Rangehoods buying guide

A rangehood is an exhaust system that resides above the cooking area in your kitchen

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/people/14887359@N06/ (Creative Commons)

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/people/14887359@N06/ (Creative Commons)

Home cooking can be a sticky business – especially when it comes to frying. Every time you cook with oil, fat mixes with steam in the air and covers your walls, ceiling and cupboards in layers of grease. In addition to causing unsightly stains and sticky surfaces, this can also lead to health problems, with germs building up in the grime. This is where rangehoods come in.

What is a rangehood and why do I need one?

A rangehood is an exhaust system that resides above the cooking area in your kitchen. It is designed to capture grease, steam and smoke from above your stove. It will also reduce heat and odours while you cook. This is achieved with an internal fan that draws air up into a special filter. The air is then expelled outside the house, or re-released into the kitchen with airborne contaminants removed. The benefits of using a rangehood are numerous, including cleaner air, a healthier living space and a grease-free kitchen. They also cut down on tedious scrubbing and cleaning!

Rangehoods come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from large and decorative units to discreet slide-out models. All rangehoods share the same basic design: a hood-enclosed fan that extends across your cooktop area. The type of rangehood you need will depend on the size of your cooking area and the volume/frequency of your cooking. Aesthetics -- or what the rangehood looks like -- are also an important consideration. Prices range from around $90 to several thousand dollars.

Rangehood types

Canopy: Canopy rangehoods are large chimney-shaped models that can be mounted into a wall, ceiling or above a kitchen island bench. They are the most powerful type of rangehood currently available, and are also the most expensive. Because of their large size, they are not discreet and may not suit all kitchen decors. They are best suited to people who want maximum exhaust removal.

Fixed: Fixed rangehoods are the traditional wall-mounted type. One advantage of a fixed rangehood is its affordability – some models cost as little as $80. However, with their fixed, protruding designs they can be quite cumbersome to fit into a kitchen setup and are rarely attractive. Best suited to people on a limited budget for a kitchen upgrade.

Slide-out/retractable: Slide-out rangehoods are slimline, retractable models that can be pulled out when in use. They are best suited to smaller kitchens where space is limited. They are also a good option if you have cabinets over your stove, as you can install the rangehood directly underneath.

Some manufacturers offer tilting models that are built into the interior of your cupboard. This design is ideal for people who want to hide the rangehood away when not in use.

Some retractable rangehoods are fully motorised and remain hidden in the kitchen wall cavity when not in use, although these rangehoods tend to be a bit pricier.

Ducted or recirculating?

Much like an air conditioner, a rangehood requires a way to direct its exhaust. This is achieved via two different methods: ducted and recirculating.

Ducted rangehoods (also known as external rangehoods) vent contaminated air through a hole in your ceiling or wall. This is by far the most effective method, but the installation process is quite difficult and may require the services of an electrician. You will therefore need to factor these additional costs into your purchase.

Recirculating rangehoods recycle air through a carbon filter before releasing it back into the kitchen. Recirculating rangehoods do not require you to install an exhaust pipe through your ceiling or wall, which makes them easier (and cheaper) to install. However, they are less effective at removing heat and smoke from the kitchen. You will also need to replace the filters more regularly.

Some rangehood models offer both ducted and recirculating options, allowing you to convert them to suit your needs.

Extraction rate

A rangehood’s effectiveness is dependent on its ability to draw in air. This is known as the ‘extraction rate’. In Australia, a rangehood’s extraction rate is measured in cubic metres per hour (m3/h). Models with higher extraction rates will vent a larger amount of air, which makes them more effective at their job. If you tend to do lots of cooking, particularly with woks and frypans, then go for an extraction rate of around 700m3/h. Naturally, the size of your kitchen is also an important consideration. Open-plan kitchens ideally require higher extraction rates to stop smoke and odours reaching other areas of the house.

Filters

All rangehoods come with inbuilt filters that need to be cleaned regularly. Make sure the filters are dishwasher-safe and can be easily removed from the rangehood. Recirculating rangehoods have additional carbon filters that need to be periodically replaced (most manufacturers recommend at least two replacements per year). Some rangehoods come with long-life charcoal filters that do not need to be replaced as often.

Lighting

Many rangehoods come with inbuilt lights that illuminate the cooktop area and make it easier to see what you’re doing while you cook. The main types of lighting used in rangehoods are halogen, fluorescent and incandescent. Incandescent are the cheapest type of bulb, but they are less energy-efficient and produce more heat. Halogen lights are generally considered better for shadow-free cooking. Two globes will generally provide better illumination over the cooking area.

Rangehood globes should be easy to access and replace, and ensure the globes used are commonly available and not a proprietary product.

Noise

The amount of noise a rangehood makes will vary from model to model. This is usually measured in sones or decibels, but the information is not always supplied on the box. Some rangehood models have special ‘sound free’ motors, although they tend to be a lot more expensive.

Extra features

Some rangehoods come equipped with additional features, including dimmable lights, multiple fan speeds, motorised canopies, timers, shutdown sensors, humidistats, filter indicators, electronic controls and touch displays. Naturally, the more expensive models tend to come with the most features.

Buying a package

Some rangehood models can be purchased as part of a package that includes an oven and a cooktop. This is an excellent option if you’ve just moved into a new house or are refurbishing your kitchen. In addition to ensuring a matching design and complementary features, it will also cost less money than buying each item separately.

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Chris Jager

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