Vent-a-Hood Cleaning Issues...What Do You Mean?

beekeeperswifeFebruary 1, 2012

One thing that repeatedly is said about VAH is how hard it is to clean. Are those people referring to the difficulty of unscrewing those brass screws? For me, those were a deal breaker.


The newer VAHs have a clip system that is used to remove the shield, grease catcher thingy that surrounds the squirrel cages. Really easy.

I've been pricing the VAH and Modern Aire hoods, and the VAH is coming in less.

My vent will be able to go out right through the wall it's mounted on, no snaking the ductwork at all.

I absolutely need to make some decsions in this kitchen project this week.



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I don't find cleaning my VAH all that bad, but its the only hood I've owned so I have nothing to compare it to. My own experience is that the parts that come off are easy to clean in the sink. The hardest part for me is cleaning the inside of the hood, simply because it's very awkward to reach up inside to scrub all the nooks and crannies where grease tends to build up. Usually I do this by sitting on the top of the range with a flashlight pointing up so I can see what I'm doing. And I have learned the hard way that there are a couple of sharp edges in there that you need to be careful of.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 9:35AM
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So far,I have only cleaned the hood once,so I haven't figured out the best technique. So the following comments should be taken with a grain of salt.

BTW, I wasn't interested in hoods with mesh filters because the filters are so hard to clean. I had mesh filters in the HVAC electronic air cleaner and never got the filters as clean as I wanted without denting the mesh.

My 36w x27d island-type Vent-a-Hood is mounted 30 inches above the rangetop which is in a peninsula. The hood has 2 squirrel cages with a cover and a baffle on each. As you have probably seen,each cover has a clip in the front and a clip in the back.

I am 5'3", so I need to use a stepstool to get to the covers. And I need to remove the covers and access the clips from the front and the back by moving around the peninsula. The baffles are easy to remove. If the hood were placed against a wall, I would probably have to sit on the range and open the clips by feel. Dunno.

My previous 30" wide hood had only one blower and used screws to attach the baffle to the squirrel cage cover. That was easier.

I really like this hood its ability to suck steam, grease, smells, and whatever. But this one cleaning attempt was difficult. I'm not sure how the squirrel cages will be to clean. The first hood had access from the front. This new one has access from the side.

I don't know anything about Modernaire.

Take-home-message: I would get this hood again because of its performance. After removal, the baffles and covers are easy to clean.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 9:35AM
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I have a Modernaire- All I do is take out the baffles and put them in the dishwasher...

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 10:43AM
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Unlike some of the other respondents, I can speak directly from experience. I own both a Vent a Hood dual squirrel cage hood, and also a Modern Aire baffled hood liner. There is absolutely no comparison in terms of either performance, appearance, and certainly, cleanup.

The VAH is a PITA to clean. Unscrew (or unclip, I don't think it makes a difference) the nasty, dripping cages after removing the shield. Then, try your best to get the grease out of the nooks and crannies of the cage. I do this by hand, because multiple earlier posters noted that when they ran the cages through the DW, the finish peeled off, which I think invites corrosion and looks bad. Then, climb back under the hood and screw the cages back again. Of course, the actual squirrel fans cannot be easily removed so they stay greasy.

In contrast, I can pop out the MA's baffles in about 30 seconds, throw them into the DW, and once spotlessly cleaned (using the Miele's Heavily Soiled Large Item setting), put them back up in about 30 seconds. Easy peasey.

