Let's face the facts: sometimes you just can't install a ducted range hood in the kitchen.
You may own a condo in an old building, and you simply can't install a vent through your neighbor's unit. On the other hand, it can also be a nightmare to install a vent to the outside if your oven is on an interior wall — so you want to avoid it at all costs.
That's where ductless range hoods come in.
In general, these hoods are known as convertible range hoods because they can be installed either as vented or ventless (though a few are solely for ductless installations such as the Broan 4100 series).
A non-vented range hood doesn't vent to the outside but it recirculates the filtered air back into the kitchen. The hood becomes ductless when you install a charcoal or carbon filter onto the vent hood. The activated charcoal is a highly porous substance that captures smoke and cooking fumes.
And you may be wondering about the grease?
Well, the grease particles get captured either by stainless steel baffle filters or with aluminum mesh filters. The main difference is that baffle filters are known as permanent filters and you don't have to replace them. But even if the oven hood has baffle filters for the grease, all charcoal filters have to be periodically replaced throughout the year depending on how much you cook.
In this guide, I will go over some of the top things to know before buying a ductless hood as well as the benefits of a non-vented range hood. Lastly, I review some of the best ductless or convertible vent hoods on the market. You can skip ahead and read my reviews for each ventless hood here if you wish.
Below is a quick list of all my top products (complete reviews are farther down). Keep scrolling to learn more about how to choose and use the best ductless range hood for your kitchen.
1. Cosmo 5MU30
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2. Broan-NuTone 41000 Series
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3. Cosmo 63175S
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4. IKTCH IKB02
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5. Cosmo COS-QS75
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Our Overall #1 Rated Pick
Updated On October 19, 2021
We chose the 5MU30 range hood by Cosmo because it is convertible to a non-ducted range hood with the additional purchase a carbon filter (and flipping a switch on the body of the hood). It has a great stainless steel look with a tapered slim design that has a European flair. The multi-layered mesh filters also cover a large area of the underside to capture more grease and smoke.
Top 5 Best Recirculating Range Hoods
In a hurry? Check out my top 5 ductless range hoods below. Keep reading to discover more about my top picks.
4 Things To Know Before Choosing A Ventless Hood
There are a few things you should research and understand before buying a range hood, and it mostly has to do with the carbon filters. There is also the choice of fan speed and physical dimensions which applies to all kitchen hoods. Here are my top buying considerations for non-vented hoods:
1. Verify That It Can Be Used Ductless
Probably the most important consideration when buying a ventless range hood is that it can actually be used in a ductless installation. Almost all oven hoods are convertible from ducted to non-vented with the addition of a charcoal filter but you will need to verify it with the manufacturer.
Since the range hood won't be venting outside, the disposable charcoal filter is what filters the smoke and fumes when cooking. All unvented range hoods share this key feature of carbon filtration and it isn't safe or healthy to use an oven hood as unvented without it.
Many convertible range hoods have custom carbon filters that you screw onto the motor housing such as the Cosmo COS-QS75 but others like the Broan-Nutone 41000 have the charcoal filter and aluminum mesh filter as a single filter.
You may also have to keep certain duct openings closed or even flip a switch on the housing to make it ductless. The Cosmo 5MU30 requires you to flip a switch on the body which closes one of the vents and makes it recirculate out the front.
If you want more details, you can read my complete guide on how ductless range hood works here.
2. Make Sure You Can Buy The Charcoal Filter (And Know The Cost)
Since the carbon filter is required for a non-ducted range hood installation, it is important to make sure you can get your hands on the charcoal filter from the manufacturer or a third party. If you can't buy the charcoal filter, then the range hood becomes almost useless. Though there is the possibility of just buying a cheap carbon filter sheet and cutting it to fit over the existing filter — and tying it in place.
Besides supply issues, you also want to know the cost of a replacement charcoal filter. The average cost is anywhere from $10 for one and up to $40-$50 for a set of two. Some oven hoods that have dual motors require a set of two charcoal filters (one for each motor). Depending on the recommendation of the manufacturer, you may be replacing the charcoal filter every 2-3 months or at minimum 1-2 times a year.
