How do you tell if you have a ducted or ductless range hood?

Range Hood Venting Options

The ducting may run horizontally or vertically depending on your type of hood. Island hoods must vent through the ceiling, while wall hoods can vent through the wall or ceiling.

Installing Range Hood with Horizontal Duct

You have two options to vent your wall hood horizontally.

Installing Range Hood with Vertical Duct

You can also vent your wall hood through the ceiling, as in the diagram below.

Unlike wall hoods, island hoods can only vent through the ceiling.

You may be wondering: which venting option is the best?

The best ducting option for your range hood will depend on your kitchen design. But there are several things you can do to maximize the efficiency of your range hood duct.


Is it possible to change a range hood top duct to a rear duct if its a top duct only?

If you have an island range hood, this is not possible. Island range hoods can only vent through the ceiling. But, some wall and under cabinet range hoods have rotatable blowers. This means that you can rotate the blower to vent horizontally or vertically depending on your kitchen setup.

If your ductwork is already installed, it’s not recommended to change your range hood from a top duct to a rear duct. This can be an expensive and time-consuming project that requires a professional contractor.

Under The Hood

Photo by Pete Bleyer

Ducted or not? Venting the polluted air out of your house is always preferable to recirculating it. Recirculating fans use charcoal filters to clean the air and release it back into the house when ducting to the outside is impossible, as in many apartment buildings. When it’s the only option, a recirculating hood is better than no ventilation at all, but this type should never be used with pro-style appliances.

Think about power. The amount of air the blower moves, measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm), is one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a hood. The larger and more powerful your burners are, the more cfm you need. (See “Calculator” section below.)

Photo by Joe Schmelzer

Measure it right. A hood should be at least as wide as your cooking surface, but an extra 3 inches on each side can improve efficiency. The depth should cover the back burners and at least half of the front burners, though full coverage is best. The height at which the hood hangs above your cooktop will also affect how well it works.

A wall- or island-mount should be about 30 inches above the cooktop, while undercabinet-mounts, typically less powerful and with smaller ducts, should sit 24 inches above the range. If you want to place the hood higher than recommended, you’ll need a wider unit—extending 3 inches beyond both sides of the range—and more cfm to compensate. (See “Calculator” section right below.)

Consider the noise. To avoid a loud fan, check the sones (1 sone equals about 40 decibels). A fan set on low typically comes in under 1 sone, but high speeds can jump to 10 or more. For a quieter unit, look for one that’s 6 or fewer sones at 600 cfm.

Why would I ever want to install an unvented range hood?

Sometimes, installing a vented range hood isn’t possible because of the layout of the kitchen, especially if it’s in a condo or apartment. When a vented hood is mounted under the cabinet or on a wall, the duct has to run through or behind the cabinets to an outer wall. For a ceiling-mounted or island range hood, the duct must run above the ceiling.

If you don’t already have the duct in your kitchen, it can be expensive (or sometimes impossible) to install one. Also, the location of the duct dictates where your range will be placed in the room—a duct run that’s too long or twisty is less effective. (You may have to add a booster fan in these cases.)

A ductless range hood can be mounted anywhere, which saves money. It’s also more practical if you’re renting. And it uses less energy, since the fan doesn’t need to blow as hard.

 Above: A wall-mounted range hood in Kitchen of th
Above: A wall-mounted range hood in Kitchen of the Week: A Greek Architect’s Ode to Minimalism.

Vent Hood Vitals: Important Questions to Ask

How much does it cost?

Prices vary, depending on size, functionality, and style. A basic 30-inch hood can be had for under $100, while a custom copper 60-inch ceiling-mount chimney-style one can go for more than $20,000. Most mid-priced, high-style hoods can be found for around $1,000.

DIY or hire a pro?

Swapping in a similar unit is a simple job that requires basic electrical work to connect the wiring. To install a new vent, you’ll need to cut holes in the walls, ceiling, or roof and run ductwork. This could be a project for an experienced DIYer or might best be left to a contractor.

Where to buy?

You can order a variety of hoods online or find them at appliance retailers, showrooms, restaurant suppliers, and home centers.

What about maintenance?

Experts recommend cleaning the filters after every 30 hours of use—typically every month or two—to keep a hood running smoothly.

How to Choose the Best Hood For Your Kitchen

To choose which of these two types of hoods is right for your kitchen, you really need to examine your work space, your cooking style, and your personal preferences. You might have to mull over a few important questions regarding your kitchen situation before you pick the right range hood.

Tips to Buying the Best Range Hood

Are you flexible about where your range hood can go?

If there are ducts in your kitchen, then you may be able to choose between ducted or ductless range hoods. If you do not have ducts in your kitchen, you may be limited to going ductless or paying to have ducts installed in your home. Remember, a ductless range hood will generally be more flexible. Where you plan on putting your range or cooktop will likely determine what type of range hood you can have.

How important is the air quality and humidity in your kitchen?

With this question, there should be a clear answer. If having a humid kitchen with recirculating air is out of the question, then you would be better off going with a ducted hood. If you are fine with recirculating air and a little more noise, then you will be fine with a ductless hood.

Some people are fine with recirculating air while others may be uncomfortable with it. The answer to this question should give you a clear indication as to whether a ducted or ductless hood is best for your home.

What is your budget like?

The range and range hood are going to cost money, but you also need to consider the price of installation. If you need to install all brand new ductwork just to accommodate your duct range hood, it can potentially be quite costly. If you plan on moving your range hood, it will also cost money to patch up any holes that the old one left behind. If you are replacing an old range and hood, it may sometimes be easier to just get the same type of range hood as you had before. This will save you a lot of money and stress. On the other hand, if you are replacing your old hood because you want a different type, just make sure to budget for the cost of installation.

Recirculating Range Hoods

Many of the homes that I inspect have recirculating range hoods, especially condos and older homes.

These hoods do not have a vent, and a metal mesh filter traps grease while the air is recirculated back into the room. Ventless range hoods also have an additional layer of filtration which is a carbon layer that captures smoke and odors.

Read Also: How To Paint An Old Range Hood?

Features of Ducted vs. Ductless Range Hoods

Certain features of ducted and ductless range hoods may influence your decision on which one to buy as well.


No matter which range hood you go with, you must ensure it is the right size for your range. If not, then it won’t be able to properly do its job and you’re just wasting your money. A range hood that’s too small won’t be able to pull all the smoke and humidity out of your kitchen. Go with something too large, and it may not fit the range properly – plus, it’ll just look silly.


Something many folks worry about with their range hoods is noise. Ductless range hoods are noisier than ducted range hoods because they use more power. Ducted range hoods have quieter fans, which don’t have to clean the air the way the fans in a ductless range hood do and use less power.


Ducted and ductless range hoods also vary in their ventilation capabilities. Ducted range hoods keep your kitchen cooler and dryer than ductless range hoods can. This is because the ducted range hood just pulls everything out of the kitchen all at once, while a ductless range hood recirculates the already hot air. The air isn’t cooled, just cleaner.

What if I have no other choice but an unvented range hood?

To be sure, an unvented hood is better than no kitchen ventilation system at all. And depending on the type and amount of cooking you do, it might fit your needs just fine. If you don’t cook that much, ventilation shouldn’t be a big issue. If you only cook vegetarian food and never deep-fry, you won’t have a lot of grease and smelly odors to contend with. And if you like to clean, as some people apparently do, you won’t mind regularly swabbing down exposed surfaces to avoid that greasy buildup on your cabinets.

More ins and outs of range ventilation systems:

Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose a new kitchen hood or vent in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Kitchen Hoods & Vents.