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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Shopping Checklist: Rangehoods

• Rangehood type

Rangehoods come in three main types -- canopy, fixed and slide-out. Choose a design that best suits your kitchen and budget.

• Ducted or recirculating?

Ducted rangehoods are a lot more effective at extracting air, but they are also more expensive and can be difficult to install. Recirculating rangehoods are generally more affordable, but they may struggle to remove smoke and heat.

• Extraction rate

Check the model’s maximum extraction rate before making your purchase. The higher the number, the more effective the rangehood will be at venting air.

• Filters

Most rangehoods have filters that need to be occasionally removed and cleaned. Make sure they are easy to detach/reattach. If you own a dishwasher, check if the filters are dishwasher-safe.

• Adjustable settings

Does the rangehood have adjustable fan speeds? This can help to reduce noise and energy consumption when using low heat or using less cooktop area.

• Lights

Does the rangehood have an inbuilt light? Is it dimmable? Is the bulb halogen, fluorescent or incandescent? Is there more than one globe for better visibility?

• Sound

How loud is the rangehood? Check the packaging to see if a decibel rating is offered. If possible ask in store if you can listen to the rangehood with its fan on.

• Removability

Can the rangehood be easily removed once installed? This is an important consideration if you are currently renting or plan to upgrade your kitchen in the future.

• Package

Can the rangehood be purchased as part of a package with other kitchen appliances such as the stovetop and oven? This may help you save money on the overall cost.

• Warranty

How long does the warranty last for? Don’t forget to check!

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Jargon Busters: Rangehoods

Aluminium/mesh filter: This is the most common type of filter found in ducted rangehoods. They can be cleaned and reused, and are usually dishwasher-safe.

Canopy rangehood: A canopy rangehood is a large chimney-shaped model that can be mounted to a ceiling or wall. They are the most powerful type of rangehood available, but also the most expensive.

Carbon/charcoal filter: This is the type of filter used in recirculating rangehoods. It works by absorbing odours, grease and steam from the recirculated air. Carbon filters need to be replaced periodically.

Ducted: This is the most effective way of extracting air from the kitchen. It works by venting air through ducts in your ceiling or wall. The air is then expelled outside the house, with excess cooking residue collected in the filters. Ducted rangehoods tend to be more expensive than recirculating rangehoods (see below) and it may require a technician to install.

Extraction rate: This lets you calculate how effective a rangehood is at removing smoke and cooking fumes. The higher the extraction rate, the more powerful the rangehood is. In Australia, a rangehood’s extraction rate is measured in cubic metres per hour (m3/h).

Fixed rangehood: A fixed rangehood has a traditional wall-mounted design. They are generally the most affordable type of rangehood, with some models costing under $100.

Halogen/fluorescent/incandescent: These are the most common types of lights found inside rangehoods.

m3/h: ‘Metres cubed per hour’; a unit used to measure air extraction.

Recirculating: This is the extraction method used by budget rangehoods. It works by venting air through charcoal/carbon filters before re-releasing it back into the kitchen. Recirculating rangehoods are less effective at sucking up smoke and heat, but are easier to install.

Slide-out rangehood: A slide-out rangehood is a slimline, retractable model that can be pulled out when needed. They are best suited to smaller kitchens where space is limited.

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FAQs: Rangehoods

Q: What is a rangehood?

A: A rangehood is an exhaust system designed to remove grease, steam and smoke from your kitchen. It also helps to reduce heat and odours while you cook. Most rangehoods work by removing the air above your stove using a fan and venting it through a filter. The air is then expelled outside the house, or re-released into the kitchen with the airborne contaminants removed.

Q: What are the benefits of a rangehood?

A: A rangehood helps to eliminate the grease and oil which builds up in your kitchen when cooking. It is estimated that the average oven deposits 4.5 litres of cooking fat into the atmosphere every year. This can lead to stained, messy and unhygienic food preparation surfaces. A rangehood will ensure your cooking area remains healthier and cleaner. They also keep odours away from the rest of the house and may include additional features, such as overhead lights to aid in cooking.

Q: What types of rangehood are there?

A: There are three main types of rangehood -- fixed, slide-out and canopy. Fixed rangehoods are traditional wall-mounted models. They are usually the most affordable type and are best suited to people on limited budgets. Canopy rangehoods are large chimney-shaped models that can be mounted to a wall or ceiling. They are the most powerful type of rangehood currently available, and are best suited to people who want maximum extraction. Slide-out rangehoods are slimline, retractable models that can be pulled out when needed. They are best suited to smaller kitchens where space is limited.

Q: Ducted and recirculating: what’s the difference?

A: Ducted rangehoods (also known as external rangehoods) vent the contaminated air outside your house through a hole in the ceiling or wall. This is by far the most effective method, but it requires you to cut through the wallboard in the kitchen to install the exhaust pipes. You may therefore need to hire an electrician to do the job for you.

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, which will add to the running costs over time.

Q: How high should I mount the rangehood above my stove?

A: Most common installations require a space of 60cm between the bottom of the hood and the top of the cooktop. This will provide the best capture area for cooking impurities. Be sure to see if the rangehood has sharp edges, as you may hit your head on these if the rangehood is installed too low.

Q: Can I replace my old rangehood with a new one?

A: This will depend on the size of both the old and new rangehoods and whether they are the same type (canopy, fixed, etc). If you are replacing a recirculating rangehood with a ducted model, you will also need to install the required exhaust pipes. If both models are ducted, it is usually possible to reuse the existing vents and cables, although you may need the assistance of an electrician to finish the job.

Q: How often should I clean my filters?

A: This will depend on the type of rangehood you buy and the frequency of use. Naturally, the more oil you use, the more frequently you will need to clean the filters. Most manufacturers recommend you clean the filters at least once a month. Note that recirculating rangehoods usually require you to replace the filters with new ones. It’s therefore worth checking how much the replacement filters cost before you invest in the rangehood.