Not us! Preventing smoke alarms from going off all around Australia, rangehoods regularly save the day when culinary disasters turn black in the blink of an eye. They're also good for taking the heat out of steam and fats, drawing it away from the chef's face as they peer into the pots and pans.
If your rangehood has conked out, or you need a new one for your kitchen renovation, never fear, we've got you covered! We've done the research and testing, and we can tell you what the options are and how to choose the best rangehood for your kitchen.
The rangehood range
Ducted or recirculating?
We know from testing that ducted rangehoods are best – these are the ones that suck out the odours to vent outside. But some of us won't have that option when we are looking to replace a broken one, or simply don't have the space for it. Whatever the reason you can't duct (expense, or apartment living), recirculating rangehoods are the other option. They suck the air through filters and, as the name suggests, put that air back into the room. They're a little more expensive in the long run because the carbon filters need replacing periodically.
All rangehood types are generally available in 60cm or 90cm width, so they cover the most common widths of cooktops, and most types are available in either ducted or recirculating.
Fixed models work better than retractable ones in both recirculating mode and ducted mode because they cover more of the cooking area. They also have a considerably larger filter area. The downside: a fixed rangehood may get in the way, especially if it's at head height.
Retractable, or slide-out rangehoods
Retractable models have a fan and light that turn on as you slide them out manually. These are generally less efficient at venting steam because of their smaller steam collection area; this is especially the case in recirculating mode. The advantage: once you finish cooking, you can push them out of sight and out of the way.
Canopy models look like a freestanding flue. These include island rangehoods, which are installed above an island cooking area in the centre of the kitchen, and wall canopies which are installed against a wall. Canopies are popular, but they can be very expensive compared with the other systems available.
An undermount rangehood is integrated into the kitchen cupboard. They are an increasingly popular choice; unobtrusive and hidden away. However, because they aren't necessarily covering the entire area of the cooktop, they may not work as well as, say, a canopy rangehood when extracting steam, depending on where your saucepan is located.
What to look for
Extraction (air flow) rate
Usually quoted in cubic metres per hour. CHOICE has been testing rangehoods for some time and we've found that the claimed extraction rate makes little difference to the performance. This is because the internal design and the installation of the rangehood matters a lot more. For example, if the rangehood duct is obstructed, all the extraction power in the world isn't going to help. It may help a salesperson to sell the rangehood if they can rattle off a large number, but when you get it home and have it installed you'll want it to work effectively, not inefficiently. Have a look at our reviews
to make an informed choice.
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.
All rangehoods have a filter. Those made of aluminium mesh are relatively easy to clean and the cheapest, as non-washable filters need replacement which means ongoing costs. If you install a rangehood in recirculating mode it'll also need a carbon filter that has to be replaced regularly.
Two globes over the cooking area generally provide better visibility than one. Make sure the globes are easy to replace. Models with halogen lights have better illumination than those with incandescent or LEDs – speaking of which, LED lights use less power than incandescent.
Sliding or push-button controls on the front panel are easy to reach and operate. Some retractable models have controls on the underside of the hood. On some retractable units, the further you pull out the hood, the higher the fan speed becomes.
Noise level is an important consideration, especially in open-plan kitchen/dining/living rooms. Ask in the shop if you can listen to the rangehood on all its settings - you should be able to hold a conversation while it's on.
A one-way flap inside a ducted rangehood can help keep hot air inside during winter or cold air inside during summer, instead of escaping through the duct to the outside. Some rangehoods have these built in, and some have them as optional extras.
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. Leave the filter for too long and you'll wish you hadn't when it comes time to clean!
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 rangehoods range 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.
They range from $100 to over $5000.