A ductless range hood, also called a recirculating range hood, is an excellent way to improve the air quality in kitchens without a duct system. These hoods clear the air by filtering out smoke and particles before recirculating the clean air throughout the kitchen. Hoods are made in different designs to use in various kitchen layouts.
The best recirculating range hood moves a lot of air, but less-efficient models can be so loud that they rival the noise of a busy highway. However, a good design helps keep noise levels under about 65 decibels (dB). Designs range from undercabinet types and inserts to wall-mounted hoods that convert for ducted or ductless use. The best ductless range hood circulates a high volume of air, filters well, and doesn’t deafen the room with noise.
- BEST OVERALL: Cosmo COS-5MU30 30 in. Under Cabinet Range Hood
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Broan-NuTone 413004 Non-Ducted Ductless Range Hood
- BEST WALL MOUNT: ZLINE ZLKB-30 KB-30 Wall Mounted Range Hood
- BEST ISLAND RANGE HOOD: Cosmo 668ICS750 30 in. Island Mount Range Hood
- BEST SPLURGE: FOTILE 30″ Under-Cabinet or Wall-Mount Range Hood
Before Buying a Ductless Range Hood
Before shopping for a ductless range hood, consider the kitchen’s existing layout and design. If the goal is simply to add extra filtering to an existing duct system, convertible models are available that can be configured for both uses or switch between the two. This type of hood is also a good choice for those who may want to add a duct system later or when moving to a new home. Not all ducted range hoods are convertible, and those that are may require an additional carbon filter or recirculating kit. Before buying, make sure to know the correct measurements and configuration for the hood.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Ductless Range Hood
Ductless range hoods are available in options ranging from different designs to filter systems, so shoppers have a few key decisions to make. Also consider the kitchen layout, size, and style.
Ducted vs. Ductless
Ducted and ductless range hoods may look similar, but the way they work is quite different. A ducted range hood sucks air out of the kitchen and moves it throughout an exhaust system, almost like a kitchen chimney. It’s typically mounted to the wall, with the duct running straight up and out through the ceiling and roof. Open ducted range hoods and those that hide the hood’s duct system in the kitchen cabinetry also are available.
Ductless range hoods may look similar to a ducted system, but they don’t send air directly out of the kitchen; instead, they filter the air to remove odors and harmful particles. Then they recirculate the air back into the kitchen. Filter systems vary, but most include a carbon or charcoal filter to remove odors and a mesh/baffle filter to remove grease and other large particles.
CFM and Suction
Airflow is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). A CFM between 200 to 400 is usually adequate for the average kitchen, while larger kitchens and ranges may need up to 600 CFM. A higher CFM also means the hood has more suction power.
Users also can adjust the range hood’s speed. Three speeds is standard, but some models have more. Adjustable speeds provide control over both airflow and noise levels. The fan’s suction power also affects how efficiently the hood removes particles from grease and smoke before they escape into the kitchen. Having several speed settings lets users adapt the amount of suction to the food being cooked.
Ductless range hoods come in various sizes: 24, 30, 36, 42, and 48 inches. The range hood’s size generally should match the size of the range surface area. However, hoods up to 6 inches wider than the range are available for additional odor removal. You might not need a hood that’s larger than the range surface area if the hood has a high CFM, which moves more air at once than a lower CFM model.
Carefully measure the width of the range and choose a ductless range hood that matches those measurements. A range in the right size has the power to match the cooking surface area. Once installed, the hood should be 28 to 36 inches above the cooking surface.
When considering size, also think about installation and design type. Ductless models are made in four basic types:
- Undercabinet: Undercabinet range hoods attach to the underside of a cabinet. Their slim profile brings versatile options to many kitchen layouts.
- Wall mounted: Wall-mounted hoods have a funnel shape. Many of these models are convertible in that they can connect to a duct system or function ductless.
- Inserts: Ductless range hood inserts fit into a hood that’s already in place or are custom-built to fit the insert. These hoods typically match the surrounding cabinetry.
- Island hoods: An island hood hangs down from the ceiling, so all four sides of it are visible.
The best stove vent hood accepts two types of filters—carbon charcoal and mesh/baffle. Some ductless hoods have both, while others may have only a carbon charcoal filter. The terms “carbon filter” or “charcoal filter” describe the same kind of filter. Carbon charcoal filters have a high surface area in a small amount of space. Within that surface area, the carbon absorbs tiny particles like smoke to remove odors.
In contrast, mesh or baffle filters remove large particles, such as fat, grease, and other contaminants. They’re made of aluminum or stainless steel. Some are dishwasher-safe and reusable, while others are disposable. Many hoods have both filter types: The mesh/baffle removes the larger particulates, and the carbon filter removes fine odor-related particulates.
Hood filters require regular maintenance. When the filter is full, it must be cleaned or replaced every few months. Cleaning and replacement frequency depends on how much cooking and the kind of cooking that’s done in the kitchen. As a rule of thumb, the filters should be cleaned at least every 6 months.