I'd take comments like canishel's with a grain of salt--says "I would get this hood again because of its performance" but I suspect there was nothing to compare to. Having lived with both hoods, and having absolutely no reason to want to favor MA over VAH (I don't work for MA, don't have family working there, don't have some grudge against VAH--except for selling me on the "Magic Lung" Kool Aid the first time), to me it's a no brainer decision, even if it's a few bucks more up front.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 12:10PM
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i love my VAH overall, but i have to agree, its a bit different in cleaning than standard hoods. i'm fairly short (5'6" but have long arms) and don't have any difficulty unclipping and bringing the hood components down to be cleaned.

once a month, i take the time to take down the hood shield and box and clean them. the shield i wash in soapy water although it rarely gets very dirty. the "box" usually has oil accumulated in it and i take a few paper towels to wipe it all out and then a soapy sponge to make it grease free.

i have not, however, found a simple way to clean the squirrel wheels which i've only removed once to clean. perhaps it's gross (it is), but after talking with my wife's aunt who has had a ventahood for years, i've resolved not worry as much about it. just like the fan hardware in my mom's giants Nutone (35 years old), i'm leaving it as a "meant to stay somewhat dirty" item. i do try to take them off once a year and clean them in hot soapy water and that does a pretty good job with a toothbrush.

compared to other hoods with baffles or screens, it is a messier (you can just throw those in the dishwasher), but something i can live with.

while i wish i had a remote fan for quiet sake, at higher speeds, for a local fan, the VAH cannot be beat. (see the numbers i report in a different thread). low speeds, the VAH is louder than a comparable Kobe we considered, but for higher speeds, it is much quieter overall. that's why we chose the VAH and were willing to make the small compromise for ease of cleaning.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 2:08PM
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Derek: thoughtful post and I had not seen your numbers showing that the VAH was quieter than a Kobe with internal blower. Very interesting! And certainly agree that a VAH is still a quality piece of hardware. (But I love my MA more!)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 4:14PM
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clinresga: will definitely check out MA if i/we ever move and want to install a new hood ;) i would love of course to have a remote blower.

re: db levels -- it's my guess that one advantage of the squirrel cage design is that even though it's fairly noisy at low speed, it doesn't get appreciably louder at faster rates of rotation. at least that's my hypothesis. ;)

[if you can't find the old thread, the bottom line is that it peaks at ~67db for it going full blast with both fans/wheels going)

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 11:51AM
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Derek: that's actually great information, as it's exactly what I got with my VAH running full speed--67 db at high, 65 db at low, versus 60 db for the MA at full speed. Confirms your observation that the VAH does not increase noise levels much when going low to high.

It really validates the reproducibility of simple sound pressure level measurements. Wish we had more objective data from other brands of hoods.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 1:17PM
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A hood with baffles and an exterior exhauster is the way to go. Two - three times a year I put the baffles in the dish washer, clean the inside of the hood with Simple Green, and rinse with warm water. Takes 1/2 hr.

Grease filters / blower motors / squirrel cage fans are a PITA.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 1:22PM
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I've had a chimney style VAH since 2003 & am very pleased with its performance, although I've not had anything of quality to compare. Removing & cleaning the housing isn't fun but it's not that much of a big deal; removing the squirrel cages (about once a year)& cleaning are a bit of a PITA, but doable. I also agree that there's not much difference in sound between Low & High.

My neighbor also has a VAH that isn't a chimney style & her fan box/housing is mounted above the warming lights bar & is much higher in the canopy than mine. If this is how most VAHs are built, I may have dodged a bullet because there is no way I could clean those squirrel cages if they were mounted close to the 7' level. NOTE: my neighbor's kitchen was done by a PO & I've noticed a few other construction 'oddities' so possibly the guts in the hood were rearranged somehow but I don't think so.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 3:27PM
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Alrighty......I'm used to the baffles in my Viking. I love them. I love to pull them out weekly and pop in dishwasher.

The VAHs we like are the ones that the squirrel cages could be mounted higher up. Sounds like that is the nail in the coffin.

