Kitchen range hoods are a little-noticed but much used part of a kitchen. A range hood is basically an enclosed fan which is designed to collect and ventilate fumes from the stove. In the absence of a range hood, heat, smoke, gases, steam, grease, and unwanted odors can contaminate the kitchen area. The hood effectively ventilates the rising air shaft over the cook top to the outside air. One of the least expensive additions to the kitchen, the range hood can help provide good circulation of indoor air and protect your health.
Particularly with an open floor plan where the kitchen is accommodated within a larger living/dining space, it can be difficult to contain the aromas of the kitchen. Range top cooking will always release steams or oils into the air which, unless captured by a range hood, will settle on furniture and walls and cause a greasy, sticky film. If you’ve decided to either remodel or install your very first fan, here are some things to consider.
What do I need?
The basic function of all range hoods is the same. However, different models perform the basic task in a variety of ways. Traditional range hoods are located directly over the range top and capture rising air via an internal fan. Other models are designed to draw air across the range top by utilizing a downdraft kitchen exhaust fan. Another alternative would be a range hood with a remote-mounted fan which can make the appliance quieter. Various controls available for the hood include variable speeds, timers, humidistats, dual fan-light and/or fan-heater combinations.
Practical considerations should have an impact on your range hood decision as well as interior design. Make sure that the range hood extends the full width of your cooking surface. Consider the noise level you are willing to allow. The exhaust fan may be located within the unit itself, which can be louder but less expensive, or located remotely, which can mean quieter venting but will cost more both for the unit and to install. Hoods may be purchased in a wide variety of colors or various metals such as copper or stainless steel to suit any kitchen decor. Range hoods can be purchased as updraft, which are mounted traditionally over the cooking surface, or downdraft, which are usually integrated into the cook top.
How will the range hood perform?
The performance of any range hood is contingent on 3 factors: airflow, power, and ductwork. If the kitchen cook surface is rarely used, the range hood decision can be based almost entirely on aesthetic reasons. If you’re a budding Paula Deen, however, you will want to consider how often you cook on high and for how long. You will need a powerful range hood to vent the contaminants outside the home.
To be able to vent properly, the hood must be attached to appropriately sized duct work. Also consider how the ducting is routed. A duct which is primarily straight to the outside will perform better than one which has a number of turns or bends. Ducting affects airflow, which in turn affects the sound or noise level.
Types of fans
The kind of fan which is included in the range hood will affect how it sounds and performs. A traditional, rotary fan is typically louder to operate but is less expensive and can be purchased with variable speeds. A barrel-shaped, or centrifugal, fan is able to move air more efficiently and is much quieter.
A downdraft fan is typically integrated into the cooking surface. This fan is very quiet and lets very little oil or fumes escape into the air. Although it can be purchased or installed apart from the cook top, this particular fan can be expensive and generally used only for commercial applications.
To vent or not to vent
Aside from the fan, perhaps the single most crucial consideration is how your unit will vent. Fans may be purchased as “vent” or “non-vent” which means either they will vent to the outside air or they will vent to the interior. A non-vent fan captures the rising air from the cooking surface, filters it, and then returns that hot air back to the kitchen. Ventilated hoods capture the air, filter it to remove greasy particles, and vent it to the outside. This can mean cleaner air in the kitchen and lower utility bills at the end of the month.
Types of Kitchen Range Hoods
Wall Mount Range Hoods
Wall mount range hoods are available in two forms, vented and non-vented. If given a choice, most builders or renovators prefer the vented models. Non-vented models merely capture the oils and grease from cooking, filter the air, and return it to the kitchen. Vented models capture particulate matter, filter the air, and then vent the stale air to the outside of the home.
Either kind of wall mount range hood is available in a variety of sleek, modern designs such as square, conical, or semi-rounded to complement any kitchen décor. Although most consumers choose stainless steel or painted metals, newer designs which incorporate glass edging, wood siding, or hammered copper are also available.
After choosing the type of vent, the second most important feature of the range hood is the filter. If you’re unlikely to use the stove much at all, then a lower-end filter made of aluminum will probably be sufficient. However, a filter which contains a charcoal insert will also remove noxious odors and is easily replaced. To many cooks, it is worth the extra expense to achieve cleaner, fresher air in the kitchen. This also helps keep allergens from venting to the air.
High-end models include features such as an LCD display, a variable-speed fan, and lighting to include a nightlight option. Some have a programmable fan which can be preset to turn off after a specific period of time. Options such as a remote blower unit can help make the range hood quieter while preserving the powerful suction capability.
Vented Range Hood
Range hoods are available in several different forms such as vented, ductless or ventless, and convertible. By far the most popular is the vented style of range hood. Air from the cooking surface is drawn up into the range hood and vented to the outside air. This means that your kitchen stays cooler and fresher, since grease is captured in the filter and odors are sent outside. Vented range hoods are safer for your home’s interior and for personal health because they remove dust and possible allergens from the air.
