Range hoods may not be the trendiest of kitchen appliances, but they serve an important purpose: removing steam, smoke and odors that can damage cabinets and reduce air quality. Most are installed unobtrusively under a cabinet above the stove and use a fan to pull air up through ductwork that vents outdoors. Downdraft and recirculating range hoods are also available and, though less effective overall, can help clear the air when outside venting through a wall or roof is impossible. Although homeowners sometimes overlook the range hood when updating a kitchen, experts say that there really is a significant difference between brands and models, and it makes sense to research your options before buying.
The most credible review on range hoods we found comes from ConsumerReports.org, which tests and rates almost 30 range hoods in several categories. Although the report is now a few years old, range hoods aren't replaced by newer models as frequently as other appliances, and several of the top-rated hoods are still available. We also consulted the Australian consumer magazine Choice and the U.K.-based Which? publication. These magazines are as thorough in their testing as ConsumerReports.org, and their reports are more current, but none of the range hood models they currently recommend is available in the United States. ConsumerGuide.com also reviews range hoods, but there's no indication that the rated models have undergone testing. Still, the reviews are critical and include a detailed discussion of features and value. We also found an article from Building Products that praises one particular line of range hoods, the Broan QDE Series (*Est. $365 for a 30-inch model), for its environmental benefits.
While expert reviews give the most accurate snapshot of a range hood's performance (at least in the short term), owner comments posted at retail and review sites provide valuable insight into practical considerations. Reliability, ease of use and installation and long-term performance aren't usually addressed in professional reviews of range hoods, but owners often post comments that touch on these important details. Of course, owner reviews vary in depth and detail, but we found quite a few useful comments for specific models at sites such as Amazon.com, ABT.com, AJMadison.com, Sears.com and Overstock.com. The appliance forum at GardenWeb.com is also worth a look, especially if you're considering a luxury range hood.
Broan-NuTone controls the lion's share of the home-ventilation market in North America. The ventilation giant, which has been making kitchen fans since the 1930s, not only produces its own Broan, NuTone and Best by Broan lines but also manufactures products for brands such as Kenmore, GE and Whirlpool. Because Broan-NuTone manufactures so many different brands and lines of range hoods, it's hard to draw conclusions about the company as a whole. Some models, like the Best by Broan U102I (not widely available in stores or online) are top performers in expert reviews of range hoods, while others do very poorly. For example, the Broan Allure III QS330 (*Est. $330) is an especially popular range hood that receives mostly good owner reviews, but in one professional test, it receives failing marks for smoke removal. At least one other Broan range hood demonstrates similar performance problems in tests. For these reasons, we have considered reviews of specific Broan range hoods individually, rather than as a brand.