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Recirculating vs Extractor Cooker Hoods: Which Is Right For You?

When it comes to designing or renovating a kitchen, one of the often-overlooked but crucial decisions is choosing the right type of cooker hood. Generally falling into one of two categories—recirculating or extractor—cooker hoods serve the essential function of improving air quality while you cook. They remove unwanted odors, capture grease, and generally make the kitchen a more pleasant place to be.

But why should you care about the specific type of cooker hood to install? The choice between recirculating and extractor hoods impacts not just air quality but also installation complexity, ongoing maintenance, and even your budget. For homeowners, understanding these differences is key to creating a kitchen that’s both functional and comfortable. For builders and renovators, recommending the right type can significantly influence client satisfaction and the project’s overall success.

In this article, we’ll delve into the mechanisms behind these two types of cooker hoods, dissect their advantages and disadvantages, and provide guidelines on how to choose the best option for your specific needs.

What Are Cooker Hoods?

Cooker hoods, also known as range hoods or vent hoods, are devices installed above stovetops to perform a variety of functions aimed at maintaining good air quality in the kitchen. Typically comprising a canopy or shield and a fan or blower motor, these hoods work to remove airborne particles, grease, odors, and even heat generated during cooking.

In modern kitchens, cooker hoods have become indispensable for several reasons. First and foremost, they help in keeping the air clean and free from potentially harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. By capturing grease and other particulates, they also make cleaning easier and extend the life of kitchen appliances and surfaces. Additionally, a well-chosen cooker hood can add aesthetic value to the kitchen, acting not just as a functional piece but also as a design element that complements the overall interior.

From an environmental standpoint, effective cooker hoods contribute to better indoor air quality, which is crucial for overall well-being. Poor air quality in the kitchen can exacerbate allergies, contribute to respiratory issues, and generally make the cooking experience less enjoyable. Therefore, investing in a good cooker hood is as much about health and comfort as it is about utility.

Types of Cooker Hoods

When it comes to cooker hoods, there are mainly two types to consider: Recirculating Hoods and Extractor Hoods. While they both serve the primary function of improving your kitchen’s air quality, they do so in distinct ways and are suited to different types of settings and needs. Here’s a breakdown:

Recirculating Hoods


Recirculating hoods, sometimes referred to as ductless hoods, are designed to filter and then recirculate air back into the kitchen. They use a fan to draw in air and pass it through a series of filters—typically made from charcoal or activated carbon—to remove odors, grease, and other airborne particles.

Common Usage

Recirculating hoods are generally easier to install and are more flexible in terms of placement, making them a popular choice for apartments, rental homes, or kitchens where external venting is not feasible. However, because they don’t expel the air outside, they may not be as effective in removing all forms of pollutants and odors. They are often chosen for their lower upfront costs and installation ease rather than high-performance filtration.

Extractor Hoods


Extractor hoods, also known as vented or ducted hoods, are built to expel the air outside the home. These hoods suck in the kitchen air and pass it through a duct system that leads outside, effectively removing heat, odors, and airborne particles from the cooking area.

Common Usage

Extractor hoods are more commonly found in larger homes or commercial kitchens where high-efficiency filtration is required. Because they require a ducting system that leads to the outside, installation can be more complex and costly. However, they are often more effective in maintaining a cleaner and odor-free environment, making them ideal for heavy cooking or for those who are particularly concerned about air quality.

How They Work

Understanding the mechanisms behind each type of cooker hood is vital for making an informed choice. Let’s delve into how each of these options works:

Recirculating Hoods


Recirculating hoods operate by drawing in air from the cooking area using an integrated fan or blower. The air is then channeled through a series of filters that capture grease, odors, and other pollutants. After filtration, the air is recirculated back into the kitchen. This process does not remove the air from the space but rather cleans and redistributes it.

Filter Types

The effectiveness of a recirculating hood largely depends on the types of filters used. Common types include:

Charcoal Filters: Highly effective at odor removal.
Metal Grease Filters: These are often washable and reusable, capturing grease particles.
HEPA Filters: Occasionally used for advanced particle removal, although less common in kitchen applications.

It’s worth noting that filters in recirculating hoods require regular replacement or cleaning to maintain their effectiveness.

Extractor Hoods


Extractor hoods work on the principle of extracting air from the kitchen and venting it outdoors. The hood uses a fan to pull air in, but instead of recirculating it, the air is channeled through a duct system and expelled outside the home. This means that along with odors, grease, and pollutants, the heat generated from cooking is also effectively removed.

