What Is The Difference Between Vented And Recirculating Extractors?

When it comes to installing a cooker hood in your kitchen you have two options for what it’s going to do with the steam and grease that it sucks up. These are vented and recirculating extractors.

Most extractor models are suitable for either venting out or recirculating. Before you buy, however, always check that the model you intend to buy can perform the type of extraction that will be most suited to your kitchen.

Depending on your project you may or may not have a choice. As you will need access to an outside wall for vented extraction. Some flats and apartments may not have this.

It may also be necessary to buy additional items such as charcoal filters and a recirculating kit separately. More on this later.

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What Is Vented Extraction?

Vented extraction is when you can connect a duct (or pipe) from the cooker hood and run this ducting through to an outside wall of your house.

You will then normally place a small grill in the brickwork of the external wall to allow the air that is sucked up by the extractor to then be expelled outside.

With a typical wall-mounted cooker hood, this is usually a duct that comes up from the appliance and runs along the top of the wall cabinets to an exterior wall and then through the wall to the outside.

This allows the air sucked up from your cooking to get completely removed from inside your house. So all the grease and smells get thrown outside an away.

Depending on what type of cooker hood/extraction unit you have and where it is located will determine if it’s possible to be vented out and if so, what the most effective route would be.

For example; if you’re having a venting hob or downdraft extractor you may need to place the ducting in the floor.

As a side note: Vented can lose its benefits if done poorly. If the ducting isn’t sealed well or has to take turn after turn to wind its way to an outside wall, the effectiveness of the extractor starts to get compromised.

Always try to take the most direct route to outside your house!

Vented extraction cooker hood diagram

Advantages Of Vented Extraction

  • High airflow rate
  • Moisture is removed to the outside
  • High effectiveness at lower power settings
  • Typically quieter than recirculating extractors (if correct ducting is used and installed correctly)
  • No additional costs for carbon filter replacements

Disadvantages Of Vented Extraction

  • Building/room may mean vented is not possible (need access to an outside wall)
  • Energy loss due to warm air leaving the room.
  • Additional work to hide or incorporate ducting.

TOP TIP: Where possible, the direction of the ducting should decline downwards slightly to the outside wall to prevent condensation from running back into the hood.

What Is Recirculating Extraction?

Recirculating extraction is the alternative if for whatever reason you cannot vent out your extraction.

As the name suggests, this method recirculates the air inside your kitchen. All the grease, steam and smells that get sucked up by the extractor are drawn through carbon/charcoal filters.

These filters then do their best to remove as much of the smells and dirt particles as the air passes through them. Once the air passes through these carbon filters it is then released back into the room.

In the case of a more common wall cooker hood, the air is blown out of the top of the appliance itself.

You need to make sure you install the carbon filters if you are going with the recirculating option, otherwise, there will be no benefit at all.

Recirculating extraction cooker hood diagram

Advantages Of Recirculating Extraction

  • Easier to install
  • No extra building work required
  • The room doesn’t lose heat due to warm air being kept (recirculating) inside.

Disadvantages Of Recirculating Extraction

  • Moisture is not extracted and must be removed through additional airing (Window, door, additional vented extraction)
  • Carbon filters need to be replaced
  • Cost to replace filters
  • Usually louder than a vented extractor
  • Airflow rate is reduced by the carbon filter

TOP TIP: The cooker hood should be switched onto a low setting 5-10 minutes before starting to cook so that the air in the kitchen starts to circulate.
Similarly, once cooking is finished, the fan should be left to run for 10-15 minutes so that odours in the room can continue to be absorbed and the carbon filter can dry out.

Which Is Better, Vented Or Recirculating Extraction?

Hands down vented extraction is better, but it’s not always possible, which is why recirculating is the next best thing.

Physically removing all the grease and smells from cooking to the outside is always much better than having them pumped back around and into the room.

However, if you live in a flat with no outside wall in your kitchen, or you don’t want to have to dig up the floor to lay ducting for a venting hob, then recirculating is your only option and it’s certainly better than nothing.

Vented And Recirculating Extractors

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do kitchen extractor fans need to vent outside?

Not necessarily. There are recirculating kitchen extractor fans that will filter the air, taking out as much grease and smell as possible, then blow it back into the kitchen via a vent in the hood.

However, depending on the type of kitchen renovation project you are undertaking, you may have to have some form of extractor vented to the outside of your kitchen.

UK Building regulations say. If you’re having a new build or extension including the kitchen, then you must have some form of extraction (to outside). The extraction rate needed will depend on where it is situated in the room.

However, If you are refurbishing an existing kitchen and you don’t already have any extraction to the outside of the room, then you do not need to have any installed.

How Often Do You Need To Clean Cooker Hood Grease Filters?

Obviously, this will depend somewhat on your style of cooking and how often you actually cook. A good general rule is every 3-6 months.

If you do a lot of cooking involving frying which releases more grease into the air, then maybe up that to 1-3 months. If you barely use the hob and cooker hood, then you’ll probably be fine with 6-12 months

Giving them a clean will never be a bad idea and it can be much easier than you think. Most grease filters are on simple clips on the underside of the cooker hood.

Simply unclip and remove them, then give them a soak and wash or even put them in the dishwasher (always check that they’re dishwasher safe first).

How to clean grease filters

Do You Need Carbon Filters For Your Cooker Hood?

If you are having the cooker hood installed using the recirculating extraction system, then yes. You should always install carbon filters when your cooker hood is recirculating the air and not venting it outside.

Depending on how much you use the extractor and your cooking style, these carbon filters should be replaced every 6-9 months.

If the cooker hood is installed using the vented extraction system, you do not need carbon filters. Just wash the grease filters every now and then.

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Final Thoughts…

There you have it. Now you’re an expert on vented and recirculating extractors and what the difference is.

The choice between vented and recirculating extractors will ultimately depend on the location of your kitchen and any structural elements as to whether it’s possible to find a route to duct to an outside wall.

As well as this, weigh up the pros and cons of each method to help decide which best suits you and your cooking needs.

Just remember, if you are choosing vented extraction always take the most direct route to outside your house and use the correct sized rigid ducting. This will ensure you the absolute best results from your cooker hood.



Michael from

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.