Ducted vs. Ductless Range Hoods: What's the Difference?

Author: James Zhao, Sr. Tech Specialist & Alex Park, Product Specialist

So, you’re looking for a new range hood. Perhaps you’ve recently renovated your kitchen or just moved to a new place and want to upgrade. Or, maybe you're looking to improve your cooking chops—no pun intended—and are considering a more professional ventilation setup.      

No matter the reason, you’ll definitely need to make an important decision: Do you go with a ducted or ductless range hood for your kitchen?  

As you'll learn, in the battle of ducted vs. ductless range hoods, there are various advantages and disadvantages to both. Depending on several factors, including (but not limited to) the space you have to work with, your budget, and your culinary skill level, one option will be better than the other.

Luckily for you, we’ve prepared this blog post to teach you about the differences between ducted and ductless range hoods so you can decide which option will work best for your kitchen, budget, and lifestyle. You’ll soon learn that one isn’t better than the other in a general sense—however, different people will likely prefer one style over the other. In this post, we'll help you decide which group you belong in—ducted or ductless!

FOTILE offers both ducted and ductless range hoods designed for different-sized kitchens, lifestyle preferences, and cooking skill levels. We’re confident we have the perfect range hood for you. Check out our range hood collection—your range hood is waiting! 

What is a Range Hood?

Range hoods are ventilation devices installed directly above your stove top or cooktop. A range hood is designed to remove smoke, steam, cooking odors, food particles, and excess heat from the air as you cook. These kitchen appliances come in various sizes, styles, and materials to suit different kitchen designs, culinary skill levels, and budgets.

Though several subtypes of range hoods are available, in general, there are two main types of residential range hoods—

  • Ducted Range Hoods—rely on suction to expel smoke, steam, grease, and particles from the kitchen to the outside of the house.
  • Ductless Range Hoods—rely on advanced carbon filters (also called activated charcoal filters) to clean the air and recycle it back into the kitchen. 
Black FOTILE Range Hood Absorbing Smoke from a Cooktop

How do Ducted Range Hoods Work?

Ducted range hoods—also known as vented range hoods—are connected to a system of exhaust ducts that siphon the smoky, dirty, contaminated air out of the kitchen and release it safely outside.

The part that generates the suction is called the blower. Because the blower can be placed along the duct or even on the outside of the house, ducted range hoods, though more powerful than ductless models, are often much quieter than their ductless counterparts. 

Ducted stainless steel range hood from FOTILE

Advantages of a Ducted Range Hood

There are several advantages to using a ducted range hood:

1. More effective at removing contaminants

Because the contaminated air is vented directly outside, ducted range hoods are highly effective at removing smoke, steam, and odors from your kitchen.

2. Much quieter

Ducted models tend to be quieter than ductless range hoods because the motors that power the suction are located in the walls or outside the house.

3. No need for charcoal filters you need to replace often

Ducted range hoods don't require extensive filters to trap contaminants, so you won't have to worry about replacing them regularly. Ducted models often use mesh or baffle filters to block large food particles from entering the ducts.

4. Ducted models can handle frequent and extensive cooking

Because they tend to be more powerful, ducted range hoods can handle heavy cooking loads and last longer than ductless range hoods. Experienced cooks will always prefer ducted models.

5. Easier to maintain

Most ducted range hoods will function normally for 10+ years and do not require extensive maintenance or filter replacements.

6. Better for high-heat cooking

Ducted range hoods can withstand higher temperatures as the hot air is safely drawn through the ducts to the outside of your home.

Disadvantages of a Ducted Range Hood

Depending on your preferences, ducted range hoods have some drawbacks, including:

1. Requires professional installation

Installing a ducted system requires cutting up walls, laying ductwork, and installing the blowers. That means range hood installation will often need to be handled by professionals.

2. Not be suitable for some homes

Depending on the layout of your home and the size of your cooking area, installing a vented range hood might not be possible. If your kitchen has no external-facing walls, or if your apartment complex doesn’t allow extensive modifications, then you may not be able to install a ducted model.

3. More expensive upfront

Because their installation requires modifications to your home, ducted range hoods are more expensive than ductless range hoods. 

How Do Ductless Hoods Work?

Recirculating range hoods, another name for ductless hoods, work by drawing kitchen air in and filtering out smoke, steam, grease, and food particles using an activated carbon filter. Rather than being siphoned outside like in a ducted system, the air is recirculated into the kitchen.

Ductless range hoods are entirely self-contained—all the essential parts are located within the unit installed directly above your cooktop. This is both advantageous and disadvantageous, depending on your preferences. 

Pixie Air Ductless Range Hood from FOTILE

Advantages of a Ductless Range Hood

Advantages to using a ductless model include:

1. You do not require a professional to install ductless range hoods 

Because they don't require an exhaust duct and modification to the walls of your home, ductless hoods are much easier to install. Some can even be installed by homeowners.

2. Can be used in any home, apartment, or residence

Unlike a ducted hood, you do not need ductwork installed to use a ductless model. You also don’t need a kitchen with an external-facing wall. Ductless range hood units can be used in any home. You do not need to check with the landlord or homeowner’s association before installing one.

3. More cost-effective upfront

Because their installation doesn’t require modifying your kitchen and laying ductwork, ductless range hoods are often cheaper to purchase and install.

