Time For a New Kitchen Range Hood? What To Ask Before You Shop

published Mar 25, 2017
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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Range hoods might seem like a utilitarian, boring way to spend money in a kitchen, but they can be essential for odor removal and ventilation, plus they’re often required by building codes. Upscale designer kitchens with big industrial range hoods or bespoke built-in covers prove that done right, they can be a beautiful focal point. First you need to pick out the hood, though. This guide will take you through some of the many options you may have when buying a range hood.

First, need a little inspiration? Here are some of the best, most dramatic, range hoods we’ve ever seen!

(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)


The first choice you need to make is between a vented/ducted hood, and a non-vented/duct-free/recirculated hood. The air from a vented hood is forced outside of your house, making this the best way to completely remove smoke and smells. With a non-vented hood, the air is pulled through a filter, and then recirculated back into the kitchen. The advantage is that no ductwork is required, but it’s less effective, and may end up just dispersing the offending air throughout the house. Some models are convertible, and can be installed to work in either mode. According to experts, even the best over-the-range microwaves can’t compare to a range hood at venting.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


There are a variety of types of range hoods to suit different installation needs. Your kitchen layout (and the lengths you’re willing to go to to change it) may dictate whether you need an undercabinet hood, island hood, or another option.

Undercabinet hoods mount to the cabinets above the range. A variation is a wall-mount hood, which mounts to the wall instead of the cabinets. If the hood is ducted, ductwork is hidden inside a nearby cabinet, wall, soffit, or ceiling.

(Image credit: Sibylle Roessler)

If your range is on an island, the best way to vent it is with an island hood, also called a chimney hood or ceiling-mount hood. These are mounted to the ceiling, which also contains the ductwork. Without nearby cabinets to help funnel air upwards, it is recommended that an island hood be at least three inches wider on either side than the cooktop range. Another option for an island is a downdraft hood, which pops up from the back of the cooktop to suck in air and steam, then vent it through ducts running through the floor. In tests by experts, however, these don’t perform as well as an overhead hood.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)


In order to be most effective, a hood needs to be at least as wide as the range it will be venting. Standard widths are 30 or 36 inches, but they also come in oversize pro versions. If you cook a lot and your kitchen can handle a hefty hood, bigger may be better in this case.


The airflow of a range hood is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The higher the number, the more air a range can vent, but this doesn’t necessarily correlate to actual venting performance. The general rule is that you should have 1 CFM of ventilation per 100 British thermal units (BTU) of a gas range. It’s recommended that if you do a lot of cooking that generates strong odors or steam, your hood should be rated for at least 350 CFM.

(Image credit: Hannah Puechmarin)


As you’d expect, the tradeoff for higher CFM ratings is noise. Hood range noise is measured in sones. Compare sones between units you’re considering, with the understanding that one sone is about equivalent to a running refrigerator, and four sones is about the level of a normal conversation.


Multiple fan speeds is the most useful feature to look for. You’ll want at least two, one for high-speed, powerful-but-noisy venting, and another for less urgent, quieter venting. You may want to look for a model that offers a variable-speed knob, allowing you to adjust the speed as necessary. Another useful feature, an exhaust timer, can automatically shut off the exhaust hood after a set period of time.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Integrated lighting is standard for most range hoods, but the type of bulb and settings can vary greatly. Options for multiple light levels are quite practical, and you may want to check that if you ever need to replace the bulbs, they won’t be overly expensive or difficult to find.

Some hoods are equipped with heat sensors, also called thermostat control, that automatically adjust the fan speed when excessive heat is detected. The danger with this feature is that if hot oil catches fire, the fan may turn on and draw more air to the fire. Therefore, this is not a recommended feature.

If you hate what you end up with, there’s always the option to cover your range hood entirely: