How Does a Range Hood Work? A Complete Guide

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

If you’re looking for a range hood, there’s some information you’ll need to know.

FOTILE has compiled everything you want to know about range hoods in this post so that you’ll make the most informed decision when buying a range hood. 

By the end, you’ll be convinced that a specially designed range hood exists out there waiting for you. As you’ll see, whether you are an accomplished amateur chef or simply trying to enjoy cleaner air as you cook, FOTILE has a range hood to match your culinary needs

Ready to order a range hood from FOTILE? Start by taking our range hood installation buying guide and discover your new range hood.

Let’s start our deep dive into the world of range hoods.

Different Types of Range Hoods

A range hood is a kitchen appliance usually mounted over a cooking area, like a stovetop. Range hoods are designed to suck up, filter, and expel smelly, (sometimes) dangerous gasses that accumulate in the kitchen when cooking. Range hoods also keep the kitchen area cooler by removing (or recycling) heated air.

Filtration is the primary function of a range hood. However—as you’ll soon discover—there are many different ways to accomplish this primary function. Here are the most popular types of range hoods and a brief description of how each works.

FOTILE Pixie Air Range Hood Filtering Steam from a Pot on a Cooktop

Ceiling-Mounted Range Hoods

Ceiling-mounted range hoods integrate into the ceiling directly above the stovetop or cooking space. The ducts, if present, are not visible with most ceiling-mounted range hoods unless the ceiling is high. This type of kitchen ventilation system saves space and has a sleek and modern presentation.

Wall-Mounted Range Hoods

Wall-mounted range hoods are attached to the wall directly above the cooking surface, with the duct running up the wall. Because the vents and fans are visible, wall-mounted range hoods have an industrial or commercial appearance, which can be suitable depending on the homeowner’s tastes.

Under-the-Cabinet Range Hoods

Under-the-cabinet range hoods are fixed to the bottom side of a cabinet that sits above a cooking surface or stovetop. These hoods' benefits include they are more easily integrated into your existing cabinetry and can be ductless or have a duct in the wall.

FOTILE offers certain range hoods that can be mounted under the cabinet (see our Pixie Air Series) or on the wall (check out our Slant Vent Series). 

Ductless Range Hoods

Some hood ranges have no ducts. Ductless range hoods filter and recycle the air back into the kitchen instead of redirecting it out of the house via ductwork, like ducted hoods. Ductless range hoods use more power than ducted range hoods.

The fans don’t need to work as hard with ducted range hoods—they only redirect the air. A ductless range hood must filter the air before recycling it back into the kitchen. This requires more electric power.

Ductless range hoods do have their benefits, though. You do not need to install ducts and have more flexibility when choosing the location of your ductless range hood. Learn more about ducted vs. ductless range hoods.

Microwave Range Hoods (OTR Microwaves)

Though it can help clear smoke and steam from your stovetop, a microwave exhaust hood is less effective than standard range hoods. It also covers a smaller area of your range, meaning smoke, grease, and gasses will escape into your kitchen while cooking.

Essential Parts of a Range Hood

Each range hood contains comparable components regardless of how you mount it. Apart from the obvious—ductless range hoods won’t have ducts—nearly every range hood is made of the same basic parts that help it siphon away gasses, smoke, steam, and smells. 

Range Hood Blower or Electric Fan

Every range hood needs a way to suck up the hot, gassy air above a stovetop. This necessary function falls to the electric fan, otherwise known as a range hood blower. There are three different types of blowers found in range hoods. 

Three Types of Blowers

The position of the electric fans (and their proximity to the kitchen) determines how loud your range hood is.  

1. Local Blowers (Internal Blowers)

Ductless blowers must have all electric fans in the wall or cabinet-mounted unit. These blowers are called local blowers because they are present within the unit itself. Because of their proximity to the cooking space, a local blower tends to be the loudest, though modern technology can effectively suppress the noise of local blowers.

2. Remote Blowers (Inline Blowers)

When your range hood has a duct system, the fans do not need to be present within the hood. Instead, a remote blower (also known as an inline blower) is located within the ducts. This option is quieter than local blowers.

3. External Blowers

By far, the quietest blowers are located on the roof or outside the house. These are called external blowers. Though they are the quietest blower option, external blowers are the most expensive.

Single Blower vs. Dual Blowers

Another question you’ll need to consider when searching for the best range hood is the number of fans you want. Less-serious home cooks will likely not need more than one. However, they’ll probably consider a dual blower if the cooking range surface is large.

Kitchen Hood Control Panel

Another important factor consumers need to consider is how they’ll interface with their range hood. Most range hood control panels are stainless steel. Advanced range hoods have fancy, well-integrated LED lights, and others can control the distance of the hood from the cooking range.

However, some features are (mostly) standard. 

Light Controls

Range hoods will have some sort of lighting system to help illuminate the cooking space underneath. This is controlled on the hood and occasionally through a smartphone app or remote control.

