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How to Choose the Right Range Hood

Learn about the many range hoods available. Determining factors that will lead you to an informed decision: efficiency, noise level, colour and style, lighting and maintenance requirements. Here is a guide that will help you make the right choice.

Extraction or recirculating system

One of the first criteria to consider when you select a range hood is the ventilation system. There are two main types of hoods: ducted and ductless.
A ducted hood is the best option. However, if it is not possible to install ductwork to draw foul air outside, you need to turn to a recirculating hood.

Ductless Hoods - Recirculating
This type of hood operates as follows: a charcoal filter cleans foul air, removes most grease particles and odours and returns the air to the kitchen.
Ductless hoods are simpler to install but are considered less effective than ducted hoods, since they return air back into the kitchen without extracting smoke, heat or moisture.

Ducted Hoods - Extraction
This type of hood completely eliminates foul air, venting it outside the house through ductwork. These hoods are very popular and constitute the most effective way of meeting ventilation standards as set out in the National Building Code of Canada. Installing a ducted range hood is more complicated because of the ductwork involved; once that is in place, installation of the hood is quickly completed.

Let's not forget specialized models

Downdraft Range Hoods
Downdraft range hoods are located at the side or behind the cooking area and level with the cooking surface. These models, practical because they are camouflaged, require an internal or external vent.
They can be less effective than other types of hoods, since heat and foul air tend to rise, and, in certain cases, ventilation modules are too far away from some cooktop elements.

Slide-Out Range Hoods
These models are installed under a full-size kitchen cabinet with either outside venting or a recirculating charcoal filter.


  • Sizing

    The width of most range hoods varies between 24 and 36". 30" models are the most popular since their width conforms to the width of most electric and gas stoves. As a general rule, the range hood should overlap the cooking surface by three inches on both sides. This is particularly important for gas ranges.

    Depth can vary slightly from one manufacturer to another and from one model to another. Hood depth should generally be calculated to overhang at least a half of the front elements.

  • Motor Power

    Range hoods are equipped with electric motors chosen according to the air movement it produces. This capacity is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM).

    This measurement, which only applies to exterior venting systems. When you calculate capacity, you should take kitchen volume and duct length into consideration. If you have an open-concept kitchen, you need to calculate the total volume. The hood should be capable of achieving 10 to 12 air changes per hour to adequately extract odours and fumes.

    To calculate the required capacity, multiply the height (H) of the kitchen by its surface area (W x D), which will give you the volume of the room. Multiply this number by 10 and the result is expressed in m3/h.

    For instance, in a room measuring 15m2 and 3m high, a hood with 450m3/h motor power should be installed.

    You should also take duct length into account. A long duct with several 900 elbows requires extra ventilation capacity. The following table will allow you to evaluate minimum capacity requirements according to duct length:

    Duct length CFM Capacity
    1' to 15': Up to 270 CFM
    16' to 20': 270 to 400 CFM
    20' and more: 400 CFM or more

  • Lighting

    Most range hoods are equipped with one or more lights which provide an extra source of lighting in the kitchen. Depending on the model chosen, you may have up to three incandescent, fluorescent or halogen bulbs. A few models include LED lighting, which is heat sensitive and generally not recommended.

  • Fans

    Fans are made of plastic or metal and are generally located in the body of the range hood, making them easier to access for cleaning and maintenance, but also noisier.

    If you want to eliminate as much noise as possible, you should consider range hoods with fans placed outside the house. For this type of installation, intended solely for external venting hoods, the fan/motor casing is located in either the attic or roof space. Although a little more complex, this type of installation is much quieter. Motors are equipped with one of two types of fans, either:

    • a propeller fan, with blades that move the air somewhat like the propeller of a plane, or;
    • a centrifugal or blower fan, which resembles a hamster wheel, powered by a rotating cylinder with straight blades. This type of fan is more efficient and quieter than the propeller fan.

    When noise is a prime consideration, check out models equipped with in-line fans or fans placed outside the home.

  • Filters

    The primary role of filters is to capture grease particles before they enter the ducting. Grease represents a potential fire hazard and can also present long-term cleaning problems. Rectangular or circular, filters come in various sizes depending on the hood model. Some models use two filters.

    Aluminum filters: Metal mesh filters or fine mesh filters are the most widely used. They can be removed easily, washed in the dishwasher and are therefore reusable. Where they are available, fine-mesh aluminum filters are recommended.

