Looking for a nice way to upgrade your kitchen and add both counter space and convenience? You might not need to look any further than replacing your existing range hood with a microwave/hood combination. Now known generically as a microhood, this useful appliance comes in a variety of colors, sizes and features to fit the requirements of just about any kitchen. Plus, it elevates the microwave to a more convenient height and gets that pesky little appliance off your countertop, freeing up valuable space.

Microhoods are available in standard sizes and venting options that, in most cases, make them relatively easy to install in place of a conventional hood. When shopping for a microhood, look for a model that is the same width as your existing hood — typically 30 inches to 36 inches wide — and then look for the features you need. As with most appliances, features add cost, so concentrate on the ones you think you’ll really use.

INSTALLATION

Installation is a relatively straightforward endeavor, and most units are well designed for the do-it-yourselfer. The unit should come with all of the brackets and bolts you’ll need, along with a mounting template that greatly simplifies the placement of the necessary fasteners.

The first step is to remove the old unit. First, shut the electricity to the hood, and verify that it’s off. Locate the junction box on the underside of the hood, remove the cover and disconnect the wires. Remove the screws that hold the hood to the underside of the cabinet, and lower the hood. As the hood comes down, pay close attention to how the electrical cable enters the hood and how the hood is vented. You may need a second set of hands to support the hood while you carefully disconnect both the cable and the vent pipe.

Unpack the new unit, and carefully study the instructions. The first step is typically to figure out how you are going to connect the vent, which is usually dictated by how the old hood vented. Most microhoods give you the option of venting through the top or through the back, and there is usually a metal plate over the fan that can be moved to accommodate which venting option you want to use.

Microhoods have a rectangular vent outlet, usually with a damper, so if you have an existing round duct you will either need to install a rectangular-to-round adaptor or replace your old round duct with rectangular. The template that’s supplied with the appliance will give you exact locations where to place the vent, and the dealer where you purchased the microhood can supply you with any pipe or transition adaptors that you might need.

Another option with some microhoods is to make the unit recirculating, meaning that it does not vent to the outside of the house. While definitely easier, since it doesn’t require ducting, recirculating hoods pump a lot of moist air back into the home, so avoid the temptation to use this option.

Once you have the venting figured out, the next step is to install the mounting bracket. Place the template on the wall as directed in the instructions. Determine which mounting holes you are going to use — the template will give you several options, depending on where the structural supports are in the wall — and predrill these locations. Remove the template.

The microhood itself mounts into a bracket or a box, which is supplied with the unit. The bracket is installed with lag bolts into the wall for support, along with fasteners that hold the bracket to the cabinet. Remember that microhoods are quite heavy, even empty, and that weight increases as you load it with food. Make sure that you install all of the necessary bolts and other fasteners supplied with the kit, and that they are seated into solid wood as required.

Most microhoods have a cord with a plug, as opposed to the hardwiring found on most range hoods. If your old hood was hardwired and you now have an electrical cable to deal with, you will need to route the cable into an electrical box and install a standard grounded outlet that the microhood can plug into. If you are not comfortable with how to do this correctly, be sure and consult with a licensed electrician.

The final step is to install the unit itself. Drill a hole in the bottom of the cabinet as specified, and route the electrical cord through the hole. Slip the microhood into the mounting box or bracket, and secure it in place. Plug in the cord, remove all packing materials, and you’re ready to go.

Each microhood installs a little differently. Be sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly, that you comply with all necessary clearances, that you have a properly installed and grounded electrical outlet, and that you install all the required fasteners. If you have any doubts about any aspect of the installation, your dealer can help you arrange for professional installation.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@hughes.net.

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