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I have a commercial range, 36x24" on which I do things like stirfrying for 30 people using a 24" wok. Our hood which advertises 900CFM is performing poorly. It uses a 6" duct which has to run up 3' and then horizontally through the ceiling for about 15'. I plan to either have the hood replaced or the duct size increased, or probably both.

@Tester101 provides a helpful formula for necessary CFM this similar question though I'm surprised it doesn't consider duct length and width at all. But since my small kitchen is open to a large dining room with 12' ceilings, and we're talking about a commercial range, I probably should have 1200CFM. I've seen 1200CFM hoods with only 6" ducts, but given I need to run 15' in the wall, I think the duct needs to be bigger.

Do you think an 8" duct is enough or should I go for 10"? I really don't want to find it insufficient so I'm thinking of doing 10. What if I did stick with my 900CFM hood, then would 8" be enough?

Added on 12/3: Thanks for your comments everyone. We ended up installing a ten inch duct, a no-nonsense custom built hood. and putting the fan outside: http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/BROAN-Exhaust-Ventilator-4YG73 - 600CFM but it works a lot better than the 900CFM hood we had before, though I think we probably shouldn't have dropped the CFM.

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Does the hood manufacturer provide guidance on how the ducting limits maximum flow rate? Seems like the sort of thing they're likely to have tested and would be happy to provide authoritative answers for. –  Shimon Rura Oct 9 '12 at 3:24
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Tester101's formula gives you a target performance level for a typical installation. The actual performance of your installation will depend on not only length and duct size, but number of bends, outlet grille design, fan performance criteria, acceptable velocity (noise), etc. Just a gut feeling, I would be surprised if the flow of your current hood was significantly improved by a larger duct. –  bcworkz Oct 9 '12 at 20:57
    
Thicker ducts may not be the answer here, since The exhaust fan can only push the air so far. While a thicker duct might increase this distance slightly, you may require an inline booster fan to actually move the air such a great distance. The manufacturers installation instructions should list the maximum duct length, which should not be exceed no matter how large the duct is. –  Tester101 Dec 3 '12 at 12:57
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1 Answer

I think the focus on the duct size and length is misleading here. Duct size can matter if it is a severe restriction in the system, but a factor more likely to be a problem is that you are using a axial fan and not an centrifugal fan.

tl;dr

  • manufacturers specify flow rate for range hood fans at zero static pressure
  • at the flow you need, the fan will encountered a non-trivial amount of static pressure
  • axial fans do not achieve high flow rates other than at very low static pressures
  • accordingly, the manufacturer's specified flow rate for axial range hood fans is not a good indication of the flow rate you will experience once it is installed
  • centrifugal fans do achieve decent flow rates at static pressures typical in range hood installations and their flow rate once installed will be close but still lower than the manufacturer's specified flow rate
  • select a centrifugal fan for your range hood if flow rate is a concern

Your Installation's Resistance Curve

Each installation of a range hood will have its own resistance to the flow of air. This will depend on the restriction of the entire air flow circuit. The most common sources of restriction in that circuit are the following:

  • the make-up air path into the suite
  • the grill or screen in the air path above your stove
  • the fan assembly itself
  • the ductwork between the hood and the outdoors
  • the grill and backflow preventer where the duct exhausts outdoors
  • wind that opposes or aids the flow of air from the make-up air to the exhaust locations on the outside of the house (this often happens when the two are on opposite sides of a house's exterior)

Resistance curves plot the air pressure the fan will encounter versus the air flow that the fan is pushing. A characteristic resistance curve follows an affinity law and is therefore parabolic in shape.

SC1 and SC2 in Fig1 are examples of resistance curves. The two different curves emerge when something about the resistance of your installation to air flow changes. For example, SC1 might be the resistance curve with a kitchen window open (less pressure required for the same amount of flow) and SC2 might occur with all windows close (it would take more pressure to achieve the same amount of flow).

enter image description here

Fan Curves

For a given RPM, each fan has its own relationship between the flow it produces and the pressure that has to overcome. These are shown in Fig1 as curves N1 and N2. The RPM of N1 is higher than N2 and, accordingly, it produces more flow for the same amount of pressure.

Determining the Flow Rate

The actual flow rate achieved is found at the intersection of your installation's resistance curve and your fan's curve. So, in our example, with the windows closed and the fan at the higher RPM, this is the intersection of N1 and SC2 indicated on the plot as "B". In HVAC engineering terminology, this intersection is called the "operating point".

How Air Flow is Specified for Range Hoods

Air flow of range hoods is specified at zero static pressure. In Fig1, this corresponds to the flow rate where N1 and N2 cross the x-axis. The specification provided by the manufacturer is not the air flow you will achieve once the fan is installed because there is no real-world situation where the static pressure encountered by the fan is zero.

The Type of Fan Substantially Affects the Fan Curve and Real-World Flow

You are unlikely to be able to obtain either a fan curve for a given range hood nor a resistance curve for your installation. This is not a practical problem in selecting a fan. That is because range hood fans are one of two general fan types each with a dramatically different capability.

Centrifugal Fans

enter image description here

Curves N1 and N2 are typical of a centrifugal fan in that they are able to create meaningful airflow despite static pressure encountered in the installation.

Axial Fans

enter image description here

Fig2 shows a third fan curve A1 which is typical of an axial fan in that it stops producing any meaningful flow at very low static pressures.

Qualitative Comparison

Note that if you were to look at the manufacturer's specifications for the centrifugal fan that has curves N1 and N2 it would be in the same ballpark as the axial fan with curve A1.

But look what happens when these two fan types encounter the resistance of your system with the windows closed (SC1). The operating point of the centrifugal fan at the high RPM is shown at "B" while the operating point of the axial fan is shown at "D".

Note that the air flow of the axial fan when installed is only about 1/3 of the centrifugal fan despite the manufacturer's specifications for airflow being comparable.1

Note also that the airflow at the operating point is only about 1/4 of the manufacturer's specification for the axial fan, while it is more the 3/4 for the centrifugal fan.1

enter image description here

Epilogue: The Oft-Forgotten Makeup Air Path

Remember, each cubic foot of air that you exhaust has to be made up somewhere else in the house. This might be an open window, your furnace's makeup path, the exhaust gases of a fireplace - yikes!, a backflowing bathroom exhaust fan, sewer gases sucked out of air admittance valves, etc. When you have an operating centrifugal range hood fan specified at several hundred or a thousand CFM, you should have a good source of make-up air. Otherwise, you might end up with unhealthy air from unexpected places being sucked into your home.

1 These ratios are for this particular hypothetical graph. They are meant to be instructive about the magnitude of the difference between actual and manufacturer's specified flow rates. By no means are these specific ratios generally applicable. What is generally applicable, however, is that the flow rate for axial range hood fans drops off significantly faster with static pressure than for centrifugal fans.

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wow, this is a great answer! thank you. –  Michael Bishop Jan 15 '13 at 22:44
    
You're welcome. –  alx9r Jan 15 '13 at 22:49
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