The unsung hero of the kitchen is the range hood. This appliance — an over-the-stove fan that seamlessly blends in with the rest of your kitchen’s decor — makes a huge difference in the overall tidiness of your living space. Range hoods suck up smoke and odors, along with the oily residue that fills the air when frying foods.
For nearly eight years, while living in a studio apartment in Los Angeles, I deeply coveted one. I cooked with oil a lot, and thus fought a never-ending battle against the sticky film that seemed to coat everything in my kitchen. Unfortunately, no option existed on the market for a portable range hood that could be used by an apartment dweller like me.
But that day has finally arrived. The AirHood, a Kickstarter and Indiegogo darling with over 4,000 backers, has debuted as the world’s first portable range hood. It promises to reduce smoke and odors, grease and the formation of oil film — the latter being the bane of my existence for all those years.
I’ve since left my perpetually-sticky West Coast apartment behind for a new one in Connecticut that features a range hood, but I still had to test out the AirHood for myself to see if the old me — and others out there losing the battle against a greasy kitchen — could improve their lives by picking up one of these gadgets. AirHood models come in two versions, one wired and one rechargeable wireless option, and I gave both a spin to see if the AirHood truly is the kitchen savior it appears to be.
What's Good About the AirHood
It Looks Great
I am a big-time homer when it comes to Mid-Century modern and space-age designs, so I immediately fell in love with the AirHood the moment I saw it. It looks like a charming little 1960s robot, with a round head sitting atop a stout, cone-like pedestal. It comes in two colors: a white option that will work with any decor (and will likely be the more popular option), and my preference, a retro bold orange color that draws even more attention to this funky-looking little appliance.
Admittedly, if the AirHood did what it claimed to do and I didn’t have a range hood, I would pick one up just for the functionality even if it was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. But the fact that it might be the best-looking thing on my kitchen counter really sweetens the pot.
It's Very Good at Sucking Up Oil
My main issue with the lack of a range hood in my previous apartment was the oil film that would show up everywhere. It was inescapable, and a real pain to clean. In testing the AirHood, my main goal was to see how it performed at sucking up oil — and I’m happy to say that I came away impressed.
The AirHood has a replaceable charcoal filter on the backside for filtering out odors and smoke, while the front of the device has a removable and washable stainless steel mesh oil filter. And let me tell you, that filter can haul in some oil.
The AirHood’s fan is pretty powerful, spinning at 5,000 rpm in the highest of its three settings on both models (though the wired version does seem to put out a bit more power). I was amazed to see the amount of oil collected on the front filter after just one meal. It was enough to coat a paper towel — meaning that if the AirHood wasn’t there absorbing that oil, all of that grease would have ended up settling elsewhere in my kitchen. You'll still end up with some oil splatter on your stove, but that's to be expected, as even a range hood won't prevent that.
The AirHood leaves a pretty small footprint; there should be room for one on most kitchen counters. Both versions of the device are 13.1 inches tall (15.1 inches with the optional Base Boost), 8.7 inches wide and 5.5 inches deep. This compact size makes the AirHood easy to incorporate in your cooking routine; not once during my testing did I feel like the AirHood was in my way.
The one piece of the AirHood that makes it a tiny bit cumbersome is the carrying handle. Both versions of the AirHood have a metal handle that folds behind the device, and is wider than the body. I found this handle unnecessary, as the AirHood is plenty easy to carry just by grabbing its thin base and picking it up (the AirHood weighs around four pounds, with the wireless version weighing about 1/10th of a pound more).
What We Don't Like About the AirHood
Its Range Is Limited, As Are the Stoves It Works With
There is one notable advantage traditional range hoods have over the AirHood: positioning. Because they live directly above your stove, range hoods are in the prime spot to soak up all of the smoke, steam, odors and oil that naturally rise up from your pots and pans. The AirHood, meanwhile, has to be positioned next to your stove. From there, it does a great job of absorbing whatever’s coming off of the pan right in front of it, but if you’ve got another pot cooking on the opposite side of the stove, the AirHood isn’t going to help you out much there.
That said, at the end of the AirHood isn’t really competing against range hoods; it’s meant for those for whom a true range hood isn’t an option. A bigger limiting factor lies in its construction: because its body is made of plastic, AirHood is not recommended for use with a gas stove, as an open flame near the device can potentially melt or otherwise damage it. This wasn’t an issue for me during my testing — I have an electric stove — but it’s going to be a deal breaker for a lot of potential customers (including myself in my old LA apartment, which had an ancient gas stove).
The AirHood has three different power settings — 3,100 rpm, 4,000 rpm and 5,000 rpm — but in my testing, I found that only the most powerful setting produced the desired result. The first setting, which is extremely quiet, didn’t seem to do much of anything at all; the second setting provided some reduction in visible fumes, but not enough.
The downside of having to operate the AirHood on its highest setting is that it’s very loud — particularly the wired version, which almost sounds like a box fan. To my ear, it seems to be slightly louder than my actual range hood. I often like to listen to podcasts while cooking, but having the AirHood running on its highest setting basically made that impossible to do.
It Could Be Better at Filtering Smoke & Odors
The AirHood is great at eliminating grease from the air, and it also proved better at pulling steam out of the air than my range hood (I had the two engage in a little tug of war over a boiling pot of water). But if there’s one area of ventilation where the AirHood disappoints, it’s with smoke and odor. The appliance certainly removes some smoke and odor from the air, but I found that meals that were particularly smoky or smelly would still fill the kitchen with odors, even with the AirHood on its highest setting.
Alternatives to the AirHood
As the world's first portable range hood, there aren't really any alternatives on the market. But that doesn't mean you don't have choices, as you'll have to decide between the wireless and wired versions of the AirHood. The wired version definitely offers more power, but at the cost of being considerably louder. Its cord is long, which is theoretically good for moving the AirHood around your stove, but in reality just leads to a giant cord resting on your counter at all times.
All told, the wireless version would be my pick. Although it's slightly less powerful than the wired version, the difference in performance really isn't all that noticeable. It's also quieter, and the ability to easily move it around your stove with no wires getting in the way is super convenient — plus, it looks cleaner, too. The battery lasted for several weeks of dinners for me, though having the battery die in the middle of cooking a meal is admittedly a bummer — and not something you'll ever have to worry about with the wired version.
AirHood: The Verdict
If you live in an apartment without a range hood and have an electric stove, then it's worth buying the AirHood. It looks great (people will ask about it), it will leave your kitchen a lot cleaner, and it's easy to use. Sure, it could be a little quieter and it won't free your kitchen of odors entirely, but using an AirHood is a million times better than the alternative of cooking in a dirty and smelly kitchen with no air filtration at all.
It's also fairly affordable. AirHood is currently taking preorders, with the first units shipping out later this month. The AirHood Wired is priced at $140, while the AirHood Wireless goes for $180. Both options can also be purchased as a bundle that includes the Base Boost and replacement charcoal and oil filters. The wired bundle is currently on sale for $160 (MSRP $190), and the wireless bundle has a sale price of $200 (MSRP $230).