A Quick Guide to Range Hoods

How many of you actually use your range hood? Would you believe that only 8% use it consistently? Only 23 or so percent use it often. That's an unfortunately small number. 
Before we jump into why people don't like to use their range hood, let's talk about why there is a fan over the stove? 
We have range hoods in our kitchens to ventilate what is coming off our cooking surface. When cooking, we create smoke, odors, moisture, and other gasses from our cooking surface. 
Types of Range Hoods You Might Find in Your Home
over the range - We're talking about a microwave that, in many homes, apartments, and condos, is placed above the cooktop. These microwaves are large and have both lights and a fan. The fan under the microwave functions as a range hood, but it is most often a recirculating fan which means it does not move dirty air out of the home. Another issue with over-the-range microwaves is that they do not cover enough of the cooktop to capture the fumes and moisture coming off of it. Most of these microwaves will have a charcoal filter that will capture some things, but they need to be genuinely functioning to improve the air in your home. 
Why are people not using their range hoods?
The most significant objection people have to using their range hood is noise. On the surface, this seems like a reasonable objection. If you have a loud range hood, it can be more challenging to have a conversation with your partner or family. It might even distract kids while they are doing their homework at the kitchen table. While it may be true that a range hood can be loud at high speed, they aren't usually run at that speed. When they are run at high speed, it is done to eliminate smoke, excess moisture, and other harmful fumes. It is far better to deal with a loud fan for 20 minutes than to risk harm to your kitchen cabinets or breathe in harmful fumes. 
If sound is a concern you have, pay special attention to the sones rating of your hood. Sones are a sound measurement not often used outside ventilation fans. We hear more about decibels than sones. The difference between sones and decibels is that sones are linear, meaning that 1.0 sone is precisely half as loud as 2.0 sones, and 2.0 sones is half as loud as 4.0 sones. Sones are typically measured in half-sone increments (1.5, 2.0, 2.5, etc.), but there are some cases as products get quieter, where sones will be listed in tenth-sone increments (0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, etc.)
Anything that's moving air makes a sound, so you won't be able to get away from it. But dealing with a little bit of sound to ensure you have a healtheir home is worth it. 
How to properly use a range hood. 
A good rule of thumb is to turn on your range hood when you walk into the kitchen to begin cooking. While you're doing the prep work, set the fan speed to low. This gets the air in your kitchen moving toward your hood so that when you turn on the cooktop and begin cooking, there is already a path for the fumes, smoke, and moisture. Starting your hood early on low speed also means you might not have to speed the fan up, thereby keeping the sound it makes to a minimum. You may have to ramp up the speed when, for example, boiling a big pot of water. But only while the steam is billowing up from the pot. Once the boil has subsided, you can turn down the fan. 
Leave the hood on for 10-20 minutes longer when you're done cooking. This ensures that you don't have any lingering fumes or smells hanging around. You might even consider leaving it on for longer. While you and your friends or family are enjoying dinner, you're emitting CO2, and there are still odors and moisture from the hot food on your table. 
Following the general rules of thumb above will help keep sound to a minimum while maximizing the effectiveness of your range hood. 

Choosing the proper hood
When you're ready to buy a range hood, here's what you need to know.
  • Which type of cooktop/range/stove you have is crucial in deciding what hood you need? Is it gas, electric coil, electric flat top, induction, or wood burning? Each type of cooktop has benefits and detractions. Gas emits more fumes but gives excellent control. Electric ranges don't have combustion fumes, but they offer less control. Induction provides great control but requires specific cookware. Pick the style that matches your cooking preference, then match it with a proper hood. Gas ranges, for example, may require a more powerful range hood to ensure that you are capturing the combustion fumes and whatever fumes, smoke, and moisture are generated from your cooking. You will need to match the BTU output of your range to your range hood. Ask your appliance dealer for help choosing the right power level for your range hood and consult the specifications documents associated with the hood you choose. 
  • The size of your range matters too. Is it a standard 30-inch or much larger 48 or 60-inch range? You should choose a range hood that matches the width of your range. Consider putting in a hood that is wider than your range to ensure you capture all the pollutants coming off the range. 
  • Style is next on the list. Choose a style that matches your kitchen design. If you're working with a designer, they may choose a powerpack insert range hood. A cabinet maker will make a beautiful hood to go around the insert. You can also hide an insert in a cabinet. Island hoods work for, you guessed it, islands. Downdraft range hoods hide under your counter and rise out of it when you need them. And then there are the more traditional chimney and under-cabinet hoods. Each can look great in almost any kitchen. 
  • See our guide on range hoods for more information. 
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