    Baffle filters: These commercial-style filters are made of stainless steel and placed inside the casing. More durable than aluminum filters, they cover the entire surface under the hood and can be washed in the dishwasher.

    Charcoal filters: Charcoal filters and charcoal filter modules are used for ductless hoods. They eliminate cooking odours and capture grease. They are mainly modules that are inserted in the hood; they are rarely interchangeable between hood models, except perhaps between models from the same manufacturer. They cannot be washed and must be replaced regularly.

  • Hood Body

    The hood body houses the various elements included in the hood, such as the filters, fan and motor.

Other Features

Some hoods feature electronic touch controls for automatic shutoff functions and heat sensors that automatically increase fan speed and sound an alarm if things get too hot.

Certain models are equipped with an electronic sensor which will automatically activate the hood when smoke is detected. The intensity of the smoke in the air determines the suction power of the hood which will also turn off automatically.

Hoods with perimeter suction have recently come on the market; originally developed for commercial purposes, they capture peripheral odours and smoke very effectively.

Finally, the Heat SentryTM detector automatically adjusts the ventilation setting if the heat detected from the stovetop is too high.

Installation: how it's done

Once the ventilation ducts are in place, the installation of the range hood is relatively simple. The height, or the distance between the range and range hood, varies according to the type of cooktop, suction and exhaust capacity, and the type of unit. As a general rule, the closer the hood is to the cooking surface, the more effective the suction and evacuation of foul air will be.

Lower-performing hoods should be installed 18" to 24" from the cooktop.

Average-performing hoods should be installed 24" to 30" from the cooktop.

Top-performing and commercial-type hoods should be positioned 30" to 36" from the cooktop.

These are general guidelines and will vary according to individual manufacturers. Be sure to read the instructions carefully.

  • The location of the exhaust opening may vary from one manufacturer to another.
  • The circumference of the ducting must be the same or greater than that of the connection located on the hood.
  • A range hood should be installed a minimum of 20" above an electric unit and 30" above a gas range. For optimum efficiency, the distance between the cooking surface and hood should not exceed 30".
  • Make the ductwork run as short and as straight as possible and with as few turns as possible. When this is not possible, remember that 45° angles allow for better air circulation than 90° angles. Don't forget to terminate with a roof cap or wall cap.
  • With 6" round ducting, install a transition piece and seal joints with 2" duct tape. The wall duct should be prepared for the adaptor that should be inserted easily into the duct.
  • Never terminate venting into an attic. Excess moisture will damage wood structures and drywall. Furthermore, expelled cooking grease can create a fire hazard and will attract unwanted insects. You should also keep safety in mind when placing and choosing  kitchen cabinets.
  • Always use rigid steel ducts. Flexible duct pipe or corrugated metal are more prone to grease build-up, which can present a fire hazard.
Whatever installation method you choose, it is generally wise to consult an electrician. If you decide to do the installation yourself and to connect the range hood to an existing electrical circuit, remember the 15- amp rule, whereby the total load on any circuit breaker may not exceed 15 amps. If the range hood's additional amperage plus existing elements (other appliances, lights, etc.) totals more than 15 amps, you'll need to wire it into an empty breaker slot in the main panel.

The optimum amperage (light and fan speed settings) will be indicated on a label attached to the hood. The Building Code requires that you install a junction box at every wire junction.

Remember that all electrical installations in Quebec must be carried out by a master electrician and member of the Corporation des maîtres électriciens du Québec (CMEQ). So keep these factors in mind when planning your kitchen renovation.

A few maintenance tips

Before purchasing, run your hand lightly on the underside of the hood to make sure there are no rough or sharp edges that could cause any injuries when you're cleaning. Grease and soot accumulate in the filters, on the underside of the hood and on ducts. If you let filters become obstructed, their effectiveness will be compromised.

Maintenance should be carried out as follows:
  • Soak aluminum mesh filters in soapy water or put them in the dishwasher to break down accumulated grease;
  • Clean all surfaces with a mild dish soap, and at least once a month;
  • Replace charcoal filters 2 to 4 times per year depending on how often the hood is used;
  • Clean the fan blades. In many centrifugal fan models, these easy-to-remove blades can be put in the dishwasher.
For more information on proper ventilation, see our Tips for Better Ventilation and Air Conditioning section.

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