Ducted vs. Ductless Range Hoods

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All range hoods are not created equally as far as the benefits they offer. While all use fans to help cut back on smoke and fine particles that get into the air while cooking foods, only a ducted range hood sends those fumes and excessive moisture outside. Ductless hoods, on the other hand, suck the air up into the hood, filtering and recirculating it back into the kitchen. Both types of hoods have their advantages, but in the long run, a ducted range hood works a lot better at keeping your home free from smoke, food odors and even humidity created from stovetop cooking.

Ducted Hood Benefits

A ducted range hood is far better at removing cooking odors and heat from your kitchen than the ductless hood variety primarily because it sucks all the heat and greasy food-scented air outside, keeping your kitchen more comfortable and odor-free. It also does a great job of preventing those odors from traveling through the rest of your home, where they may otherwise linger for hours.

A ducted hood also tends to be quieter than the ductless variety because the fan is farther within the hood setup than with a ductless system. A ducted hood removes moisture emitted from foods cooked atop the stove, while a ductless hood circulates that moisture right back into the room, which could make the kitchen feel hot and uncomfortable if you're cooking atop several burners at once.

When it comes to keeping the kitchen clean, a ducted hood helps by minimizing the greasy splatter that may otherwise land on nearby kitchen cabinets. Cooking on a stovetop with cabinets overhead and without any hood or ventilation system results in a greasy buildup that gets harder to remove over time. Some splatter may get onto the range hood, however, so it still must be cleaned regularly.

Ducted Range Hood Concerns

As its name implies, a ducted range hood uses ducts to ventilate the kitchen. A ducted range hood draws the air from above the stove, sending it through ducts until it vents outside. For this reason, it does an excellent job of getting rid of strong food odors such as onions or hot cooking grease.

The biggest potential drawback of a ducted hood is that it can only be installed in a place with room for such duct work if the ducts aren't already in place from a previous installation. If your range is not near an exterior wall, it may be difficult to find space to run duct work from the hood and through the wall, cabinet or ceiling to eventually vent to your home's exterior.

The vent absolutely must reach the outdoors, as venting into an attic, for instance, could cause heat, moisture and even mold issues. Since installing the duct work can be quite tricky depending on the range location, a contractor may be required.

Expect to spend $300 to $600 on average for labor to install the ducted hood and ductwork; the cost could be significantly more based on the number of hours it takes to successfully run the duct work. Installing wall- or cabinet-mounted ductless hoods, by comparison, is a lot easier and less time consuming because they don't require large holes and duct work through the walls, cabinets or ceilings.

Ductless Range Hood Benefits

Although a ducted vent system is more effective for improving air quality, it's not an option for every kitchen. If you live in a condo, townhouse or even an apartment, installing duct work through the walls or ceiling may not be an option. The layout of your kitchen may also make a ducted range hood cost prohibitive, in which case a ductless variety is a viable alternative.

In a rental situation, the property owner may allow installation of a ductless hood when a ducted version isn't allowed since the ductless variety may be installed without major modifications to the property. Some plug-in models may be easy enough to install yourself. If you choose professional installation, expect to spend $300 or a little more but generally less than you'd spend on labor to install a similar ducted range hood.

As far as the actual hood cost, some ductless hoods cost less than $100, while similar ducted versions tend to cost slightly more. As with some appliances, elaborate range hoods could cost thousands, especially the ducted variety.

A ductless hood uses one or more filters to remove odors and fine particles from the air that the fan draws up into the unit. The hood recirculates the cleaned air back into the kitchen, according to Compact Appliance. While it doesn't remove odors as well as a ducted hood does, it's better than not using a hood at all.

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Ductless Hood Drawbacks

If you enjoy cooking but don't care for lingering food odors, a ductless hood won't do a great job of removing those aromas. While the ductless hood removes smoke and a little cooking odor, strong scents such as sauteed onions are likely to stay in the home quite a while unless you open windows and ventilate the space with fresh air.

A ductless hood can also be quite noisy, especially one that has a powerful fan. While not always an option, if your retailer has the hood on display, test the fan before purchase to see how loud it is. The volume may not be an accurate indicator for how noisy the fan will sound in your house, but at least you'll have a general idea of what to expect.

Ductless hood filters also need to be cleaned or replaced regularly, perhaps even more often than the filters on your home's heating and cooling system. If possible, read the product information before purchase to determine what type of replacement filter is required. Many filters run $10 to $20, although some cost a little more.

Hard-Wired or Plug-In Options

Since ducted and ductless range hoods have fans and often lights installed within them, they also require electricity. Check the product information thoroughly before purchase to determine whether the hood is designed to be hard-wired into your home or if it plugs into a nearby outlet. This is especially important if you plan to install the hood yourself.

If using a contractor, be sure to mention whether your hood requires hard-wiring. Even if you select a ductless version, hard-wiring requires access to the wiring within the nearest kitchen wall. This may be tricky to do with cabinets or appliances in the way.


Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.

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