Vented range hoods are mounted to the wall and attached to ductwork. They are highly efficient at maintaining an even temperature in the kitchen, preventing heat from accumulating by collecting hot air over the cooking surface. Feature-rich models can include LDC displays, variable speed fans, and lighting. Typical models are fashioned from stainless steel and are easy to clean. More exotic models of hammered copper or wood can also be found in relatively short order.
Before making your purchase, consider the type of cooking you intend to do. If high-heat cooking is likely, be sure the fan is powerful enough to properly ventilate your cook top. The type of filter contained in the unit is important as well. Although all units have at least a removable aluminum filter, one which contains a disposable charcoal filter will remove odors as well as capture the oils and steam associated with cooking. Finally, though ultra-quiet models are nice on the ears, they usually aren’t as powerful.
Ductless Range Hood
If the kitchen is located on an interior wall, you do not have the option of installing a traditionally ducted range hood. Due to the possible danger of fire, you should not vent to an inside wall or into the attic. Therefore, the best choice available to you would be a ductless range hood. These work somewhat differently than ducted, or vented, range hoods in that the air is filtered and then recycled back to the inside. As with a traditional hood, the ductless models draw air from the stovetop through the filters. After the air is filtered, it is released back into the kitchen.
When choosing a ductless range hood, one of the most important factors will be the filtration system. Avoid a range hood which only has an aluminum filter. Although it can be cleaned fairly easily, it will do a poor job of capturing evaporated grease or odors. Instead, choose a hood with at least a charcoal filter. These particular filters are designed to capture grease and absorb noxious odors, which is essential since the air is returned to the kitchen rather than the outside. Also, be sure that the filter is easy to access, since a dirty filter will shorten the life of the appliance and will be unable to properly clean the air.
Most ductless range hoods have a lighting option and at least a two-speed fan. Available in a variety of colors such as white and black, they are also available in the ever-popular stainless steel. Because they don’t require ductwork, these hoods are a popular do-it-yourself project among those persons who are handy with tools.
Island Range Hoods
Many homes have begun to incorporate a range or cook top inside of a kitchen island. Beautiful to view and easy to work with, these ranges offer a wide array of functionality. Until recently, however, there were few choices offered on how to ventilate the island space. Homeowners had to be content with utilizing standard, wall-mounted range hoods turned on the highest setting to inefficiently vent some of the unwanted steam and/or odors.
Recent innovations have produced range hoods which can be suspended elegantly from the ceiling to ventilate the island space. Proper ventilation is assured since the suspended hoods capture the rising air column, filter it, and vent the hot air to the outside via a small chimney. Typical ventilation ducting runs through the ceiling rather than through a traditional wall.
Suspended range hoods are available in a variety of finishes. They can be readily purchased in white or black, or custom ordered in many other enameled colors. Stainless steel is an extremely popular, easy to clean option, while copper or brushed aluminum can be chosen to complement any decor.
Many shapes can also be found. Square frame, beveled, circled, or even slanted range hoods are readily available. Some designs incorporate lighting, an LCD display, or glass edging for a sleek modern look. Other models are enclosed entirely in wood and have rustic appeal. A wide range of sizes are also available from a simple, though elegant, column design to a gargantuan wide model.
As with any range hood, before you purchase you should investigate the power of the fan, the noise level, and the type of filter to be sure that the hood will be compatible with your personal cooking style as well as your interior design.
Range Hood Filters
A simple way to help ensure your range hood operates at peak efficiency is to maintain a clean filter. This often-overlooked maintenance chore directly affects how well the fan motor performs and the air is filtered. A clean filter can reduce motor stress and prolong the life of the appliance. On the surface, choosing a filter seems like such a small decision, but that choice can have a big impact on performance.
It stands to reason that if the hood air filter is clean, it can remove more impurities than a dirty one. If you are accustomed to cooking your own meals, your filter will see more use than that of someone who is accustomed to microwaving. Your style of cooking will affect how often you change the filter, too. Cooking southern-fried food produces more airborne oils to be filtered and requires more filters than cooking Mediterranean-style, which emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables.
There are basically two types of filters from which to choose: permanent and disposable. Permanent filters are generally constructed of aluminum or an aluminum alloy. Meant to last for the lifetime of the appliance, they must be removed and cleaned to maintain efficiency. The manufacturer will supply cleaning instructions for the filter. Sometimes not cleaning the filter in the prescribed manner will void the warranty, so it pays to read the fine print.
Disposable filters are designed to be replaced periodically. While this means more overall expense than for permanent filters, it also means less work because they don’t require cleaning. Some disposable filters come with a layer of charcoal, which tends to capture stale or nasty odors and filter the air.