Having the right tools for cooking at home is more than just the right sized pan or sharp chef’s knife. Smoke and vaporized cooking oil that isn’t filtered or removed from your kitchen will settle on surfaces throughout your home and leave behind an odor that’s hard to remove.
Not only the smell, but the steam, smoke, fumes, and other particles that get released when you cook can gather around and above your cooking range. They can leave a staining and sticky residue behind that can potentially stain the wall, ceiling, and cabinet around your cooking range. Your air quality can suffer if you burn food (it happens to the best of us) and create smoke that can set off alarms, which is a nuisance.
If you find you’re setting off your fire alarm frequently then you need better ventilation. For things like searing steaks, the smoke is unavoidable, so keeping proper ventilation is important.
Do you have cabinets above your cooking range? Do you notice that after cooking there is an oily or watery residue on the cabinet? That means your range hood isn’t capturing the dirty air that’s released from your cooking.
To the point: Range hoods keep dirty and humid air from leaving behind stains or water condensation on the walls, cabinets, and ceiling surrounding your cooking range.
We’ll get into the details of picking the right range hood for your kitchen in the sections below.
- 1 Product Comparison Tables
- 2 Benefits of a Good Range Hood
- 3 Choosing Your Style: Under-Cabinet, Wall-Mounted, Island, or Downdraft Range Hoods
- 4 Performance difference between Ducted and Ductless Range Hoods?
- 5 Can I turn a Ducted Range Hood into Ductless?
- 6 Range Hood Installation Best Practices
- 6.1 Height of your Range Hood
- 6.2 Optimizing Ductwork
- 6.3 Chimney Extensions
- 6.4 Backsplash – Protecting Your Walls
- 6.5 Installation Guide
- 7 Top Picks: Under-Cabinet Range Hoods
- 7.1 Under-Cabinet, Ducted Range Hoods
- 8 Top Picks: Wall-Mount Range Hoods
- 8.1 Wall-Mount Ductless Range Hoods
- 8.2 Wall-Mount Ducted Range Hoods
- 9 Top Picks: Island Range Hoods
Product Comparison Tables
Already have an idea of what you’re looking for? Click one of these options to skip to the product comparisons for each category. Otherwise, continue on to the buying guide.
Benefits of a Good Range Hood
- Remove Cooking Oil and Water Vapor from Your Home’s Air.
- Remove Excess Heat. (Best Accomplished by Ducted Range Hoods)
- Aesthetically Pleasing
- More Cooking Freedom
A good range hood does all these things, and by “good” I mean fits the size, style, and demands of your cooking range. Like I mentioned before, if you tend to cook with very high heat you’ll quickly realize a simple microwave fan won’t stop the smoke alarm from sounding. Searing steaks, stir-fry, or even the occasional burnt bread in the oven can be handled by a strong range hood.
The vaporized cooking oil and water aren’t immediately noticeable while you’re cooking, but the intense heat definitely can be felt. Range hoods help move this heat out of your kitchen which makes your cooking experience more comfortable and not something you have to dread doing. That means more cooking freedom to try recipes that involve high heat.
Range hoods can also make your kitchen more attractive. It might even be the centerpiece of your kitchen if you have an island cooking range. Either way, a properly chosen range hood can be an impressive addition to your kitchen
Choosing Your Style: Under-Cabinet, Wall-Mounted, Island, or Downdraft Range Hoods
First things first, this guide will not discuss downdraft range hoods. They should be avoided, as they generally have very poor performance and are not worth the effort to install. Chances are if you have anything good to say about downdraft range hoods then you haven’t owned it very long. We will be talking about Under-Cabinet, Wall-Mounted, and Island range hoods.
You may be considering how to design your kitchen for the house you’re building, or maybe you’re just looking for options to upgrade your existing range hood. Of course, with a blank canvas, you can make your kitchen into whatever you like, so deciding on where to place the cooking range is going to decide which type of range hood you should be looking at. If you’re simply looking to replace your current range hood with a more up-to-date model, and you’re happy with whichever type you have, then you can skip straight to one of these sections: Wall-Mounted Range Hoods, Island Range Hoods, Under Cabinet Range Hoods.
If you’re still unsure which type you’d like to have in your kitchen, then here’s a more detailed description of each type. Also, if you’re looking to switch to a ducted range hood there are several options to choose from which might fit into your current cabinet layout.
