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Range hoods are a necessity in the kitchen

Virtually every kitchen has a range hood, even though you may not even notice yours. Range hoods come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials and colors. Most kitchens have a simple, built-in range hood that acts much as a fan, just helping to recirculate the air to disperse smoke. Other units vent to the outside, effectively moving smoke, odors and grease out of the kitchen altogether. Some high-style units are made to complement -- or even be the center of -- the décor. They also illuminate the cooktop.

There are two basic types of range hoods: ducted and non-ducted. Ducted range hoods pull smoke and vapors outdoors through vents. Non-ducted hoods recirculate the air back into the kitchen after pulling it through charcoal filters for cleaning.

Under-cabinet range hoods are installed by attaching them to the underside of kitchen cabinets. They can be ducted through the cabinets or non-ducted.

A wall-mounted range hood has a visible vent stack along the kitchen wall where there are no cabinets above the cooktop. Also called chimney hoods, these units can be very stylish.

Island range hoods look like they are free-standing above a cooktop, but they are firmly anchored in and vented through ductwork in the ceiling.

When choosing the size of a range hood, it needs to be at least the same width as the cooktop. Island range hoods should be at least six inches wider than the cooktop to help funnel fumes because there are no wall cabinets to help with the funneling.

CFM denotes power in the world of range hoods. The letters stand for cubic feet per minute and CFM is a measure of the rate of speed in replacing air. The higher the CFM, the louder the fan in the range hood as it moves more air. The volume is measured in sones.

Some range hoods have timer-delayed settings to turn the fan and lights off automatically. Others have a timer that lets the user know when it is time to clean the grease filters.

Range hood prices vary widely -- from less than $50 for a basic, non-vented range hood to thousands of dollars for vented hoods that can be made from a variety of stylish materials.

ConsumerSearch has analyzed expert reviews and hundreds of owner reviews to evaluate the performance, ease of use and appearance of under-cabinet range hoods, wall-mounted range hoods and island range hoods. It results in our picks for the best range hoods on the market.

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