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How to buy a rangehood that works

Our tips to find the best machine to take the heat, smoke and steam out of your kitchen.

two silver rangehoods on a yellow background

If your rangehood has conked out or you need a new one for your kitchen renovation, we've got you covered. We've done the research and testing, so we can help you choose the best rangehood for your kitchen.

A good rangehood will take the steam, smoke and smells away from your kitchen either ducting the air outside, or recirculating it back into the kitchen after being filtered.

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Ducted or recirculating: which is best?

We know from testing that ducted rangehoods are best – these are the ones that suck out the odours to vent outside. Some of us won't have that option when we're looking to replace a broken rangehood, or simply don't have the space for it.

Whatever the reason you can't duct (the cost, your kitchen setup or apartment living), recirculating rangehoods are the other option. They suck the air through filters and, as the name suggests, put that air back into the room. They're a little more expensive in the long run because the carbon filters need replacing periodically.

All rangehood types are generally available in 60cm or 90cm width, so they cover the most common widths of cooktops, and most types are available in either ducted or recirculating.

Different types of rangehoods

canopy rangehood

Canopy rangehood.

Canopy rangehoods

Canopy models are the most common style of rangehood and look like a freestanding flue. These include island rangehoods, which are installed above an island cooking area in the centre of the kitchen, and wall canopies which are installed against a wall. We focus on the wall canopy models in our reviews.

Pros: Generally perform the best, as they tend to cover the whole cooktop area. 

Cons: Depending on the style and brand they can be very expensive compared with the other systems available, but you can still find bargains.

undermount rangehood

Undermount rangehood.

Undermount rangehoods

An undermount rangehood is integrated into the kitchen cupboard.

Pros: They're an increasingly popular choice as they're unobtrusive and hidden away.

Cons: Because they aren't necessarily covering the entire area of the cooktop, they may not work as well as, say, a canopy rangehood when extracting steam, depending on where your saucepan is located, but we do find ones good enough to recommend.

fixed rangehood

Fixed rangehood.

Fixed rangehoods

Fixed rangehoods generally cover the entire stove area.

Pros: Fixed models work better than retractable ones in both recirculating mode and ducted mode because they cover more of the cooking area. They also have a considerably larger filter area.

Cons: A fixed rangehood may get in the way, especially if it's at head height. It also may not look very sleek if you're going for a minimalist look in your kitchen.

retractable rangehood

Retractable rangehood.

Retractable or slide-out rangehoods

Retractable models have a fan and light that turn on as you slide them out manually. 

Pros: Once you finish cooking, you can push them out of sight and out of the way. 

Cons: These are generally less efficient at venting steam because of their smaller steam collection area – this is especially the case in recirculating mode.

downdraft rangehood

Downdraft rangehood.

Downdraft ventilation

These vents are hidden behind the cooktop and rise up when in use, sucking in fumes and pushing them downward and out through a duct. We haven't yet tested these but our US counterpart, Consumer Reports, found they were among the least effective at removing smoke and steam.

Pros: Space efficient and invisible when out of use. Ideal for island cooktops. 

Cons: They're more expensive and less efficient than many rangehoods, especially when cooking on taller pots.

How much do rangehoods cost?

Rangehoods are typically priced from a little over $100 to over $2000, and you can even pay more than $7000 for some models. But we've found price isn't always an indicator of performance, with some rangehoods we recommend costing under $400.

Do rangehoods cost a lot to run?

In our tests, a rangehood can cost from $1.20 to $8 per 100 hours of cooking without a light. 

Many of today's rangehoods use LED lights which, in our testing, only add about $0.10 per 100 hours to a rangehood's running costs. This compares to $1–2 extra per 100 hours for halogen lights.

Key features to look for

Extraction (airflow) rate

This is usually quoted in cubic metres per hour. We've been testing rangehoods for some time and we've found that the claimed extraction rate makes little difference to the performance. This is because the internal design and the installation of the rangehood matters a lot more. 

For example, if the rangehood duct is obstructed, all the extraction power in the world isn't going to help. It may help a salesperson to sell the rangehood if they can rattle off a large number, but when you get it home and have it installed you'll want it to work effectively, not inefficiently. Have a look at our rangehood reviews to make an informed choice. 

In brief: Claimed extraction rate is not as important as good internal design.

Exterior

It should be easy to clean and have no nooks and crevices where dirt and grease can build up. Fixed rangehoods with a smooth underside are generally easier to clean than retractable ones.

In brief: Look for a smooth underside.

