Range Hood Buying Guide

    Range Hood Buying Guide

    If your kitchen is starved for space, you might be tempted to place an over-the-range microwave oven above your cooktop. But for effective venting of smoke and fumes, a range hood is a much better choice.

    Consumer Reports does not test range hoods at this time, but the best hoods we tested in the past excelled at containing and exhausting smoke and fumes and exchanging air. Some were also notably quieter than others and better at delivering high and low levels of lighting. 

    This buying guide explores the different types of range hoods, which features to consider when you’re shopping for one, and the most common range hood brands.

    Types of Range Hoods

    Here are the different types of range hoods to consider. The layout of your kitchen and the location of your cooktop largely dictate the kind of range hood you can install.

    Undercabinet hoods
    These mount under the bottom of a wall cabinet above the cooktop. Ductwork inside an adjoining wall, chase, soffit, or ceiling can exhaust smoke and fumes outside. In some models, a shallow hood slides out of the upper kitchen cabinet when you need it. Typical kitchen cabinets extend only about halfway across the cooktop, so this extension routes steam and smoke away from cabinet faces and back toward the suction end of the range hood. 

    Wall-mounted chimney hoods
    These hoods are an option when there are no cabinets over the range. Their exposed vent stacks, which vent cooking gases outside, can make a strong design statement.

    Island hoods
    Island hood models are mounted to and vented through ductwork in the ceiling. Because they lack a wall or cabinets alongside them to help funnel fumes, they should be wider than the cooking surface.

    Downdraft hoods
    These hoods are designed to capture rising smoke and fumes and exhaust them through ducts running beneath the floor. CR’s past range hood tests found that these were among the least effective at removing smoke and steam. While they can be used anywhere in the kitchen, their main application is in islands where it might not be possible to route ductwork through the ceiling.

    Ductless hoods
    This type of installation draws steam, heat, and smoke from the cooktop, filters it, and returns it to the room. Its filters trap oil and grease droplets dispersed into the air above the range, and some models include an optional carbon filter to reduce odors. We do not recommend ductless hoods, because they do not actually exhaust contaminants outside.

    Range Hood Features

    These are the range hood features to consider before you go shopping.

    Airflow
    Manufacturers tout the cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air exhausted by their range hoods. While more airflow means faster ventilation, it doesn’t guarantee better smoke capture and removal in your kitchen. Many hoods that we tested that claimed to have modest airflow vented as well as those with twice the airflow.

    Exhaust timer
    This convenient feature turns off the fan after a set period of time.

    Filters
    There are three main types of range hood filters: stainless steel baffle, aluminum mesh, and charcoal. Generally, filters should be washed or replaced every one to three months—or more often if you cook frequently—to keep your range hood running efficiently.

    Number of fan speeds
    Most of the hoods we tested offered from three to six fan speeds. We recommend a minimum of two speeds: a high-speed setting to use when cooking and a very low (and quiet) speed setting to use after cooking to continue to ventilate the space while you’re eating. Any more than three speeds are unnecessary. If the manufacturer provides more than three speeds, the hood should have a variable speed switch that the user can easily set to any speed desired.

    Size
    Range hoods typically span from 30 to 66 inches wide. Select a model that’s at least as wide as the cooking surface underneath. (Island-mount hoods lack a wall or cabinets alongside them to help to funnel fumes, so they should be wider than the cooktop.)

    Style
    Over-the-range hoods come in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, copper, tempered glass, wood, zinc, and bronze.

    Thermostat control
    A built-in temperature sensor in some models automatically turns on the fan if the temperature below the hood gets too high. This feature is standard on over-the-range microwaves, to prevent the microwave electronics from getting damaged by high temperatures. If the temperature under the microwave is too high, the exhaust fan comes on to draw away the hot air and pull in cooler air from the rest of the kitchen. We do not recommend this feature on range hoods, however, because in the event a grease fire triggers the fan, it could intensify the flame by drawing more air toward it. 

    Range Hood Brands

    Use these profiles to compare range hoods by brand.

    Broan-NuTone makes range hoods in all configurations and types. They are available at low, midrange, and high prices. You’ll find them in Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears, and independent appliance stores.

    GE’s Profile and Monogram range hoods cover the entire gamut of the category in terms of configuration, features, and price. They’re sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears, and regional appliance stores.

    Vent-A-Hood sells products at the high end of the market, offering wall-mounted, undercabinet, and island styles. They’re primarily sold at specialty and independent appliance stores.

    Viking sells luxury range hoods, from 30-inch to 60-inch models. They’re sold at Best Buy, specialty stores, and independent appliance retailers.

    Most Whirlpool range hoods come in undercabinet and wall-chimney configurations, with a few models in the downdraft category. The company’s range hoods are low-priced to midpriced models and are sold at Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and independent appliance dealers.

    Wolf manufactures range hoods targeted at the high end of the market. They’re sold at speciality stores and independent appliance retailers.

    Zephyr sells a variety of wall, island, and undercabinet range hoods across a wide range of prices. They’re sold at Best Buy, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.