House & Home

Keep your kitchen cleaner with an efficient range hood

The range is often a focal point of the kitchen, and this one has an eye-catching backsplash that visually connects with the hood.
The range is often a focal point of the kitchen, and this one has an eye-catching backsplash that visually connects with the hood. A Kitchen That Works

Homeowners who cook are justifiably fans of vented range hoods.

Hoods have form and function in the updated hearth of a home, says Alana Busse, president of the Central Coast and Valley chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

“More people want to cook like a ‘top chef’ at home and invest in a big, beefy range or cooktop, instead of a traditional electric stove,” Busse says. “The properly ventilated range hood not only removes cooking grease, moisture and odors from the kitchen, it is required to vent gas burners.”

Before a kitchen design can get cooking, you need to plan how best to ventilate it. The style of a range hood is secondary to its performance. Busse says to start with the home of the range.

“The size and location of the cooking source in the kitchen determines its best range hood partner,” she says. “A range hood’s performance is measured in cubic feet per minute, so the higher a range hood’s CFM number, the more air it will remove.”

A large, six-burner gas range can require a hood with a maximum output of 1,200 CFMs, but Busse says the hidden ductwork is as essential as a range hood’s CFM number. The venting of a range hood may determine the layout of a kitchen and the configuration of appliances.

“The chance of buildup is greater in a 20-foot run of venting ductwork than in a 5-foot run directly vented through an exterior wall,” she says. “Generally, the size of a range hood should mimic the dimensions of the cooking source, but the higher it is installed from the cooktop surface, the less efficient it becomes at capturing smoke and particles.”

The typical installation distance between a cooktop’s burners and the hood is about 3 feet. But a standard height installation for a range hood may not work for the tall cook, so it’s essential to choose a model with adequate power to remove air effectively.

If you choose a strong range hood fan, building codes may require a makeup air system in your home’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning system. High-powered range hoods can take out large volumes of air, and if air is not replaced at the same rate it is expelled, a vacuum effect can be created in the home.

All of the planning around the range hood is secondary if it is never pressed into service, says Molly Erin McCabe, co-owner and founder of A Kitchen That Works, on Bainbridge Island, Wash.

“Range hoods are designed to remove moisture, grease and particulates from your home, and prevent these things from being breathed in and adhering to your walls, cabinets and furnishings,” McCabe says. “If the range hood isn’t used, homeowners might experience moisture-related issues, such as mold, and higher maintenance requirements for paint, wallpaper, cabinetry and furnishings.”

The time to turn on the range hood isn’t when water is boiling or food becomes blackened. “Make a habit of turning on your range hood before you begin cooking; that way, when you need it to be venting, you’ve already created an airflow,” McCabe says. “Also, don’t snap off the range hood as soon as you’re done cooking; really allow it to clear the air, so to speak. Some range hoods even come equipped with a timer, so you don’t have to interrupt a meal to flip a switch.”

McCabe says homeowners make a lot of noise about the loudness of a range hood’s fan. A range hood’s sound output is measured in sones — an internationally recognized measurement of loudness — and each is marked in a product’s description.

One sone is roughly equal to the sound of a refrigerator running, while conversations take place around 4 sones. As a rule the higher the range hood’s CFM rating, the louder the unit is when running. Range hood fans typically have three to six speeds; so to mitigate noise purchase the most powerful range hood you can afford and run it on a lower speed.

If the cooking surface is on a kitchen island, the capture area of the exhaust fan should be larger to compensate for the fact that the fan will be drawing air from an open space. But along with technical considerations, homeowners need to consider a range hood’s aesthetics. An island cooktop with a large hood vented to the ceiling can visually fight with hanging light fixtures, so an inconspicuous downdraft fan system might be the best solution.

Range hoods have evolved from utilitarian stainless steel to the ubercool wrapped in cabinetry, and come in all shapes and sizes: from a straight-sided box to sleek, tapered styles. “A wall-mounted range hood can be housed in cabinetry that becomes the modern-day mantel in the kitchen,” Busse says. “The range area is often a focal point of the kitchen, with an eye-catching backsplash on the wall visually connected to the hood venting.”

Geri Higgins, owner of Portfolio Kitchens in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District, says some of the newer over-island ventilation systems “add an aesthetic that is a game changer to the kitchen.”

“There is so much more than the chimney head,” she said. “Elica took it to the limits with their Interstellar (suspended hood). It’s a crystal chandelier that's outfitted for ventilation. Hoods have taken giant leaps in the past six years. There are now so many ways of having a beautiful hood and even a non-hood.”

Portfolio also carries retractable systems like the Thermador downdraft ventilation unit, which can be installed in counter tops for a concealed look. It includes a filter with a splatter shield that can be removed and cleaned in a dishwasher.

McCabe also wants to shed light on the importance of maintenance. Many range hood models come with a warning light that indicates when it’s time to clean filters, which can be as easy as running them through the dishwasher. “Expect to pay about $1,000 for a high-quality range hood, which should include lights, so what you’re doing on the stovetop is well-illuminated,” she says. “Homeowners can showcase their design range by incorporating the hood venting into their overall kitchen aesthetic.”

Under the (range) hood

To find a certified kitchen professional, go to the National Kitchen and Bath Association at and type in your ZIP code under the Find a Professional link under the Design tab. Other resources include: