As an alternative to the classic over-the-range vent hood, many ranges and cooktops will utilize a ventilation system built directly into the countertop behind the cooking surface. These systems are known as telescopic or retractable downdraft vents and they are a popular choice for spacious kitchens that lack a low ceiling to install a standard vent hood on. Of course, like any appliance with moving parts powered by electricity, a retractable downdraft vent can stop working unexpectedly.
In this article, Repair Clinic will take a look at how retractable downdraft ventilation systems work and the three things you should investigate if your vent stops working.
How a retractable downdraft vent works
Vent hood vs. retractable downdraft vent
Standard over-the-range vent hoods are installed directly above the cooktop and vent steam, grease, and food odors through a duct within the wall or ceiling to the outside of the home or through a charcoal filter back into the kitchen. They are designed to appeal to the eye because they are always visible. In fact, they are among the first things someone will notice when walking into a kitchen. A retractable downdraft vent is more modest. It stays out of sight until it’s needed.
The basics of downdraft ventilation
Retractable downdraft vents remain recessed, or hidden, in a slot near the back of the cooktop when not in use. When you’re ready to start boiling those potatoes or frying that sausage, an activator button is pressed, allowing 120 volts of alternating current to be sent to a drive motor that operates an upper and lower arm to raise the downdraft vent upwards. Once the vent is in the “up” position, a fan or blower motor can be activated to start the ventilation. Instead of drawing the smoke, steam, and grease upwards as range vent hoods do, downdraft vents draw the air back across the cooking surface through grease filters installed in the vent and into a duct that will carry the air beneath the kitchen floor or in the space under the cabinets to the outside of the home. When the cooking is finished, the fan can be turned off and the activator button pressed to retract the vent back into the countertop.
Keep the grease filters clean for optimum venting
As noted above, retractable downdraft vents use grease filters to catch the grease and oils that are propelled into the air during the cooking process just like standard vent hoods do. Keeping these filters clean is important for optimum venting. As part of regular maintenance, you can remove these filters and use a degreasing solution to clean them and warm, soapy water to rinse away the solution. If the grease filters become worn or excessively soiled, consider replacing them with brand-new ones.
Three likely causes of a broken downdraft venting system not rising up
So what do you do if you have a broken downdraft vent that won’t raise up? Repair Clinic recommends troubleshooting these three likely causes:
- Incoming power problem – The first thing you should determine if your retractable downdraft vent won’t raise up is if there is an incoming power problem. Check to see if a kitchen circuit breaker has tripped or a fuse has blown. If applicable, you should also confirm the electrical outlet the retractable downdraft vent power cord is plugged into is providing sufficient voltage. You can use a multimeter to test the outlet.
- Faulty activator switch – If you’ve determined there is no problem with the incoming power, your next step is to inspect the activator switch. This is the switch that is activated by pressing its button to raise or lower the vent. A faulty switch can prevent voltage from reaching the drive motor which, in turn, will prevent the vent from rising into position. As with testing an electrical outlet, you can use a multimeter to test the activator switch for electrical continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the part. If the switch tests “negative” for continuity when the button is pressed, you’ll know you have a broken switch on your hands and you’ll need to replace it with a new one.
- Defective drive motor – If the activator switch tests “positive” for electrical continuity when actuated, you should confirm that the drive motor is receiving power. If the motor is receiving power, then it’s likely the motor itself is defective. You should try turning the motor shaft by hand to confirm it turns freely. You can also use that handy multimeter to test the drive motor for electrical continuity. If the motor tests “negative” for continuity, or the motor shaft does not turn freely, you will need to install a new drive motor to solve the problem.
Learn how to fix your downdraft vent with Repair Clinic
Willing to take on that retractable downdraft vent repair yourself? Know that doing it yourself doesn’t mean doing it alone when you have Repair Clinic as your repair partner. You can learn how to fix your downdraft vent, as well as all your other home appliances, outdoor power equipment, and heating and cooling products, by utilizing Repair Clinic’s comprehensive “Repair Help” library. Visit the “Videos & Articles” section of our website to find thousands of procedural videos and step-by-step guides, such as the correct way to install a new push button activator switch on a Whirlpool retractable downdraft vent (model UXD8630DYS4) or how to replace a grease filter easily.
Use original manufacturer parts to fix your downdraft vent
Whether you just want to replace the grease filters, or your troubleshooting has revealed you need to purchase a new push button activator switch or drive motor to fix your retractable downdraft vent, you should only install original manufacturer parts that match your vent model. This is where Repair Clinic can help clear the air. Repair Clinic stocks genuine OEM retractable downdraft vent parts direct from such manufacturers as Bosch, Broan, GE, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, and Whirlpool. To find all the genuine manufacturer parts intended for your vent, enter the full model number of the appliance in Repair Clinic’s “Search Parts Online & Get Answers” search bar. You can then use the “Part Category” and “Part Title” navigation filters to refine your search to identify the specific part you’re looking for.