The first step in choosing a water heater is to determine the appropriate fuel type. Natural gas, oil, and propane water heaters are generally less expensive to operate than electric models. If you are considering electricity, check with your local utility company or electricity supplier to see if they offer off-peak electricity rates. If available, heating your water during off-peak hours will save you money.
Nothing brings form and function together like the kitchen range hood. In addition to ventilating and illuminating the work space, a well-selected range hood can tie the room’s design together, blend in with existing appliances or
stand out as a customized kitchen centerpiece. Homeowners looking for a less-intrusive upgrade alternative to the whole kitchen renovation should consider a new range hood.
Whether looking for an understated hood that will blend unnoticed or an ostentatious piece intended to draw attention, a hood and its working parts must meet the ventilation needs of the kitchen. “The hood must first be sized properly,” says Rose Dickson, vice president of sales and marketing for Wind Crest manufacturers of residential cooking and ventilation products. Sizing a hood properly means accounting for the physical coverage of the hood itself as well as the size and power of the fan housed within. The ventilation component of a hood is measured in cubic feet per minute (or CFM), indicating the amount of air moved through the system. According to Dickson, an effective rule of thumb matches a ventilation system to the BTU output of the range or cook top underneath. Dickinson advises using a ratio of 1 CFM to 100 BTU to select a motor.
Homeowners must also consider the location of the motor that drives the fan component of the hood’s ventilation system. Some hoods allow for flexible placement of the blower, which can mean internal, inline or external application. An internal scenario is common in most kitchen hoods; in an internal application, the motor is housed directly within the hood itself. In an inline situation, the motor sits between the hood and the exterior of the house, along the ducting. An externally installed hood ventilation system sees the blower rest on the roof or outside of the home. This is also called a remote blower. “Some lines of our hoods are compatible with all three types of blowers,” says Arcadio Lainez, director of marketing for Zephyr, manufacturers of stylistic, professional-grade hoods. “The decision on the placement of the blower can sometimes come down to a style versus performance questions,” Lainez adds. Streamlined, low-profile hoods–by nature of their minimalist design–often preclude the option of an internal blower and can only accommodate an inline or external blower.
Configuration limitations will also drive the hood purchase. Existing cabinetry may require an under-cabinet hood while island ranges will necessitate a matching island hood. Ducting requirements will also come into play as well. “The ventilation system is sometimes an afterthought, which can pose a problem,” says Dickinson. She advises homeowners to approach this topic before the walls are closed and to talk with the designer or installer about duct size and related issues ahead of time. “Working with the right salesperson to select the right system for your cooking surface will help you save time and money in the long run,” she says.
The Hood Renaissance
The customized and design-driven range hoods available to homeowners today are transforming the hood from kitchen workhorse to work of art. “There are so many more options when you use [the hood] as a focal point,” says Chris Plummer, founder of Metallo Arts, designers and manufacturers of customized range hoods. In addition to their affordable “Production Series” line of Cezanne and Botticelli-inspired range hoods, Metallo Arts offers a “Rangehood Builder”
service through their Web site which allows potential clients to design their own range hood. Through the Rangehood Builder, clients can choose frame styles, dimension options, metal patterns, lip treatment, upgrades and base color and finish options. When hired to design and build a customized hood for a client, Plummer—who has fabricated everything from a hood resembling an Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup Can to a head-turning ’57 Chevy Bel Air hood—is driven by the desire to give consumers real choices. “We want to create something more customer-oriented,” says Plummer. To fulfill that goal, Plummer and his team encourage clients to send photos of their home or cut-outs from magazines that pique their interest. Existing artwork in the home is also taken into consideration, all to help drive the design and concept of the hood. For some clients, Plummer will visit the home itself and, in some cases, even do the installation.
Like Metallo Arts, Zephyr’s line of range hoods also follows an aesthetics-driven approach. Hiring world-class designers like Robert Brunner (formerly of Apple) and Fu-Tung Cheng, Zephyr’s Arc and Cheng lines of hoods boast style-first design concepts that elevate the relationship between homeowner and appliance beyond the utilitarian. “We asked ‘what more can a range hood do?’ and ‘what more can a range hood be?’ ” says Lainez. Zephyr’s “Tilt” range hood, in their Arc line of products, answers both questions, bringing a revolutionary ventilation method and a contemporary, panelized look to the range hood. Employing a “perimeter aspiration” system, the Tilt’s ventilating design is based around basic principals of thermodynamics. “We are able to speed up the flow of air and pull a lot more air through,” says Lainez. The six sleek, black panels recall the simple yet elegant design of the iPod or the iPhone, an appearance that Lainez suggests was inspired partly by the “constellation of consumer electronics in the home.”
Whether it’s a larger-than-life, hand-hammered hood resembling a classic Italian piece of art or an eye-catching, futuristic design made to mirror the LCDs and touchscreens that populate the home, the aesthetics of the modern and customized hood give homeowners the chance to update a kitchen look without going whole-hog on a renovation. Metallo Arts’ Production Series hoods, for example, fall into the $3,200 to $3,600 price point range. To some, this may seem pricey for a hood if budgeting for an entire kitchen renovation, however, when purchased alone as a one-piece upgrade for the room it is an attractive, affordable option for homeowners—especially those who might not have the equity to do a full renovation, replace every appliance or update all the cabinets. “With a great range hood, no one will even notice the cabinetry,” says Plummer.
Additional Range Hood Features
Even the most customized or artistic of range hoods can include some
additional features that extend beyond the ventilating properties. The digital display is one feature that has become more common in the modern hood. Replacing the toggle on/off switches of stock hoods, the digital display and controls can make it easy to operate multiple blower-speed options, engage a variety of lighting scenarios and even gauge the temperature. Elica’s (http://www.elicacollection.it) “Meteo Technology” incorporates outside temperature and atmospheric pressure into their digital displays, informing homeowners of weather conditions for the day.
Automated ventilation is another feature that homeowners are finding popular. As indoor air quality concerns continue to drive consumer purchases, hood features like Zephyr’s “Clean Air” make the appliance more attractive. “The Clean Air feature automatically turns the hood fan on every four hours for 15 minutes to circulate air through the home,” says Lainez.
Homeowners in the market for a new hood should not underestimate the
importance of lighting. Multi-level halogen lighting can fully illuminate the food while cooking or establish subtle mood lighting when not in use. Some manufacturers like Wind Crest have heating lamp upgrade options, too.
The options don’t end there. Homeowners can also find remotely controlled hoods and hoods that automatically engage the blower when heat or humidity is detected. Like many of the feature-rich appliances making their way into the modern kitchen, the range hood is going above and beyond the basics.
A range hood upgrade can do wonders for the performance and appearance of the kitchen. The enhanced ventilation and indoor air quality of today’s hoods, matched by artistic flair and designer sensibilities, are positioning this undervalued appliance as prominent kitchen centerpiece in today’s home.
Credit: Renovate Your World