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What Is a Range Hood, and Why Do I Need One?

I love explaining how useful some kitchen appliances can be to consumers.

Range hoods—like this "Luxor" island-mount  example—can help reduce heat, steam, smoke, and odors from spreading throughout your kitchen and house, making cooking and cleanup much easier.

Range hoods—like this "Luxor" island-mount example—can help reduce heat, steam, smoke, and odors from spreading throughout your kitchen and house, making cooking and cleanup much easier.

What Is a Range Hood?

A range hood is actually one of the most important appliances in the kitchen. It consists of a canopy or some other type of “capture area” and a fan or blower motor to extract the air pollution caused by cooking. By capturing and eliminating the contaminated air right at the source, the range hood maintains the air quality in the kitchen and makes cleaning much easier.

Why Are Range Hoods Helpful?

Have you ever had to clean a kitchen that’s used on a regular basis? Then you know just how much of a hassle it is to get rid of that sticky film that covers all the cabinets and countertops, especially next to the cooking area. One of the benefits of a range hood is that it filters out the airborne grease before it has a chance to settle everywhere and cause major headaches at cleanup time. Instead of spending hours scrubbing kitchen surfaces (usually with cleaning chemicals involved as well), it’s much easier to hit the power button on the range hood and stop the flying grease in its tracks.

They can help reduce heat, steam, and smoke from being blown in your face.

As any professional chef can tell you, cooking without a range hood can be quite uncomfortable. Heat, steam, odors, and smoke being blown right in your face can really try your patience—unless there’s a powerful range hood providing suction and maintaining a steady flow of fresh air. This is why every professional kitchen, such as those you might see on cooking shows, features a large vent hood above the range.

They allow you to experiment with more cuisines.

Having an effective way to remove odors also allows greater freedom to experiment with various cuisines. Consider all the things you’ve wanted to try making but weren’t sure about due to the possibility of the entire house smelling like dinner for days afterward. Once you have a range hood, there’s no need to worry any longer. Fish, spices, exotic vegetables, and sauces are back on the table once the cooking odors are eliminated.

They can improve air quality and reduce the formation and spread of disease.

Of course, the health benefits of kitchen ventilation cannot be overlooked. By eliminating the excess moisture and airborne grease, preventing the formation of the sticky film that attracts mold and bacteria, and encouraging the inflow of fresh outside air, a properly installed and ducted range hood can vastly improve the air quality—not only in the kitchen but throughout the house. This is especially important for anyone with allergies and breathing problems, but everyone can enjoy the benefits of a range hood. After all, who doesn’t like fresh air?

This is a "concorde" wall-mounted range hood.

This is a "concorde" wall-mounted range hood.

What Are the Different Kinds of Range Hoods?

As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to having a range hood. From the obvious ones (clean air) to the not-so-obvious secondary effects (cleaner cabinets and creative cooking freedom), adding this important appliance to your kitchen is a significant improvement. But how do you choose the right one?

There are literally tens of thousands of range hoods on the market—where do you begin? Without going into too many details, here’s a short overview of the basic types of range hoods, which may help you to narrow down your selection.

Island-Mount or Ceiling-Mount Range Hoods

As their name implies, these are attached to the ceiling. If your cooktop/range is going to be on a center island or peninsula, this is the type of range hood that will be required to ventilate it. If that sounds like a lot of additional work, you’re right. It usually takes a contractor to install an overhead range hood, but it’s well worth it for the ventilation benefits it will provide.

Wall-Mount or Chimney-Style Range Hoods

These are installed on the wall directly above the range. Note that this requires a clearance between the cabinets as well as some empty wall space above the range, typically eliminating the possibility of having an over-the-range microwave or upper cabinet. However, the advantage is that a full-size range hood will provide much more ventilation power than an undercabinet hood or a combination range hood/microwave.

Undercabinet, Microwave, or Microhood Range Hoods

These combinations do provide an inexpensive alternative, but as the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for." Their smaller size severely limits the power of the fan/blower, making their performance far less impressive than the suction power of a full-size overhead range hood.

Regardless of the type, however, the range hood should be the same width—or slightly wider—than the cooktop or range, in order to provide an adequate “capture area” and allow the hood to suction in the rising air pollution before it spreads out too much. Installation height should be based on the hood manufacturer’s recommendations (typically ranging from 24” to 36”).

Range Hood Venting Type

Besides their physical shape, range hoods can be classified according to whether they extract the air to the outside of the house, or recirculate it back into the room. Whenever possible, it’s always better to use a range hood with an outside duct, since this will provide greater performance, lower noise, and better air quality than a “recirculating” or “ductless” range hood, which uses an activated charcoal filter to remove odors before returning the air back to the kitchen. Unfortunately, the additional filter lowers airflow rating, creates additional noise, and must be replaced on a regular basis, creating an ongoing expense.

Most full-size range hoods (island-mount or wall-mount) can be either ducted out or used in recirculating installation. If you’re restricted to using a recirculating hood (for example, in a high-rise condominium or a co-operative building, neither of which will typically allow an outside duct to be added), check with the range hood manufacturer whether the hood you’re considering has an option to be used in such a fashion. Sometimes, you may have to purchase additional parts in order to convert a range hood to recirculation, other times the “recirculating kit” may be included.


Bill on April 02, 2018:

How many of you have had to clean a greasy hood? Yuk.

Eric Williamsone on May 28, 2017:

A range hood is the most important part of the kitchen for removing kitchens heat, gas and odors. A good range hood is very effective in the kitchen when used.

Mandi M on February 09, 2017:

I have a range hood and frequently use it, and I still get grease & grime all over everything. I was wondering what the point was for a vent & fan because it doesn't seem to help with anything. Now after reading this I'm wondering if it doesn't work properly.

I am wanting to remodel my kitchen and was debating whether or not to install another one. Since I plan to sell in a few years I probably should, I want to upgrade the kitchen to a more efficient one.

Ellen C. on February 04, 2011:

This company just came out with an 'Empire' model for 2011. I am interested in the Luxor and Murano. I hope that these hoods look better in real life then in pictures.