Something for her for Mother’s Day. Something for him for Father’s Day. How about a small-sized extravagance for the dream kitchen in your new house? When I attended the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Chicago last month, I saw endless possibilities–for example, how about a built-in espresso machine?

Kuppersbusch, a German company, now makes one that fits into a standard 18-inch-wide cabinet box, and it’s fully plumbed so you never have to clean the tank. This espresso maker also grinds the beans and makes the coffee, just like the new ones at Starbucks. It has a secondary cavity to make regular coffee or decaf espresso, plus a hot water dispenser to make tea and an auto cappuccino function so you can serve a professional-looking drink even if you’re clueless about the finer points of espresso making. The machine makes two cups at a time and up to 240 cups an hour–just the thing for hosting large gatherings, and it’s only $2,750.

You may hate coffee, so here’s another small-sized extravagance idea. How about a designer range hood with a European flare? Gagganau, a German company, makes a sleek, stainless-steel, AH 360 Coanda 36-inch chimney-style hood with classically simple lines for about $2,500. Zephyr, an American company whose wares sport the European look, offers a chimney-styled range hood with a striking curved glass base that was, according to the firm’s catalogue, “inspired by the elegance of the martini glass.” It only costs $2,299.

If your budget dictates that a small-sized extravagance for your new kitchen must be something that is quite a bit lower in price, there are many nifty range-hood products from American manufacturers that may not be quite so high style, but they’re definitely more affordable.

But, before you spring for a jazzy range hood at the high end or something more prosaic at the low one, you should spend some time studying its performance to make sure that it is tailored to your range, advised Brian Wellnitz, an engineer and product manager at Broan-Nutone, the largest range-hood manufacturer in the United States.

For example, if the dream kitchen in your new house includes a large, professional gas range with five or six burners, a huge amount of heat will be given off into your kitchen when all the burners are on high (about two to three times as much heat as a conventional 4-burner residential range will give off). A conventional residential range hood will not suffice. You’ll need one with a 1,000-to-1,500-cubic-foot-per-minute (cfm) capacity that can quickly remove the heat, as well as the steam and odors that come with normal cooking, Wellnitz said. If you’re buying for looks or resale and know that you will never use this stove very much, you might think a less expensive, smaller unit would suffice. But, he advised, you should always get a hood that covers the worst case scenario for your stove–even with only one burner on you can burn something that will smell up your entire house, and you are likely to use all the burners for entertaining, even if you microwave most meals, Wellnitz said.

If your dream kitchen includes a range or cooktop with a grill for indoor barbequing–these days an increasingly popular style of cooking–forget the sleek look, Wellnitz said. You need a larger range hood with a “sump” feature. That is, you need a hood that will capture the smoke from the grill immediately and hold it in a chamber for two or three seconds until the blower can expel it. For ordinary cooking, you don’t need such a specialized fan, but with an indoor grill, the smoke always accompanies the cooking. If you don’t exhaust it right away, the smoke particulates will migrate into your furnishings and eventually cause your house to smell like your favorite grilled foods, Wellnitz said.

You may decide you want a conventional residential range with only four burners in your dream kitchen. In that case the key characteristics to note for your range hood will be the cfm capacity of the blower and the noise that it generates, which is nearly always given in sones (one sone approximates the sound of a modern refrigerator in a quiet kitchen). When these measurements are cited by a range-hood manufacturer they indicate the cfm and the noise level of the unit when the blower is turned up to the max.

For the 80 percent of the ranges that most people in the United States will purchase, a range hood with a 350 to 370 cfm blower capacity will cover the worst-case scenario (burned food or all four burners going full blast) and, when turned to a medium setting of about 250 cfm, be more than adequate for normal cooking, Wellnitz said. As the cfm’s increase, however, so does the noise. At 350 cfm’s and above, you will get at 5.5 to 7 sones, even with a high-end blower, but in the 250 cfm range the same blower might be only 3 to 5 sones, and at the lowest speed so quiet that some manufacturers have added an indicator light to remind homeowners to turn the blower off when their cooking is finished (the blower for the 1,000-to-1,500-cfm unit noted above would be installed outside or in the attic above the kitchen).    

Sound definitely correlates with price, however. A less-expensive builder-grade range hood will likely have a maximum cfm capacity of only 160 cfm’s and a noise level of 5 or 6 sones, Wellnitz said. For ordinary cooking you will have to turn it to the max every time you use your range. The noise will definitely be audible and, for most people, irritating.

When you shop for a range hood, it can be difficult to compare cfm’s and sone levels because all range-hood manufacturers do not get their products tested and certified by the Heating and Ventilation Institute, a range-hood trade association that developed both the testing criteria and standards. When a manufacturer does this, the cfm and sone information will be accompanied by an “HVI” certification stamp. Comparison shopping is further complicated by the fact that some European manufacturers, including Gaggenau, rate sound in decibels.  

Another feature to note when shopping for a range hood is a grease filter, Wellnitz said. Almost all hoods have one that captures the grease particles generated by normal cooking, and in most models the filter can be removed and washed in your dishwasher. Some higher end ones also have an indicator light that tells you when washing is needed.

The final feature on Wellnitz’s range hood checklist: lighting. Every hood will have a light, but most high-end ones have multiple lights that evenly illuminate all four burners. This feature will no doubt be of interest to those aging baby boomers who are ruefully discovering, as they approach 60, that they need a great deal more illumination in the kitchen than they did in their twenties.

For more information:

Espresso coffee machine: www.kuppersbuschusa.com

Range hoods: www.gaggenau-usa.com, www.zephyronline.com, www.broan-nutone.com

Heating and Ventilation Institute: www.hvi.org

Questions or queries? Katherine Salant can be contacted at www.katherinesalant.com.

***

Send tips, feedback or a letter to the editor to newsroom@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 124.

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