3. Choosing The Right Dimensions
After verifying that the range hood can be used ventless, you will want to make sure that you buy the correct dimensions. Whether it is an under cabinet, wall mount, insert, or island ductless range hood — you want to make sure it will fit.
The width of the recirculating range hood should at minimum match the width of your stove or cooktop. And if you can get a stove hood a few inches wider than the range — that is even better. If you pick an oven hood that is smaller than your range, it won’t effectively capture the smoke and grease.
And if it is an under cabinet range hood, you need to take into account the height of your existing cabinet and the minimum distance from the cooktop to the bottom of the kitchen hood. Depending on your manufacturer, the distance from your range will usually be at minimum 24 to 30 inches. The closer the range hood is to the cooktop, the more effective it will be.
If you plan on installing a wall mount or island range hood, you will need to verify that the size of the 'chimney' will fit with your kitchen ceiling but most chimneys are adjustable. For vent hood inserts, you need to verify that it will fit into your existing cabinet or make sure you have a custom cabinet enclosure that will match the insert.
If you want to learn more about installation, you can read my guide on how to install ductless (under cabinet) range hoods here.
4. Choosing Fan Speed (CFM)
Another crucial step in choosing a ductless range hood is the fan speed measured in CFM or cubic feet per minute. CFM is a measurement of air flow and most vent hoods start at 200-cfm and can go as high as 800-cfm+.
The recommended CFM by the Home Ventilating Institute for on the wall installations is 100-cfm per linear foot. And if the oven hood is on an island, they recommend 150-cfm per linear foot. So if you plan on installing a 3-foot wide (36-inches) range hood, multiply it by 100-cfm (if installed on the wall) which will give you a recommended 300-cfm for your stove hood.
Though if you get a somewhat stronger kitchen hood for a ductless install, it may be even better. There is also no backdrafting concerns with an unvented range hood unlike ducted hoods — so a makeup air system is not needed. I invite you to check out my complete guide on picking the right CFM for range hoods here.
Benefits of Recirculating Range Hoods
When you compare ducted vs ductless range hoods, vented hoods will always be superior to ductless but there will always be situations where a non-ducted hood is preferred or needed.
Many apartment buildings have non-vented range hoods because they can’t install ductwork through their neighbors apartment. You also may have an older home where the range is on an interior wall and it may not be structurally possible to install a vented range hood.
There also may be cost considerations where it isn’t worth it to install a conventional range hood. If you are installing a second kitchen or if it is a rental property, you may just prefer to keep costs down and install a recirculating range hood.
Here are a few benefits of installing a non-ducted range hood:
Ease of Installation
Probably the biggest benefit of a ventless oven hood is the ease of installation. A “through the wall” vent used by ducted range hoods have a number of components such as a metal vent, an exterior vent cover, and the wall holes. A range hood should not be vented into an attic or crawlspace, which makes the install more difficult, but sometimes homeowners or contractors cut corners.
Just making a hole in an exterior wall and piping a metal vent pipe all the way to the kitchen stove can be a very difficult job to say the least. Installing ductwork to the outside may involve cutting into a brick wall, or even cutting into the roof. Any roof work will usually require a licensed roofer.
A recirculating range hood avoids the mess of installing an exterior vent and can save a large amount of time and grief. Ventless range hoods can sometimes be installed in less than ten minutes. It can literally be as simple as a few screws and simply plugging the vent hood into an outlet that's already inside the upper cabinet.
Avoid Carbon Monoxide Hazards
Since these range hoods are self-circulating, you won’t have to worry about creating a negative air pressure problem inside the home. If your kitchen range hood is sucking out air and putting it outside (the vented type) it may cause air pressure problems and even create a carbon monoxide hazard.
If the oven hood is 400-cfm or greater and vented to the outside, you may be required by code to install an automatic makeup air system.
If you have natural gas appliances such as a gas-fired furnace, and you install an overly powerful exterior vented range hood, it may literally cause your furnace to spill it’s exhaust back into the home — a problem known as backdrafting. But with self-venting range hoods this isn’t a problem because all of the air is self-circulated back into the home (rather than going outside).