About Under-Cabinet Range Hoods
- Duct or Ductless Options Available
- 3.25″ x 10″ OR 6″-8″ Round Ducts are most common
- Top or Rear Venting Options
- 24-Inch to 48-Inch Sizes fit most homes
- Easy Installation
This style of range hood attaches to the underside of the cabinets above your cooking range. You can get ducted and ductless versions of Under Cabinet range hoods. The mount point is the only major distinction between Under Cabinet and wall-mounted range hoods. At a glance, there isn’t a noticeable difference once they are installed.
Under Cabinet range hoods rely on the cabinet above to contain the duct and are mounted flush against the cabinet using screws. Width is the main factor when picking out the right range hood. You’ll want to make sure it will fit between the adjacent cabinets.
The duct options vary between manufacturers, but many under-cabinet range hoods can be vented to the rear or top of the hood. Top venting is most common. As for the size, the bigger the better. However, if you have an 8″ exhaust on your range hood but only have 6″ diameter ducts, then you aren’t getting an improvement over a 6″ exhaust range hood. Also, you can adapt any type of range hood exhaust to fit your existing ducts. For example, if you have a range hood with 3.25″ x 10″ exhaust and you have 6″ diameter ducts in your home, then that’s no problem. You can just use an adapter to convert to the 6″ pipe.
For ductless installation, either the range hood will come with carbon filters or you have the option to purchase them separately. Commonly, range hoods come with an aluminum mesh or baffle filters which are to be used with ducted installations, so you need carbon filters for additional filtration since the air is vented back into your home with a ductless range hood.
About Wall-Mounted Range Hoods
- Duct or Ductless Options Available
- Top or Rear Venting (Top is most common)
- 6″ to 8″ Round ducts are most common
- Need to know location of wall studs for installation.
- Great performance and many options for style
Wall-mounted looks very similar to Under-Cabinet, and Wall-Mounted range hoods can actually still be installed under a cabinet. However, there are distinct models that are intended to be installed without any cabinets above them. For these standalone ducted range hoods, there is usually a chimney going up from the range hood into the roof. The chimney is simply a metal shaft, usually cylindrical or rectangular, that contains the actual duct pipe that fumes are pushed through. They also serve to be more aesthetically pleasing than simply having and exposed duct. The color and texture of the chimney will match the range hood. Keep this in mind if you don’t have cabinets to conceal ducts. These types of range hoods also usually have large bodies and can handle more heat and fumes.
The most common wall-mount range hood exhaust size is 6″ round, and most vent vertically. You can adapt your ducts to fit any size exhaust, so if you happen to have an 8″ exhaust on your range hood then you can adapt it to fit your 6″ ducts.
For larger Wall-Mounted range hoods, you may even have two 6″ ducts that run inside a larger chimney coming up from the range hood. This is common when you have a high-CFM dual fan system and don’t want flow restricted by only having a single exhaust duct. With any range hood, bigger and more power is best, but proper ductwork is required to make them effective. More details on installation are below!
Wall-Mounted recirculating (ductless) range hoods are installed the same as ducted, but you don’t connect any ducts to the hood. You will need to make sure you have carbon filters if you’re going to go ductless. Some models will come with these, but most are sold separately. There is a link in the product comparison tables to the carbon filters for many of the models we compare, but if in doubt you can go to the manufacturer’s website for clarification.
About Island Range Hoods
- Becomes the centerpiece of your kitchen.
- Many styles available including Glass Canopy, Curved Metal, Traditional Metal, and other finishes.
- Normally Requires Ducts
- Prices are similar to wall-mount hoods.
Naturally, the island is the centerpiece of a kitchen and an island range hood will amplify that. Island range hoods come in many different styles and can look impressive. A big range hood lets people know you can do some serious cooking.
For Island Range Hoods, you will have a chimney like the Wall-Mounted hoods but the entire range hood system will hang from the ceiling. Obviously, centering the range hood over your cooking range is crucial. Also, you will want the range hood to be at least as wide and long as your cooking range, but getting bigger is better.
There are ductless options for island range hoods, which like all other types just involves swapping the mesh or baffle filters for carbon filters. However, in this guide, we are primarily mentioning ducted island range hoods, but some of our suggestions have the option for ductless installation as well. This is because ducted is the preferred way to install any range hood, and for island hoods, you might as well go ahead and install the duct if you’re going to the trouble of hanging the range hood above your island.
