Do I need a range hood?
January 26, 2014 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Doing a major kitchen reno on a new old house, and the layout has no good spot to install a range hood. I've owned houses with a range hood and houses without one, and the only difference I've noticed is that the ones without one need a bit more frequent cleaning, although not really much. Actually very little. Maybe the kind of cooking I usually do doesn't require one? Do you have a range hood? Do you not? Is it merely a bright shiny status symbol? Do you think it's important to have one? Why?
posted by fivesavagepalms to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes, my smoke alarm serves as the dinner bell. The range hood, with its fan, is really nice to have during those times. Do you ever cook something with strong smells that you want to remove from your home quickly?
posted by Houstonian at 1:32 PM on January 26, 2014

What about a downdraft cooktop? I have one of those and it works OK. It's still vented to the outside.
posted by Ostara at 1:38 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is the range gas or electric? In my city, gas ranges are required by code to be ventilated outside, while electric are not. Check your local codes.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depends on the type of cooking you do and how much, and how much natural ventilation is already there. In my mind a hood is not really a status symbol so much as the range itself. I see hoods are more of a functional requirement than anything. It's important to have hoods for drawing away odors and grease particles so it doesn't build up on everything in your home, as well as preventing smoke detectors from activating if you are cooking anything that may trigger them.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 1:48 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

My kitchen doesn't have a range hood, and I've promised myself that, if there is ever money for a remodel, there will be a range hood.

Cooking simply throws so much...stuff...into the air and onto the ceiling, into cabinets, and every other surface. From bacon grease, smoke, even water vapor from boiling pasta water. A range hood that vents to the exterior (not one of those worthless deadended washable filter types) is a must, if you can do it.

As for downdraft units...I've had one of those before, too. They work. Mostly. And, if that's the best solution for your situation, they're definitely better than nothing. But they really can't compete with a hood unit.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:49 PM on January 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have one and run the fan on it pretty much every time I cook. It has filters and whenever I take them out to clean them they've got a ton of crud on them, which otherwise would have landed on the cabinets, ceiling, etc. I don't deep fry or anything -- this is just from normal cooking.

I also use it when I'm making pasta, as I picked up the idea somewhere that you don't want to have that much steam in your house if you can avoid it.

The previous owners of my house never cleaned, and the exhaust fan was so gunked up it didn't work and we had to replace it. There was so much grease on the cabinets that it took us over a year to get it off.

My mom's kitchen has one of those downdraft ones. It works better than not having anything, but she isn't really pleased with it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:53 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wish I had one SO BAD. I didn't have one for 15 years and then they renovated the kitchen and I still don't have one, and (a) the kitchen gets too hot, (b) the kitchen gets smoky, (c) the smoke alarms go off, so I have to close the door to the kitchen and also wave towels at the fire alarm, and (d) I have a lot more cleaning to do than I would otherwise.
posted by janey47 at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2014

Seconding Thorzdad and Jane47. You can look at it as a status symbol if you want, but regardless it's a REALLY USEFUL status symbol.
posted by scratch at 1:58 PM on January 26, 2014

I was recently told by a professional that you should use it if you have a gas stove, because the CO levels do rise appreciably even if the detector doesn't go off. So we've just started using ours regularly after a previous usage of 1-2 times per year.
posted by tchemgrrl at 2:00 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was told by a man who specializes in air treatment - furnaces, ACs, range hoods, exhaust fans - that to be really effective a range hood would need to be so close to the cooking that you could not turn a pancake. Nevertheless a range hood does remove some of the smoke and steam generated by cooking. All those greasy particles that are not exhausted will cling to your walls and furniture.
posted by Cranberry at 2:04 PM on January 26, 2014

I don't have one on my gas stove and I don't feel the need for one, plus there's cabinets right over my stove so I don't see how it would fit. However, I'm vegetarian (so it's not like I'm frying chicken) and I live alone and just don't cook very much. My previous apartments also had gas stoves and didn't have them either, if I recall correctly.

I do have a CO detector and a smoke alarm.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:10 PM on January 26, 2014

I don't have one and don't miss having one, and never bothered turning it on when I have had one, but I've always been a vegetarian and that seems to be an important consideration.
posted by kmennie at 2:12 PM on January 26, 2014

We didn't have one for 20 years. We've now had one for three. I can see no appreciable difference between having one and not, other than having something else to wipe down, make a whirring noise and require occasional bulb replacement. The smoke alarm still goes off occasionally.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:12 PM on January 26, 2014

Check your jurisdiction. If you have a permit, some juridictions require a range hood.
posted by njk at 2:21 PM on January 26, 2014

I have one now for the first time ever (a real one that vents to the outside) and I adore it. In previous homes I used to set off the smoke alarm while cooking all the time, and the only time I've done it in this place is when there was an actual cooking fire (in which there was no damage, whew). But I agree it depends on how and how often you cook.
posted by nev at 2:30 PM on January 26, 2014

