Buyer’s guide to Ductless Range Hoods

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Written By Jim J Neal

If you don’t have ductwork in place in your kitchen, a ductless range hood could be an effective option you can install yourself.

As more homeowners tackle DIY projects around the home — especially in the kitchen — ductless range hoods are becoming more popular, in part because they’re relatively simple to install.

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What Is a Ductless Range Hood?

A ductless range hood (aka a ventless range hood) is an appliance positioned above your cooktop that captures smoke, steam, strong smells and airborne oils that would otherwise fill your kitchen.

By diverting these contaminants up and away from your stove, ductless range hoods create a comfortable and enjoyable cooking experience while reducing the greasy film that accumulates on nearby surfaces.

Ducted vs. ductless range hood

Ducted range hoods require a venting system to remove cooking smells from your home. Ductless hoods don’t  According to Nick Yahoodain, CEO of Advanced Builders and Contractors, ductless range hoods “have no duct and sometimes are not even vented.”

Because ductless models are so self-contained, they can be installed practically anywhere, like underneath cabinetry. “Most homeowners go with ductless range hoods when they do not have space and no room to run ducts to the outside,” says Yahoodain.

How Does a Ductless Range Hood Work?

It’s simple, Yahoodain says: “It uses a filter to clean the air inside the home and recirculates it back into the home.”

A fan pulls air into the hood and through a charcoal filter (aka a carbon or activated charcoal filter), trapping the contaminants. The filtered, clean air returns to the kitchen through vents in the hood. Many models also feature baffle filters. These are washable stainless steel coils that capture oil and grease particles as the air passes through.

Ductless Range Hood Features

Black vented range HoodBlack vented range HoodPoetra Dimatra/Getty Images

To ensure that you choose the best ductless range hood for your kitchen, keep these factors in mind:

  • Size: It should be at least as wide as your range to effectively capture all contaminants.
  • Lighting: A range hood with integrated lighting illuminates your cooking surface so you can see better. It also offers a convenient low light to leave on for anyone in search of late-night snacks.
  • Fan speeds: Get one with varying speeds. Lower speeds are good for small cooking tasks; higher speeds work for more intense projects like frying chicken. Lower speeds are also quieter.
  • Material: Make sure the exterior matches the rest of your kitchen. Ductless hoods can typically be purchased in stainless steel, black or white.

How To Install a Ductless Range Hood

Since they lack ductwork, ductless range hoods don’t require professional installation. “Most homeowners can install a ductless range hood themselves if they are handy,” Yahoodain says. All you need are some basic tools — a level, drill and hammer.

The specific installation process varies depending on your model and where you’ll be mounting your hood. These instructions should give you an idea of the scope of the project:

  • Position the hood above your cooktop: According to the ZLine manual, the hood should be placed 30 to 36 inches above the surface of the range. Any higher and it won’t be effective; any lower could result in heat damage to the unit.
  • Mount the hood to the wall: Find and mark the center of the wall where you’ll be installing the hood. Refer to the included instructions and use a level to find the mounting points. Position the hood and drill the screws into place. (This requires a second person).
  • Connect to power: Most ductless range hoods come with a three-prong power plug so they don’t need to be hardwired. If there isn’t already an outlet on the wall, hire an electrician to install one.
  • Attach chimney: Connect the chimney to the top of the range hood. You may need a screwdriver for this step.
  • Insert filters: Place the carbon filters into their settings. They made need to be rotated or clicked into place.

Best Ductless Range Hoods

Yahoodain recommends these three, high-quality ductless range hoods:

  • Best overall: The stainless steel body of the ZLine ZLKB-30 KB-30 Wall Mounted Range Hood ($352) is easy to keep clean. It features a four-speed fan and dishwasher-safe baffle filters.
  • Best budget-friendly option: Although the Cosmo 36 in. Ductless Wall Mount Range Hood ($272) costs less than most, it still provides three-speed settings and a pair of LED lights to illuminate your cooking area.
  • Best extra-large model: The 42-inch-wide ZLine Stainless Steel (KB-42) Wall Mount Range Hood ($615) is perfect for covering large ranges. Its four fan settings let you choose the perfect speed for your cooking project.

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