I'm currently looking at Independent hoods that are still available out there. Distributors are selling them on eBay.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 4:09PM
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I recently cleaned my fathers Vent A Hood range hood and it was beyond disgusting. All the oil is flung to the fan housing surrounding blower cage where it collects into a brown gross goo. It is the poorest design I have ever seen.
In addition because the fan housing is high up in the hood I had to get on the stove on my knees to get the pans of goo down. The entire inside of the hood is coated with a layer of old grease and oil. It is beyond me why anyone would want one. I have a modernaire in my kitchen. Pull the filters and put them in the dishwasher. There is a 4" light bar on the front and a 2 inch ledge the filter sits on in the back. You need to wipe that down, not the entire inside of the hood. Easy. Run away from Vent a hood

I have pictures but I don't know how to post them.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 4:30PM
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Eeesh. Wish I'd seen something about this earlier. Our BlueStar rangetop with charbroiler and VAH are due to arrive next week. I've told DH this one's on him to keep clean!

Just wondering what cleaners you all are using to cut through the grease.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 5:00PM
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Kay161: Perhaps this will ease your "Eesh." I've had a VH (over a charbroiler) for 8 years and my experience is totally opposite of the above bash post. However, we do clean ours on a regular schedule (every few months, inside of hood every year or so and the squirrel cages every couple of years--soapy water, maybe fantastic on the cages). I'd be curious to see what baffles that weren't cleaned for a long time would look like but having worked in restaurants I can imagine.

I don't know how much the design has changed but as for cleaning we just put the collection box (it fits over the cages and I put the baffle plate that screws on the collection box in the top of the DW (if it even needs it). We used to do the box once a month (we cook ALOT) and after about 5-6 years the interior paint on the box started to come off (I've read others reporting this) and just ordered a new box, so far so good--I think it was about $60-$70.) We like ours. But having only had the VH (I have cooked under other residential hoods) I'll stay out of the "my hood's better than yours game" (although if you know anything about what a decibel actually is versus what loudness actually means the level of pseudo science thrown around and the conclusions drawn are pretty humorous). YMMV.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 10:04AM
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I will have to look at modern aire. The sales person was trying to see me on VAH. I did like the look of the thermador. Any comments on thermador?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 10:22AM
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I don't think I would call it a bash. It was so gross I took photos. He was not capable of cleaning it and this is the result. Why should you have to clean the squirrel cages?
They say the benefit is that there can't be a fire or something like that. The hood is full of grease?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 2:27PM
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How many years had it been since it was cleaned? I can't imagine having that much grease in my cover if I'd never cleaned it since it was installed in 2003.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 2:57PM
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I ended up going with a new 42" Independent Incline hood, with heat lamps, 27" deep, 1200 cfm motor. Got a deal on it from a distributor who had it.

Happy to check this off my list.

(Main reason I didn't do the VAH was the cleaning. I know some say it's not a big deal. But I wanted a hood that would have allowed the cages to be mounted up high so we wouldn't see them. Therefore, the cleaning would have become an issue for me, just the reach may have been tough)

thanks for the all the help.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 6:40PM
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A couple years, they cook a lot. I am sure you like yours but I am not a fan. It is an odd concept, run the dirty air through the fan. fling the grease and water into the fan housing and collect it in a pan? I like the filters to get the water and grease and there is less to clean. What there is to clean is easier to reach. It is not quiet either. I have a 1200 cfm remote on mine. It pulls air like crazy and isn't loud on high. We don't really run it at more then 1/4 and it pulls most of what we are cooking. If you burn something turn it to 1/2 for a minute. At 1/2 you have to check if the noise is the fridge or the hood.

To each his own.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 7:38AM
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Bill, I wasn't defending VAH's cleaning process - it just seems an excessive amount of goo standing in the cover plate (not sure what the actual term for this piece is). I thought the grease was supposed to collect in the housing or was that full too. Is there any chance the duct is clogged & the system is recirculating instead of venting? I ask this because I had birds build a nest over the outside opening & when I turned on one fan, exhaust came out the other.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:28AM
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@teachmkt: as one of the folks I'm assuming you're referring to ("pseudo science thrown around and the conclusions drawn are pretty humorous"), I'm curious what your conclusions were about sound levels produced by hoods. Is it that you find a 7 decibel difference (60 vs 67) as measured to be insignificant, that you distrust the methodology, that you think that the difference is real but not important to the average cook?

