So - I just dropped $60 for someone to come by and tell me that the vent built into our microwave (above the stovetop) only RECIRCULATES air and doesn't vent it outside. Our stove is on an outside wall and there is a vent there, but it works only with a downdraft cooktop.
So I finally figured out that the previous owners, when they replaced the counters to sell the home, put the cheapest cooktop they could find in there WITHOUT a downdraft vent, put a piece of plywood over the hole in the back of the lower cabinet where it should've vented, and stuffed a towel in the vent exit on the outside of the house (to prevent critter intrusion?).
Initially I was but then the service tech told me that MOST homes (at least here) have vents that only RECIRCULATE the air. Sure enough, I asked a friend of mine about her vent hood and indeed - it only recirculates the air!
In order to get it to vent outside, we would either have to 1) replace the cooktop with one that has a downdraft vent (expensive) or 2) have a contractor run a vent through the roof of the house and add all the metal piping/hardware etc necessary to vent the stovetop from above (even more expensive, plus we would need to figure out how to work that around the microwave). In our old home, it definitely vented outside (you could see the pipe running through the cabinet above the stove, through the attic and through the roof).
Is it just me or is that just about the dumbest thing on the face of the earth?? Shouldn't a vent hood vent, uh, OUTSIDE? Where all the smoke from cooking should go? I really wanted to be able to start searing some meat to braise in my dutch oven during the day or use a grill pan on the stovetop! So now I'm curious - do you have a vent hood that actually vents outside or does it just recirculate? And if you don't know and you have just checked - were you surprised? (The way you can tell is if you turn on the fan and check all around to see if you can feel air coming out from somewhere else - the service tech said sometimes people will even install them to recirculate the air BEHIND the stove rather than out in front of it). The other way to tell - if your stove is not on an outside wall and doesn't have anything structural to allow a vent pipe to run all the way up through the ceiling.
Wait for the poll!!