Heat Lamp Controls

Some range hoods have heat lamps to help keep food warm. You can find these controls on the hood control panel and through a remote control or app.

Blower Controls

You can expect to find the mechanical fan speed controls on the main control panel. Keep in mind the higher the fan speed, the noisier the range hood will be due to the fan blades.

Timer, Time Delay Controls, or Clock

You can expect to find other miscellaneous controls, such as the timer, the clock, and time-delay settings. 

Range Hood Filter Types

Filters play an important role in ductless and ducted range hoods—they help trap smoke, grease, burnt particles, and other byproducts of cooking on an open range. Filters are especially important for ductless hoods because the dirty, smoky, smelly air must be recycled and sent back into the kitchen.

Filters need to be changed regularly or cleaned depending on the type of filter. The sturdier filters, like stainless steel baffle filters, can be machine washed in a dishwasher. 

FOTILE Ductless Range Hood with Filter Inside a Kitchen Cabinet

Carbon Filters (also known as Charcoal Filters)

Many recirculation kits use high-quality carbon filters for recirculation kits. Carbon filters are used in ductless range hoods when the air needs to be recycled and recirculated. These filters need to be replaced and cannot be cleaned. 

Charcoal filters are also preferred for ductless hoods that used to be ducted. Often charcoal filters, used to purify the air, are paired off with aluminum mesh filters, designed to protect the insides of the range hood by trapping grease, liquid, and other large particles. 

Stainless Steel Baffle Filters

Stainless steel baffle filters allow air, smoke, gasses, and other small particles to pass through into the ducts while stopping and trapping grease, chunks, and splashes of food and liquid. They are designed to prevent oil and other liquids from dripping into your food while you cook. 

These filters are heavy-duty and don’t need to be replaced very often. Instead, you’ll want to clean them with soap and water or in the dishwasher every few weeks or after heavy use.

Stainless Steel Aluminum Filters

An aluminum mesh filter is not as heavy-duty as steel baffle filters but still does an excellent job of allowing hot gasses, steam, and aerosolized cooking byproducts and cooking odors to pass through while trapping grease, liquid, and larger particles of food. Some ductless (and even some ducted) range hood models will have aluminum mesh filters and charcoal filters.

Range Hood Duct

The purpose of most range hoods is to siphon away gas, grease, steam, smoke, and aerosolized particles from your kitchen to the outside of your home. Many ducted hoods have a partially visible duct system that disappears into the wall or ceiling. Other range hood duct systems are completely obscured behind the walls and ceiling.

Rigid vs. Semi-Rigid vs. Flexible Ducts

You’ll encounter different duct materials and types while searching for a ducted range hood. Consumers beware—not all ducts are made equally. 

You should avoid flexible ducts completely. They are made of cheaper materials, are less sturdy, and must be replaced much more frequently than semi-rigid or rigid ducts. In fact, rigid ducts will likely only need to be replaced if there is damage to the house.

Semi-rigid-ducts are a bit sturdier than flexible ones but are less durable and resilient than rigid ones, which are often made of stainless steel. Though rigid ducts are more expensive, you’ll only need to install them once and never have to clean them so long as you change your filters regularly.

Common Range Hood Duct Materials

Most range hood ducts are made of stainless steel or aluminum. Occasionally they are made of PVC piping, but there are code restrictions that might prevent this depending on where you live.

Kitchen and Cooking Benefits of a Range Hood

So, how does a range hood make working in the kitchen easier? If you’ve never used one before, you may not understand how different the cooking experience is when using a high-quality range hood.  

FOTILE Slant Vent Series Range Hood in Stainless Steel Mounted Above a Cooktop

Filter and Clean Your Kitchen Air

If you aren’t very experienced with cooking your own meals, then you may be too familiar with smokey kitchen air, uncontrollable steam, and the smell of natural gas. Even experienced amateur chefs burn a meal now and again. 

Professional chefs use exhaust hoods for various reasons, but the most important reason is to keep hot air, gasses, smoke, and other byproducts of cooking from accumulating in the kitchen. Even if you do not have a gas oven range, you can still fill your kitchen with smoke, steam, and aerosolized particles, making the cooking process much less comfortable.

Enhance Your Cooking Experience

Have you ever cooked something in oil on high heat and got peppered with scalding droplets of boiling oil? It’s not fun. Professional-grade, high-quality range hoods will suck up the tiny explosive droplets of grease and food particles before they assault your skin. 

This is one of the many ways a range hood improves the owner’s cooking experience. You don’t have to worry about setting off the smoke detector or accidentally filling the kitchen with natural gas. Once you cook with a range hood, it will be difficult to go back. 

Level-Up Your Cooking Skills

There’s a reason why every restaurant is equipped with a range hood. When doing serious cooking, you’ll need serious kitchen equipment. If you want to level up your cooking skills, you’ll need to invest in a range hood to take your cooking to the next level. 

Entertain and Impress Your House Guests, Friends, and Family

Range hoods can perfectly complement your kitchen décor. Most stainless steel models are available in various light and dark finishes. Some homeowners prefer to see the ductwork as part of the industrial aesthetic, while others prefer the ductwork to be hidden (or not present at all). 

