What is a Hood Fan?

A hood fan, also known as a range hood, is an essential kitchen appliance situated above the stove. It functions to remove airborne grease, combustion products, fumes, smoke, heat, and steam by evacuation of the air and filtration. In maintaining a clean and safe cooking environment, it's a silent guardian of your kitchen's air quality. How does it fit into your home's design?
R. Anacan
R. Anacan

While cooking is a pleasurable experience for many people, the by-product of cooking often times is not. Many have experienced a kitchen filled with smoke, splattering oil and strong odors during cooking. A hood fan is an appliance that provides ventilation, air circulation, and smoke and/or odor removal during the cooking process.

A hood fan is made using either a rotary-style fan, much like a traditional household fan or a barrel-shaped fan. The barrel-shaped fan is generally quieter and more effective than a rotary-style hood fan. However, the rotary-style fan is usually less expensive. Whether rotary or barrel-shaped, the fan draws air into the unit either venting it outside or recirculating back into the room.

Many hood fans that are located above the stove have a unit that includes a microwave.
Many hood fans that are located above the stove have a unit that includes a microwave.

The most effective hood fans are ducted or vented systems. These systems actually remove smoke, steam and odors from the cooking area. As the fan draws air away from the stove, it is filtered and then channeled outside through an exhaust duct system.

A hood fan that does not utilize a duct system is often called a recirculating or a non-vented hood fan. A recirculating system draws air in, then cleans and filters it before it is circulated back into the room. Due to the fact that air it not actually removed from the cooking area, recirculating hood fans are not as effective at removing the negative effects of smoke and odor as ducted hood fan systems are.

A hood fan is most often located above the stove or directly behind it. Many hood fans that are located above the stove are often combined in a unit that includes a microwave oven and lighting. While these combination units offer space-saving convenience, they are not as effective as standalone hood fans.

Consumers who have stoves located on kitchen islands, or who do not want a large range hood above the stove can select a downdraft fan. Downdraft fans are typically located behind the back burners of a stove. When not in use, the downdraft fan retracts into the stove or countertop area, sitting flush with the surface. When in use, the fan unit pops up behind the stove and sits above the cooking surface.

While downdraft units are less visually intrusive than a traditional range hood, they are not as effective as over the range fans due to their typical location behind the stove. Even downdraft fans that are located in the middle of the stove, near the burners, do not work as efficiently as their range hood counterparts. The downdraft fan has to work harder than an over the range hood fan because it tries to reverse the upward direction that smoke and steam naturally move in.

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Discussion Comments


A hood fan seems to suck up as much grease as it does smoke, steam and odors. If you are about to buy a fan, save yourself a lot of work and get one that has an easy to remove filter that can be washed in the dishwasher.


@Animandel - Some people actually stop using their hood fans because of the noise, so you are not alone in your dislike for the loud noise created by the ventilation devices. This may be a bit late, but hood fans are rated so consumers can determine how much noise they will produce.

The noise level of a hood fan is measured in units called sones. Make sure you check a hood fan's sones rating before you purchase it to see where the fan ranks when compared to other fans you are considering.


I love the way my new hood fan works. We have no lingering odors from meal preparations. When we produce a little too much smoke when cooking, the hood fan quickly removes the smoke-- which could be dangerous if allowed to flow freely through the house-- and the smoke detector doesn't even sound.

However, I had no idea the fan would be as loud as it is. The one we replaced was not as loud. I wish there was some way I could have known about the noise before we bought the fan.

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    • Many hood fans that are located above the stove have a unit that includes a microwave.
      By: Anne Kitzman
      Many hood fans that are located above the stove have a unit that includes a microwave.