About Downdraft Range Hoods
- Ducts are installed through crawlspace under your home.
- Hidden from view while not in use.
- Poor Performance
Calling these range hoods is a bit misleading as there is no hood but rather a rectangular panel that raises up from your countertop and pulls air from across the top of your cooking range.
This is the least common type of range hood and is usually found on island cooking ranges. You will quickly notice they are more expensive than the other types. We’re not going to discuss these here as the performance and quality of these types of range hoods are generally poor.
Performance difference between Ducted and Ductless Range Hoods?
Ductless is easier to install, but will it work well enough?
Ductless range hoods can be installed anywhere since they recirculate air and use filters to capture the particles released from cooking food. These filters must be replaced periodically depending on how often you cook and make use of your range hood. Now, when it comes to filtration there is always a question of efficiency. The truth is that a ductless range hood filter will not be as efficient as simply removing the air from your kitchen. That’s what makes ducted range hoods the preferred option if you want the best performance. However, installing ducts may not be an option for you, and in that case, at least having a ductless range hood will be better than none at all.
There are a lot of factors to consider here, but if your kitchen is setup for a ducted ranged hood then there’s no reason to downgrade to a ductless.
For ducted range hoods, there is more to it than just buying a high CFM hood, connecting it to some ducts and calling it a day. Even the biggest, highest CFM range hood you can buy will underperform a lower-powered range hood if the duct work is not done properly. If your range hood is not performing as it’s intended then you’ll notice that smoke and steam never actually makes it up into the vent while you’re cooking. There will be condensation on the hood itself and any surrounding cabinets. The liquid that condenses won’t just be water either but cooking oil as well.
So, what is the right way to install and connect ductwork to your range hood? Skip to our Installation section below.
Pros & Cons of Ducted Range Hoods
- Completely removes all captured air from your kitchen and home.
- Generally is able to move larger volumes of air than ductless.
- Best for large cooking ranges.
- Quieter than ductless if properly installed.
- To see the full benefits, proper duct work must be done.
- Installing duct work is more expensive and effort than ductless range hoods.
Ducted range hoods that have two blowers and dual exhaust ports can move a massive amount of air compared to a ductless range hood. Some models will have dual fans that exhaust to a single 6″ or 7″ rounded duct, and that works well, and models that have dual exhaust ports are more effective. The back pressure from trying to force air from both fans through a 6″ duct reduces the overall performance of the range hood. High CFM won’t do anything for you if there isn’t enough room to flow through the ducts.
Pros & Cons of Ductless Range Hoods
- Easy Installation
- More Affordable than Ducted Hoods
- Not as effective as ductless
- Charcoal Filters will eventually need replacing. (About every 3-6 months)
Can I turn a Ducted Range Hood into Ductless?
Yes, usually this is as simple as replacing the stock filters with carbon filters. Not all manufacturers provide carbon filters for each model range hood. For example, XtremeAir primarily makes ducted range hoods (some of the best, too!).
Most range hoods come with the aluminum mesh or stainless steel baffle filters by default, and the carbon filters are sold separately if you want to go ductless. There are models, mostly under-cabinet type, that come standard with the carbon filters and don’t even have an exhaust port for ducts.
Range Hood Installation Best Practices
Here are a few general tips:
- Make sure the hood is about 26 to 30 inches above the range and covers the entire cooking area.
- Range hoods installed above electric cooktops can be lower than for gas, check the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Not all Wall-Mount range hood chimney’s fit 9′ ceilings with the standard chimney. You might need an extension. Be aware!
- Plan your ductwork so that there are as few turns as possible.
- Smaller diameter ducts will result in more flow resistance. Don’t use a reducer to convert to a smaller duct than your range hood is made for, when possible.
Now, we’re going to go through the process of planning how you will install your range hood. This section applies primarily to any Ducted Wall-Mount range hood, Ductless Wall-Mount range hood, Island range hood, or any type of ducted range hood in general.
The installation process for a Ductless Wall-Mount and Ducted Wall-Mount is exactly the same for the hood itself, but obviously, for the ductless you will just be replacing the filters instead of installing ductwork. The same can be said for Island range hoods since they always are installed hanging from the ceiling.