With a typical outdoor vented range hood, there are energy losses because you are expelling conditioned air to the outside. You have spent valuable energy to heat or cool the indoor air, and then with a ducted range hood (some of them are powerful at 400-cfm or more) you are sending all of that conditioned air right back outside.
Besides the problem of sending conditioned air to the exterior, the long vent hose can be a source of air leakage. Many times the exterior vent cover isn’t properly sealed, and outdoor air leaks into the inside. Especially with today’s highly energy efficient homes, an unvented range hood may be much more energy efficient.
Our Reviews Of The Best Non-Vented Range Hoods
#1 Cosmo 5MU30 (Best Overall)
My overall top pick for the best ductless range hood goes to the Cosmo 5MU30. This hood is convertible so that it can be installed ventless or vented, but you do have to purchase the carbon filter and it is not included (buy the carbon filter # CFK4 here).
To install the 5MU30 as unvented, all you have to do is remove the mesh filters, and flip a switch on the inside of the hood. This 'switch' moves a flap so that the air is vented out of the front rather than to a duct. And then you simply screw the circular carbon filter onto the motor, and that's it.
Probably the best feature of this Cosmo under cabinet hood is that it looks fantastic. It has a slim design that tapers towards the front — and it has a distinctive European look. The body of the hood is made out of 430 grade stainless steel and a 20-gauge thickness. This compact range hood will be great for apartments, condos, or smaller sized kitchens. It comes in a 30-inch model as well as a 36-inch model (5MU36).
This Cosmo ductless hood comes with 3 fan speeds, push button controls, and 65-decibels on high speed. It comes with energy efficient LED lighting (3-watts) for extra cooktop illumination. The filters are made out of aluminum mesh and are multi-layered which helps capture more grease. It is also nice that the filters cover a large portion of the underside of the hood which helps capture more smoke and fumes.
The main downside of the 5MU30 is that the LED lights are at the rear of the hood. Most of the time when people cook, they use the front burners and not the rear ones. So when you use the Cosmo LED lighting, it will only be partially effective. This Cosmo hood is easily stained with fingerprints and grease.
For some reason, Cosmo doesn't rate this hood with a CFM rating, but it is probably around 200-cfm.
The Broan-NuTone 41000 Series is my top rated budget pick since it comes in at less than $100. This non-ducted kitchen hood comes with a 21-inch, 24-inch, 30-inch, and 36-inch model. You also have the option of going with black, stainless steel, white, and other colors.
The 41000 Series range hoods by Broan are designed to be installed only as ductless --- they do not have a 'convertible' option to go vented or ventless. The carbon filter is behind the aluminum mesh filter and it is installed as a single filter (two layers). This range hood is a great economical and no fuss option for small houses, apartments, condos, basement kitchens, and other rooms where a duct doesn't exist or isn't feasible.
Even though Broan-NuTone don't list the CFM for this range hood, it is likely in the 200-cfm range and it is definitely low powered compared to the average hood. It comes with a 75-watt incandescent light but you will have to purchase the bulb yourself. This hood has a simple two speed system (high and low) through a rocker switch. The vent hood does come with the filters though which is a combination aluminum mesh filter and the carbon filter. The aluminum mesh captures grease while the carbon filter captures smoke and fumes.
A nice feature of this vent hood is that it comes with so-called EZ1 installation brackets. These brackets allow you to install the range hood by yourself (without cabinet jacks) because the brackets will hold the hood in place while you do the wiring.
The main downside with this unvented range hood is that you can't just plug it into an outlet that may already exist inside the upper cabinet. It is designed to be hardwired. If you have an outlet, you would have to remove the outlet and hardwire it. There is an option however to buy a separate power cord kit #HCK44 from Broan so you can plug it in.
My top pick for the best wall mount range hood that can be installed ductless goes to the Cosmo 63175S. Wall mount hoods are installed on the wall when there isn't a kitchen cabinet in the way. The 'chimney' is a vertical section that can go as high as the ceiling or stop somewhere below it.
