Categories Home improvement

How to Choose a Range Hood

Indeed, every kitchen, regardless of the chef’s expertise level, requires a range hood to combat the inevitable messiness associated with cooking. Regardless of how meticulous and skilled the cook, grease, fumes, gases, and food splatter are unavoidable. Enter the indispensable range hood, ready to save the day

What Is a Range Hood?

range hood is an essential fixture in any kitchen, tasked with eliminating odors, smoke, and airborne particles generated during cooking. Utilizing powerful fans, it draws air from the vicinity of the cooktop, passing it through filters or ducts to expel it from the house. This process effectively filters out smoke, heat, moisture, microscopic food debris, and other contaminants, ensuring that the air remains clean and your food uncontaminated.

Do You Need a Range Hood?

In short, the answer is yes. However, the more nuanced questions revolve around determining the type of range hood suitable for your space and the appropriate size based on your cooking needs.

Several fundamental yet critical factors come into play for homeowners when considering the addition of a range hood during their kitchen renovation:

Kitchen Safety

When unexpected events occur in the kitchen, whether it’s the result of kids’ cooking experiments or more serious incidents resulting in smoke, concentrated fumes such as carbon monoxide can accumulate unnoticed. It’s crucial to swiftly introduce clean air and eliminate dangerous pollutants for the safety of your entire household.

Cleanliness and Upkeep

In addition to dispelling lingering cooking odors, range hoods direct unseen grease and food particles into filters and ductwork, preventing them from settling on the cooktop and counters. This minimizes the accumulation of stubborn food residues on surfaces like backsplash tiles, reducing the cleaning effort required.

Range Hoods Offer an Extra Light Source

Many range hoods feature bulbs or light panels positioned beneath the hood, illuminating the cooktop area. This enhances convenience during meal preparation and cleanup by providing adequate lighting directly over the working space.

Added Property Value

Range hoods serve as both an enhancement and investment in your home. They contribute to safety and accessibility, particularly when dealing with poorly lit areas around the burners. By effectively removing hazardous substances from the air and minimizing cooking residue buildup, range hoods have become a sought-after feature. Proper installation of a range hood in the kitchen is increasingly viewed as a standard option by prospective home buyers.

What Is the Difference Between Range Hoods?

Due to the unique layout of each kitchen, range hoods are engineered to accommodate various spaces and requirements. While there are specific standards to consider ensuring a range hood adequately meets your needs, adhering to these guidelines aids in selecting the most suitable hood on the initial attempt, rather than settling for a less-than-ideal solution.

Ventilation Options

The primary purpose of the range hood is to ensure clear air and provide safe ventilation for the kitchen. Various methods can achieve this objective, depending on the specific needs of the space.

External Venting

The most efficient method of removing contaminated air from a confined space is by completely expelling it. This involves utilizing fans to push the air outside through internal ductwork located in the ceiling or along the wall. These ducts then release the air outside the home or into the attic, typically equipped with a backdraft damper to prevent external wind or moisture from re-entering the pipe.

Side wall caps are employed when the vent terminates below the roofline, necessitating at least one elbow or a 90-degree turn in the duct pipe to direct the air outwards. Alternatively, a roof cap is utilized when the pipe is routed through the ceiling and exits through the roof at a gentler angle, requiring less force to expel the air.

Recirculating Vent

Recirculating range hoods, also known as ductless range hoods, operate without the need for pipes or ducts to expel air outside. Instead, they focus on purifying the air and eliminating odors before reintroducing it into the room. Under-cabinet range hoods are a common example of this type of ventilation system.

In situations where there isn’t sufficient space to install ductwork for external venting, the fans of a recirculating range hood draw air through filters to capture and remove grease and food particles. Charcoal, fiber, or ribbed plastic filters are effective in purifying the air. These filters require periodic cleaning or replacement every few months but are generally efficient in operation.

Common Filter Types

Aluminum mesh filters utilize fine layers of aluminum grids and fibers to effectively capture contaminated air. These filters are conveniently washable, either by hand or in some cases, in the dishwasher, and can be reused multiple times.

