Question: Our old kitchen range vent hood is noisy, hard to clean, and now it only runs on one speed. Even its styling looks like a Model T. What are the newest things in quiet range hoods, and what really is best?
Answer: Range hoods are an area of the kitchen where there have been many design improvements--both in functionality and styling. Recent emphasis has been in providing quiet operation with additional convenience features. You can talk on the telephone right next to a running new range hood.
Several new designs are hidden when not in use. Some pop up 7 inches from behind the range when you turn them on. Others slide out from under the cabinets above the range. Still others, which match your cabinets, tilt out, and the blower and light come on automatically.
One new design, Allure, is designed to be very quiet. On low speed, it creates only about one sone (unit of sound level). This is about the noise level of a quiet new refrigerator. It is the easiest model to clean because of the unique air flow and the Teflon-like coating.
Fire safety, especially around children, is also a factor when selecting a range hood. Look for a model with a sensor, Heat Sentry, that switches the blower to high when excess heat is detected. For the ultimate safety, select a range hood with a Guardian II built-in fire extinguisher.
Check the fan design. A standard fan with a blade is the least expensive, but it will be noisier. Better models use squirrel cage blowers for high air flow with minimal sound. These are also more efficient to operate.
This blower design tends to spin the vaporized oil and grease in the exhaust air. This centrifugal action condenses the oils so that less enters and builds up in the duct. The filters and grease traps are designed to be easily removed and washed in your dishwasher.
One of the nicest convenience features is a built-in hidden spice rack in the front of the range hood (Stor & Spice). Fold-down warming racks with infrared warming lights are a plus for large meals.
Touchpad electronic controls are convenient and easy to keep clean. Some provide variable speed control, but just three speeds are adequate. An auto-off feature slowly reduces the blower speed and shuts it off after five minutes so you can walk away. A built-in night light saves electricity.
Don't just buy the most powerful one. It will cost more to buy and be noisier. As a rule of thumb, the range hood should provide about 50 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air flow for each lineal foot of the range. A range with a surface grill needs about two to three times this much.
Write for (or instantly download http://www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 429, a buyer's guide of newest range vent hoods, styles, sizes, noise levels, air flows and features. Please include $3 and a business-size self-addressed, stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.
James Dulley has written a new 224-page book, "Affordable Efficient Houses." You can order this book for $14.95 (includes delivery) with check payable to James Dulley. Mail to James Dulley, Houses, P.O. Box 54987, Cincinnati, OH 45254 or visit http://www.dulley.com/houses.htm.