What Goes Up, Must Come Down... Broan-Nu Tone Rangemaster Stainless Kitchen Hood

Feb 1, 2008 (Updated Nov 20, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Attractive, Relatively Quiet, Functions well, Unobtrusive, Contemporary

Cons:Not an inexpensive option, requires professional installation and good planning to get right

The Bottom Line: I've had no problems with this unit for the last two years of occasional use. It is sturdy, relatively quiet and functions well--great option for an island vent!

No Man Is an Island... But Every Island Needs a Retractable Vent!

Let me be your tour guide through the complex world of cooktop venting options. What used to be a simple, standard and inexpensive function, ie. venting your range, has turned into a maze of options, looks and functions. In a nutshell, when remodeling your kitchen or building a new one, you'll want to choose the type of rangehood vent which suits your style and function. The main types of ventilators are overhead and downdraft. Since I my 36" Wolf Electric Cooktop is located in my kitchen island, I chose a retractable downdraft ventilator for both aesthetic and practical reasons.

Aesthetic Appliance: I have a very modern, clean-lines kitchen and figured the retractable downdraft would be mostly unobtrusive (out of sight, out of mind). I actually don't do a lot of frying, so I don't require a vent most of the time. That led me to choose the Rangemaster RMDD3604EX downdraft ventilator in stainless steel. Most of the ventilator mechanism is submerged under the countertop surface when not in use, leaving only the top inch of the stainless hood visible at the surface.

Practical Issues:All range vents require ductwork to carry exhaust (steam and odors) from the cooking process to the outside. Therefore, a considerable amount of forethought and planning is necessary to ensure that the ductwork can be installed with a minimum of labor and a maximum of efficiency. Overhead vents come in a variety of styles and can be quite attractive. However, it might be cumbersome to retrofit one in your existing kitchen, as the ductwork will need to travel through the ceiling to the outside.

Retrofitting & Troubleshooting: In my case, the Rangemaster RMDD3604EX downdraft was fairly easily retrofitted in my kitchen island, because fortunately I have a crawlspace underneath my kitchen. My contractor installed the necessary ductwork in the crawlspace to connect the 600 CFM In Line Blower (purchased separately) with the downdraft in my cooktop island. All in all, I am glad I had a contractor do this work because it's not a typical homeowner project unless one is experienced with HVAC and electrical work. Finally, it's no small issue that a hole has to be cut in your countertop to fit both the downdraft vent and the cooktop. So, make sure your countertop fabricator is involved in the process, as well as your cabinet maker, to ensure that the correct amount of space is available in the cabinets to install the appliances. In my case, a crucial measurement for where to cut the hole was off by about one inch, and my island drawers required revisions to make them fit correctly.

Electrical Considerations: the Exterior Downdraft Blower system draws 6 AMPS and requires a 120 VAC, 60 Hz circuit. Since I'm a layperson, I'll not get too specific, except to say that you'll need an electrical outlet somewhere in the cabinet, located according to the manual specs.

Blower Options:If you're serious about purchasing a retractable downdraft vent like the Rangemaster RMDD3604EX, you'll need to know about a few options for this unit. First of all, the Rangemaster suite of downdraft ventilators comes either with a 500 CFM (cubic feet per minute) Interior blower, or the option to purchase a separate Exterior blower. I chose the Exterior blower option (a Broan 600 CFM In Line Blower) because I wanted the blower motor to reside in my crawlspace rather than in the range cabinet. As my appliance salesperson noted, an exterior blower should be less noisy because the blower motor is not right there in your cabinet.

Where exactly do you install the vent appliance?
Basically, the downdraft appliance is installed in the cooktop cabinet, directly behind the cooktop. There are quite specific instructions on the electrical and venting requirements and configuration; please consult the manual for more detail.

Appearance and Functionality?
When I compared retractable vent hoods I noticed that they all look suspiciously similar. According to my appliance salesperson, Broan-NuTone manufactures a great deal of vent hoods, some of which are sold by other appliance companies. This Rangemaster model is at the medium to high end of the cost range, but was well worth the price in my opinion. It's stainless from top to bottom and has two removable aluminum/stainless steel grease filters. The filters can be cleaned in the dishwasher, although so far, they have only required sponging down in my case.

The vent is very simply operated--just press the button on top to raise or lower it mechanically. You could get the more expensive model with a remote control, but personally I think that's overkill and is just another remote to keep track of. When the appliance is fully raised, it reaches a height of 9.5 inches. The back is also stainless, so it looks good from all directions. The fan speed knob on the right hand side will either turn the fan off, or switch from low to high speed. That's all for controls, folks! When you're done with the fan, just press the button again and it lowers back into place, just as obediently as an automatic garage door.

How Quiet is it?
Even at high speed, my fan is not excessively loud. That's because the blower motor is underneath the counter in crawl space land. For review purposes, I went downstairs to check on the blower noise in the crawl space while the fan was operating--it was loud! But, I've never heard it before because of the blower's remote location. The verdict--if at all possible, get your blower motor installed as far away as possible, your ears will appreciate it!

How Well does the RMDD3604 work?
Since the Rangemaster RMDD3604EX doesn't come with an internal blower, the real power comes from the external blower motor, which is also made by Broan but was purchased separately. My Rangemaster ventilator, equipped with a 600 CFM external blower, does the trick. There are more powerful blowers available on the market, but the 900 CFM model is about twice as expensive. You could even purchase a 1200 CFM, but I'm not sure if it's compatible with this downdraft model. Since I don't use the vent that often, I didn't feel the extra cost was justified.

I have to put my hand up pretty close to the Rangemaster Downdraft to feel the air being sucked into the ventilator. However, for most ordinary cooking fumes and smoke, the appliance works well to dissipate cooking odors in a reasonable amount of time. In my case, having the appliance ensured that my cooktop installation would pass inspection and be up to code--I didn't need a professional unit.

Durability: this appliance has no signs of breakdown and seems sturdy enough after two years of use.

Installation Recap From the Manual:
(Just to give you an idea of what lies ahead if you buy one)
Take measurements
Plan the Ductwork
Plan the Cabinet Cutouts
Plan the Wiring
Prepare the Downdraft
Cut Countertop Opening
Mount the Unit
Install Ductwork
Install Electrical Wiring
Install Cooktop

If you're embarking on a new kitchen design or remodel , good luck and may your new appliances bring you much joy!
Wolf Electric Cooktop
Electrolux Refrigerator
Fisher & Paykel Aerotech Double Oven
Sharp Microwave Drawer
Whirlpool Stainless Dishwasher

keywords: broan, rangemaster, vent, hood, kitchen, retractable, downdraft, blower, nu tone, review, opinion, rating, stainless

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