A Guide to Purchasing the Right Kitchen Exhaust Fan

Kitchen Exhaust Fan

Unlike ceiling fans that have the primary purpose of circulating air throughout your home, kitchen exhaust fans offer targeted removal of moisture, smoke, grease, and smells… perfect to remove any lingering effects of cooking! With a range of different styles and options available, you’ll have no problem in finding the right solution for your kitchen. That said, there are a few things to consider before parting with your money.


Before you even start filtering through the different options of available kitchen exhaust fans, you’ll need to do a little prep work first. Most crucially, you’ll need to get your measuring tape out and get to grips with the exact size of exhaust fan you need. As a good rule of thumb, add 3 inches onto the width of your range or cooktop. The most common width for ranges is 30 – 36 inches; whatever the width of your individual range, the fan should be at least 3 inches wider.

Type of Exhaust Fans

Once you’ve determined the width of your fan, you can get down to deciding which type of fan will present the best solution for your particular needs.

  • Undercabinet Hoods – Available in a wide range of style and strengths, undercabinet hoods offer easy installation and powerful performance. Most options include dishwasher safe filters to make cleaning a walk in the park, while their design allows them to be seamlessly incorporated into any kitchen.
  • Wall Mount Hoods – Wall mount hoods are almost interchangeable in terms of function and performance with undercabinet hoods. The only difference is that unlike undercabinet hoods, which mount to the walls, wall mount hoods, as their name suggests, mount to the wall.
  • Chimney Hoods – Chimney hoods get their name from their chimney-like appearance, with a wide bottom to collect fumes, steam and smells, and a narrower flute to pump everything out into a vent. If you have cabinets above your range, you’ll need to remove these before installing a chimney hood (or, as an effective alternative, you can install a freestanding version above a kitchen island).
  • Island Hoods – If you have an island cooktop, a great solution is an island hood. Available in a variety of styles ranging from the traditional to the contemporary, the hood hangs from the ceiling directly above the island, providing a targeted escape route for any cooking fumes or smells.
  • Downdraft Hoods – A common alternative to the island hood is the downdraft hood. These are hidden in the cooktop when not in use, but then come into action to pull smoke and steam horizontally across the range.
  • Range Hood Inserts – Range hood inserts are a custom-built, hidden option built directly into the cabinets above your cooktop.
  • Pro Hoods – If you’re a keen cook, a pro hood could be just the solution you’re looking for. Large, powerful, and industrial in both scope and aesthetic, these are ideal for heavy duty extraction needs.
  • Custom Range Hoods – Custom range hoods allow you to personalize the finish, color and performance of your hood, allowing you to get the exact solution for your needs.

Options to Consider

Once you’ve decided on the type of hood that best suits your needs, you may want to consider adding some additional features that will elevate the hood from its more basic function to a multi-faceted kitchen necessity.

  • Lighting: most hoods come with the added benefit of lighting. Some hoods offer incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, while others offer halogen light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Some come with the option of a low light level (great for use at nighttime), while others come with anything between 1-4 lights.
  • Smart Hoods: it’s not just our phones that come with smart technology these days. Some hoods now have inbuilt tech that allows you to access and control the unit easily and conveniently from an app on your smartphone.
  • Energy Efficiency: if you want to do your bit for the environment, make sure to look for hoods that carry ENERGY STAR certification.
  • Heat Sensors: if you’re the kind of cook that can burn toast in less than a minute, you may want to consider a hood that has a heat sensor. This will automatically adjust the blower’s setting whenever it detects high heats.
  • Automatic Controls: a few other options that may be worthy of consideration are automatic shutoff (a function that will allow you to preset the fan to turn off after a specified amount of time) and change filter indicator lights (a useful way of keeping on track with the cleaning or changing requirements of the hood’s filter). Some fans also come with automated controls to switch the fan on whenever it detects rising temperature levels.

Don’t forget…

Now you’ve decided what type of fan you need (and have a nice little wish list of the additional functions you’d prefer), you’re almost ready to head to the shops. Almost. Before you go, there are just a few more things to remember:

  • Sound level: No matter how powerful the fan, it’ll be no good to anyone if it makes so much noise you can’t bear to use it. The sound levels of kitchen exhaust fans are usually measured in sones. The lower the sone, the quieter the fan. Ideally, look for something at 2 sones or less if you want a quiet fan… although beware- the lower the sone, the higher the price tends to be.
  • Capability: While aesthetics are of course important, the functionality of a kitchen exhaust fan is paramount. As Lowes notes, the power or air movement for range hoods is measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM. Smaller models tend to range in CFM between 30 and 50, while larger models tend to range between 200-350. To calculate the optimal amount of airflow needed, This article in Medium recommends you multiply your kitchen’s square footage by its height. Divide by 7.5 to get the CFM rating you need.

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