External vs. Internal Venting for Range Hood: Which is Better?

April 17, 2023 9 min read

Cooking without proper ventilation can lead to pollutants and moisture in the kitchen. If not removed quickly, these pollutants can make the kitchen an unhealthy cooking environment. Range hoods help clear the air by removing most cooking pollutants. But range hood owners must often decide on which venting method is best for their range hood.

Do you choose external venting or the less complex internal venting? Both have pros and cons that make them the right fit. The choice likely rests on the one that checks the most boxes on your kitchen ventilation needs. If you need clarity on choosing between external and internal venting for your range hood, we can provide that.

What is Range Hood Venting

Range hood venting directs the smoke, steam, and cooking odors drawn into the range hood outside your home or recirculates them back into your kitchen. Proper range hood venting is essential because it removes harmful pollutants and prevents toxic gas buildup in your kitchen.

 There are two primary range hood venting options: external and internal venting.

External Venting for Range Hoods

External venting, also known as ducted venting, is a type of range hood venting system that directs the smoke, steam, and cooking odors drawn into the range hood outside your home through a duct system. This system uses a built-in fan/blower in the vent hood to pull in contaminated air. This air is then sent outside through a duct system. External venting is mainly used with ducted range hoods.

Advantages of External Vented Range Hoods

Here are some advantages of externally venting the range hood in your kitchen:

1. Effective Removal of Pollutants

Cooking activities generate various pollutants and gases. This can lead to a smoke-filled cooking area that can cause accidents and make cooking quite difficult. External venting for range hood systems offers a significant advantage in effectively eliminating these pollutants. It employs a duct system that expels smoke and cooking odors outside, preventing their recirculation within your home. This preserves fresh and healthy air in your kitchen and living spaces.

2. Reduced Risk of Fires

Another significant advantage of external venting with ducted range hoods is its ability to reduce the risk of fires. Cooking can produce a lot of heat and grease, which is a flammable combination. When cooking, grease and other particles are allowed to accumulate in the kitchen it can create a fire hazard.

External venting helps prevent the buildup of these flammable materials by carrying them outside the home through the duct system. This reduces the risk of fires caused by excess heat or grease buildup.

3. High Airflow Rates

External venting for ducted hood systems typically allows for a very powerful airflow rate, making it an effective option for removing pollutants and reducing the risk of fires. This high airflow rate is due to using a duct system, which can carry smoke, steam, and cooking odors outside of the home, preventing them from recirculating and improving the air quality in your living space.

The high airflow rate of external venting is particularly beneficial for larger kitchens or those with an island range hood unit. It ensures that pollutants and excess heat are quickly and efficiently removed from the home, making the kitchen a more comfortable and healthy place.

4. Energy Efficiency

External venting for range hood systems offers another advantage in terms of energy efficiency. It achieves this by expelling smoke, steam, and cooking odors outside the home through a duct system. This design allows for the use of a smaller and more efficient range hood motor, leading to reduced energy consumption compared to internal venting systems.

5. Improved Kitchen Comfort

Cooking often generates heat, smoke, and moisture, which can lead to an uncomfortable and humid kitchen environment. This issue can be particularly troublesome in smaller kitchens with limited ventilation or during the summer months. External venting effectively eliminates the surplus heat, smoke, and moisture from your kitchen, transforming it into a more comfortable and enjoyable area for cooking and leisure. Some ducted hoods are equipped with external blowers or ductwork featuring inline blowers, which can substantially reduce their operational noise.

Disadvantages of External Vented Range Hoods

The downsides of venting your range hood outdoors include the following:

1. Installation Complexity

One of the potential disadvantages of external venting for range hood systems is the complexity of installation. External venting requires a duct system to carry smoke, steam, and cooking odors outside the home. This can be a complex installation process that requires cutting holes in walls and ceilings and may require the services of a professional installer. Also, installing a duct system can be particularly challenging in older homes or buildings with limited exterior access.

2. Higher Upfront Costs

External venting for range hood systems comes with a notable potential drawback due to its higher initial costs. The installation of a duct system for external venting can be pricier than internal venting. Plus, the installation process will require some structural modifications to the home. This might involve cutting holes in walls and ceilings and moving other kitchen structures around. This can add to the overall cost of installation.

3. Limited Placement Options

Another potential disadvantage of external venting for range hood systems is that it may be limited in placement options. Since external venting requires a duct system installed, the range hood must be located near an exterior wall or roof where the duct can be vented outside.

This can limit the options for where the range hood can be installed in the kitchen, which can be problematic in some layouts. For example, external venting may be impractical in kitchens with islands or other non-exterior wall configurations.

4. Not Eco-Friendly

One top disadvantage of external venting for range hood systems is that it may not be environmentally friendly, as pollutants are released into the air outside the home. While external venting effectively removes cooking odors and smoke, it can also release potentially harmful environmental pollutants. Some states may even have regulations in place that restrict the release of certain pollutants into the air, which can limit the use of external venting in certain areas.

5. Noise

Another drawback of external venting for range hood systems is the noise that the vent fan can generate. External venting systems require a powerful fan to move air through the duct system and outside the home. This fan can generate significant noise, which can bother some homeowners.

Also, if the duct system is not installed correctly or there are any leaks or obstructions, the noise generated by the fan can be increased further. This can be particularly problematic in open-concept kitchen designs where noise from the range hood can travel to other home areas.

Internal Venting for Range Hoods

Internal venting, or ductless venting, is a range hood ventilation system that filters the air and recirculates it back into the kitchen. This type of system doesn't require ductwork(ductless range hood) to be installed and instead relies on a filter to capture grease and other cooking pollutants.

