During the cooking process, air pollutants such as smoke, steam, grease particles, and odors come up from the cooking surface. Gas cooktops and ranges add carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide to the mix, and grilling tops it off with volumes of greasy smoke. In addition, excess moisture from the dishwasher, escaping odors from the trash can, the lingering smell of last night's takeout, and many other sources, together create a serious air quality problem.
Range hoods solve this problem by removing the polluted air to the outside (ducted installation) or cleaning it with a series of filters (ductless / recirculating installation). However, besides the obvious benefit of keeping the kitchen air odor-free, range hoods offer several other, more subtle, advantages.
The hot, moist, greasy effluent stream produced by cooking is suctioned in and exhausted outside, instead of letting it blow right in your face. Any chef who spends a significant amount of time in the kitchen environment will attest to the difference between cooking in comfort, and having to endure a steam bath for several hours.
While we're on the subject of comfortable cooking, it is worth noting that an overhead range hood provides additional lighting, right where you need it the most. One of the considerations for selecting a range hood should be the amount of light it provides, as well as the type of lighting - halogen, fluorescent, incandescent, or a combination. Keep in mind that the bulb wattage does not need to be high, since the hood will be much closer to the cooktop than the room lights. In addition to work lights, some high-end designer range hoods offer spectacular lighting effects, and some hoods also include warming lights.
Keeping the air free of grease and excess moisture also keeps the entire kitchen cleaner. Airborne grease and moisture produced by cooking settles on kitchen surfaces, leaving a sticky film on cabinets and counters - but with a range hood, those pollutants are removed, making kitchen cleanup much easier and faster. The more advanced range hood models even offer a feature that keeps the hood running on a 10-15 minute timer after you're done cooking, in order to clean the last traces of odor and then quietly turn off.
By forcing the polluted air outside, the range hood creates negative pressure, which causes the clean outdoor air to enter the house, improving the air quality throughout the residence, not just in the kitchen. Removing harmful chemicals, promoting good airflow, and eliminating moisture & grease creates a healthier environment, which is especially important for anyone suffering from allergies, asthma, COPD, and other respiratory problems.
Range hoods also promote creativity in cooking. Having an effective kitchen ventilation solution lets the adventurous chef experiment with exotic foods that may otherwise not be considered due to strong odors. Curries, Kimchi, natto, Roquefort cheese, Durian and jack fruit, sardines and caviar, and many other pungent ingredients - all become much more appealing once you don't need to worry about their smell lingering in the kitchen and settling into soft furnishings throughout the house. Even roasted salmon and garlic are not a challenge for a powerful, properly installed and ducted, overhead range hood.
Of course, just because an appliance is functional does not mean it can't look good. A designer range hood can add the perfect finishing touch to the kitchen space, expressing the owner's unique sense of taste and defining the cooking area as the heart of the kitchen. There are literally hundreds of designer range hood models on the market, with styles ranging from antique to the ultra-modern. Whether the kitchen design calls for a large angular "pro-style" hood, or a sleek Italian beauty with curved glass, or a classic hood with wood trim, there is a perfect design out there to match any kitchen.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to install a range hood in your kitchen. Start your search by determining what type of hood you'll need - wall-mount or island-mount, as well as the size - at least as wide as the range/cooktop, and style that fits your kitchen design and personal taste. Price-wise, range hoods vary from bargain-basement specials for under $ 200, to luxury designer units with price tags from $ 1500 to $ 5000, to outrageous custom hoods that can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
Keep in mind that like all other major appliances, a range hood needs to be installed, so the cost of installation should be figured into the budget. Installation can generally be done by any contractor for a reasonable rate (or packaged in with the cost of installing other appliances if the hood is bought as part of a major kitchen remodel), but you should always check the installation requirements with the range hood manufacturer or dealer before purchase.
It's a good idea to avoid no-name range hood brands, since the cost of uninstalling and reinstalling a failed range hood will quickly erase any short-term savings gained by purchasing an "Italian style" or "European design" hood, instead of a quality unit actually made in Italy or Germany, by a well-established company, such as Miele, Gaggenau, Futuro Futuro, Elica, Faber, Kuppersbusch, and so on. Always check the manufacturer's warranty terms, and make sure your contractor or installer follows the installation requirements. A high-quality, properly installed range hood will keep your air clean and your house smelling fresh for years to come.