Comparing Ducted and Ductless Kitchen Hood Systems

March 13, 2023 5 min read

Building or remodeling a kitchen requires making tough decisions that get harder as you add more appliances. This is especially significant when selecting a kitchen ventilation system because it is often difficult to choose between getting a ducted or ductless range hood for your kitchen.

You've come to the right place if you find yourself at this crossroads. This comprehensive guide offers an in-depth review of the two main range hood venting systems: ducted and ductless.

Before we delve into the comparison, let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the fundamentals of range hoods.

What are Range Hoods?

Range hoods are kitchen ventilation appliances that reduce smoke, odors, and particles in the kitchen air. They are often above the cooking area and cover the stove or cooktop. They have powerful suction fans that suck in airborne pollutants generated when cooking. They are also called kitchen ventilation or exhaust hoods.

Range hoods create a well-ventilated kitchen. They improve the indoor air quality of the kitchen. They provide a fresh cooking environment and add safety value by reducing pollution.

Range hoods come in different shapes and sizes and are categorized into two types: ducted and ductless.

What are Ducted Range Hoods?

Ducted range hoods are common and efficient kitchen ventilation devices that clean the kitchen air. They vacuum the air around the cooking area and expel it outside. Ducted hoods connect to ducts or pipes in your kitchen. These can be in the wall, ceiling, or floor. They suck in air with airborne particles, vapors, or smoke. They expel these outdoors via vents or pipes. They are like superior kitchen exhaust fans. Everything drawn into their hood is released outdoors. Ducted hoods are standard in large kitchens and need powerful vent hoods to quickly clear smoke, dirty air, and grease.  

What are Ductless Range Hoods?

Ductless range hoods have no external ducts. They are recirculating ventilation systems that clean and redistribute the air constantly. They don’t release pollutants outside. Instead, they pull in polluted kitchen air, filter it, and return it to the kitchen. They rely on degreasing, activated charcoalor mesh filters to clean the air brought in by the fans. Ductless hoods suit chefs or homeowners with a light cooking style. They are common in homes with few or no pipes.

Ducted vs. Ductless: Which is Better?

Both range hood systems are effective and popular. The best way to effectively show how both systems stack against each other is to list the pros and cons of installing either range hood in your kitchen.

Pros and Cons of a Ducted Range Hood System

Ducted range hood systems are much more popular and offer noticeable advantages over ductless range hood systems. Below are some advantages and disadvantages of installing a ducted range hood.

Advantages of a Ducted Range Hood System

  1. Ducted range hoods have powerful suction fans that are remarkably effective at removing unpleasant odors, smoke, vapors, and heat.
  2. They are perfect at maintaining the humidity level in the kitchen by preventing condensation build-up as it effectively removes steam and vapors.
  3. Reduced risk of contaminants escaping back into your kitchen as everything sucked into the duct gets vented outside.
  4. Most ducted range hoods are sturdy and tend to last a long time.
  5. They are cost-effective, with lower maintenance costs and a system with few intricate parts.
  6. Ducted range hoods are the recommended air ventilation units for outdoor kitchens as they have enough suction power to counterbalance the outdoor air.
  7. Ducted range hoods are much quieter as the blowers can be installed further down in the ductwork (in-line blowers) away from the kitchen, which generally reduces the noise from the unit.
  8. The operational run time of most ducted hoods is low. The powerful suction fan in a ducted hood means a massive amount of air is filtered and vented out in little or no time.

While ducted range hood systems offer many advantages, there are also disadvantages...

Disadvantages of a Ducted Range Hood System

  1. Ducted range hood systems require a small investment.  
  2. They require ductwork, which typically requires a professional installer. 
  3. They are not very well suited to small kitchens. 
  4. Odors and pollutants are released outdoors, which may trouble neighbors, and there may be some environmental concerns.
  5. Ducted hoods tend to be permanent fixtures and remain with the home. 

Pros and Cons of a Ductless Range Hood System

Ductless range hoods have some advantages, as listed here...

Advantages of a Ductless Range Hood System

  1. Ductless range hood tend to be cheaper.
  2. They are best suited to small kitchens, especially those in apartments.
  3. They tend to be associated with lower installation costs.
  4. They are mobile and can be moved more easily.
  5. Most ductless range hoods are power efficient.
  6. Better at keeping air conditioning costs low as no air is lost through external ducts.
  7. Some consider ductless systems more environmentally friendly since they do not release pollutants to the atmosphere.

Ductless range hood systems also have their downside... 

Disadvantages of a Ductless Range Hood System

  1. Ductless hoods are not a good match for larger homes.  
  2. They are not suitable for kitchens with gas stoves due to increased heat. 
  3. Maintenance costs can be higher since filters need more frequent cleaning. 
  4. They are not well suited to heavy grease or oil-based cooking.
  5. They can be loud compared to ducted hoods.
  6. They don't move air as efficiently, and so they are not as good at clearing the kitchen of unwanted smells.

Choosing Between Ducted and Ductless Hoods

The decision between a ducted or ductless range hood depends on your particular needs and preferences. To streamline the decision-making process, below is a summary table highlighting the features of both types of range hoods:


    Ducted Range Hood

 Ductless Range Hood


Complex installation; requires professional HVAC installer

Cheaper with low installation costs; plug-in models are available


Permanently attached to one kitchen space.              

Can be removed if necessary


Initial investment with lower maintenance costs              

Cheaper initial cost, but some maintenance typically required

Environmental Impact

Releases pollutants to the outdoors         

Air circulated in the home

Noise Level   

Can be quieter, especially if using an external blower 

Can be louder as fan works hard to push air 



Compatible with gas stoves, larger kitchens, heavy cooking use

Compatible with apartments. Best with electric stoves, lighter use. 


Low maintenance with few intricate parts.

High maintenance with cleaning and replacing clogged filters.


Highly effective at removing odors, smoke, and heat; maintains humidity levels; low risk of contaminants.

Effective for light cooking styles; less powerful; limited in homes with high ceilings or obstacles.

Choosing the Right Kitchen Ventilation System

Both systems have excellent features that make them perfect, but they also have difficulties installing them. Personal taste, practicality, and price all play a role in selecting a suitable range hood system. The range hood that checks those boxes is the best one for you. If you can't settle on a choice, then find a brand that offers a recirculating hood with features from ducted and ductless range hoods.