Proper cooking ventilation is a must for every kitchen. A hood removes grease, smoke, chemicals, condensation, and odors generated by cooking, and keeps your kitchen and the air inside your home cleaner. Nowadays, lots of ventilation options are available. Here’s what you need to know before you buy.
Types. There are three main types of cooking ventilation units: over-the-range microwaves, range hoods, and downdraft ventilation. Your best option depends on where your range is located, what kind and size of cooktop you use, and how much cooking you do.
- Range hoods are dedicated units that are typically vented outside your home. They are available in numerous configurations that allow them to be mounted to walls, ceilings, or under cabinets.
- Range hoods are the most effective ventilation option for eliminating smoke, odors, and moisture. Because of this, they’re the best choice for people who have large stoves, do lots of cooking, or use oil or high heat.
- Downdraft hoods are a good option when a range is situated on an island because they fit behind the stove and don’t block the view. Since they pull air down and heat and smoke rise, downdraft systems are somewhat inefficient.
- Over-the-range microwaves are convenient and found in many homes, but even the top models are not as effective as range hoods. They trap some smoke and odors, but simply recirculate air.
Ducting. Range hoods that are ducted and vent to the outside of the home are the best option for keeping your home’s air clean. The ductwork may go straight out the rear of the unit, up and then out through the wall or ceiling, or down through the floor (as in the case of downdraft units).
Pro tip: If you choose a ceiling or wall-mounted unit, it should be 6 inches wider than your range. Beware of ductless models. While they are easier to install, they aren’t as effective at removing smoke, smells, and moisture, and recirculate potentially dirty air.
Air flow. The air flow of cooking ventilation systems is measured in cubic feet per minute. Many hood manufacturers tout high CFM as a selling point. Keep in mind that a hood’s CFM is not necessarily a measure of its performance. To figure out how high of a CFM you really need, take the power of your stove (BTUs) and divide by 100.
Features. Variable fan speeds are important to save energy and lower noise levels while cooking. According to Consumer Reports, three speeds are enough, any more than that is unnecessary. Other helpful features include halogen lights with multiple settings, thermostat controls that switch venting on when excessive temperatures are detected, and timers.
Budget. During our search, we found over-the-range microwaves between $150 and $500. Range hoods cost anywhere from $200 to well over $2,000. Downdraft units start at around $400, with top models coming in just under $2,000. The good news? Newer models offer premium looks at several price points, so you can focus on buying the most powerful, effective unit for your budget.