Charcoal filters are predominantly employed in recirculating range hoods. They specialize in trapping carbon-based impurities, effectively purifying the air. It’s recommended to replace these filters twice annually.

Residue cups are designed to gather and contain oil and grease from the cooking area. They should be hand washed with soap and hot water for maintenance.

Range Hood Types

Wall Mounted Range Hoods

Resembling fireplace chimneys in shape, wall-mounted range hoods are typically crafted from metal. They span the width of the cooktop and taper towards the top, offering a classic yet functional look that complements various kitchen styles, particularly those with open floor plans or large professional ranges.

Island Range Hoods

Designed for kitchens with the cooktop situated in the middle, island range hoods cover a larger surface area without wall assistance. Ducted into the ceiling, they efficiently remove contaminated air, smoke, and fumes directly from the home. These hoods boast a similar shape to wall-mounted versions but are tailored for 360-degree visibility, serving as a stylish centerpiece in the kitchen.

Under-cabinet Range Hoods

Ideal for modern, functional kitchens, under-cabinet range hoods are mounted beneath cupboard cabinets. With a hood sized to match the cooktop, they effectively capture rising smoke, moisture, and heat while allowing safe storage space above the stove. These hoods are particularly suitable for smaller kitchens and apartments where venting outside may not be feasible, often functioning primarily as air filters.

Hood Inserts

Hood inserts offer flexibility in kitchen design, allowing for custom layouts. These powerful inserts are concealed within a custom-designed hood, seamlessly blending with the room’s style. While the inserts themselves may be relatively affordable, the cost of creating a custom hood can increase the overall expense.

Downdraft Range Hoods

Featuring telescoping technology, downdraft range hoods offer a trendy, space-saving solution. Instead of venting air upwards, they utilize smaller pipes installed below cabinets to expel air away from the cooking area. With the press of a button, the fan retracts out of sight when not in use. These hoods are best suited for open-concept kitchens or smaller homes where visual space is a priority. However, they may face challenges due to the natural tendency of heated air to rise.

CFM Power

A kitchen range hood should be capable of circulating all the air in the room once every 4 minutes, equivalent to 15 times per hour of use. CFM, or cubic feet per minute, measures the amount of air range hoods can move. Higher CFM indicates faster air movement, which may also increase noise levels, but manufacturers typically specify the sones to assist in selecting quieter options within the desired CFM range.

To calculate the CFM range needed for your kitchen, you’ll need to measure and perform some basic math. These are general guidelines to assist in narrowing down options, but always refer to manufacturer specifications or consult with professionals for precise recommendations in accordance with local building codes.

Start by measuring the kitchen dimensions to determine the cubic foot size. Multiply the length, width, and height of the entire room or kitchen area. For example, a kitchen measuring 10’ by 10’ by 8’ would result in 800 cubic feet.

To find the CFM for your kitchen, divide the cubic feet total by 4, aiming for air circulation every 4 minutes. For an 800 cubic foot kitchen, the calculation would be 800 CF / 4 = 200 CFM. Thus, an 800 CF kitchen would require a range hood with a minimum of 200 CFM to effectively remove contaminants from the air.

Consider the stove width when determining the appropriate fan size. A minimum of 100 CFM per 12” of stove width is recommended. For instance, a 30” wide stove would require 250 CFM. The formula for this calculation is: (stove length in feet) x 100 CFM = minimum stove CFM.

Gas stoves generate more heat and fumes than electric ones, requiring higher CFM. Consider the total BTU output of the burners to determine CFM requirements. Divide the total BTU by 100 to obtain the minimum CFM. For example, a gas stove with four 10,000 BTU burners would require a minimum of 400 CFM.

For external venting range hoods, consider the impact of ductwork on performance. Additional resistance from ductwork requires compensating by adding CFM to the range hood’s power. For each foot of duct pipe, add 1 CFM; for each 90-degree turn, add 25 CFM; and for the external vent cap, add 40 CFM.