If you read the entirety of the thread, you can see I was thoroughly (and appreciatively) schooled in the mistakes I made in my analysis. But in the end, I think the consensus was that a seven dB difference is real and significant. I can certainly say at the least that working with my two hoods is like night and day, and that I really do find the noise level with our VAH to be objectionable. That was just my attempt to put some kind of objective measure to what was otherwise mostly a name-calling contest ("my hood is quieter than yours" "no it's not").

I'm always happy to be corrected when wrong, so I'm anxious to hear your thoughts.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Other than taking the squirrel cages (fan impellers) off, I don't think cleaning the VAH is that big a deal. I don't think I'd wait "a couple of years" before doing that, especially if it gets used a lot.

Even if it is an "odd concept," it seems to work. I've reached up in my duct and it doesn't feel greasy at all. I don't have a comparison for a mesh or baffle type hood.

Taking it apart is a snap- two thumb screws for the baffle, then two clasps for the blower box. I'm 5'8", and the thumb screws are roughly at eye level (hood 30" above range). I picked up a long allen wrench for the set screws that hold the squirrel cages on.

For the baffle and blower box, I've had good luck using a 5-gal bucket filled most of the way with hot water and TSP (trisodium phosphate; the one phosphate detergent still on the market, albeit for paint prep). I just dunk the baffle and blower box and then flip over to soak the other end 20 min or so later. I use a plastic scrubbie as needed to get any rubbery polymerized stuff off.

I tried this with the squirrel cages and there were too many nooks and crannies. I forget if I used a toothbrush, or a bamboo skewer, but it was a good bit of work. That said, I've felt the need to do that once in 6 years of owning the hood. Will be several more before I do it again. I clean the rest once or twice a year- just looked and I'm probably due again.

If I had to go buy a new hood tomorrow, I'd definitely look at the whole field, but I wouldn't discount VAH either.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 8:33PM
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When I read what you have to do to clean it I have to question the design.

For mine I pull filters and put them in the dish washer. Wipe down the light bar and back edge with 409. Wipe down light bar and back edge with a cloth with water. Done.

There is no oil or grease under my filters so I don't see it as a problem.

I am a great fan of marketing and I think VAH did the greatest marketing job ever on the magic lung.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 9:37AM
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While magic can be the basis of great entertainment in animation and CGI-enhanced live action, in real life it tends to be less effective.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 1:09PM
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As to the statement re: hood loudness: Would I agree that a single measure of an 8db difference would be "louder," from two different sound sources in two different kitchens?
No. Wrong measure and flawed methodology. First, decibels don't measure loudness and second no conclusions could be drawn from a single person's report comparing the loudness of two different sound sources in two different settings. Perceived loudness is measured by multiple subjects under highly controlled conditions and is highly variable across individuals.
Decibels are a physical measure of sound pressure; loudness is a psychological/perceptual measure of individual judgments. Decibels don't measure loudness for the same reason temperature doesn't measure warmth and weight doesn't measure heaviness. 85F in NOLA and 85F in Phoenix will not be perceived as equally warm because you already know that humidity, wind, clothing and your own individual body's response to these factors will vary. If we were to put a group of people in a controlled room and vary humidity, air circulation and type of clothing while varying temperature and ask them when they perceived a noticeable difference we would find that we would get the same report of perceived warmth at very different temperatures. In this case a decibel is a very similar measure to temperature and loudness is similar to perceived warmth. Depending on different sound pressures (decibels) your perception of loudness will vary significantly by the sound's frequency, if that frequency modulates, if the db level modulates, your proximity to the sound source, how reflective surfaces shape the sound, your individual hearing capability and sensitivities and (unfortunately) your age.
If you look at a graph of where subjects perceive different sounds as pretty much equal in loudness while frequency and db levels are varied you'll find that sounds that at least half the group find equal in loudness can vary as much as 10 db or more. Human ears are very frequency sensitive. So, if a single observer's reported that 2 different sound sources were 8 db off in two different environments I don't see how any relative judgments could be made (and most kitchens with tile, polished wood surfaces, relative hard floors and glass windows can be expected to reflect sound in very different ways.)
I won't speculate on all the methodological issues present to make a valid comparison of two different hoods' loudness levels in two different kitchens but a decibel meter would be largely irrelevant to the experimental design (you don't care about decibels, you care about perceived loudness). And to add insult to injury, you might well find out that even when you hit the standard that over half of the subjects agreed on the loudness findings you would still find other judges insisting some hoods were louder than others. That's pretty much how perceptual judgments tend to go. . .