Ducting and External Venting

For extractor hoods, the ducting system is a crucial component. Types of ducting can include:

Rigid Ducting: Offers less air resistance, making it more efficient but harder to install.
Flexible Ducting: Easier to install but potentially less efficient due to higher air resistance.
Vent Location: Depending on the home's structure, vents may lead through the wall, ceiling, or even down through the floor.

The quality and design of the ducting system can significantly influence the performance and efficiency of an extractor hood. Proper installation is crucial, often requiring professional assistance for optimal functionality.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The choice between a recirculating and an extractor hood involves trade-offs. Each comes with its own set of pros and cons that can influence your decision based on your specific needs, the type of cooking you do, and your living situation. Here’s a breakdown:

Recirculating Hoods


Ease of Installation: Generally easier and quicker to install as they don’t require any external ductwork.
Cost: Typically less expensive both in terms of the hood itself and the installation costs.
Flexibility: Ideal for apartments or homes where external venting is not possible.
Energy Efficiency: Since they don't expel indoor air, they may help in maintaining room temperature, making them somewhat energy-efficient during colder seasons.


Efficiency: Less efficient in removing all types of pollutants because air is recirculated rather than expelled.
Filter Replacement: The filters need to be changed or cleaned regularly, which is an ongoing cost and effort.
Noise: Tend to be noisier as the fan needs to run longer to achieve similar air quality results as extractor hoods.

Extractor Hoods


Efficiency: Highly effective in removing odors, smoke, and other pollutants as the air is vented outside.
Better Odor and Heat Removal: Excellent at eliminating cooking odors and heat, making the kitchen more comfortable.
Air Quality: Generally better at improving indoor air quality, which can be beneficial for people with allergies or respiratory issues.


Installation Complexity: Requires more complicated installation involving ductwork, possibly necessitating professional help.
Cost: Typically more expensive upfront and can have higher installation costs due to the need for external ducting.
Space Requirements: May not be suitable for apartments or homes without the capability for external venting.

Key Differences

Choosing between recirculating and extractor hoods can be a daunting task, especially with so many factors to consider. To make the decision easier, let’s look at the key differences between the two, side-by-side:

AspectRecirculating HoodsExtractor Hoods
FunctionalityFilters and recirculates airFilters and expels air outside
InstallationEasier, no ductwork requiredMore complex, requires ducting
CostGenerally cheaperGenerally more expensive
MaintenanceRegular filter replacementLess frequent, mainly duct cleaning
Space RequirementMore flexible, no external ventingRequires external venting
Energy EfficiencyMay retain indoor heatMay lose indoor heat
Noise LevelOften higherOften lower
Air QualityGood but not optimalGenerally superior
Aesthetic FlexibilityHigh (due to easier installation)May be limited by duct placement


  • Recirculating Hoods: Designed to filter and recirculate air.
  • Extractor Hoods: Designed to filter and expel air outside.


  • Recirculating Hoods: Generally less efficient in removing all forms of pollutants.
  • Extractor Hoods: Highly efficient, especially in removing odors and smoke.


  • Recirculating Hoods: Usually cheaper both in terms of the unit and installation.
  • Extractor Hoods: Higher upfront and installation costs.

Other Factors

  • Recirculating Hoods: More suitable for spaces where external venting is not an option.
  • Extractor Hoods: Require an external vent, making them less flexible in terms of placement but more effective in air quality improvement.

Factors to Consider When Choosing

While the technical specifications of recirculating and extractor hoods are important, personal factors also play a role in making the right choice. Here are some key considerations:

Room Size

The size of your kitchen can significantly influence the effectiveness of a cooker hood. In smaller kitchens, a recirculating hood might be sufficient, but larger spaces may benefit from the more powerful capabilities of an extractor hood.

Small Kitchens: Up to 100 sq ft (up to 9.3 sq meters)
Medium Kitchens: 101 to 200 sq ft (9.4 to 18.6 sq meters)
Large Kitchens: Over 200 sq ft (over 18.6 sq meters)

Cooking Habits

The type and amount of cooking you do are crucial factors. If you regularly fry foods, cook with strong spices, or engage in other activities that produce a lot of smoke or odor, an extractor hood would likely be more effective.


Recirculating hoods are generally cheaper to buy and install but may have ongoing costs related to filter replacement. Extractor hoods are more expensive upfront and may require professional installation, but they usually have lower maintenance costs in the long run.

Aesthetic Preferences

Finally, consider how the hood will fit into your kitchen’s aesthetic. Recirculating hoods often offer more design flexibility because they don’t require external ducting. Extractor hoods, on the other hand, may offer a more industrial look, which could be an aesthetic choice in its own right.

