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Study: Three Reasons People Don't (and Should) Use Range Hoods

The research found that noise is a major factor, but so is homeowner ignorance about the importance of ventilating a modern home.

As part of a study of kitchen usage, the Center for Real Life Kitchen Design at Virginia Tech asked many questions about when and how people use kitchen range hoods. The big three: noise, ignorance, and belief that it's "not necessary." Here's an excerpt:

"The participants in the interview cooked on a regular and frequent basis: 68 percent cooked complete meals five or more times per week and 97 percent prepared dinner on a regular basis. Common cooking activities that were done on a regular basis included: baking (83 percent), stir frying (56 percent), quantity freezing (36 percent), preparing gourmet foods (32 percent), and canning (32 percent).


The majority of participants (84 percent) had electric ranges. Most of the participants (92 percent) owned a microwave oven. An interesting finding is that 32 percent used the microwave oven about the same as their range top, and 31 percent used the microwave oven more than the range top.

Most of the participants (92 percent) reported having mechanical kitchen ventilation systems. The most common type of kitchen ventilation system was an updraft system -- hood attached to a cabinet over the cook top or range (Table 3). The most common features in the ventilation systems were a light (91 percent) and a multi-speed fan (84 percent). The majority of the ventilation systems (55 percent) were ducted to the outside. However, 17 percent of the participants did not know if their ventilation systems exhausted to the outside."

Here's the REALLY interesting part: "Only 8 percent of the participants used their ventilation system whenever they cooked, while 8 percent used ventilation "almost never," and 15 percent used ventilation only "once in a while." 

Controlling odors and smoke were the most common reasons for using a kitchen ventilation system. Noise was the most common reason for avoiding the kitchen ventilation system. Table 4 describes the most frequent reasons that people cited for using or not using their kitchen ventilation systems.

Table 4. Use of kitchen ventilation systems


Percent (n)

Reasons for Using Ventilation

Get odors out

47 (33)

Get smoke out

45 (32)

Get steam out

23 (16)

Remove heat

20 (14)

Control grease

14 (10)

Clean the air

11 (8)

Reasons for Not Using Ventilation

Too noisy

48 (22)

Not necessary

48 (22)

Don’t think about it

20 (9)

Note: Participants could give more than one response, so percentages do not equal 100.

Participants gave various reasons for using their kitchen ventilation systems specifically with cook top cooking, typically to solve problems with odor, smoke, and steam (Table 5). Kitchen ventilation was less common when only the oven was being used. When using the oven, 46 percent never used ventilation, while 28 percent only used ventilation for oily/greasy foods and 17 percent for smelly foods."

Our Recommendation

One of the best innovations in range hood technology in recent years have been particle- and heat-sensing devices. In our view, these devices should become the de facto standard across the industry. Further, it's time for range hoods to be integrated with the Internet of Things. For homeowners, reluctant or not, there would be clear health benefits to regular use of range hoods. And for those who choose not to use the hoods, landlords, devices that are "smart" can automatically kick on anyways, clearing the air for everyone else who lives in the building--Editor.