Whether you’re revamping your old kitchen or maybe you’re building one from scratch, one of the decisions you can’t afford to shy away from is thinking of a range hood model that will fit in your specific kitchen layout. According to statistics, most homeowners usually get confused when it comes to the topic of ducted vs. ductless range hood. Since this is a preposition that requires an immediate solution when remodeling your kitchen, a majority of homeowners end up making the wrong choice.
In the past, range hoods were considered simple and utilitarian kitchen chimneys. Today, everything has long changed as most modern kitchens feature a myriad of styles that demand more advanced range vents to blend with the available cabinetry for purposes of showcasing their design superiority. That being the case, this guide has readied a detailed discussion that will touch on everything you need to know regarding ducted vs. ductless range hoods.
What is a Range Hood?
A range hood is an exhaust system that’s fitted over your kitchen next to the range to filter out unwanted kitchen fumes. Also known as an exhaust hood, a ventilation hood, or a vent hood, a range hood is mostly fitted a few inches above your range or cooktop to ensure that any smoke, grease, odor, steam, and smoke coming out of your cooktop is directly sucked inside the hood before circulating to the rest of the kitchen.
Now, for range hoods to be effective, most manufacturers include very specific design compositions. One of those is adding air vents beneath the range hood where the air is sucked or released from. Inside the vent hood, there’s a mechanical fan system that’s tasked to circulate air in and out of the kitchen.
Lastly, there are buttons on the front of the range hood that allow you to control the speed of the fan to increase or reduce the rate of air circulation depending on the situation.
But, despite maintaining a clean kitchen environment, most modern range hoods in the 21st century are offering more than the usual air circulation duty. Most of them have gone ahead to offer increased beauty by incorporating aesthetic designs, bright LEDs as well as other smart features that increase the attractiveness of your modern kitchen.
What are Ducted Range Hoods?
Now, just like other home appliances such as vacuums, range hoods come in two major categories which are the ducted and the ductless variants. Although both of these hoods perform the same task of sucking out odors and kitchen contaminants, their working mechanism is very different something that demands a lot of focus when choosing one over the other.
In the case of the ducted range hoods, these are widely used among most homeowners and are especially popular in most commercial kitchens. If your residential kitchen generates substantial amounts of fumes, smoke, and contaminated air, then this type of range hood is the best to consider.
But, despite being so popular, ducted hoods may not be the primary option for some kitchen designs. For instance, if you live in one of those modern apartments, duplexes, and condos where you’re strictly prohibited from interfering with the walls, then a ducted hood may not be the best alternative. Also, for those living in tiny apartments with small kitchen spaces, a ducted range hood can compress your kitchen space making it look squeezed and clumsy.
For those that live in their own residential homes, ducted hoods are considered the best option. You see, unlike ductless hoods that rely on filters to recirculate air, ducted range hoods provide the functionality of venting contaminated air out of your kitchen completely.
What Are Ductless Range Hoods?
Ductless hoods, on the other hand, are quite the opposite of their ducted cousins. Just as their name suggests, these hoods don’t require to be installed on any duct as they’re not designed to vent air to your home’s exterior. Instead, they rely on their high suction power to suck contaminants from your kitchen then use the available activated carbon and charcoal filters to purify the air before recirculating it back into the kitchen.
Although they rely on an intelligent working mechanism, most people may disapprove of these vent hoods accusing them of being inefficient. However, the truth of the matter is that the activated carbon or charcoal filters are very efficient in eliminating grease, smoke, steam, and other contaminants to give you fresh air to breathe.
Since they don’t rely on any ductwork, ductless vent hoods offer you the freedom of installing them in any location of your choice. This is one major selling point of ductless vents over their ducted counterparts as you can mount them anywhere in your home to filter any unwanted air. The only major issue with these vent hoods, however, is the carbon filters that require regular replacement at least twice annually to help the unit keep up with the massive task.
Different Types of Ducted vs. Ductless Range Hoods
Although I’ve discussed both the ducted and the ductless range hoods in detail, there’s the need to understand the different types of range hoods that are available in the market. In this section, I’ll discuss the different types of vent hoods and specify whether they’re ducted or ductless.
Under-Cabinet Range Hoods
One of the most common types of vent hood you’ll find in most kitchens, especially those in the US, is the under-cabinet range hood. The reason why it’s considered the best is due to its compact size and attractive design that blends with most modern kitchens. Also known as a fixed range hood, this type of vent hood is mounted underneath the center cabinet that’s mounted directly above your range or cooktop.
The under-cabinet range hood comes in two major categories which are the ducted and the ductless models. Ductless models rely on a combination of great suction power and efficient carbon/charcoal filters to suck smells, odors, and grease from your kitchen then recirculate fresh air back in. Since there’s no extra cost of installing the ductwork, these versions of the under-cabinet hoods are very common in urban apartments.
On the other hand, the ducted models of the under-cabinet hoods are designed with a venting system that penetrates through the exterior wall behind the hood or through the cabinet above the hood. Whichever the case, these vent hoods work by venting contaminated air to the outside atmosphere to give you fresh air that gets inside through the kitchen windows.
