating mode, you’ll need to purchase carbon (charcoal) filters too.
Advantages Of A Downdraft Extractor
- Sleek, discreet and hidden design. Perfect for modern kitchens.
- Allows freedom for your hob to be located pretty much anywhere without concerns about having space above for an extractor.
- Doesn’t hang down from the ceiling and block sightlines. Ideal for extraction on kitchen islands and open-plan living.
- Different motor installation positions give flexibility when designing the kitchen.
Disadvantages Of A Downdraft Extractor
- Not as effective as an overhead cooker hood; hot air and grease travel too fast upwards for the extractor to draw all the air in and catch the grease/smells. It’s fighting physics.
- Pans at the front of the hob don’t get the same extraction efficiency as pans at the back of the hob due to positioning.
- Not ideal for gas hobs as the fan pulls the flame, causing uneven heat distribution.
- They take up a lot of space in the cabinet below or behind. This should be factored in during the design stage.
- It can feel anti-social if it’s in front of a breakfast bar seating area as the extractor rises quite high and can block conversation.
- Downdraft extractors can be significantly more expensive than an overhead cooker hood.
- Installation is often more difficult compared with an overhead cooker hood.
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Downdraft Extractor Installation Information
There are several installation considerations when it comes to downdraft extractors. Understanding and planning for these in advance can save a lot of hassle later on.
As some downdraft extractors are installed into the cabinet beneath them, they can take up space and cause you to lose storage capacity in that cabinet.
Allow for space, either in the cabinet, behind in a void, or a cabinet on the other side (if installed in a kitchen island).
How you install the motor will also impact on the amount of space you will need. With most models, the motor can either be installed alongside the extractor housing or separately a little further away, in line with the ducting.
Some models even have options for external motors (fitted outside of your house) or motors that fit underneath the plinth. Check the make and model to find out what options you have.
Recirculating or Vented
As with nearly all cooker hoods these days, you have two options when it comes to the type of extraction. Recirculating or vented.
When it comes to downdraft extractors, recirculating is much easy to install but it’s not as effective at removing grease and smells as vented extraction.
If you want vented extraction it will require planning in advance to install the ducting from the hob position to an outside wall. If the hob is on an island, this will mean running the ducting through the floor. So preparations will need to be made before you install your kitchen cabinets.
Diagrams showing the space requirements and some of the different options for installing the motor.
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What Is The Difference Between Vented And Recirculating Extractors?
Can You Have A Downdraft Extractor With A Gas Hob?
Yes. You should always double-check but most manufacturers say that their downdraft extractors are for use with both gas and induction hobs.
However, if you are planning to have a gas hob, some downdraft extractors may affect the performance on the back burners as the flame can be drawn towards the extractor. This can affect even heat distribution.
Are Downdraft Extractors As Good As Overhead Cooker Hoods?
In short, no.
With a downdraft extractor, you are trading extraction effectiveness for the design freedom it provides.
Without going too heavy into physics, the speed that heat rises is faster than the extractor can suck the air across the hob. This means that some of the grease and smells will escape the extraction and go into your room.
Because a downdraft extractor is not above the hob to catch all these particles as they rise, it will always be battling this action and will never be as effective as an overhead cooker hood.
So, if you’re a serious chef who does a lot of cooking and wants the most effective cooker hood, then you’re probably better off with an overhead model.
There you have it! A helpful guide to downdraft extractors.
While not quite as effective as an overhead cooker hood, they offer some great benefits and design solutions. Especially when it comes to extracting on a kitchen island.
So if you’re looking fora sleek and hidden design or just can’t find the space for an overhead cooker hood, you’ve found a great option. Will you go for a downdraft extractor in your new kitchen?
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.