Replacing Jenn-Air downdraft range on interior wall

needinfo1November 14, 2012

I have a range dilemma. We have an almost twenty year old 30" Jenn-Air downdraft, convection oven in dual fuel. It still works well but is definitely showing its age cosmetically, and since I want to get new soapstone countertops I've decided I should replace the range before getting counters installed. As soon as I started looking for a replacement, I discovered that Jenn-Air is now the only game in town for downdraft. And, if I want the grill feature that we have now (and actually use on a fairly regular basis in the winter months), there is only one Jenn-Air model I can choose.

Actually, I have no complaints about this range, and we haven't had any repairs done at all in all of these years. I've lived with the flaws of this range for this long and am certain in many ways a newer model of theirs would be an improvement. But, I am a bit leery of Jenn-Air after reading all of the bad things about the problems with their circuit board in the more recent models. So, now I am expanding my search for other options. This is where the problem comes in.

My range is on an interior wall, and the downdraft was the venting we were using. If I go with a non-downdraft, we have to hassle going up into the ceiling (at least the joists run in the correct direction) and then make a 90 degree turn to run venting about 8 feet to get to the outside wall. This is not easy and it is not cheap. Or, I could get a new non-downdraft range and just forget the idea of having any venting. Or, I have read something about Dacor possibly having a downdraft that will install behind one of their ranges but don't know if I want a Dacor model range. Does anyone know if this works with ranges other than the Dacor?

I've been reading a lot here and other places and do have a concern and am thinking about eliminating as much computerized circuitry as possible since this seems to be the source of so many problems with ranges. We've looked at the Wolf (nice but don't know if we want to spend the money), the new Viking D3 which would be a possible reliability gamble and the Bertazonni. We also looked at the Kitchen Aid and GE Cafe but pretty much decided if we were going to go with one of those we should just stick with the Jenn-Air because they seemed pretty comparable as far as features and quality, and with those we'd have to hassle the venting which we wouldn't have to do with the Jenn-Air. The salesman also told us he has never had any dissatisfied customers come back with complaints about the Jenn-Air.

Has anyone faced a similar situation and made a decision about this? Or, does anyone have any opinions about what we should do? I guess I should add in here that we live in a fairly upscale neighborhood of 75 to 100 year old houses but are not planning to sell any time soon, so I am not concerned about re-sale or about having a cookie-cutter type remodeled in the 2010s look kitchen. In fact, my kitchen is pretty timeless and with the addition of a new range and countertops will be in definitely updated so it won't look outdated.

I do cook quite a bit and know I am a better cook than many (most) people, but I am not a fanatic or a foodie. And, I know that, for the most part, it is not the stove that makes the difference; it is the cook. I want something that functions well but don't feel I need to buy a name to try to impress others with the biggie brand names.

Thoughts? Thanks?

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We replaced a ~35 year old electric JennAir cooktop, with grill and downdraft, putting in an E'lux induction range a couple of years ago. This required switching from downdraft to a normal hood venting through the ceiling and out the side wall, much as you describe.

I liked that JennAir grill, too. But overall I like the induction range better, and the new hood probably works better than the old downdraft. So while I sometimes miss the JennAir grill, more often I'm happier with the induction range. A LeCreuset grill pan sort of replaces the old grill.

The main problem with separate downdraft units such as the Dacor is that they are placed too far away from the hobs, so smoke (etc.) is not pulled as efficiently into the venting. JennAir overcame this because their downdraft vent was integrated within the cooktop, so it was close enough to actually work OK.

It sounds like your less expensive option is to get a new JennAir and keep downdrafting. Realistically, switching to another brand probably means putting in a vertical hood. Its not easy to avoid electronic control boards, but if that's important you may want to stay with gas (or dual fuel).

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 2:12PM
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You pretty well laid out all your options - another JennAir, a Dacor, put in an overhead hood or go without ventilation. A friend of mine was in a similar situation - her JennAir was in an island. In the end, she ended up going with another JennAir. Her new JennAir is much better than her old one - the burners actually get hot enough to stir fry. Yes, even though she got an all gas range, it does have more electronics than the old one, but most ranges do these days.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 2:33PM
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So, two different sets of experiences. Thanks for your insights.

So, the grill pan kind of replaces the grill feature in a way. Actually, I've thought about induction too but there really aren't a lot of ranges out there with induction; most things are cooktops. I didn't realize the separate downdraft wouldn't be as efficient.

We know our easiest, no-hassle option would just be another Jenn-Air so were hoping to get some other insights from people. More thinking to do on our part!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 7:17PM
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Now we are looking at the Dacor telescoping option behind a range. We are trying to find out if we could use some other brand range rather than just the Dacor range option that their 15" telescoping model says it pairs with.

