Hoods Buying Guide
Cooker hoods are kitchen appliances used to get rid of the all the nasties in the air that have been produced by your cooking. No matter what type you go for, you’ll be able to choose between an extraction hood and a re-circulation hood but much of the choice depends on your kitchen layout and proximity to an external wall. Also, the hood by requirement needs to be at least 650mm from the hob if it’s an electric hob and 750mm for a gas hob; however, we’d usually err on the side of caution and recommend at least 750mm distance regardless.
Extraction or Re-circulation?
Extraction hoods tend to be the preferred option for many because any odours or grease produced from your cooking are completely removed from your kitchen and directed outside through a duct in your wall. Now, not all kitchens can allow for this type of hood because they either lack space or simply don’t have the capacity to have ducting installed. Cookers that don’t have access to an external wall definitely won’t be able to use an extraction hood but you’ve a good chance of getting one installed if your cooker backs onto an external wall. In terms of costs, you do have initial outlays for ducting and installation but you don’t need to replace filters on a regular basis which will save you money in the long run.
Re-circulation hoods are probably less popular than extraction but can still be an effective means of cleaning the air in your kitchen. The beauty of these hoods is that they can be installed practically anywhere and have no need for ducting, which reduces initial installation costs. This method works by pulling air through a filter that removes smells and smoke from the air, before releasing ‘clean’ air back into the kitchen. However, unless the filter is very efficient, some heat and moisture can be re-circulated with the clean air, and the airflow rate is generally decreased because the charcoal filter placement sits in front of the motor. Plus, the filters will generally need replacing from time to time, which will increase running costs slightly over the years.
Types of Hood
There are five different types of cooker hood to choose from, although your kitchen’s size may dictate what you’re actually able to install.
Firstly, there is the freestanding hood, which is the cheapest type available and fits directly to the wall. This is the least powerful hood out there and as such is only really suitable for a use with a 4 burner hob.
If space is tight or you’d like to hide the hood away when it’s not in use, then you might like to consider the integrated hood, which is only 52-60cm in width and is designed to fit any kitchen unit or cabinet of appropriate size. Again, due to its size, it’s probably best suited to a 4 burner hob. Integrated hoods are also available with telescopic casters which allow for even easier access, as the hood simply rolls in & out of its housing with minimal effort on your part.
For Island hob units, you have the Island hood. It’s the biggest and most powerful type of hood available (90-100cm wide) and attaches to the ceiling above a centrally-placed island unit. This will be seen from all angles and is styled to suit. Because Island hoods are fitted to the ceiling, it's important to ensure that the fixture is strong enough to support the weight of the hood, which can sometimes be up to 30-40kg.
Chimney hoods are set against the wall and are probably the most aesthetically pleasing. Each will have a canopy to catch the steam & smells and a chimney fitted with a fan to extract them, with a multitude of styles to suit most kitchens.
For something less obtrusive, it’s worth taking a look at a
Downdraught Extractor. These are fitted into the worktop along the back edge of the hob and extend a couple of inches above the surface when you need it.
With an extraction hood, you’ll need ducting to direct the extracted air outside. Ducting is plastic tubing that can have a big impact on important aspects of your kitchen. It's available in the following types: ‘flat rigid’, ‘round rigid ducting’ and ‘flexible ducting’.
All ducting is suited to hoods that back onto external walls, but even if this isn’t case you might still be able to choose an extraction hood because both flat rigid or round rigid ducting can direct the air flow across the top of the cabinetry unseen, which is particularly useful for island hoods.
With flexible ducting, it’s important to make sure that the bends in the tubing are minimised and that it’s as taut as possible. Any kinks or disruption to the air flow will cause drag which not only increases the noise of the hood but also affects the extraction rate. Additionally, it might be the cheaper option but don’t be tempted to opt for 4” diameter – always get the recommended sized tubing (5”) as again, this will affect noise and extraction rate.
There are two types of filters: standard grease filters & charcoal filters.
Standard grease filters can be found on any hood and are usually made of aluminium or stainless steel; they can be plastic but these are far rarer now. They don’t need to be replaced very often and only require cleaning every couple of months and can even be cleaned in the dishwasher. However, the amount these filters need replacing or cleaning does rely on how regularly you actually cook and what types of foods you cook.
Charcoal filters only have to be used in re-circulation hoods because with this form of hood, the air is released back into the kitchen and therefore the smoke and odours need to be removed beforehand. Charcoal filters will generally need to be replaced every year or so but again, this will greatly depend on the type of cooking you do and how regularly you do it.
Once you’ve settled on what type of hood you can accommodate in your kitchen, you can then consider other aspects which will affect the performance and usability of your hood.
Firstly, to help you see what you’re cooking, you’ll find that most, if not all, cooker hoods come equipped will a couple of halogen or incandescent lights but check that they’re easily accessible as some of these can be tricky to change when the bulb has broken.
Likewise check where the controls are, as if they’re on the underside or inside of the hood, they can be difficult to access. You’ll find that the majority of hoods come ready equipped with up to 3 speeds, so you can temper the hood’s work rate if your cooking isn’t producing too much steam – or ramp it up if you’ve burnt the toast!
Chimney and Island hoods are made up of a stainless steel chimney that houses the duct and a glass or stainless steel canopy where you’ll find the extractor fan and filters. Glass canopies are not only easier to clean than metallic ones but it’s also easier to see when they’re dirty and many believe they are more pleasing to the eye as well.
Extraction rate works on how many changes of air per hour the hood is capable of. You’ll need at least 8 changes per hour, but 12 is recommended.
Firstly, you need to calculate the volume of cubic metres of your kitchen. Say your kitchen is 4 metres long, 6 metres wide and 2.5 metres high, you simply multiply length x width x height to get the cubic capacity: in this instance 60m3.
E.g. For the necessary 8 changes an hour, you’d simply multiply 60m3 x 8 to get 480m3. So any cooker hood you consider needs to have a minimum extraction rate of 480m3.
For 12 air changes per hour, you’d multiply 60m3 x 12 to get 720m3. So any cooker hood you consider would need to have a minimum extraction rate of 720m3.
The noise of the hood can be somewhat intrusive when on intensive or high speed, but a good tip, especially if you're eating in the kitchen, is to switch the hood on a few minutes before you start cooking to get air circulating in advance. You can then switch it off or to the lowest setting when you sit down to eat, and it will have done its job.