Either way, a range hood can be as visually dominant or sleek and modest as you prefer. If you’ve leveled up your cooking skills using your range hood, you’ll be sure to impress any house guests, friends, or family who visit. 

Residential vs. Commercial-Grade Range Hoods For the Home

Some home cooks prefer to use commercial-grade range hoods in their kitchens. Though more expensive, these range hoods are made of heavier materials, are much more durable, and can handle a higher cooking capacity than residential-grade range hoods.

However, high-quality residential-grade range hoods will do the trick just fine.

FOTILE Stainless Steel Range Hood in a Light White Tiled Kitchen

Range Hood FAQs

If the previous content hasn’t answered your questions, check out the FAQs we’ve compiled below. Chances are your question is among them!

Do Range Hoods Need to be Vented Outside?

If your range hood is ductless, then no. If your range hood isn’t ductless, the only place to vent the air is outside.

You may have heard some people route their ductwork to other parts of their house—like the attic or basement. This is an awful idea. The last thing you want to do is fill another room of your house with smoke, steam, aerosolized food particles, and other cooking byproducts. 

How Do Recirculation Kits Work?

Recirculation kits work in tandem with your range hood’s grease filters to purify the air sucked up by your range hood. The grease filters capture large particulates, like grease globules and food particles. Then, fine charcoal (carbon) filters rid the air of smoke and odor before venting it back into the kitchen.

Your range hood needs a recirculation kit if it is a ductless range hood. 

What is the Quietest Range Hood?

The manufacturer gives range hoods noise ratings to help consumers compare different options. These manufacturers use a unit of sound called a zone or a unit of loudness based on air pressure. Sones are linear, which makes them different from decibels. 

Two zones are twice as loud as one zone. Four zones are twice as loud as two zones, and so on. Here is a relative description of how sones are perceived (note these are subjective):

  • Less than 1 sone: 0.3 sone is the lowest possible fan rating—these fans are extremely quiet
  • 1 sone: the sound of a refrigerator running in the background
  • 2 sones: the background noise of a professional environment like an office
  • 3 sones: about as loud as a face-to-face, normal conversation
  • 4 sones: the volume most people have their TV set to when watching
  • 5 sones: a more intense, active dialogue between two people
  • 6 sones: the noise level in a busy restaurant
  • 7 sones: the sound of light traffic (from outside of your car)
  • 8 sones: standing next to the highway

Most range hoods will operate in the six to 10 sone range, so loud to very loud. However, the placement of the fans and noise dampening in the range hood body can drastically lower the perceived loudness. For more information, here's a guide to sone ratings and noise levels for range hoods.

A local electric fan (one present at the site of the blower) will be much louder than an external blower (one located outside of the house). Another aspect to consider is fan speed options. A range hood at maximum speed will be much louder than a range hood at medium or low speed.

Is it Better to Vent My Range Hood Through the Wall or Roof?

Functionally, it doesn’t matter whether you vent through the wall or the roof. Hot air rises, so vertical ductwork might help expel the air more efficiently, but the difference is negligible.

How Much Power Does a Range Hood Need?

A range hood’s power is measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM. When you see a range hood’s CFM listed, it indicates how many cubic feet of air get moved through your range hood at max speed.

For a more detailed description of what to look for when considering your range hood’s CFM, check out our post about how many CFM a range hood should have.

You’ll want to consider—

  • The size of your stovetop or cooktop
  • Your kitchen’s size
  • Your cooking style
  • How much noise you can tolerate
  • How far the range hood is from the cooking surface
  • Your budget

What’s the Best Range Hood For Induction Cooking?

You’ll want at least a variable speed 600 CFM or higher range hood if you have an induction cooktop. If your induction cooktop range is larger, you’ll want to go with an even higher CFM—around 900 CFM.

How Often Should I Change My Range Hood Filters?

Depending on how often you use your range hood, you’ll want to change (or clean) the filters every one to three months. If you don’t use it very often, you can get away with the longer side of the range. However, if you are using it consistently every day, you may even want to change them every few weeks.

How Far Above the Stove Should a Vent Hood Be?

The answer depends on whether or not you have an electric or gas cooktop. You’ll want your range hood about 20 to 24 inches above the cooktop for electric cooktops. For gas cooktops, you’ll want your range hood to be a bit further up—about 24 to 30 inches from your cooktop's surface.

Some range hoods have adjustable heights that help you better fine-tune your cooking experience. 

About FOTILE Range Hoods

FOTILE offers three distinct styles of range hoods, so whether your kitchen is large and open or small and condensed, we’ve got a range hood that fits your family’s needs.

FOTILE Black Range Hood Absorbing Kitchen Steam from a Cooking Pot on a Stovetop

FOTILE range hood units have variable CFM capabilities and can accommodate different size cooktops and kitchens. Check out our full selection of FOTILE range hoods