Noise levels, measured in decibels (dB), can make or break a ductless range hood. A model that’s too loud can sound like an airplane taking off; however, any model will make some noise. Ductless range hoods also must manage humidity, which requires a powerful motor to pull the humidity through the hood.
Consequently, ductless range hoods have powerful motors equipped with noise-reduction technology. The best kitchen exhaust fan produces around 40 dB, while louder models get closer to 60 to 65 dB.
Today’s ductless range hoods may include some handy extra features, such as:
- Lighting: Built-in lights illuminate the cooking area, making it easier to see the status of food to prevent overcooking or undercooking. LED lights are the most energy-efficient type, but many range hoods are equipped with fluorescent or incandescent lights.
- Heat sensors: Heat sensors detect temperature and automatically adjust the hood’s fan speed accordingly.
- Auto shutoff: Hoods with auto shutoff turn off after a pre-programmed amount of time.
- Control panel: Control panels may have manual or digital clocks or timers. Some models have touch screens to control the fan and lights from a single control panel. Others may have a simple switch or two to control the fan speed and lights.
Installation and Mounting Height
Undercabinet hoods are the easiest to install. Wall-mounted models take a little more work and DIY know-how to attach the hood. Those that also connect to a duct system may require professional installation. Island ductless range hoods are more difficult to install than undercabinet models and are almost as difficult to install as wall-mounted hoods.
All these hood types require 28 to 36 inches between the range surface and the range hood to prevent overheating and provide plenty of suction area for the fan to collect grease, odors, and air.
Our Top Picks
The range hoods on our list, which come from trusted brands, include: convertible, insert, undercabinet, wall-mounted, and island designs. These models offer reliability, excellent air circulation, and impressive filtration.
Cosmo enjoys an excellent reputation for its range hoods, both ducted and ductless. This convertible model can connect to an existing duct system or be fitted with a conversion kit to work ductless. It offers good ventilation with a three-speed fan that runs at a powerful 200 CFM. It’s also equipped with bright LED lights that illuminate the range top but reduce energy use.
The slim profile makes the Cosmo a good choice for crowded or small kitchens, though it adds a sleek look to a full-size kitchen. It runs at a decent 56dB, not the quietest, but it won’t drown out conversation. This model functions better in the ductless mode, since the exhaust system isn’t quite as powerful as the ventilation. It has dishwasher-safe aluminum mesh filters to catch grease, and it’s compatible with a carbon filter kit. However, the kit is a separate purchase.
- Type: Convertible undercabinet
- CFM: 200
- Material: Stainless steel
- Washable aluminum mesh filters
- Fits a carbon filter kit (sold separately)
- Three fan speeds with powerful ventilation
- Carbon filter kit sold separately
Get the Cosmo ductless range hood on Amazon.
This Broan-NuTone budget-friendly range hood may save a few dollars, but it doesn’t skimp on appearance. It comes in several finishes, including stainless steel. Users report that the two fan speeds do an excellent job of removing steam with effective filters that keep smoke from permeating the kitchen. At high speed, it gets a little noisy but not prohibitively so.
Two separate rocker switches control the fan and lights. The lights require an A19 bulb, which doesn’t come with the hood. Broan-NuTone doesn’t include this mode’s CFM or decibels, but most users find the two fan speeds to be effective.
- Type: Undercabinet
- CFM: N/A
- Material: Stainless steel, black, bisque, biscuit, white
- DIY-friendly installation
- Effective two-speed fan
- Five finishes
Get the Broan-NuTone range hood on Amazon.
The ZLINE brings a professional look to the kitchen with its brushed stainless steel construction. It also comes in 30-, 36-, 42-, and 48-inch models. The four-speed fan maxes out at an impressive 760 CFM, which is enough ventilation for large ranges and heavy cooking. It’s also equipped with dishwasher-safe baffle filters that remove grease as well as two bright lights.
This model is convertible, so it can connect to a duct system or be used with an optional charcoal filter. Every model is configured for both uses, so users can decide if they want to switch between the two or use the charcoal filter full time.
Installation requires ceilings that fall in the 7- to 12-foot range. However, extension kits are available for shorter or taller ceilings. The range hood looks more expensive than it is, but one way the manufacturer saves money is by using spot welds on the backside. In some circumstances, the spot welds can cause warping.
- Type: Wall mount
- CFM: 760
- Material: Stainless steel
- Four powerful speeds, topping out at 760 CFM
- Convertible design but equipped with charcoal filters
- Dishwasher-safe baffle filters
- Spot welding on backside can lead to warping
Get the ZLINE ductless range hood at Amazon and The Home Depot.
This island mount range hood has soft touch controls on a digital touch screen mounted in the stainless steel housing. That screen provides easy control over the three fan speeds that top out at 380 CFM. A glass visor accents the stainless steel for a modern look. It’s fitted with ARC-FLOW permanent filters that trap grease, which are dishwasher safe. They’re supported by additional disposable aluminum mesh filters. LED lights illuminate the range and save on energy costs.
