hoods for every kitchen and budget
A range hood is a necessity in virtually
every kitchen. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials and colors,
and can cost anywhere from less than $50 to more than $3,000, though the focus
of this report is on great looking, excellent performing range hoods priced at
under $1,000. What sets the cheapest range hoods apart from high-end models is
a combination of function and aesthetics.
There are two basic ways to
install range hoods: non-ducted and ducted. Non-ducted hoods recirculate the
air back into the kitchen after pulling it through a filter to remove, at least
partially, smoke and odors. Ducted range hoods use a filter as well, but vent
the exhaust to the outside. Ducted range hoods are more complicated and
expensive to install, but are also the most effective kind.
Types of Range Hoods
Under-Cabinet Range Hoods
The most common type of range hood, under-cabinet range hoods, are installed by attaching them to the underside of kitchen cabinets. They can be ducted or ductless. These range hoods usually come in a variety of color options to match any kitchen décor, and a variety of prices too -- although even the top-of-the-line models tend to be more affordable than either wall-mounted or island-style range hoods. Under-cabinet range hoods usually have at least two fan settings and at least a basic, incandescent light.
Wall-Mounted Range Hood
A wall-mounted range hood has a visible vent stack along the kitchen wall and is installed in settings where there are no cabinets above the cooktop. Also called chimney hoods, these units can be very stylish. Virtually all wall-mounted hoods are designed for ducted installation, but some can be converted to ductless use if needed.
Island Range Hoods
Island range hoods are similar to wall range hoods, except they look like they are free-standing above a cooktop. Again, virtually all island range hoods are ducted, though many can also be used ductless if needed.
a range hood
When choosing the size of a range hood, under-cabinet
and wall-mounted models need 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 walls or cabinets
to help with the funneling.
When comparing range hoods that seem similar in form
and function, there are some important specifications and features to watch
for. One is power, measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute), which is a measure
of the rate of speed in replacing air. The higher the CFM rating, the faster
the range hood will draw away smoke and odor from the cooktop. The flip side of
the coin is that the faster the range hood moves air, the louder it is likely
Manufacturers will often provide a loudness rating,
but will use different scales, and that makes comparing noise levels difficult.
Among the options, you may see sound levels specified in sones, db(A) or db. But
regardless of the scale, user perception of noise is highly subjective. As we
observed in user reviews for nearly all range hoods, models that some consider
to be exceptionally quiet, others say are exceptionally loud. The bottom line
is that while we do present the manufacturer's loudness level ratings (where
available) for the range hoods profiled in this report, they should be taken
with a grain (or perhaps a shaker) of salt.
On the features front, 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. Selectable fan speeds let the user adjust the power -- and noise level
-- as appropriate. In its free to read buying guide, Consumer Reports suggests
using the highest speed when cooking, and a lower speed afterwards "to
continue to ventilate the space while eating." The editors add that three
speeds should be sufficient, and anything over that is likely to be overkill on
the part of the maker.
Finding The Best Range Hoods
During our research, we found no credible expert reviews of range hoods.
Consumer Reports offers a buying guide that discusses brands, but not
individual models, and has ceased testing this category. A few other sites
appear to offer range hood reviews, but a close examination reveals that all
(or at least all that we found) base those recommendations on specs with no
evidence that anyone has tested -- or even seen -- the range hoods that they
Because of that, we relied on feedback posted at sites such as Home
Depot, Lowe's, Amazon and elsewhere to make our recommendations. That's
complicated a little by the fact that many sites include reviews originally
posted at the manufacturer web sites and are hence duplicated across the
Internet. Still, between these reviews and unique user reviews posted at the
sites we considered, we found sufficient feedback to evaluate and recommend
some top range hoods based on their performance, ease of use and appearance.