Range hoods are one of the most important appliances that you probably never think about.
Unless you’re updating appliances, undergoing a remodel, or having a problem, then why would you? The truth is that most people only care about the specifics 3-4 times in their lives. And that’s only when they’re looking for a newer model.
Even though you won’t think about it very often, your range hood will have an outsized impact on your daily quality of life. It can add to and protect the value of your home. And it may even impact your mood. Finding the right one is important.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the criteria that matter, and explain which features you can count on for the biggest real-life impact.
In This Article
The 4 Range Hood Types
At its core, every range hood is a filter and a fan housed inside a metal (or plastic) fixture. Some models may have more controls or better lighting, but they all do essentially the same thing.
Even so, not every range hood will be compatible with your kitchen. Depending on the location of your stovetop, you will be locked into one of the 4 major range hood design types.
In this section, I’ll help you match the right range hood type for your kitchen layout. And, if you’re planning a full remodel, reading this section should provide some good information about how your layout choices will impact the type of vent hood that you install.
Under Cabinet Range Hoods
The most common configuration for a kitchen range is at counter level, against a wall, and with kitchen cabinets positioned directly overhead.
If this is your kitchen layout, then an under-cabinet range hood is the best style for your situation. And there are a ton of options!
The most popular under-cabinet hoods affix directly to the bottom of your over-range cupboards, although some models include a microwave that sits between the cabinet and vent.
Range Hood Insert
Inserts are designed similarly to under-cabinet hoods. But instead of fastening below the cabinets, they are installed into a recess in the cabinet itself. In most cases, you’ll need custom cabinets or a custom hood shell for the installation to work.
This option gives you the ultimate control over the look and feel of your kitchen, while still getting great ventilation. It’s one of the best choices if you already have a decorative hood exterior in place, or if you simply don’t like the industrial look of a stainless steel hood.
One of the keys to working with range hood inserts is getting your measurements exactly right. You’ll need to make sure the depth, width, and height of the insert will fit correctly into your custom cabinet or hood surround.
Our favorite range hood inserts tend to be slightly more expensive than an under-cabinet model. And they will fill otherwise usable cabinet space. But they can look incredibly seamless and modern.
Wall Mount Range Hoods
If you have an open wall above your range, a wall mount hood is likely the best option. These mount directly to the wall above your cooktop and can add a very professional look to your kitchen.
In most cases, wall mount hoods feature a stainless steel chimney that extends up the wall above the hood. This is a way to hide ductwork, but it also creates a more finished and high-end look.
Even if you go with a ductless wall mount hood, most options will still feature a chimney purely for aesthetic purposes.
Island Range Hood
For kitchens where the range is built into an island, you’ll need an island range hood that doesn’t require a wall or cabinets to mount to. Instead, these models mount directly to the ceiling and hang down above your cooktop.
Most island range hoods feature a stainless steel chimney that runs from the hood itself, all the way up to the ceiling. Similar to wall mount hoods, the chimney is there for looks and as a way to enclose any ductwork if it’s a model that vents outside.
Depending on your island size and layout, you may also want to think about the hood’s controls. If you have a smaller island, you could go with a hood that has controls on both sides. That will give you the flexibility to cook and adjust ventilation from either side of your range.
6 Crucial Criteria to Consider When Buying a Range Hood
Before you start shopping range hoods, there is one prerequisite. Know the space you’re buying for. You could pick out the best range hood in the world, but if it doesn’t fit your kitchen, then you’ll quickly be back to where you started.
Here are a few helpful prompts and criteria, to help you understand what “a good fit” might look like for your situation. Aesthetics aside.
Range Hood Size
Your range hood should be at least as wide as your range.
If you’ve got a 48-inch range, look for a 48-inch hood, at the minimum. But, if you have the space, a hood that’s 6 inches wider than your range is ideal.
That extra width will allow your hood to extend 3 inches beyond your range on each side. And extra capture space means that more smoke, steam, and fumes are sucked through the vent without escaping into the kitchen.
We’ve found that most home kitchens are set up with a range that is 30 inches wide. If that sounds like you, then a 36-inch hood may be the best-case scenario.
There are a few edge cases for hood sizing, like if you’re purchasing a hood for use over a grill or a commercial gas stove with a high BTU output. But, in the vast majority of cases, sizing to the width of your range is the best planning advice.
