Ducted Range Hood or Exhaust Fan: Which Is Better?

January 24, 2023 6 min read

Kitchens need proper ventilation and airflow outlets as they generate a lot of smoke and dangerous air particles that should not be inhaled. The easiest way to do this is to open windows and doors to encourage cross ventilation, but that can be ineffective.

Most contractors recommend installing a ducted range hood or an exhaust fan to help maintain good kitchen air quality. If you have trouble telling one from the other, read on.

This article is a full review of both ventilation systems. We have detailed their features, the advantages and disadvantages of installing each system, and a comparison. After reading this, you should be able to discern which is better: a ducted range hood or an exhaust fan.

Let's dive in.

What are Ducted Range Hoods?

Ducted range hoods are kitchen ventilators with suction fans that extract pollutants such as smoke, vapors, and foul air and expel them outdoors via pipes or connected ducts.

They are easily identified by their vent hoods mounted on the wall (wall-mounted range hood) or suspended from the ceiling (island hoods).

If you go to your local restaurant or drive by and observe smoke or hot vapor spewing from a chimney-like top, you are most likely looking at the exterior vent of a ducted range hood unit.

Parts of Ducted Range Hood

Ducted range hoods are usually designed to be wall-mounted, under-cabinet, or ceiling-mounted over the cooking area. They consist of the following major parts:

. They consist of the following major parts:

  • Hood Canopy: This hooded structure, usually metal, covers the cooking area. The larger the size of the hood canopy, the larger the coverage area, which means it moves air faster. Most exhaust hoods have components like filters, fans, and range hood inserts.
  • Vent system: This comprises ductwork and other parts that help pull and expel unwanted air from the kitchen. It features suction fans and air blowers powered by a motor. This section of the hood is often found directly above the air vents.
  • Control panel: The control panel holds all the controls for starting the device or controlling the fan speed and the lighting. It can either be touch or dials, depending on the manufacturer..
  • Lighting:  Most range hoods come with LED or Halogen lights that offer illumination for the cooking area. 
  • Filter units: The filter unit comprises a series of filters that catch or absorb pollutants and help neutralize odors in the kitchen air. The most common filters are baffle, mesh, or charcoal filters. They are typically located behind a removable panel underneath the hood.


There are pros and cons to installing a ducted range hood system in your kitchen.

Benefits of Using a Ducted Range Hood

  • They efficiently extract large volumes of smoke and cooking odors from the kitchen.
  • Silent operating noise as the vent systems and blower unit are often noisy and can be located far from the stove.
  • Easily prevent condensation build-up in the kitchen as they can extract vapors or steam.
  • They can withstand high temperatures, making them favored over gas cooktops.
  • They last for a very long time if properly maintained.

Disadvantages of Ducted Range Hoods

  • Because ducted range hood are often installed during a kitchen remodel, they are associated with a higher expense. 
  • Venting ductwork sometimes requires space that is unavailable.
  • Ducted range hoods can be noisy when they are set to maximum fan speed, unless they are installed with an external blower located away from the kitchen. 
  • Powerful fans in certain range hoods may use more energy which may contribute to increased utility bills.
  • Condensation can sometimes form on the vent pipe.

What are Kitchen Exhaust Fans?

Kitchen exhaust fans, often ventilation fans, are low-cost kitchen appliances that improve air quality. They are used to push polluted air outside the kitchen rather than allowing it to remain within. They are simple to use and remove pollutants such as damp air, dust, stink, and floating oil droplets before they escape into the kitchen air.

Features of Kitchen Exhaust Fans

Exhaust fans are vital indoor ventilation tools designed for kitchen use. They come in various installation styles, including wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted, and window-mounted options. They are usually encased in a safety finger-guard grill to prevent damage to the fan blades. They have the following parts:

  • Fan Blades: There are two major types of exhaust fan blades: axial and centrifugal fan blades. Axial fan blades move air parallel to the fan axis and are optimal for cooling large kitchen spaces. They provide enough low-pressure force to move air from one place to another. Centrifugal fans use centrifugal force to move air outdoors and are used in high-pressure air venting systems.
  • Motor:  The motor provides the mechanical power that propels and spins the fan, providing the necessary suction power.  The types of motors used in exhaust fans include direct drive motors, belt drive motors, and brushless DC motors The size and power of the motor in an exhaust fan will depend on the specific model and the size of the ventilated kitchen or cooking area.
  • Shutter Grill: A shutter grill is the vent cover or grill found at the exhaust fan’s opening. The shutter grill is a protective barrier to prevent debris and other foreign objects from entering the duct system and clogging the fan. It also helps to improve the overall appearance of the exhaust fan by covering up the ductwork.
  • Housing Guard: A housing guard in an exhaust fan refers to the outer casing or shell surrounding the fan and other components of the exhaust system. It helps to protect the fan and other components from damage, such as dents or scratches, that may occur during installation or operation. 


Benefits of Using an Exhaust Fan in Your Kitchen

  • Quick removal of polluted air and smoke from indoor areas. This rapid removal of pollutants prevents them from lingering in the air, ensuring a cleaner and healthier environment.
  • Exhaust fans boast a straightforward installation process. Their compact design allows for easy mounting on walls, ceilings, or even windows.
  • It is cost-effective as the initial prices are lower than ducted range hoods. Their use also eliminates the need for costly ductwork installation.
  • Maintaining ductless exhaust fans is a lot easier. Their filters are readily accessible and can be easily cleaned with a simple soap and water solution.
  • Exhaust fans consume significantly less energy, and their efficient operation translates into lower energy bills.

Disadvantages of Kitchen Exhaust Fans

  • Exhaust fans can be quite noisy, primarily when running at high speeds. The constant hum of the fan can be distracting and may not be suitable for noise-sensitive individuals.
  • They effectively remove small amounts of pollutants but may struggle to handle large volumes of smoke or fumes.
  • They require continuous operation throughout the cooking process to effectively remove pollutants. This constant usage can lead to increased energy consumption.
  • Exhaust fans are not designed to remove floating grease particles. This will lead to grease buildup, accumulating on filters and surrounding surfaces.
  • Exhaust fans are designed for indoor ventilation only and cannot be used outdoors. This limits their versatility and prevents them from being used in outdoor cooking areas.

Ducted Range Hoods or Exhaust Fans: Which Is Right for You?

The table below illustrates the differences between systems and areas where one trumps the other.


Ducted Range Hoods

Exhaust Fans


Expensive as they require extensive ductwork.

Very cost-effective as no ductwork is needed.


Extremely effective at removing large volumes of smoke and air irritants.

Ineffective at the removal of large volumes of kitchen pollutants.


A complex installation process requires the expertise of an HVAC contractor.

Simple installation with average expertise needed.


It runs quietly and intermittently, leading to low noise levels.

Fans can get quite noisy, and it runs constantly.


Not easily movable once installed and will require extensive work to move to another part of the kitchen.

Very portable and can easily be moved to different parts of the kitchen.


Built to last for decades with proper maintenance.

Designed not to last a significant amount of time.


Final Words

It is essential to have a ventilation system in any kitchen. Despite their flaws, both systems are excellent for maintaining and improving air quality in your kitchen. Compare and contrast them and pick the best one that meets your needs.

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