I'm a vegetarian who enjoys using the oven and making fried food from time to time (don't most vegetarians at least do stir-fry sometimes?) and I find the range hood useful and important enough that I'm planning to change out the little one that came with my house for a higher-capacity unit. I turn it on whenever I'm cooking with very hot oil or if I'm running the oven in warm weather. It's not a "necessity," but I'd sooner go back to the drawing board than proceed with a kitchen remodel that didn't include one, and I would consider it a problem if a house I was looking at purchasing didn't have a spot for one.
posted by contraption at 2:48 PM on January 26, 2014

> Maybe the kind of cooking I usually do doesn't require one

Try scrubbing your ceiling with a Wet Swiffer and see if it leaves a clean streak.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:48 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since moving to a place with a kitchen vent we haven't had the smoke alarm go off once. It's not super fancy or anything, there's a built-in microwave above the range and the vents are under/behind the microwave, and the pipe out is hidden in the cabinet above that. I'm not sure exactly where it vents out (rental apartment).
posted by radioamy at 4:11 PM on January 26, 2014

Yes. A Range Hood is super necessary. Please don't skip this important appliance in your kitchen.
posted by jbenben at 4:24 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

We finally have a range hood after a renovation last summer, and for the first time since moving in, we no longer set off the smoke detectors every time we make a stir fry. Which is a lot. We make a lot of stir fry dishes. It's been such a relief to not have to rip the batteries out every time we make something with high heat.

Plus, we've taken the filters out for cleaning, and they were disgusting. Clearly they are actually sucking a lot of the smoke and grease straight up, even if they don't get everything.

Is the problem that the range is in the middle of the room? Because there might be a solution that isn't obvious to you. I've seen a range hood that was right over an oven in the middle of the room, where they ran the exhaust out through the ceiling to an exterior wall. Either that or a downdraft, which at least would help get some of it.
posted by instead of three wishes at 4:28 PM on January 26, 2014

I have a Broan downdraft and I really like it. It's worth the money, especially if you are trying to keep am open look to your room, i.e. No overhead cupboards or range hoods.
posted by OkTwigs at 4:39 PM on January 26, 2014

For me, seeing what's inside the rangehood every time I clean it out is a reminder of why rangehood are so good. Our last apartment didn't have one - the ceilings around the kitchen and tops of cupboards were disgusting.
posted by smoke at 4:42 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

The range hood is one of the necessities of my kitchen. The type of cooking I do requires good ventilation and I appreciate it each time I cook and and clean it out. I am grateful that my house does not smell, the fire alarms do not go off and my cabinetry does not have polymerized grease on them.

My range hood is the type that does not have washable filters but the mechanism can be pulled out and cleaned.
posted by jadepearl at 4:58 PM on January 26, 2014

We did a total kitchen reno about two years ago. We could have, but chose not to install a range hood, and chose a microwave with a bottom recycling air vent instead. At the time we renovated, I didn't cook much, and honestly, I liked the smell of a good dinner being prepared. Two years later, and I've completely changed the way I eat, following a mostly paleo diet that involves much more cooking, especially meat. The odors are more noticeable the next day, and now I wish I had installed the hood vented to the outside. Although if you have a limited area to work with, I would choose my nice big microwave/convection oven with the recycling air vent over an outside vented range hood any day.
posted by raisingsand at 5:09 PM on January 26, 2014

Don't forget the value of the hood light! It helps illuminate food while cooking and also can serve as a handy night light.
posted by suprenant at 5:18 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I moved into a 50s house that had gotten away without one, and the inspector told us we should put one in. It's code here. I believe it really helps, as I've certainly lived in houses without them where I would just open a window.

Anyway, the stove was sited under some cabinets, and we installed it right under there. The only space that was lost was the much smaller duct that runs up through the cabinet and out of the roof. Worth it.
posted by Lardmitten at 7:13 PM on January 26, 2014

We've got an LG over-the-range microwave that also has a fairly powerful extraction fan and light built into the underside. It's a cheaper alternative and kills two birds with one stone. My research led to this one as it has a decent amount of fan power but is not too loud. Also it was a lot cheaper than the GE ones, and the quality seems as good.
To really get the benefit you need to vent it to the outside. Ours came set up to just recirculate the air through a filter, but the manual had instructions of how to switch it to vent out the back or top into a proper duct, which I did.

If you are installing a heavy duty pro style range like a Viking though, you should get a proper hood.
posted by w0mbat at 9:31 PM on January 26, 2014

Thanks so much. These were exactly the kind of answers I'd hoped for, a terrific range of opinion all based on real experience. I didn't mark any as best because they are all helpful. Gotta ponder more, but with better info. Thanks again!
posted by fivesavagepalms at 5:21 AM on January 27, 2014

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