Case Studies or Real-Life Examples

Case Study 1: Small Apartment Kitchen Renovation

Scenario: Sarah lives in a small apartment with a kitchen space of 90 sq ft. She loves to cook but is on a tight budget.

Choice: Sarah opted for a recirculating hood due to budget constraints and limited space.

Impact: The recirculating hood was sufficient for her needs and the installation was quick and cost-effective. However, she does need to replace the filters regularly, which is an ongoing expense.

Case Study 2: Family Home with Spacious Kitchen

Scenario: The Smith family recently bought a home with a large kitchen (220 sq ft). They enjoy cooking elaborate meals and have a reasonable budget for kitchen appliances.

Choice: They went for an extractor hood given the size of the kitchen and their cooking habits.

Impact: The extractor hood effectively removes all odors and smoke, improving the overall air quality in the home. Although the upfront cost was higher, they feel the investment was worth it for the long-term benefits.

Case Study 3: Professional Chef’s Home Kitchen

Scenario: Mark, a professional chef, is designing his dream home kitchen and wants the best air quality possible. Budget is not a concern.

Choice: Mark chose a high-end extractor hood with additional features like variable speed controls and built-in lighting.

Impact: The extractor hood has significantly improved the air quality in his kitchen, and the additional features have enhanced his cooking experience. The installation was more complex but was not a deterrent for him given his specific needs.

Anecdote: Aesthetic Choice in a Loft Conversion

Scenario: Emily and Tom converted their loft into an open-concept living and kitchen space. They were concerned about aesthetics and wanted something that blended in seamlessly.

Choice: They opted for a designer recirculating hood that matched their modern aesthetic.

Impact: While the hood fits perfectly with their design, they have noticed that cooking odors tend to linger longer than they would like. However, they were willing to compromise on this for the sake of design continuity.


  1. Can I switch from a recirculating hood to an extractor hood?

Yes, it is generally possible to switch from a recirculating hood to an extractor hood, but it will require additional ductwork and potentially professional installation. It’s crucial to ensure that there is a path for the ducting to vent outside.

  1. How often do I need to replace filters in a recirculating hood?

The frequency of filter replacement depends on the type of filter and how often you cook. Charcoal filters typically need to be replaced every 3-6 months, while metal grease filters can often be washed and reused.

  1. Is one type of hood more energy-efficient than the other?

Recirculating hoods may be more energy-efficient in colder climates as they don’t expel warm air from the house. However, extractor hoods are more efficient at cleaning the air, which could be considered a different form of efficiency.

  1. What are the cost implications of installing an extractor hood?

Extractor hoods are generally more expensive to purchase and install, particularly because they require ducting to vent outside. However, they tend to have lower long-term maintenance costs compared to recirculating hoods, which require frequent filter replacements.

  1. Can I install a cooker hood myself?

While recirculating hoods are generally easier to install, it’s recommended to consult or hire a professional for the installation of an extractor hood due to the complexity of adding ductwork and ensuring proper ventilation.

  1. Does cooking style really matter in choosing between the two?

Yes, your cooking habits play a crucial role. Extractor hoods are generally more effective for heavy cooking that involves frying, grilling, or the use of strong spices that emit stronger odors.


Choosing between a recirculating and extractor cooker hood is a decision that goes beyond just technical specifications; it also involves considering your personal needs, cooking habits, budget, and even aesthetic preferences. Both options come with their own set of pros and cons:

  • Recirculating Hoods: These are generally easier to install, more budget-friendly, and offer greater design flexibility. However, they may be less effective in completely removing odors and smoke.
  • Extractor Hoods: These are highly effective at removing air pollutants and tend to be more efficient, but they come at a higher initial cost and require more complex installation.

Final Recommendations

  1. Evaluate Your Space: Consider the size of your kitchen. Smaller kitchens may find recirculating hoods sufficient, whereas larger kitchens would benefit from the efficiency of an extractor hood.
  2. Understand Your Cooking Habits: The types of meals you commonly prepare should guide your choice. Heavy cooking with strong odors or smoke leans towards an extractor hood.
  3. Consider Your Budget: If you are on a tight budget, a recirculating hood may be more feasible, but remember to factor in the ongoing cost of filter replacements.
  4. Don’t Overlook Aesthetics: The design of the hood should complement your kitchen. Recirculating hoods offer more flexibility in this regard, but extractor hoods also come in stylish designs.
  5. Consult Professionals: Especially for extractor hoods, professional installation is recommended for optimal performance and safety.

By carefully weighing these factors and considering the various advantages and disadvantages outlined in this article, you should be better equipped to make an informed choice that best suits your kitchen and lifestyle needs.

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