Ductless Under-cabinet range hoods are the easiest to install, generally. You simply screw it into the underside of your cabinets and install the carbon filters into the range hood.
Height of your Range Hood
- For 9′ Ceilings: The total height of the Range Hood and Chimney should be between 42″ and 46″.
- For 8′ Ceilings: The total height of the Range Hood and Chimney should be between 30″ and 34″.
- Some range hoods don’t come with a long enough chimney to fit a 9′ ceiling, and you’ll have to buy an extension. (Or make your own!)
The Cooktop Height and Ceiling Height are fixed and everything else in between is what you have to think about. The Range Hood Height will vary greatly from model to model and may be as small as 3″ or bigger than 12″. Keeping in mind your ceiling height, you will want to look at the combined Chimney Height and Range Hood Height when considering if a particular range hood will fit your kitchen. When in doubt follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, bu the tips above are a good starting point.
Proper ductwork gives your range hood the best performance and bad ductwork can ruin the performance of even the most expensive range hood. As mentioned above, if your range hood has a 6″ round exhaust port, then you would want to connect either a 6″ or wider diameter duct. Converting from a 6″ exhaust up to an 8″ duct will reduce the back pressure and improve flow. Using a 4″ duct would create 5 times the flow resistance of a 6″ diameter duct of the same length. The best duct would be a straight run with no turns, but that isn’t reasonable in most cases. Having as few 90 degree turns as possible is best (one is usually enough).
Below we have examples of most of the components you will need for installing your ducts as well as recommended styles. One of the most influential components of the ducting system is the roof (or wall) cap. Many types of caps will actually restrict the airflow by not allowing a large enough volume of air to escape. This creates back pressure and reduces the overall performance of your range hood.
Recommended Ductwork Components
Flexible duct pipe has its place, but if you use it inside the range hood chimney (the part that is inside your kitchen) then it can be noisier than just using metal duct pipe. Inside of your attic, however, any noise would be less noticable. Flexible ducts also produce air resistance compared to a rigid, straight duct pipe. This is due to the rough shape and irregularity of the flexible duct walls.
When it comes to wall caps or roof caps, you want one that doesn’t restrict the air flowing out. Some caps sacrifice air flow to prevent water from being able to leak down into the duct, but that’s unnecessary.
We’ve done our best to point out products in the comparison tables that don’t fit a 9′ ceiling with the stock chimney. Even though 9′ ceilings have been a standard for about 20 years, manufacturers still make chimneys that are only made to fit 8′ to 8.5′ ceilings. Then they force you to buy a chimney extension separately. Keep in mind that you technically could install these range hoods with chimneys made for an 8′ ceiling into a kitchen with a 9′ ceiling, but the hood will be too far above the cooktop to be effective.
We’ve also tried to provide links to the manufacturer’s chimney extension for those models, but if you’re in doubt or having trouble finding one then just contact the manufacturer directly.
The DIY Approach
When all else fails you can take matters into your own hands and have a local metal fabricator bend a stainless steel sheet for you. You would need to bring them the specifications of your range hood chimney, and it would be best to bring the chimney itself so that they can be sure the extension works. This is an incredibly simple process and often can be cheaper than buying the extension from the manufacturer.
Backsplash – Protecting Your Walls
There are so many options when it comes to a backsplash, and many people opt for custom tile. There are simpler options such as backsplash panels that vary in color, style, and material. Panels are easier to clean than tile since you don’t have to worry about cleaning grout.
These three videos by XtremeAir are an excellent guide to installing each type of range hood. Installing the range hood itself is a bit of work, but the ductwork may require a professional to install properly. Especially, if you’re going to be cutting into your roof to install a vent cap.
Under-Cabinet Range Hood Installation
Wall-Mount Range Hood Installation
Island Range Hood Installation
Top Picks: Under-Cabinet Range Hoods
Broan really dominates with their ductless range hoods. They have some great ductless models for both Wall-Mount and Under-Cabinet types. Some models shown here are convertible to either ductless or ducted. The convertible models generally come standard with aluminum mesh filters for ducted installation. That means if you plan on installing it as a ductless you will need to buy the charcoal filters separately.
However, there are some models that are ductless only and come standard with the charcoal filters. Charcoal filters have to be replaced every 3-6 months depending on how often you use the range hood.