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Range Hood Buying Guide

A comprehensive hood buying guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new hood for your kitchen.

Getting Started

If you are someone who likes to cook and spend a lot of time in the kitchen you will know that using a range, range top, or cooktop can produce a lot of heat and steam. Having a good hood above your units prevents heat, smoke, moisture, and grease from filling your kitchen or home.

Choosing the Right Hood for Your Cooktop or Range

Not all hoods can be used efficiently on both gas and electric ranges. An electric range will require less CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) than a gas range. If you have an electric range, a hood that can clean 475 CFM or less should be plenty powerful for your kitchen.

The proper hood for a gas range will depend on the range's power output, as measured in BTUs. Range hoods should be able to offer 1 CFM for every 100 BTUs their range is capable of producing. Therefore a gas range capable of 45000 BTUs requires a range hood of about 450 CFM. This assumes the worst-case scenario - all burners on at the same time and in their highest setting. Note: Professional style range hoods require greater CFMs.

Range Hood Styles

There are a few different range hood styles to choose from, ensuring that there's a practical ventilation option for any kitchen design.

Under-Cabinet Range Hoods

Perhaps the most popular option, under-cabinet range hoods combine affordability and effectiveness. Suitable for installation in nearly any kitchen, under-cabinet hoods can either vent or recirculate air, depending on the model. When vented, any ducting for under-cabinet hoods goes through the walls.

Over the Range Microwave

Serving double duty, over the range microwaves combine the function of an under-cabinet range hood with that of a standard microwave. Similarly, these units can either vent or recirculate filtered air.


Chimney Hoods

Whether your range rests against the wall or on a centrally located kitchen island, chimney hoods offer excellent ventilation and often stylish designs. When there are no cabinets above your range to hide the ductwork, a chimney hood is the standard solution. Wall hoods, as the name suggests, run ventilation from the canopy toward the external vent. Island hoods perform the safe function but are suspended from the ceiling during installation instead of clinging to a wall. These hoods pull steam, smoke, grease, and odors away from your range and out through ductwork in the ceiling. Because of their more complicated design and installation, island hoods are usually a good deal more expensive than their wall-mounted counterparts.

Downdrafts

If the idea of a canopy above your range doesn't match with the vision you have for your kitchen, consider a downdraft. Occasionally built into cooktops and ranges, downdrafts differ from ventilation hoods in that they sit beside your cooking area, pulling smoke and odors horizontally into their ventilation and/or filtration systems. Usually, the downdraft will pop out of your countertop when in use, extending up 8-10" to capture the airborne impurities more effectively. Although downdrafts are an innovative solution for kitchens that can't accommodate a more traditional hood, they simply aren't as effective as the overhead models.

Size

For the best results range hoods should be at least as wide as the range or cooktop. This allows for the hood to properly manage the vast majority of smoke and steam produced below, keeping your air clean while protecting cabinetry from heat and smoke damage. When selecting a range hood, it is best to have already measured your cooking surface before choosing a unit. Always read the specified requirements for the proper mounting height.

Ventilation

There are three configurations: Vented (Ducted), Non-Vented (Duct-Free), and Combination.

Vented (Ducted)

Vented or ducted hoods require ductwork to channel the exhaust outdoors. The best range hood is only as good as its exhaust system.

Non-vented (Duct-free)

Non-vented or duct-free hoods use washable and replaceable filter(s) to clean and return the air to the kitchen.

Combination

Combination hoods can be used with or without ducts.

Features

Before purchasing a range hood you should familiarize yourself with the new and innovative features hoods have to offer. It's important to know that a gas range will require a hood with a higher CFM (cubic feet per minute) than an electric range. For an in-depth explanation of CFM, see below.

Blowers

Many hoods come with a built-in blower, simplifying the installation process. These are known as internal blowers. Although having the blower contained within the hood is rather convenient, this design is also typically the loudest option. If a hood doesn't come with a blower, one must be purchased separately. These separate blowers fall into two categories: in-line blowers and external blowers.

External blowers rest on the outside of your home or business, often mounted on the roof or to a wall. External blowers are typically the quietest option because of their distance to the hood. This separation makes external blowers ideal for more powerful models. So, even though the blower is situated outdoors, its high powered exhaust prevents it from being silent.

In-line blowers rest within the ventilation ducts between your hood and the vent to the outside. These blowers often work independently but can be used to supplement internal blowers that have especially long or winding ventilation ducts. Ideally, in-line blowers are placed in easily accessible areas so that they can be serviced should anything go wrong. Typically, these blowers will be found in attics or basements. Like external blowers, in-line blowers are often quieter than internal models because of their distance from the hood.


CFM

The quantity of air a hood is able to move is measured in Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM). The higher a hood's CFM, the more quickly it will be able to clean your kitchen's air. However, higher CFM ratings usually equate to noisier operation. Though, most range hoods offer two or more fan speeds, allowing you to adjust the CFM according to need at any given time.

Noise

Noise is measured in sones. A sone is roughly equal to the sound of a refrigerator running. Normal conversations take place at about four sones, city traffic rates up to around eight. Use sones to compare different range hoods, but be aware, the higher the CFM, the higher the sone.

Automatic Shutoff

A timer can be preset to shut the fan off after a specific time.

Heat sensors

Sensors automatically speed up the fan or sound an alarm when they detect increased heat.

Lights

Lights are also available on hoods, with one or two incandescent or halogen bulbs.