When an internal blower draws air into the vent hood, it passes through a filter that removes grease, smoke, and other cooking byproducts. The cleaned air is then recirculated back into the kitchen. Some internal venting systems use a combination of filters, including activated carbon filters, to purify the air further and remove odors.

A ductless range hood will have an internal venting system, which is typically less powerful than an external one.

Advantages of Internally Vented Range Hood Systems

Some of the benefits of internally venting your range hood include the following:

1. Ease of Installation

Internal venting for range hoods offers a notable advantage with their simpler installation process. Unlike external venting systems, which require ductwork, internal venting systems are considerably simpler and less costly to install. The absence of ductwork requirements translates to both time and cost savings for homeowners throughout the installation process.

Typically, the installation process for internal venting systems is quicker and more straightforward than that of external counterparts. This simplicity can be a significant benefit for homeowners seeking an easily installable and maintainable range hood system.

2. Flexibility in Placement

Since internal venting systems don't require any ductwork to be installed, they can be placed in various locations in the kitchen. This gives homeowners more flexibility when choosing the location for their range hood system.

Internal venting systems can be placed under cabinets, above cooktops, or on a kitchen island, making them a versatile option for homeowners who want a range hood system customized to their needs. This flexibility in placement also allows homeowners to choose a range hood system that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing, as they can choose a design that complements their kitchen decor.

3. Low Noise Levels

Another advantage of internal venting for range hoods is that they typically operate at lower noise levels. This is because internal venting systems are designed to recirculate the air back into the kitchen after filtering it rather than expelling it outside.

Internal venting systems typically use a combination of charcoal and grease filters to clean the air and remove impurities, which results in quieter operation. This makes them a good choice for homeowners who want a range hood system that operates quietly and doesn't disrupt conversations or activities in the kitchen.

4. Lower Initial Cost

Internal venting systems typically entail a lower upfront cost compared to their external counterparts, making them a budget-friendly choice for homeowners installing a range hood. The cost advantage stems from the absence of ductwork or the need for an inline blower motor, both of which can substantially reduce installation expenses.

Also, internal venting systems eliminate the necessity for any alterations to the home's exterior. Meaning there are no additional expenses linked to cutting holes or installing vents in the walls or roof of the house. This affordability makes internal venting systems an attractive option for homeowners seeking an effective yet budget-conscious range hood solution.

5. They Are Eco-Friendly

Internal venting systems are often deemed environmentally friendlier than their external counterparts. They achieve this through air recirculation and pollutant removal using filters instead of expelling contaminants outdoors. As a result, internal venting systems prevent the release of substances like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide into the environment, which can occur with external venting systems.

Furthermore, internal venting systems exhibit superior energy efficiency compared to external alternatives. Their advantage lies in not having to expel hot air already in the home outside. Consequently, this reduces the energy required for heating or cooling the home, leading to decreased energy costs and a reduced carbon footprint.

Disadvantages of Internally Vented Range Hood Systems

Some of the notable disadvantages of having an internally vented range hood unit are:

1. Limited Venting Power

One disadvantage of internal venting for range hoods is that they may have limited venting power compared to external venting systems. Internal venting systems rely on filters to trap pollutants and odors, reducing the airflow rate and limiting the amount of air being circulated. This can result in less effective removal of contaminants and odors, leading to a less comfortable and healthy kitchen environment.

2. Requires Regular Maintenance and Cleaning

Internal venting for range hoods has the disadvantage of needing frequent cleaning and maintenance. Since the air is not being vented outside, the filters inside the range hood can quickly become clogged with grease and other contaminants, reducing the effectiveness of the venting system. This can lead to unpleasant cooking odors lingering in the kitchen and decreased smoke and pollutant removal. Most ductless hoods using internal venting require regular cleaning of their vent hoods and replacement of the filters to maintain optimal performance.

3. Heat and Moisture Retention

Based on how they work, internal venting systems filter the air and recirculate it back into the kitchen. This means that the moisture and heat generated during cooking can get trapped inside. The trapped air and moisture lead to higher humidity levels and potential mold growth.

Also, the presence of excess heat and moisture can affect the longevity of kitchen appliances and cabinetry. Excessive moisture can cause wood to warp or rot, while high heat levels can damage electronic components.

4. Reduced Indoor Air Quality

A big drawback of using an internal venting system is the reduction in the air quality in the kitchen  This is because the pollutants are often not entirely vented outside, which can lead to them accumulating in the kitchen. Keeping the filters clean and replacing them regularly is essential to improve indoor air quality when using internal venting systems.

Comparison Between External and Internal Venting

External and internal venting are two options available for range hood systems. This is a head-to-head objective comparison table of the two options:


External Venting

Internal Venting

Venting Method

Expels smoke, steam, and odors outside through a duct system.

Filters air and recirculates it back into the kitchen.

Airflow Rates

Allows for high airflow rates and efficient pollutant removal.

Limited venting power may result in reduced airflow rates.

Installation Complexity

Complex installation; requires duct system and potentially professional help.

Simple installation; no need for ductwork, usually DIY-friendly.

Placement Options

Limited placement options; must be near exterior wall or roof.

Flexible placement options; can be installed in various locations.

Maintenance Costs

May have higher maintenance costs; cleaning duct system.

Requires regular filter replacement; lower maintenance costs.

Environmental Impact

Not eco-friendly; releases pollutants outside the home.

More eco-friendly; prevents the release of pollutants into the environment.

Noise Level

Can generate noise; powerful fan for external venting.

Typically operates at lower noise levels; quieter operation.

Final Thoughts

The choice between external and internal venting depends on personal preference, lifestyle, and cooking habits. While external venting systems may be more powerful and effective, they may also be noisier and require more complicated installation. Internal venting systems may be more practical and cost-effective but require more frequent maintenance and may be less effective in removing pollutants.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of each system and how they align with individual needs and preferences.