Buying a hood fan for your kitchen may not be the most glamorous part of the whole remodeling process, but it’s nonetheless important. After all, you want your kitchen to be full of delicious aromas – not steam, heat, or carbon monoxide built up when you’re cooking.
You can’t just go out and pick one at random, either – you need to consider everything from power and noise to effective grease trapping, air re-circulation and if it matches your kitchen cabinet design when you choose a hood fan. This handy guide will help you choose the most suitable hood fan for you kitchen.
Hood fan performance is measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM. Simply put, the higher the CFM, the more powerful the fan.
Your CFM needs will depend largely on your range as well as how frequently you cook. Bigger ranges will require higher CFM; you’ll need a hood fan with about 600 to 1,200 CFM to handle a six-burner gas range, for example, as opposed to a small electric stove which only requires around 300 to 450 CFM.
To get an idea of how high your hood fan’s CFM should be, just divide your gas range’s BTU (which is basically its performance rating) by 100.
The blowers on modern hood fans aren’t as noisy as their predecessors, but bigger and more powerful models can still make quite a racket.
The noise level of a hood fan is measured in sones, although some manufacturers may provide noise levels in decibels instead. It’s important to note that unlike decibels, sones are linear – 2 sones is twice as loud as 1 sone, 3 sones is three times as loud, and so on.
The most silent hood fans can have ratings of only 1.5 sones, while the loudest can reach 8 sones and above. The average is around 3 to 5 sones. While most manufacturers include the noise ratings on their hood fans, the best way to gauge whether a hood fan will be too loud or not is still the simplest way: just stand next to it and turn it on.
Blower placement can also have a drastic effect on fan noise.
If it’s located in the main body of the hood fan, you can expect it to be pretty loud. It’s going to be right there in front (or above, to be more accurate) of you, after all.
Inline blowers, which are located about halfway inside your hood fan’s duct system, are more quiet and can also be used to increase the main blower’s power.
External blowers generate the least amount of noise, but they can also be the most expensive option. You should also consider where you place them; you wouldn’t want the exhaust to spill onto oft-used pathways and hallways.
REPLACEMENT OR MAKEUP AIR SYSTEM
Makeup air systems keep the “air balance” in your kitchen. The concept is simple: any air that your hood fan takes out of the kitchen must be replaced with outside air.
While an important consideration for every kind of hood fan, a good makeup air system is particularly important when you have a high-powered fan. These can suck in and expel large volumes of air, so you need to have a system that can replace that air at the same rate or you end up with the vacuum effect.
FAN INSTALLATION HEIGHT
All hood fans have their own recommended installation heights over the actual cooking surface. This is usually a range of distances (30” to 36”, for example).
The lowest number is the distance safely tested for by the safety consulting and certification company, Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Installing a hood below the specified lower limit can lead to damage.
The highest number is the distance at which the fan can still capture smoke satisfactorily. Going above the upper limit won’t damage the fan, but it will capture less smoke unless you make a point to increase the hood’s width.
EFFECTIVE CAPTURE AREA
Speaking of capturing smoke, a hood fan’s effective capture area is another key feature to consider. You will typically want a hood fan wide enough to match the width of your gas range or cooktop and deep enough to cover the back burners and half of the front burners.
Design considerations can also come into play. A sleek, low-profile, designer island hood, for example, may look more aesthetically pleasing than a massive pro-style hood fan, but it also has a smaller effective capture area.
Grease filters trap the greasy by-products that the hood fan sucks in and keeps them from clogging up the hood and your house’s duct system. As such, they need to be cleaned regularly. Fortunately, that can be done as easily as dropping the grease filter into your dishwasher.
Some filter types also work better for certain cooking procedures compared to others. Baffle filters, for example, work well when you’re grilling or frying, but must be operated at high speed for best results. Mesh filters, meanwhile, aren’t affected by hood speed.
It is universally recommended for hood fans to be vented to the outside. Unfortunately, there are situations when outside venting is virtually impossible. This is where recirculating hood fans come into play.
These devices have aluminum mesh and carbon filters that clean captured air and recirculate it back into the kitchen sans grease and odor. These filters will need to be cleaned regularly.
Don’t expect them to work as well as conventional hoods, though. Still, they’re better than nothing if outside venting is not an option.
If you plan on buying a hood fan, remember to keep a checklist of these 8 things on hand!