This convertible model requires a carbon filter kit, which may be sold separately. At high speed, it can reach almost 65 dB, which is getting into airplane territory, so expect some noise with this model.
- Type: Island mount
- CFM: 380
- Material: Stainless steel
- Modern stainless steel and glass design
- Four fan speeds that reach up to 380 CFM
- Washable ARC-FLOW filters
- Energy-efficient LED lights
- Carbon filter kit may be sold separately
- Loud on high speed
Get the Cosmo island mount range hood on Amazon and at The Home Depot (with carbon filter kit included).
For those ready to splurge, the FOTILE brings power and convenience to the kitchen. This wall-mounted range hood has a 90-degree open baffle plate to better ventilate and recirculate air. It’s fitted with two DC motors to increase extraction, operating at 600 CFM. Despite all that power, it runs at a very quiet 39 dB.
It’s equipped with infrared technology that allows starting or stopping the fan with the wave of a hand. However, it also has a touch screen to operate the delayed shutoff feature and stir-fry mode, as well as four fan speeds. The grease tray and filter remove for easy cleaning.
- Type: Wall mount
- CFM: 600
- Material: Stainless steel and tempered glass
- Powerful dual motors
- Infrared control technology and touch screen
- Four fan speeds that reach a top rate of 600 CFM
- Washable grease tray and filter
Get the FOTILE ductless range hood on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
The Cosmo 30-in. Under Cabinet Range Hood strikes a balance between recirculation power, slim design, and installation ease to rank it as our best overall pick. It also comes in five finishes to complement many kitchen designs. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Broan-NuTone Non-Ducted Ductless Range Hood keeps things simple but does a good job of removing smoke, grease, and odors.
How We Chose the Best Ductless Range Hoods
Ductless range hoods serve a niche sector in kitchen appliances. They’re a good choice for small homes, apartments, and kitchens without an existing duct system. When compiling this list, we considered the CFM, the installation type, finishes, filters, and extra features.
We looked for models with a CFM between 200 to 600. Fans within that range can move a good deal of air to remove smoke and grease. We looked for easy installation but also how well the installation type fits with the hood’s overall effectiveness and design.
Models that came with extra finishes got bonus points because they add versatility. Washable, reusable filters reduce the overall cost of the hood, but we also considered how well the filters work with the overall hood design. Finally, the extra features, such as heat sensors, touch screens, and lighting, played into our final choices.
The Advantages of Owning a Ductless Range Hood
Ductless range hoods have some distinct advantages. They’re versatile because they can be installed in a number of places. They can fit under cabinets, on a wall, or above an island. These ductless models clean and recirculate the air, putting clean air back into the kitchen. This process removes harmful particulates from the breathable air. A ductless design also provides versatility. Should you decide to remodel, the ductless range hood can move to a different location; whereas, a ducted model must stay with the duct system.
Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning a Ductless Range Hood
Read through the owner’s manual as soon as the hood is installed to learn the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions and tips. Maintaining the filters and filtration system regularly helps keep the hood in good working order, including cleaning the hood’s exterior and checking the filters. Filters need replacement or cleaning at least every 6 months and more often for frequent cooking.
- Clean the filters at least every 6 months.
- Keep extra bulbs on hand for models with built-in lighting.
- Clean the exterior of the hood with an appropriate cleaner.
A ductless range hood can make your kitchen a pleasant place to cook. The hoods get rid of smoke and odors, so you can enjoy time preparing meals and chatting with family. However, many decisions go into picking a hood. We’ve answered a few more questions to help you choose.
Q: Is a recirculating range hood any good?
Yes, recirculating range hoods, another name for ductless range hoods, are a good option for certain kitchens. If you don’t have a duct system in place, have limited space or limited layout options, these hoods can be an ideal way to clean the air.
Q: Are charcoal filters effective in range hoods?
Yes, charcoal filters, the same types of filters in air purifiers, are very effective in range hoods because of their large absorbent surface area. Tiny particles are absorbed into the surface of the charcoal, pulling them out of the breathable air.
Q: Do ductless range hoods plug in?
Yes, ductless range hoods have a plug that supplies electricity for the motor. The motor powers the fan and any other electric features like lights or a control panel. Some are hard-wired or offer a choice of either wired or plugged in.
Q: Can I install a range hood without a vent?
You can install a range hood without a vent. These ductless hoods filter and recirculate the air rather than removing it through an exhaust system.
Q: How do I wire a ductless range hood?
To wire the range hood, start by consulting the owner’s manual. The manufacturer provides suggestions and wiring options. Wiring depends on the type of hood. For example, an undercabinet model may require mounting with plastic anchors.
Q: Do ductless range hoods meet code?
Ductless range hoods meet code. They’re an exception to codes that require hoods to vent to the outdoors.