Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Friday, January 16, 2015

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

I can't cook. I use a smoke alarm as a timer - Carol Siskind
I have been aware of the limitations of the home ventilation hood since long before I became intimately acquainted with those in a professional kitchen. The latter, unconcerned with aesthetic or quiet operation, does a fine job of removing smoke and vapors. The inside surfaces, especially the filter screens become encrusted with grease and other airborne particulates. Cleaning becomes a dreaded, if necessary evil.

It does its job.

The same cannot be said of the standard home unit. It is underpowered and not particularly well designed. The filter may contain something like activated charcoal, but in most cases is overlapping layers of metal mesh. It does collect grease and needs to be cleaned regularly, but the grime that builds up on nearby surfaces highlights its limitations. 

The problem is two-fold: in addition to being underpowered the unit is mounted too low and because of this the skirt of the hood does not reach out far enough to cover the cooking surface. Otherwise you’d whack your head, and there are enough ways for me to do that.
The length of the skirt is especially an impediment if, like ours, your 14,000 BTU power burner is in the front. It's usually my first choice for cooking.

Enter the smoke alarm. Enough smoke makes it through the filter to set it off on a regular basis. You can reduce these problems if you are lucky enough to have a hood vented to the outside, but they still persist. I had one for the last 11 years, and still had to pull the battery out when I cooked.

Frankly, a passive chimney - centuries-old technology – would seem more effective.

Perhaps the worst system I have ever encountered was the Jenn Air, installed by my parents in our first new family home. Typical 70's build with a kitchen island, it was hoodless. The system was vented to the outside, but it drew downward - fighting both gravity and thermodynamics. Doh! IMG_3852
Until we moved, that is. The new home has the "convenience" of a microwave mounted over the range. The apron is shorter and the skirt is even lower than a standard hood. So low that my pressure canner blocks access to the microwave. Forget about using the back of the stove or a larger stockpot.

The filtration system is nonexistent. Using the fan makes it certain that the alarm will sound. Making things worse, the hood fan has a heat activated sensor. When that kicks on you can’t shut it off manually. You have to wait until it shuts itself off.

So, this has my vote for the worst home system ever. Did I mention that the exhaust for the unit is right in front of your face?

Smoke does get in your eyes.

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -