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The Brinkman extended Darcy model including Lapwood and Forchheimer inertia terms with fluid viscosity being different from effective viscosity is employed to investigate the effect of vertical throughflow on thermal convective instabilities in a porous layer. Three different types of boundary conditions (free–free, rigid–rigid and rigid–free) are considered which are either conducting or insulating to temperature perturbations. The Galerkin method is used to calculate the critical Rayleigh numbers for conducting boundaries, while closed form solutions are achieved for insulating boundaries. The relative importance of inertial resistance on convective instabilities is investigated in detail. In the case of rigid–free boundaries, it is found that throughflow is destabilizing depending on the choice of physical parameters and the model used. Further, it is noted that an increase in viscosity ratio delays the onset of convection. Standard results are also obtained as particular cases from the general model presented here.