- You can pay $1000 or more for a rangehood, but during testing we've found some good ones among the lower-priced models.
- CHOICE tests of rangehoods confirmed that ducting a rangehood to the outside gives better steam extraction than using one in recirculating mode.
- Fixed rangehoods outperformed their retractable counterparts in recirculating mode.
Types of rangehoods
There are three types of rangehoods available.
- Fixed rangehoods cover most of the hotplate area. All the fixed models we have tested in the past worked better than the retractable ones in recirculating mode, and all but two in ducted mode, because they come out further and cover more of the cooking area. They also have a considerably larger filter area. On the downside, a fixed rangehood always sticks out and may get in the way, especially if it’s at head height.
- Retractable rangehoods have a frame that holds the section you pull out to cover part of the hotplate area, and the fan and light come on and go off as you pull the section out and push it back in. Retractable models are generally less efficient at steam removal because of their smaller steam collection area; this was especially the case in recirculating mode. The advantage: once you finish cooking, you can push it out of sight and out of the way.
- Canopy rangehoods (rather like a freestanding flue in your kitchen) are becoming popular, but they can be very expensive compared with the other systems available.
Most rangehoods can be installed in either ducted or recirculating mode.
- Ducted systems, where steam and smells are vented outside through the ceiling or wall, generally work better. However, installation is more costly and complex and involves knocking a hole in the ceiling or wall for the ducting pipe.
- For people who can’t install ducting — say in a unit or rented place — a recirculating system is an alternative, where the steam is circulated through odour-absorbing carbon filters back into the room. When used in this mode, the rangehood is generally less effective at sucking up steam and odours, as the carbon filter restricts the airflow. It’s also more expensive to run, as the carbon filters need to be replaced regularly.
Which ones work best?
If you have a freestanding house and can base your choice purely on efficiency, go for a ducted system. All the rangehoods in our tests worked better in ducted mode. In recirculating mode the fixed systems outperformed their retractable counterparts.
What to look for
- 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.
- Filter. All rangehoods have a filter. Those made of aluminium mesh are relatively easy to clean and the least expensive, as non-washable filters need replacement and will incur ongoing costs. If you install a rangehood in recirculating mode it’ll also need a carbon filter that has to be replaced regularly. For more on this see the last point in Installation and maintenance below.
- Light. Two globes generally provide better visibility than one over the cooking area. Globes should be easy to replace.
- Controls. Sliding or pushbutton controls on the front panel are easy to reach and to operate. Some retractable models have controls on the underside of the hood. This is OK if you always use the same fan speed, as both fan and light come on automatically when you pull it out, but probably less convenient if you want to change it. On other retractable units, the further you pull out the hood, the higher the fan speed becomes.
One of our readers phoned with a warnign about sharp corners. “I’m amazed at how sharp the corners on some rangehoods are,” he remarked. “I happen to be quite bald and have often bashed my head on these contraptions, sometimes causing bleeding.”
If you, too, are of a certain height and tend to bash your head on the rangehood, take care when leaning over to reach a pot on a rear hotplate. And if you’re buying a new one, check for any sharp edges and corners.
Another caution comes from some manufacturers, who warn that if you duct a rangehood and have a flued gas or slow-combustion heater (and it isn’t a ‘balanced flue’ type) in or close to the kitchen, you must ensure there’s adequate air venting into the room so that cooking fumes aren’t drawn down the heating flue.
Even a small draught can adversely affect a rangehood’s performance, so you’d better keep windows and doors closed near the kitchen when using a rangehood on a windy day.
Installation and maintenance
Installing a 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, some basic hand tools and, if possible, someone to help.
- 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 it 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 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.
- 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.
- Rangehoods in recirculating mode have a carbon filter that needs to be replaced regularly. How often depends on your amount and type of cooking. Manufacturers’ recommendations as to how often to replace it vary from every month to once a year, with every three to six months the most commonly mentioned. The cost of a replacement filter for the rangehoods we tested ranged from $15 to $69. So the costs of running a recirculating rangehood efficiently could mount to well over $100 a year, considering you might have to replace the filter several times a year.
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before you make your decision!