When I found out that our over the range microwave was, indeed, vented, I had a little internal struggle about getting a proper range hood. They cost, folks. A lot. But why buy a new over the counter microwave when I hate that look in general. You see the stove from the front door of the house. The prior owner put a door in there to block that view. I removed it. I like flow. And we are tidy people.
But, still, the over the range microwave is not a look I loved. So, range hood shopping commenced.
No, I am normally a very decisive shopper. I can look, consider and hit "add to cart" without breaking a sweat. I have sources I like for reviews, I have brands I trust. But I have never owned an actual venting range hood. Never.
And so, it began. I started on the gardenweb.com forums and I read amazon reviews and I chatted with JWH. You see, you can go nuts in this category. You can spend thousands of dollars for 1200cfe units. Whatever that means. Well, it means a shitload of air being sucked. And the big, fancy cooktop people of the world get very, very excited about a lot of cfes. They say you need it to move the heat. They also say you need a hood that is bigger than your stove. Um, how many 1873 houses have you seen with that being possible? So, I was a little more than hesitant to buy the hype. We don't cook much (read: at all). But we also do not want what JWH would call a "JV" hood sitting over our fancy-pants stove. (Remember, it cane with a free dishwasher.)
Oh, and then there is this thing called "replacement air" that becomes in issue when you are sucking more air out through your range hood than your drafty house can replace. Creates a pressure imbalance. And as a result, air gets sucked in through your other vents, like the furnace and chimney. Not cool. At all.
So, not going for the mega air sucking model, buy dint of space, budget and fear of replacement air situations, I started researching mid-range models. I wanted something attractive, minimalist, about 7" tall (to give me the same 30" distance from hood to stove top that we, comfortably, have now), and not $1000. I set a budget of $400-$600. Randomly. I needed a parameter. Oh and I also decided I needed about 400 cfes to do the job decently. And having 600 or 800 on a high setting might not be a bad idea, and we could open a window when we used that setting to replace the air. Oh, I also wanted a low setting that was quiet-ish.
These are the three I narrowed it down to:
The Broan AP130. I liked the look. I found very, very few reviews of it online. It was priced very well. But it had screens, not baffles or inverted propellers.
Do you like how I whip out those terms? Well, let me give you a little primer of venting:
- A mesh screen is what they have in most basic consumer hoods. The mesh screens catch the grease and you are meant to put them in the dishwasher every few weeks to clean them. (I have never done this. Perhaps I'm disgusting? Or perhaps we really cook that little? Or perhaps the fact that our hood is a recirculating/non vented model means that the grease goes on the wall and not actually up into the mesh? Yeah, that one.)
- The new trend in "commercial" cooking appliances has meant hotter stoves and a desire for commercial looking vents, and with that came baffles in the place of the mesh. Baffles are metal slats and the idea is that, with the strong suction, the grease gets pulled up into the baffle, coating the baffle, by the way, and then drains into cups at the back of the hood. You empty those cups. And, again, put the baffles in the dishwasher. You can also run the hood while spraying cleaning solution to liquefy it to get the grease flowing into the cup, I'm told. And I have to say, that process nearly got me to buy a vent with baffles. How utterly satisfying would it be to spray Fantastik into a fan and have sudsy grease flow out?
- There is a 3rd choice: the inverted propeller. It's like the baffle in that the grease goes into cups at the back. And they have more suck that mesh models do. But they cap out at around 800cfes. They are the middle of the road on price and performance. I like middle ground, so I considered two models with inverted propellers.
This Zephyr hood is well regarded. It's got suction and is apparently quiet and sturdy.
But the gardenweb gurus love this brand:
And that is where I landed. The Kobe. Simple, not JV-looking, $418, and 3 speeds from 280-680.
And I hated this whole process. It just was so rife with pretense and my-kitchen-is-hotter-than-your-kitchen bragging shit. Like hood size and suction is the new way to show you are bad ass rich and a gourmet cook. Or something.