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Venting Your Range

My kitchen has an old noisy range vent hood that also looks old-fashioned. I want a new one with several speeds to reduce noise and energy use, and is easy to clean. What are my options??Jan E.

Although almost any new range hood will be quieter than your old one, there are significant differences among the new models.

With today?s more energy-efficient, airtight homes, it is more important than ever to exhaust cooking fumes, grease, odors, etc., for good indoor air quality. For the best energy efficiency, you want a range hood that exhausts the stale air without sucking out too much conditioned room air or using too much electricity.

Many newer range hoods are stylish and can be attractive additions. They are decorative with contemporary contours, metal or painted finishes, glass covers, lights, etc. Some of the clear glass ones offer unique and efficient cooking area lighting options. Believe it or not, some fancy, custom-sized ones may cost as much as $15,000. But you can still find decorative, effective, and efficient ones in the $100-200 range.

On the other end of the style spectrum are ones designed to be hidden when not in use and obscured when in use. Some of these pop up several inches from behind the range when you switch them on. Others are designed to match the cabinets above the range. They hinge at the top and you pull them out from the bottom when needed. When pushed back and not in use, they look like the other cabinet doors.

The key to efficient, effective, and quiet operation of a range hood is exhausting just the right amount of air. A maximum airflow of 50 cubic feet per minute per linear foot of the range top is usually adequate for most cooking tasks. If you often cook particularly odorous foods, such as fish, onions, etc., or boil a lot of water and need to remove the moisture, select a range hood with a slightly higher maximum airflow.

With most of the new quiet range hoods, you can easily talk on the telephone while one is running nearby. You can compare the noise level of various models by their ratings in ?sones? (lower is quieter). Since most of the noise from range hoods is caused by the airflow, not the blower/fan motor, models with lower airflow ratings also have lower sones ratings.

Choose a model with several fan speeds for more flexibility and control of the noise level and indoor air quality. When you are just warming some food or doing other light cooking, the maximum exhaust airflow is not required.

A three-speed fan is usually adequate, but many of the more expensive models offer variable speeds. Some models include a super-high speed setting in case you burn something or need to remove some strong aromas. If you are concerned about fire safety, select a model that has a built-in fire extinguisher.

There are also important differences in the fan design. Squirrel-cage types of blowers are usually quieter and more powerful than simple, lower-cost fan blades. They also operate more efficiently, using less electricity for the same amount of airflow.

The centrifugal action of the blower tends to sling airborne grease droplets into the filter so less builds up in the hood and duct. This reduces odors and the risk of a grease fire inside the hood if there is a flare-up on the range. You can remove the filter and wash it in the dishwasher.

Some features to consider: digital touchpad controls; built-in efficient nightlights; warming trays; or an auto-off feature.

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