Choosing A Range Hood Should Not Be A Depressing Experience


Aug 19, 2002


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The Bottom Line That expensive super powerful range hood, that you've always wanted, could be just powerful enough to turn a previously healthy home into an unhealthy home...buy power exhausting appliances wisely.

The range of range hoods available today is staggering. From the inexpensive little propeller fans, that do little more than lend an irritating background noise to the kitchen, to the turbo charged downdraft squirrel cage fans, with enough suction to turn your home into a central vacuum.

The choices you make should be based upon your realistic needs, in part by your budget, part the decor of your kitchen and in large part, the construction of your home.

Some Things To Consider:

1. The most inexpensive range hoods, priced well under $100.00 will exhaust from a little over one hundred cubic feet of air per minute (cfm) to up to 200 cfm from above the cook stove in your kitchen. Many of these products are well built, but many are not. So look at the construction of the unit. If it's priced under $50.00 you are not going to receive a quiet, long lasting, effective exhaust fan. These products are often referred to as builder's models. The least expensive products that new home builders can get away with putting in.

2. The average person does not require an exhaust system capable of more than 200 to 300 cubic feet of air per minute. A product that draws air out of your home, is also drawing heat, which needs to be replaced by the central heating system. All this product needs to accomplish is to effectively draw away excess water vapor, odor, and smoke from the top of the stove.

A good unit will contain easy to change grease filters, run relatively quiet and perhaps offer an extra light around the stove top area.

You may choose to buy an all stainless steel version to match your other appliances or a painted version. You may wish to spend a little more for one with a nicely decorated finish. These things don't really matter to the overall performance. I have found good quality range hoods, with the design features I like, that cost between $80.00 and $250.00. It's all a matter of personal taste and how much you are willing to spend. Sure, you will also want to look at the filter system, and ease of installation, and the design of the outside vent hood for the discharge air may even be a concern for some people.

3. The high technology, super powerful range hoods, that have become popular in recent years, will most definitely take away any traces of smoke, steam or odors from the stove. I've seen some advertised at 600 to 1200 cubic feet per minute or more. However, at 1200 cubic feet per minute, they are capable of exhausting 100% of the air, in an average size kitchen, within less than a minute. In the bigger picture, something that powerful can evacuate the air from an entire average house in less than 15 minutes.
THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING IN MOST HOMES.

The blower capacities on some of these so-called range hoods is greater than the blower capacity of a central furnace. You can expect higher energy bills, especially in the winter, from the operation of one of these monsters, not only from the electricity they draw, but from the heated air they unnecessarily remove from the home. Expect your furnace to work extra hard to maintain the comfort levels you select on your thermostat.

Depending upon the construction of your home, this type of range hood can literally create more headaches than it prevents and it is totally unnecessary. Bearing in mind that most homes have several other appliances and systems exhausting air. Furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, bathroom fans (multiple), fireplaces, and central vacuum systems, all exhaust large amounts of household air.

In a tightly sealed home, having a few of these systems operating at the same time creates a negative household pressure. That is, the air from within the home is being exhausted faster than fresh air can infiltrate from outside.

Home depressurization is a relatively new phenomenon, and has only been recognized as the safety hazard that it is within the past 20 years. A home that becomes severely depressurized will begin drawing air from any source of least resistance. The house will draw air from around windows, and doors but a common problem is air being drawn down from the chimney or chimnies. Service technicians and scientists have found a large number of homes, usually constructed within the past thirty years, that are over-insulated and sealed up tight, with overly powerful exhaust systems throughout the home. This can be a recipe for poor air quality, which leads to health problems or worse, disaster.

In the worst case scenario, a gas furnace, water heater, boiler or a fireplace connected to a chimney can begin to reverse flow. As the negative pressures build within the home and overpowers the natural draft within the chimney. That means all of those products of combustion can suddenly reverse their flow and spill back into the air you breathe. Our old enemy, carbon monoxide, can quickly turn that inadequately ventilated home into a death trap under these conditions.

These high tech super powerful range hoods are a perfect example of why bigger is not always better. Since the average consumer is often buying an appliance like this based on marketing propaganda and thinking the higher prices equal better performance, they often don't stop to consider the impact such a powerful system may have on the rest of the home environment. These products were originally developed for commercial applications, range hoods for restaurants and such, certainly not for the average consumer. I can't fathom any reasonable person spending up to $1,000.00 for a range hood with the blower capacity to suck the hair follicles out of your nose.

Consider too that the heating and air ventilation systems in all new homes are designed by engineers who have
based their calculations upon the builder's specifications. Usually they are based upon inexpensive bathroom fans, range hoods and any other appliances or systems that may affect the indoor air quality. Retro-fitting a new, much more powerful exhaust system, can easily throw the entire home out of balance.

Re-circulating Type Range Hoods

On the very bottom of the technology scale, who would even want a so-called re-circulating type range hood? In other words, it does not exhaust anything, it just moves moisture, odors and smoke around the kitchen. I do not see any advantages to owning one of these gadgets. I can't even understand why they are sold. Every stove should have some kind of exhaust hood over the burners to take away excess moisture, odors and smoke ladened with grease. Again, it's common sense.

Summary:

Although I touched on this subject above, it's worth expanding on. Over the years, I have seen more and more appliances using power vented exhaust systems. Many furnaces, water heaters, and boilers are now offered with sidewall power venting systems. That means some measure of safety, with respect to downdraft problems from depressurization. However, it can also mean more air being forced out of the home under power.

Add to these heating systems, the all new high tech, super-duper central vacuum systems, more and more powerful bathroom fans and the natural tendency for warm air to migrate up an open fireplace. Combined, all of these appliances and systems can have a very detrimental effect on the air quality in a home. Low level household depressurization can lead to stale air quality, which can affect your overall moods, energy and even produce dizziness or headaches. High level depressurization can lead to products of combustion being sucked back into the home and seriously contaminating the air you breathe or worse, poisoning it.

So, buy a common sense range hood, one that is capable of exhausting the waste products coming off of your stove and one that isn't going to turn your home into a vacuum. If necessary, have your home checked by a qualified heating and ventilating technician, to ensure that the home can handle a much higher capacity exhaust fan being added. That expensive, super powerful range hood, that you've always wanted, could be just powerful enough to turn your previously healthy home into an unhealthy home.

If you already own a series of powerful exhaust systems, you may want to invest in having a certified technician come out to your home and evaluate it for depressurization problems. They can test your home for natural air infiltration, for signs of negative indoor pressure conditions and measure the indoor pressures with several exhaust systems running. There are a number of ways to correct depressurization and balance the ventilation air allowed into the home, to a healthy yet energy efficient level.

Of course, it helps if you don't seal up your home too tightly in the first place and when retro-fitting your home with new appliances, buy power exhausting appliances wisely.

Humans tend to need fresh air on a regular basis, or so I've heard.

Regards,
The Gasman

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