Selecting a Kitchen Ventilation System or Hood

What you need to know about purchasing a ventilation system for your kitchen.


Delicious aromas may be an enticing part of good cooking, but moisture, grease, odors, and heat from stovetop food preparation will damage the surrounding areas.

Steam from cooking condenses on windows and walls, and carbon monoxide from gas-range combustion can build up.

Mechanical ventilation from a range hood or vent—which removes stale, odorous steamy air through ducts—eliminates or lessens these problems.

Choose from basic ductless wall-mount units or more-versatile systems with multiple lights, timers, and easy-clean surfaces.

Some slim hood designs hide under over-stove cabinets, then slide out for use; others serve as shelves for microwaves with venting fans beneath. Elaborate vent systems integrate a wall-mount microwave conveniently set over the range.

Because a vent functions by capturing air and steam, its hood or canopy should be as wide as the range top. Decorative hoods or canopies are used to dress up a range or cooktop hood in stainless steel, tile, or paneling that matches the cabinetry. Hoods can be semi-custom or custom.

Range Hood Fans with Ductwork

A hollow sump area under the hood holds stale air until a fan moves it outdoors through ducts; the deeper the sump, the more it holds.

The fan plays a crucial role; a powerful unit keeps the air fresher. Axial fans have blades similar to ordinary fans. Centrifugal fans resemble a wheel and move more air for longer ducts.

Filters trap grease and particles, preventing entry into the ductwork and potential clogs that can be a fire hazard. Filters should fit snugly yet remove easily for cleaning or replacement.

Do your homework. Browse websites and magazines that compare current models and features. Consumer Reports is an excellent source for unbiased information and recommendations.

Stainless Steel Range and Hood
Abbaka hood.

What does cfm mean and why is it important? Room and stove size determine the required rate of air removed, which is measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm).

According to the Home Ventilating Institute, the general recommendation is a minimum of 40 cfm for every linear foot of a range. Usually, an average size range requires air removal at 120 cfm when using an overhead range vent hood.

Recirculating range hoods: This is the most basic but least efficient system. These hoods attach to the wall above the cooktop and pull air through a filter, recirculating it back into the room, often including odors or gases. Filters do absorb grease and require frequent cleaning or replacement. These hoods are easy to install because they don't require ductwork.

Downdraft systems: Such systems are typically part of the range, often on the stovetop near the burners. Some stove designs can be retrofitted for venting from underneath. "Hidden" styles remain flush with the cooking surface until necessary. Then, with the push of a button, they rise 8 to 10 inches above the cooking surface. These are best for island or peninsula cooktops where hood installation may be awkward or impossible.

Downdraft units use one or more fans, pulling air through a filter into ductwork (usually beneath the floor or above cabinets, and sometimes out the wall). They need a minimum of 150 cfm. Stove placement is also a factor; wall units need up to 400 cfm; an island cooktop needs up to 600 cfm.

Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

White Cabinets With Grey Stove Hood

Because their purpose includes removing grease and moisture from cooking, these systems quickly collect dirt and require regular cleaning. Always check the manufacturer's specific cleaning instructions if available.

The usual routine includes washing external surfaces often (even daily) with a solution of warm water, detergent, and ammonia. Rinse well with clear water. Don't use abrasive or scouring pads because they scratch surfaces.

Sponge cooled light bulbs with the solution, rinse, and thoroughly dry.

If the blades are accessible, wipe frequently with the washing solution. If they are inaccessible, schedule annual professional maintenance.

Remove metal mesh filters; soak in solution for a few minutes. Sponge off dirt as necessary, rinse, and air dry before replacing in the hood.

Charcoal filters are not cleanable; replace them once a year.

Web Sites

Learn more about hoods on these Web sites, looking under "cooking" or "ventilation" for more:

Get more ideas from Kitchen Makeovers magazine

Kitchen Makeovers Fall 2004 Cover

The current issue of Kitchen Makeovers is only available at bookstores or newsstands; however, you can purchase current or back issues of other BHG magazines (Decorating, Country Home, Do It Yourself, Ladies' Home Journal, and more) by calling 1-800-867-8628.

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