Therefore, calculate the total additional CFM needed based on the ductwork configuration. Add this to the CFM requirements determined for the room size, stove size, or burner BTU. For example, if an 800 CF kitchen area with an electric stove requires 250 CFM, accounting for ductwork would necessitate a range hood with at least 345 CFM.

Avoiding Backdrafts, and Makeup Air Systems

Effective ventilation involves not only removing air from a room but also ensuring a simultaneous replacement source. In many homes, this is naturally facilitated through an open floor plan, air leakage around doors and windows, or specialized ventilation systems. However, high-powered range hoods can sometimes create imbalances by pulling excessive air from the room, affecting other areas of the house and potentially leading to backdrafting.

Since 2009, the International Residential Codes (IRC) have mandated that exhaust hood systems exceeding 400 CFM must be accompanied by a makeup air system to balance the outflow. Manufacturers and building professionals have devised various solutions to address this issue, ranging from using sealed combustion appliances that don’t require venting to installing dampeners, additional exhaust grilles, or implementing balanced ventilation systems like HRV (heat-recovery ventilator) systems and blowers.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for homes experiencing backdrafting due to tightly sealed construction. Each case requires careful consideration of factors such as climate, humidity levels, existing HVAC equipment, and vented appliances. It’s essential to consult local building codes and professionals to determine the most suitable approach for your specific circumstances.

Given the diverse layouts and needs of individual homes, the provided formulas can help guide design choices and goals. However, it’s crucial to seek expert advice for final installation specifications tailored to your project’s requirements.

What to Look For

Finish, Style, and Location

The range hood serves as a prominent design element in your kitchen, drawing attention to itself. Hence, it’s crucial to select a design that harmonizes with the overall aesthetics of your kitchen. Look for a finish color or material that complements other elements in the room and ensures that the shape and size of the hood blend seamlessly with the surroundings.

Fan Speeds

While many brands offer multiple fan speeds, three speeds typically suffice for most cooks. Ensure that there are at least high, medium, and low settings available to accommodate various cooking needs. Additional speed options can be beneficial for maintaining consistent room pressurization levels or operating the hood at quieter settings during idle times.


Range hoods can create shadows between overhead lighting sources and the stove’s working surface, affecting visibility. It’s essential for most households to have interior lighting options beneath the hood, easily accessible with the push of a button. Lighting choices may include LED, fluorescent, incandescent, or halogen bulbs, providing adequate illumination for cooking tasks or serving as night-lights in dimly lit kitchens.

Range Hood Additional Features

Electronic Controls

Customize airflow precisely to your needs with push-button and digital electronic panels, offering a variety of options for optimal ventilation control.

Exhaust Timer/Auto Shut-off

Set the range hood to filter the air after a cooking session without the hassle of manually switching it off. It automatically shuts off after a predetermined time period, providing convenience and energy efficiency.

Heat Sensors

Adjust the blower speed of the range hood based on the temperature around the cooking area. Heat sensors ensure efficient ventilation by increasing airflow when needed.

WiFi and Smart Device Compatibility

Control your range hood remotely using compatible smart devices and WiFi connectivity. Enjoy the convenience of adjusting settings from any room in your home, enhancing flexibility and ease of use.

Safety Considerations for Selecting Your Range Hood

Despite the presence of a range hood, remember that basic kitchen safety precautions remain essential. Cooking over open flames, particularly with gas ranges, carries inherent risks. Always exercise caution to prevent accidents or fires.

Allow for working space in your cooking space.

Ensure sufficient space for safe cooking by installing the range hood approximately 18” to 30” above the cooking surface. This positioning not only facilitates safe cooking but also ensures proper lighting and optimal venting height.

Go big for your home

Ensure safe working conditions by installing the range hood 18” to 30” above the cooking surface. This provides ample space for cooking, adequate lighting, and effective ventilation.

But Less is sometimes More.

Minimize the distance the dirty air travels through ducting pipes for optimal ventilation performance. Ideally, limit the number of 90-degree angle bends to two between the stove top range and the exterior vent.