Ducted Vs. Ductless Exhaust
Your range hood doesn’t have to be ducted to the exterior of your home, but in most cases, this is going to be the best option.
- “Ducted” range hoods suck up air and physically remove it from your home through a duct and exterior vent.
- “Ductless” hoods don’t actually remove air. Instead, they pass air through a filter and then pump it back into the same room.
Ducted hoods offer the best performance. They’ll remove contaminated air much faster than a ductless model can clean it.
In many cases, a ductless range hood will only partially clean air, before pushing it around the room. As an owner, this can be frustrating, and may sometimes send your smoke detectors howling.
So, why would you even consider “ductless,” if the ducted version is so much better?
The short answer is cost and effort.
After all, you need to have a duct installed first. In layman’s terms, this is a pipe that extends from the wall where your range hood mounts through the roof or house exterior.
Installing ductwork where there is none can be an expensive and messy proposition. It can be done, but if you’re not planning a full kitchen remodel, then you may find the process inconvenient.
Ductless hoods are far from an efficient solution, but they will make an impact on the quality of air in your kitchen. It’s a big health benefit if you don’t have access to ducting. And you can easily find an excellent ductless hood for a palatable price.
Ducted range hoods are “power rated” based on how much air they are capable of moving.
This metric for venting is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). You will always pay more for a higher CFM, but more power doesn’t always mean that you’ll see better performance.
Although there are several factors that play into how many CFM you need, by far the most important one is the heat output of your range.
For an electric stovetop, picking a target CFM is straightforward. Take the width of your cooktop and multiply it by 10. So, for a 30-inch stovetop, you’d need at least 300 CFM.
Gas ranges put off more fumes and heat, so the ventilation requirement is higher. Take your range’s BTU output and divide it by 100. So, for example, you’d want at least 500 CFM for a 50,000 BTU range.
A 600 CFM hood should be more than enough power for 95% of people reading this. Unless you need ventilation suitable for high-power work cooking, or a commercial gas range, then it should be more than sufficient.
For many families, the kitchen is the social center of the home. And, when you’re trying to connect with people, noise matters. A lot.
In most cases, more power means more noise. Another reason why you shouldn’t overbuy CFM without considering the possible consequences.
Range hood noise is measured in sones, a unit that isn’t really used anywhere else. One sone is the level of a whispered conversation, and 20 sones sounds like a crowded intersection. You can find range hoods that generate noise on either side of this spectrum.
|A Quiet Library
|A Quiet Restaurant
|Face To Face Conversation
The quietest range hoods generate noise of less than one sone.
If you don’t want to be shouting conversation over a loud exhaust fan, making noise level a core consideration is more than worthwhile.
Once you decide on a hood, you should also think about the installation. In most cases, installing a range hood is a fairly straightforward process. And one that most DIYers should be able to tackle in a few hours.
Since hoods can be heavy and awkwardly shaped, the most difficult part is often mounting the hood to the wall, ceiling, or under a cabinet. This is where having an extra set of hands can really make or break the whole process.
In most cases, the hood should be installed 20-30” above the cooktop. You’ll be thankful to not juggle all the parts of this process as a single person. Invite a friend to help, or hire a contractor.
The other thing to think about is whether or not you will have to do any electrical work. Some models can simply be plugged into an outlet, while others are hardwired into the wall. If you’re not comfortable with electrical work, this can be a step that is definitely worth hiring an expert for.
When it comes to budgeting for your new range hood, there are options at every price range. You can find a hood for under $100, but you can easily spend over $1,000.
You can find an excellent ducted hood for $300-500. And ductless models for somewhat less.
How expensive a hood is will depend on a combination of different factors. The size, power, noise level, and build quality of a hood are all things that will make a hood more or less expensive. You can prioritize some or all of those elements to find options that fit your budget.
And don’t forget about the cost of installing ductwork. If you’ll be going that route, it can add anywhere from an extra $100 to $1,000 to the project.
What do I need to know about buying a range hood?
Finding the best range hood for your kitchen is a matter of matching the design of the space, power, and size specifications of your stove. Bigger, pricier, and more powerful doesn’t always equate to a better solution.
How important is CFM on range hoods?
CFM is a measure of how much air a range hood can move, in cubic feet per minute. It’s good practice to match your hood’s CFM to the exhaust output of your stove. Overbuying CFM won’t improve performance, it will add cost to your project, and noise to your kitchen.