4. Perfectly suitable for less-serious cooks and average homeowners

Though professional chefs and serious home cooks will always prefer a ducted hood, the average person will find that a ductless range hood suits their cooking needs just fine. 

Disadvantages of a Ducted Hood

Ductless range hoods have some drawbacks, including:

1. Not as effective at removing contaminants

Because the air is returned to the kitchen rather than being vented outside, ductless range hoods may not be as effective at removing smoke, steam, airborne particles, and odors as ducted models.

2. Requires frequent filter replacement and maintenance

Ductless range hoods use activated carbon filters to trap the smoke, grease, food particles, and other byproducts of cooking. These filters need to be replaced regularly. The more you use your ductless hood, the more regularly you’ll need to replace the charcoal filters.

3. Tend to be noisier

Because a ductless range hood is entirely self-contained, it tends to be noisier than its ducted counterparts. The blowers that suck the air through the filters are located right inside the unit rather than within the ducts or outside the home. 

4. Not as effective for dealing with high heat

Another drawback to being entirely self-contained is that ductless range hoods can’t dissipate heat as effectively as ducted models. Ductless range hoods absorb all the heat from your stovetop, which can accelerate wear and tear on your unit.

5. Increases kitchen humidity

Because the dirty air is recirculated and not vented to the outside, moisture and steam are more likely to build up in your kitchen when you use a ductless hood. The filtered air still contains moisture.

What to Consider When Choosing Between Ducted and Ductless Range Hoods

Now, it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of ducted and ductless range hoods. For some, one reported advantage might be a disadvantage, depending on your own personal circumstances and preferences. 

For instance, if you have a small kitchen and don’t plan on becoming an amateur chef, the compact and self-contained nature of the ductless model would appear to be the better choice.

However, if you need good ventilation because you have a respiratory disorder or you are hard of hearing, the self-contained nature of the ductless hood becomes a drawback.

When deciding which option is best for you, you’ll need to consider some important questions—

1. How big is your kitchen?

If your kitchen is large, then having a large, ducted model is more feasible than if your kitchen is compact. The layout of your kitchen matters, too. If you have a countertop range that sits under cabinetry, installing a ducted model becomes a greater challenge. 

2. How big is your cooktop?

If your oven range is large and takes up a significant amount of counter space, you’ll find it difficult to find a ductless range hood that effectively covers your cooktop.

To be effective, range hoods need to be at least an extra three inches bigger on each side of your stovetop. Ducted models can be quite large, whereas ductless options tend to be smaller. 

3. How much noise you can tolerate?

Ducted hoods tend to be quieter because the blowers are located some distance from the kitchen. However, ductless range hoods are self-contained and compact. Though some can effectively dampen the noise, these varieties are louder than their ducted counterparts.

4. What amount of ventilation do you need?

Ducted hoods are more effective at keeping your kitchen air clean, removing other airborne particles, dissipating heat, and reducing kitchen humidity than ductless range hoods. If clean air is a must for medical reasons or personal preferences, then ducted range hoods are the safer option.

5. How concerned are you about range hood placement?

Ducted range hoods are limited in where they can be installed. They need to be installed on an external-facing wall and have certain restrictions due to the ductwork. If your kitchen layout doesn’t fit this specific requirement, then a ductless one might suit your needs.

6. How often will you cook with your stovetop?

If you're an avid cook who uses your stovetop frequently, you’ll want to choose a ducted range hood. Not only does it have a longer lifespan than ductless ones, but professional and amateur chefs alike choose ducted range hoods for their superior performance and because they have more power.

If you’d describe your cooking as casual, you’ll likely be satisfied with a ductless hood.

7. What are your budget constraints?

Ducted range hoods are more expensive investments than ductless range hoods. If you don’t have a large budget to work with, you’ll find that ductless hoods tend to be cheaper. Other things to consider with ductless models are the cost of the replacement filters over time and the fact they don’t last as long as ducted range hoods. 

However, if you change its filters as suggested and take good care of your ductless range hood, there is no reason it shouldn’t last many years.

Ducted or Ductless Range Hood: What's the Best Option?

There are several takeaways you need to consider before making your final decision.

You want a ducted hood if—

  • You plan to use your oven range every day and cook in a variety of styles
  • You are a professional or amateur chef 
  • You have a large enough space and a kitchen well-designed for a ducted range
  • You live in a space that allows the installation of ductwork
  • You prefer the cleanest, most effective method of reducing dirty air quality
  • You have the budget

You want a ductless model if—

  • You cook casually and don’t often use the oven range
  • Your kitchen is not laid out in a way that accommodates installing ductwork
  • You have limited space and need a compact option
  • You are good at performing regular maintenance—changing filters, cleaning the unit, etc.
  • You have budget restrictions

It’s Much Easier to Go From Ducted to Ductless Than The Other Way Around

One last thought to consider—it is possible (and somewhat common) to convert a ducted range hood into a ductless one by purchasing and installing a recirculation kit. However, going from a ductless to a ducted model is impractical.

Check out our blog post for a more in-depth exploration of how to choose the best range hood for your kitchen.

Ready to Find the Perfect Ducted or Ductless Range Hood?

Have you made up your mind? Luckily, FOTILE offers both ducted and ductless range hoods in various sizes. Whether you prefer the sleek compactness of ductless models or the impressive power of ducted ones, FOTILE has the perfect range hood for your kitchen.

Check out our complete range hood catalog