If you've ever forgotten to turn on the fan while trying to get a nice crust on a pan full of fish fillets, you're familiar with the importance of good ventilation. In addition to whisking away unwanted odors, vent hoods remove moisture and grease, as well as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants that cooking can release into the air. While these by-products may simply sound like nuisances, studies have shown that cooking without proper ventilation is one cause of poor indoor air quality that can negatively affect your health. That's why the International Residential Code and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strongly advise homeowners to install a vent hood to capture, filter, and then expel the fumes outside through a vent in an exterior wall or on the roof.
As houses have become better insulated, and with high-BTU commercial-style ranges ever more popular, proper ventilation has become an increasingly important issue. Picking the right hood requires you to take into account the power of your range and the way you use it, but it's also a huge style decision for your kitchen. The good news is that while range hoods are a practical necessity, the variety of available looks has never been better; whether you prefer front-and-center utilitarian stainless steel, an insert completely camouflaged behind cabinetry, an artisan-made copper chimney, or a modernist glass unit, there's a style that will work for you.
Shown: Hung from the ceiling, a stainless-steel chimney-style hood vents steam and odors from an island cooktop. Shown: Zephyr 36-inch Napoli island hood, starting at about $2,010; for dealers.