Wall Mounted Hoods
If the area above your cooktop has space, then that gap can be used to mount a wall-mounted range hood. Otherwise, if your kitchen layout isn’t designed to mount this type of vent hood, then you might be forced to remove one piece of the cabinets to pave some way for the installation of this particular hood.
Just as the name suggests, this type of range hood is mounted directly on your kitchen wall just above the cooktop. Since these hoods are designed with tall chimneys, they’re easy to connect to the existing ductwork thus preventing any contaminated air from leak back to the kitchen during the elimination process.
Most wall-mounted hoods you’ll find in the market are the ducted versions. However, upcoming brands are offering ductless models that rely on carbon filters though most are multi-functional where they can still work as ducted units.
Island Mounted Hoods
If your kitchen layout is designed on an island or simply far from the wall, then pairing it with an island range hood is a wise move. But, unlike the under-cabinet or the wall-mounted vent hood, this one is a bit tricky to mount as it needs to be suspended from the ceiling to the center of your kitchen just above your range or cooktop.
But, despite having complex installation requirements, these range hoods come in a selection of modern materials such as glass, ceramic, and copper to give your kitchen an impressive design theme. Now, since these range hoods are mounted at the center of your kitchen, a very high CFM is needed to suck and vent out as many contaminants as possible. Due to this reason, most range hoods in this category are ducted to compensate for the high suction requirements.
If you have a small kitchen space or maybe you live in an apartment where you’re strictly prohibited from tampering with the walls, then a downdraft vent hood can be a smart move. Now, unlike the rest of the vent hoods I’ve mentioned, this one works in a totally different principle as it sucks steam, odor, grease, and hot air downwards rather than upwards.
These hoods are usually hidden behind the cooktop and only appear when needed. They’re also connected to a special venting system that runs from your cooktop to the exterior wall behind your cooker. Although they’re perfect examples of ducted range hoods, downdraft hoods operate at a very low CFM making them less efficient.
Microwave Range Hoods
Just like the downdraft range hoods, microwave hoods are designed for tiny kitchens that are too squeezed to allow wall-mounted, island, or under-cabinet vent hoods to be mounted. Since they’re built as one unit together with the microwaves, all you need to do is mount your microwave underneath the cooktop to allow the hood to suck hot air directly from the cooktop.
Microwave vents are a perfect example of ductless hoods as they’re designed to recirculate air back to the kitchen without venting it outside. They’re usually less costly but less efficient when compared to other vent hoods.
Which Accessories are Needed for Mounting Ducted vs. Ductless Range Hoods?
When comparing ducted vs. ductless range hoods, one thing you need to be keen on is the installation process. For ducted hoods, the concept behind their installation is quite demanding. You have to purchase an entire ducting kit that consists of the pipes, a roof-mounted exhaust vent, roofing nails, and a separate chimney that will conceal the flexible accordion duct and the suction fan for aesthetic reasons.
Depending on whether you wish to install the ductwork vertically or horizontally, you’ll need the tools to accomplish this project which may consist of a jigsaw, drill, pry bar, roof cement, caulk gun, and roofing nails.
Ductless vent hoods on their side do not use the same working concept as their ducted counterparts. For that reason, the installation process is less demanding as you won’t have to install an entire ducting unit through your walls just to vent air outside.
Instead, these vent hoods rely on special carbon or charcoal filters to filter out any contaminants in the air before recirculating it back into the kitchen. Although this working mechanism is considered to be brilliant, the efficiency of these range hoods greatly depends on the quality of the filters in terms of how perfect they are in eliminating odors, greases, and harmful particles from the air.
When it comes to the installation, ductless hoods are much easier to mount as you only need some mounting tools to accomplish the process. Since you can accomplish the mounting process all by yourself, that alone makes these range hoods much cheaper as compared to ducted hoods.
Distinguishable Features Between Ducted and Ductless Range Hoods
When choosing between ducted and ductless hoods, there are those features you need to be aware of before parting with your money. So, to help you walk away with the right range hood model, this section will highlight some distinguishable features between these two types of vent hoods.
When choosing a range hood, one factor you should be really keen on is the size. Although it’s not a must for your vent hood to cover the entire cooktop, at least having one that extends a few inches beyond the cooktop is much better as this allows it to trap as much smoke as possible before they can float to other parts of the kitchen.
On the other hand, a huge vent hood can cost a lot. Secondly, there are chances that it might fail to fit in the space between your cabinets in case it’s a wall-mounted unit. Lastly, a huge vent hood can cause accidents here and there as you might accidentally bump your head on its edges.
With that said, ducted range hoods tend to be more compact as they have the advantage of high suction power. Since ductless hoods don’t have this advantage, they usually compensate for this drawback by being extra wide to cover a bigger area when sucking out contaminants.
When it comes to flexibility, ductless range hoods are considered the best as they can be mounted anywhere. This advantage comes because these vent hoods don’t require any ductwork to vent air through the exterior wall. Instead, they rely on carbon filters to trap particulates and recirculate the air.