Filters

All rangehoods have a filter. Those made of aluminium mesh are relatively easy to clean and also the cheapest, as non-washable filters need replacement which means ongoing costs. If you install a rangehood in recirculating mode it'll also need a carbon filter which has to be replaced regularly.

In brief: Aluminium mesh is best.

Light

Two globes over the cooking area generally provide better visibility than one. Make sure the globes are easy to replace. Models with halogen lights have better illumination than those with incandescent or LEDs, LED lights use less power than incandescent.

In brief: Two halogen globes provide the best visibility.

Controls

Sliding or push-button controls on the front panel are easy to reach and operate. Some retractable models have controls on the underside of the hood. On some retractable units, the further you pull out the hood, the higher the fan speed becomes.

In brief: Controls should be located on the front panel.

Noise

Noise level is an important consideration, especially in open-plan kitchen/dining/living rooms. We don't recommend the noisiest rangehoods. Ask in the shop if you can listen to the rangehood on all its settings – you should be able to hold a conversation while it's on.

In brief: Ask to turn it on and listen instore.

(Note that CHOICE hasn't yet tested the effectiveness of so-called "silent" rangehoods which have the motor installed externally on a roof or wall, which manufacturers say reduces the noise heard in your kitchen.)

One-way flap

A one-way flap inside a ducted rangehood can help keep hot air inside during winter or cold air inside during summer, instead of escaping through the duct to the outside. Some rangehoods have these built in, and some have them as optional extras.

In brief: Help regulate the temperature in your kitchen with a one-way flap.

Wi-Fi controls

Some rangehoods are compatible with induction cooktops and will automatically turn on (and at the appropriate fan setting) when you start cooking. Major brands such as Electrolux (which includes Westinghouse and AEG), Bosch and Miele have their own versions.

How to install your rangehood

Installing a conventional rangehood can be fairly simple if you have some DIY skills, and provided there's a power point close by – if not, you'll need a licensed electrician to install one. Always follow the instructions carefully. You'll need an electric drill, possibly a stud finder to locate the best anchor points in the wall, some basic hand tools, and ideally someone to help. Screws are usually supplied, but you might need to get the right type of wall plugs to suit your wall.

Installing a recirculating rangehood

To install a rangehood in recirculating mode, mark on the wall, or in the kitchen cabinet, where to drill the holes. Some manufacturers supply a template for this, or you can use the rangehood itself. Observe minimum height distances from the cooktop that are given in the instructions. Fasten the screws while your helper holds the rangehood in position. Plug it in and it's ready to go.

Installing a ducted rangehood

Installing a rangehood in ducted mode is more complex and involves knocking holes into the wall or ceiling for the pipes. The manufacturer usually sells the ducting kit separately. If possible, use smooth, non-flexible ducting (flexible ducting causes air turbulence, reducing the efficiency of the fan) and install it via the shortest route to the outside. Don't vent it into a wall cavity or a chimney or flue that carries combustible products from other sources.

Converting a rangehood from recirculating to ducted mode

This is generally quite easy. You'll probably just have to remove the cover plate from the top or back of the unit and affix a collar with screws, attach a pipe to the collar and feed it through a hole in the wall or ceiling, and remove the carbon filter.

Cleaning your rangehood filter

To keep the rangehood working well, wash the mesh filter regularly according to the instructions (or replace the filter, if it's non-washable). The less grease and grime it contains, the better the airflow and efficiency. 

How often should you replace your rangehood filter?

Recirculating rangehoods have a carbon filter that needs to be replaced regularly. How often depends on your amount and type of cooking. Manufacturers' recommendations vary from replacing it every month to once a year, with every three to six months the most common recommendation. At the least, if your rangehood appears to be running OK but isn't doing a good job of removing steam and fumes from the kitchen, look at replacing the filter at that time.

The cost of a replacement filter is typically in the $50–60 range but can go over $200 for some brands and models. So the cost of running a recirculating rangehood efficiently could amount to well over $100 a year, if you replace the filter a few times a year. 

Health tip when cooking with gas

Gas cooktops have been linked to an increased risk of childhood asthma and other respiratory illnesses from the small amounts of contaminants they produce, which include nitrous dioxide and fine particles. 

Ducted rangehoods have been shown to help reduce this impact by venting most of the contaminants outside. However, this only applies if the rangehood is used consistently. If you have a gas cooktop, a ducted rangehood is your best option, but make sure to use it every time you cook.

Stock images: Getty unless otherwise stated.