The 63175S by Cosmo is a convertible range hood which means it can be made to be non-ducted with the additional purchase of a carbon filter kit #CFK1-TM. The carbon filter kit comes with two carbon filters, and one carbon filter gets screwed onto each side of the motor as you can see with the picture below. The top of the chimney needs to remain open (it isn't visible) so that the air can get recirculated back into the kitchen.
The 'grease filters' are stainless steel baffle filters and are visible in the photo. These baffle filters are permanent filters and can be washed in the dishwasher. The carbon filters have to be periodically replaced depending on how much you use the hood.
This ductless hood is rated at 380-cfm, 30-inches wide, and it comes with three different fan speeds. A nice feature of this top rated hood is that it uses an LCD display for the control panel so there aren't any buttons or switches. This range hood comes with two energy efficient LED lights, and they are 2-watts each. The warranty for this non-vented hood is a 3 year limited parts warranty. The installation uses brackets to secure the chimney and the hood to the wall. There are two brackets that hold the chimney, and one bracket secures the kitchen hood.
A drawback of this Cosmo unvented vent hood is that if you have a high ceiling such as greater than 8-feet, you may want an extra chimney extension. The chimney extension can be found here and (around $165) is almost the same cost as the entire range hood.
Range hood inserts are a type of vent hood that is 'inserted' into a cabinet, custom enclosure, or a wood hood shell.
The IKB02 by IKTCH is a really nice range hood insert that can be converted to a non-ducted range hood. The charcoal filter that is needed for a ventless install is already included with the purchase, but you can find replacement filters here. Similar to the Cosmo hood, the carbon filter is screwed onto the motor. Just to keep in mind, the top of the insert is where it is vented so if you use a custom wood hood, the top will likely need to be kept open --- so the air can recirculate back into the kitchen.
This IKTCH top rated insert has a powerful motor and it is rated at very high 900-cfm. It comes in a 30-inch, 36-inch, and 42-inch models. The hood has 4 speed settings, and in regards to noise, it is rated at 65-decibels on maximum speed. The hood comes with two 3-watt LED lights to illuminate your cooktop area.
One unique feature of this IKTCH convertible range hood is that it has gesture control. Basically, you can increase or decrease the fan speed by moving your hand across the front of the stove hood. Simply move your hand from the left to right to increase the speed by one level, and do the opposite (right to left) to decrease the speed.
Unfortunately, the gesture control can also be problematic with some hoods and customers have reported it turning on the vent hood by itself and changing speeds unintentionally. The gesture control also seems to be more sensitive to cooking that produces a lot of steam which can make it act weird.
My pick for the best ductless kitchen hood with great control options goes to the Cosmo COS-QS75. It comes with LCD touchscreen panel that is backlighted. And it comes with a remote control so you can turn it on or off from your living room. There is even a timer that will shutoff the range hood anywhere from 1-15 minutes.
This Cosmo under cabinet range hood is 30-inches wide but it also comes in a 36-inch model, and a 48-inch model. It is rated at 500-cfm, comes with two LED lights, as well as two stainless steel baffle filters. The baffles are dishwasher safe, and these are the filters that capture grease while the charcoal filter gets the smoke.
Just like the other stove hoods (except the Broan hood), this top rated hood is convertible so you can make it unvented with the additional purchase of the charcoal filter kit. The hood has two motors, so each carbon filter will need to be screwed onto the motors. The carbon filter kit is part #CFK5 and can be bought directly from Cosmo. It is pretty expensive at around $50 for a set of two, and you will need to replace it every 6 months.
The COS-QS75 is vented on the top of the range hood, so there will need to be a hole for the vent/damper to recirculate the exhaust into the cabinet. Even though there are baffle filters (and the carbon filters) there may be a little bit of grease that goes into the cabinet.
Probably the biggest downside of this range hood (besides having to vent it into the upper cabinet) is that the installation is very challenging. It is heavy at 50-lbs and you will need another person to help you install (or use cabinet jacks). But the installation manual and the provided hardware is low quality and you may need to buy your own screws or bolts.