On the other hand, ducted hoods cannot be mounted anywhere. Since they depend on existing ductwork, additional preparation before installation will have to be done to ensure the hood is perfectly fitted depending on the ductwork.
CFM Rating and Effectiveness
If you’re rating the performance of both ducted and ductless range hoods, ducted vents tend to be more effective at filtering out all forms of indoor particulates. Since the ductwork is connected to the exterior wall, these vent hoods tend to not only filter out odors but also hot air that’s already circulating in the kitchen.
About the CFM rating, these range hoods can manage over 600 CFM of suction power which is all thanks to their powerful fan systems. With ductless range hoods, these ones are only designed to continuously suck kitchen air to pass it through the carbon filters before recirculating it back into the kitchen.
Although they’re much better than not having a range hood at all, their suction power is quite low (around 400CFM). Also, since they only recirculate the air that’s already in the kitchen, they cannot be considered in eliminating the hot cooking air in the kitchen.
Another distinguishable feature that sets ducted and ductless vent hoods apart is the level of maintenance. Now, ductless range hoods rely on filters to capture airborne particles from your kitchen atmosphere. To boost efficiency, most vent hoods in this category rely on a combination of carbon/charcoal filters and baffle or aluminum/steel filters to trap grease from your kitchen.
Since most of these particulates, especially grease, can clog the vents and the filters, regular maintenance is required to ensure the performance of the vent hood is not ruined. Therefore, if you’re looking to install a ductless range hood, then you’ll have to replace the filters periodically and wash the aluminum or steel filters more often.
On the other hand, ducted range hoods are designed to vent airborne particulates from your kitchen to the exterior wall via the ductwork. Since they don’t rely on any filters to accomplish their work, maintaining them is a bit easier as compared to ductless hoods.
Ductless range hoods have a very different working principle from their ducted cousins. Since they work by sucking contaminated air then recirculating it back into the kitchen, they require powerful blowers that can spin rapidly to accomplish these cycles with more precision. Due to this reason, these range hoods tend to be noisier due to the rapid speed of powerful fans.
Ducted hoods, on the other hand, are connected to existing ductwork that allows them to direct contaminated air to the exterior wall. This gives them less of a hassle when sucking airborne air thus allowing the fans to operate quietly and efficiently.
When it comes to the cost, there isn’t much difference when buying a ducted or a ductless unit. In fact, the difference in the cost comes in when you consider other factors such as LED lights, the controls, the filters, and the appearance. Otherwise, if you’re just looking for something contemporary, then the price range between a ducted and a ductless hood will be slim.
However, if you factor in the cost of installation, then a ducted hood will cost way more than a ductless unit. The reason for this is due to the additional accessories you’ll need to buy to allow the range hood to vent air to the exterior.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Ducted vs. Ductless Range Hoods
Benefits of Ducted Hoods
- High Efficiency: Since ducted range hoods are designed to vent air out rather than recirculate it, they’re considered to be more efficient when it comes to getting rid of grease, smoke, odors, and other particles from your kitchen.
- Relatively Silent: Although this factor greatly varies on the model you buy and how your ductwork is constructed, in most cases, ducted hoods are considered to be quieter when compared to ductless hoods.
- Leaves Zero Humidity: Apart from pumping out unwanted particulates from your kitchen, ducted range hoods are considered to be efficient in eliminating hot steam from your kitchen. This leaves your kitchen with zero steam and humidity which is a huge plus for commercial kitchens that generate a lot of heat.
- Needs a Duct: Perhaps the greatest concern of owning a ducted vent hood is the issue of installing a duct for venting out contaminated air. According to most homeowners, the cost of installing a duct is quite high not forgetting the time it takes to install one.
Benefits of Ductless Hoods
- Versatility: One of the greatest benefits of installing a ductless hood is the amount of versatility it promises to offer. Since they depend on powerful filters to recirculate air, homeowners have the freedom of mounting them almost anywhere provided there’s a source of power nearby.
- Ease of Installation: Another benefit of ductless hoods over their ducted cousins is the ease of installation. Since they don’t demand any ductwork to be done, you won’t need to hire a professional to install it on your behalf.
- Quite Noisy: Since they rely on a working principle of recirculating air, ductless hoods tend to be noisier as the fan system will need to be overworked to guarantee maximum efficiency.
- Cause Humidity: Another major concern with ductless vent hoods is lack of efficiency when sucking out steam and hot air. Although they’re perfect in eliminating odors and kitchen smells, they’re very poor in getting rid of hot air. This makes the kitchen hot and worse of all, it allows grease to stick on the surface of your walls and kitchen cabinets.
As you can see, a range hood is not a cheap addition to your new kitchen. Although there are many models available, all of them fall into two major categories which are ducted and ductless hoods. So, before you make any step, it’s always wise to understand the main differences between these two types of vent hoods to ensure that you make a wise decision based on the various factors we’ve discussed.
Although the choice is totally up to you, I would like to advise you to install a ducted hood if you’re planning to install it in a commercial kitchen. On the other hand, if the range hood is for residential use, then you’re free to choose either of the two as most residential kitchens have fewer demands.