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Buying Guide: Range Hoods

By: Carl Laron on January 15, 2018

The best range hood has

  • Good air movement. A range hood needs to be functional in removing smoke, steam, vapors and odors from a kitchen. Venting to the outside is preferred, though ductless operation (which recirculates the air after filtering it) is acceptable if there is no other option.
  • Adequate lighting. Range hood lighting is an important addition to the overhead lights in most kitchens, since the main light is usually blocked when you stand in front of the range.
  • Sufficient power. While some experts hold that the CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating isn't everything, the more air a range hood can move, the more effective its performance. One manufacturer notes that when it comes to gas stoves, a guideline to follow would be at least 100 CFM for every 10,000 BTUs of heat output.
  • The correct size. Range hoods come in a variety of sizes that match the variety of available cooktops and ranges. Your new range hood should be at least as wide as the cooking surface beneath it. For island range hoods, chose a model that's six inches wider to make up for the lack of surrounding cabinetry and walls (which help funnel smoke toward the range hood in under-cabinet and wall-mounted installations).
  • Livable noise levels. While manufacturers often specify noise levels, those measures are both highly subjective and tough to compare. User reviews are often split on whether a range hood is loud or quiet. Keep in mind that invariably, the more powerful the hood, and the higher the speed you use, the louder it will be. In a free-to-the-public article, Consumer Reports recommends that you use the range hood's highest speed when cooking, but cut back things to lower levels afterwards.

Know before you go

Does your kitchen already have ducting? If you already have ducting installed, this could save you a lot of time and money in installation costs. Be sure to get measurements on your venting system to make sure the new range hood's vent specifications match what you already have.

Do you want to install ducting or get a non-ducted range hood? You can save a lot of money by installing a non-vented range hood. However, experts strongly recommend using a ducted system if at all possible because it takes smoke, odors, etc., outside instead of filtering and then recirculating them in the kitchen.

Make sure to vent to the outside. When installing a ducted hood, never exhaust air or terminate ductwork into spaces between walls, crawl spaces, ceilings, attics or garages. All exhaust must be ducted to the outside. If it isn't, figure in the cost of correcting this.

What's your kitchen design? Whether you are remodeling a kitchen or building one from scratch, the location of your cooktop or range will determine what type of range hood you install. If the cooktop is on an island, an island-mounted range hood is your best choice; downdraft venting is another option, but one that experts say is not as effective. Cabinets above the cooktop? Go for an under-cabinet range hood. Is the area above the cooktop clear? A wall-mounted range hood will work.

What style and color are your appliances? Make sure your new range hood comes in the style and color of your kitchen. Some manufacturers offer a variety of colors, while others focus on stainless steel.

Check your clearances. Range hoods need to be installed high enough to not cramp your style when you are cooking, but not so high that smoke and vapors have a chance to escape its pull. Consumer Reports notes that most makers specify a clearance of 18 to 30 inches.

Check your ceiling. Wall-mounted and island range hood have a chimney that rises from the hood to the ceiling. Most are designed to accommodate typical kitchens, but you can run into issues if your ceiling is either too low or too high. Check the manufacturer specs to see the chimney length, adjustment range, and the availability of accessories to deal with difficult installations (a chimney extension, for example) of any wall-mounted or island range hood you are considering.

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