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 5:45PM
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@teachmkt: this is veering into more of a philosophical debate and that perhaps reflects the difference in our approaches and interpretations. I won't belabor your points: many of them are at least in some way quite correct.

However, as often is the case in a debate, you've taken a reasonable position and, IMHO, taken it to an extreme to make a point. So you argue that, for example, temperature has no role in measuring warmth. Now, there is no doubt that other factors, such as humidity, wind speed, and (duh) clothing affect the perception of warmth. I agree that you, standing naked in 40 degree weather with a 40 mph wind blowing, will feel cooler than I would if swaddled in a down parka at 40 degrees in a completely calm interior room.

But, to take that to the extreme to say that therefore temperature has NO role, or relevance, in helping humans estimate the likelihood that they will feel warm or cold seems, well, kind of silly. If warmth were not a valid, though certainly not perfect, predictor of perceived warmth, then I doubt we'd have our weather forecasters giving us predicted high and low temperatures, yes?

Similarly, if decibels were not a valid, although again, certainly imperfect, measure of perceived loudness, then why for heaven's sake would we use these SPL meters to calibrate our surround sound home theater audio systems? Of course, there are many factors in perceived loudness, but it still remains fundamentally true that, independent of furniture, wall coverings, number of windows, etc etc, setting speaker levels using decibels as the measure is critical for correct presentation of said multi-channel audio. Lord knows if we just said "just tweak the speaker levels until they sound about equal in loudness" we'd get some pretty amusing configurations. Kind of like looking at the old fashioned "tone controls" in a teenager's car back in the day, which inevitably had the bass maxed out and the treble nowhere to be heard.

Anyway, I know it's a pain to work under my VAH, and it's an incredible pleasure to NOT hear the noise with my MA. And that's subjective, which I understand you to say is the most reliable measure of loudness. QED.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 8:06PM
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This post seems to have run a little off topic however the noise discussion is a very important factor whether consumers use the hood or not. One comment on the filter question and then i will share my experience of noise and the reasons it exists.

There is no question that baffles are far easier to clean and pose a significant deterant to fire spreading vs the VAH grease box that may be loaded with grease.

The critical factors in noise reduction in ventilation are:
- Proper ducting, length, number of bends and size - take a straw for example and try and suck up from the bottom of a freezie drink - a big straw handles it, if the straw is to small or has a bend or is very long its much harder
- Blower size and location relative to the size of the hood - its critcial not to oversize the blower relative to the hood capture area - pulling 1200 cfm for example through a 36' wide hood is extremely noisey due to the volume of air passing across the filters or through a VAH grease box.
Remote location of the blower only has value if the blower is at least 10' feet away and there is a 90 degree bend - located directly behind the hood has minimal benefit.

Here is a link that might be useful: Range Hood Technical Information

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 1:28PM
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Anyone care to offer an opinion on GE Monogram vent hoods? We have to finalize our appliance and cabinet selections in a few days and our builder has the GE as the default selection in their package. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 5:56AM
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