Ducted vs Ductless Range Hood: Which To Buy

One of the most confusing parts of buying a range hood is deciding what type to buy. Range hoods are available in a variety of types but functionally there are two types of range hoods; ducted range hoods and ductless range hoods. They are also known as vented range hoods and non-vented range hoods respectively. So what are ducted and ductless range hoods? How are they different and which would be the ideal choice for your kitchen?

A ducted range hood is connected to the outside of the house through a duct whereas a ductless range hood doesn’t have a duct and it doesn’t connect outside. A ducted range hood vents the kitchen to the outside but a ductless range hood simply recirculate the air through a filter that absorbs all the grease and food particles in the air.

Here’s a table to help you distinguish between both of these:

Ducted range hood Ductless range hood
Needs a duct to vent outside Does not have a duct
Additional installation pre-requisites Installation is hassle-free
High efficiency Moderate efficiency
Best for big kitchens Ideal for small kitchens
Costly Affordable
Needs very little maintenance Needs maintenance often
Ducted vs ductless range hood

Ducted range hoods

The most common and popular form of range hood is the ducted one. These hoods have a duct connected to them that leads outdoors. Toxic fumes and smoke emitted from the kitchen are sucked into the hoods where they find their way to the outside world. Basically, these are like exhaust fans but far more advanced. Due to the necessity of having ducts, ducted range hoods cannot be placed anywhere in the kitchen. Instead, it depends upon where the duct would fit best. Here’s a list of the pros and cons of ducted range hoods:

Benefits of ducted range hoods

Highly effective

In comparison with ductless hoods, ducted ones are relatively more effective at getting the job done. Since their function is to simply suck and direct air outdoors, there’s not much work being done here due to a vent being present. Therefore, there are fewer chances of smoke building up in the kitchen. This gives the ducted hood a plus point in keeping the kitchen’s air quality clean. 

Ideal for big kitchens

For kitchens that serve big families, smoke and fumes can be a major issue – but not for ducted range hoods. Because they’re not holding the air within them nor are they releasing it back, ductless hoods are basically like drainage holes in a tub. No matter how much water you pour in the tub, it’s going to be drained. Such is the case with these hoods. They can handle massive loads of toxic air with ease.

Low noise

Although it varies from model to model, most ducted range hoods in the market are quiet. They produce little to no noise when sucking the air and that only contributes to achieving a better environment for the kitchen. You already have noise coming from different home appliances, but with ducted range hoods, that will be the least of your worries.

Little maintenance needed

Ducted hoods require minimal maintenance and can still deliver a solid performance for a lifetime. A cleanup every once in a while to get rid of the stuck debris is all that you’re looking at. If you decide to opt for filters to eliminate foul odors from the kitchen, you’ll have to change those filters when their time is due. Other than that, turn on the hood and let it do its magic.

Cons of ducted range hoods 

Has special installation requirements

As we mentioned previously, ducted range hoods require a duct that connects them outdoors. Now, not every kitchen has an exterior wall with space for a duct. So, this limits the options you have for having the hood installed. Moreover, you cannot vent to other rooms or the attic. It’s necessary to have the hood vented outside. Meeting all of these requirements in small homes can be a headache. 

Costly

In the most likely case where there isn’t already a duct existing in the wall of the kitchen, you’ll have to get one installed. This means you’re looking at a heavy expense that you’ll be bearing other than the price of the range hood itself. Sometimes walls have obstacles within them such as pipes and wires. Making way for the duct is not inexpensive for sure. 

Ductless range hoods aka Recirculating range hoods

As the name suggests, ductless range hoods do not need a duct to provide better ventilation for your kitchen. These types of hoods are although not preferred as much as their opposite, still bring significant benefits to the kitchen table. Since ductless range hoods are free from the restriction of having a duct, they fit pretty much anywhere. Their operation consists of sucking polluted air, purifying it, then releasing it back into the kitchen. Ductless hoods come with carbon or charcoal filters that help absorb the harmful particles in the inhaled air. Once it’s cleansed, it is blown out giving you artificially cleaned air. Note that these types of hoods are not just for kitchens as well.

Pros of ductless range hoods

The best part about ductless range hoods is their ability to fit anywhere in the kitchen. You don’t have to worry about space because these things are adaptable. So, if you’re looking to have your kitchen ventilated without compromising on space, ductless range hoods should be the way to go.

Installation is hassle-free

We discussed previously the tiring procedure of having a ducted range hood installed, but none of this happens during the installation of a ductless one. The reason is obvious – duct being an inessential component. This means that dealing with pipes and ducts are the last things you need to worry about when installing a ductless range hood. 

Low cost

Once again, the needlessness of the duct means you’ll be saving a stack of bucks if you opt for a ductless range hood. You won’t be hiring a professional for installation which is a plus point in cost. As for the actual price of the hood, it can vary according to what model you’re going for and how it functions. 

Can be programmed

Most ductless range hoods in the market are programmable and smart. Saving you from the hassle of turning the machine on and off, these hoods detect smoke and turn on automatically. Once the kitchen’s air quality comes back into stability, they turn off themselves. Some models of lower-tech come with timers that you can program yourself for daily cooking sessions. So, you’re also saved from worrying about utility bills skyrocketing. 

Cons of ductless range hoods

Does not eliminate humidity

Unfortunately, the ductless range hoods cannot handle humidity. Since their air-purification operation is mainly artificial, the lack of a vent results in the rise of moisture in the kitchen’s environment. Therefore, you cannot fully rely upon a ductless hood to manage your kitchen’s ventilation. Simply put, it’s not as efficient as a ducted range hood.

Often requires maintenance

Maintenance is needed quite often for a ducted range hood. These hoods have filters in them that must be changed from time to time for optimal performance. Depending upon the filters, they can be a bit costly in the long term as well. So, you need to be mentally prepared for buying filters that can cost up to $20 every once in a while.

Should you go for ducted or ductless?

Now that we’ve addressed the features of both types of range hoods, it is now time to answer the big question.

You should go for ducted range hoods if:

  • You have a big family and your kitchen produces a lot of toxic pollutants every day.
  • You can afford to have a duct installed and vent it outside.
  • You don’t have a shortage of space in the kitchen.
  • You’re looking for a long-term kitchen ventilation solution and want a handsome return on your investment. 

If these don’t sound like your circumstances, go for ductless hoods under the following conditions:

  • Your kitchen cooking adventures are minimal and do not release smoke and fumes in excess.
  • You cannot afford to have a duct installed in the kitchen that vents outside. It’s too expensive for you.
  • You’re willing to keep the maintenance of the ductless hood in check.
  • You have other minor ventilation options at hand to handle humidity.

The Bottom Line

Generally speaking, efficiency always takes the win. In this case, it was ducted range hoods; but there are other factors to keep in mind so the decision, at the end of the day, is yours. Our comparison comes to an end here. We hope this read helps you choose what’s best for your kitchen and your loved ones’ health. Lastly, if range hoods don’t seem to be the solution for you, check out our other article here on kitchen ventilation ideas as alternatives for range hoods.

Charles John

A novice DIYer who learns about home ventilation. I am a mechanical engineer and have a basic knowledge of HVAC systems but I learn continuously to make myself the best blogger in that space.

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