Anyone have any recent experience with this set up?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 1:35PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Downdraft of any variety is a pitiful vent. And Dacor refuses to certify that their vent will work with any other range. (It won't even really work well with the Dacor, but they do cover their butt and say it will fit, not "work" with their range.)

Bite the bullet and do the overhead vent. It's not really that expensive to do and it's the best option. It's also the best option for future versatility. If your range is 20 years old, I'd bet the surrounding kitchen also is at least 20 years old and in need of some updating beyond just the appliances and soapstone. In fact, I'd double analyze whether it were actually worth putting soapstone on top of your current cabinets and layout. If the problematic Jennair is symptomatic of the rest of the kitchen, you really need to look at the whole thing with a pair of fresh critical eyes rather than eyes dulled by the familiarity of acceptance of it's shortcomings.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 1:53PM
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Thanks for the feedback, and right now we are slowly starting to come to the realization that we may just need to do the overhead vent.

And, I've already done what you suggested as far as taking a look at my kitchen when I am not "house blind" (I am well aware of the syndrome). Last time we did our kitchen we were wise and did not go for trendy. Rather, we opted to have replicas made of the original birch cabinets that were so prevalent in the 1920s kitchens. And, in keeping with the era we did white subway tile backsplashes. After touring lots of kitchens this past year at local remodelers showcases, it reinforced my thinking that a new range (we've replaced all of our other appliances except the wall oven in the past few years), new soapstone countertops, a new sink, and a sanding of the maple floors and we'll be right in tune with what many people in our area are doing in their remodels of their period homes. Well built custom cabinets that aren't trendy can last a lifetime, so we are lucky there that is what we went with in our original addition and remodel.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:47PM
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Could you put in a cooktop, with oven below and install another downdraft? We could not do a complete overhaul of our kitchen, may seem odd to some folks here, but some folks just can't afford it. We just did an update of our 1984 kitchen. Painted the cabinets, installed granite on cabinets with 'awful arches' per those here, installed wood floors. In our kitchen, we have soffits and egads! popcorn ceilings! To install a hood would have been a major rehaul of kitchen, cabinets, ceiling that extends into other area of our main floor plus all the rewiring.

We had a Jenn-Air coil cooktop with downdraft and replaced it with a Bosch induction cooktop and Bosch downdraft. It was so simple, I did the install!

If the next owners don't like it and they have never ending pockets, they can do anything they like with it. For us, it works.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:55PM
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Well, actually, last January, I literally stumbled across a display of downdraft venting at the local Sears store, of all places. I recall names like Faber, Broan, Kitchenaid, Whirlpool, and JennAir (the last three all being the same company now). I also recall seeing some elsewhere from Miele, Bosch, Electrolux, Frigidaire, GE Profile and something called Sirocco. A few years back. some friends of mine bought a Gaggenau for use with their Gag coktop in an island So, there are a lot of downdrafts out there. They seem to be taller and work better than the old JennAir ones that were part of the stove, if that is what you have.

Beyond that, I have to ask where does the venting for the current JennAir downdraft go? What kind of ducting is it and how thick is that interior wall? Could you run 3" x 10" ducting down through a stud bay to the floor to connect the existing ducting? What would the noise be a problem for the adjoing room on the other side of the wall? I ask because my initial thought would be to see if I could find a way to re-use it with a "proper" range hood, say, a Kobe 700 CFM hood, This would not less than ideal, of course, but it could be far better venting that what you get now from the existing set-up. The small amount of drywalling would be less expensive and less complicated than punching through ceilings and roof.

Going up would give stronger functioning, of course. It would be preferable if you've got the budget and time, and can put up with the disruption. But we work with the kitchens we have and within our patience, too. So, consider the alternative.

As for a stove-top replacement for the built-in grills, you might want to look at something like the ChefKing griddle which can straddle a couple of burners if you are thinking about an induction range (GE and Samsung stoves permit this) or a gas or dual fuel pro-style stove. Put in on the stove when you want it, stash it when you don't.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 7:50PM
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Because the air velocity at a distance from a duct aperture rapidly drops with distance, particularly from the narrow ducting of a downdraft system, while the rising effluent from cooking has a velocity around 3 ft/s, capture of cooking effluent will be low to slight, particularly from front burners. I shudder to think what a grill or griddle would do. Most effluent will rise to the ceiling. If a proper hood system cannot be installed, for whatever reason, then a ceiling vent to outside would be more effective in eventually clearing the air than a down-draft system, unless perhaps the down-draft system is so high powered that it sounds like a tortured banshee is trapped in the duct.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:09AM
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Once again, thanks for all of the help. Our house is a nearly 100 year old 2 1/2 story with a brick facing on the lower 4 or 5 feet and stucco above that. So. obviously any punching out of exterior walls is not minor, and it is a long run up to the roof. So, if we end up needing to go with an overhead venting system we'd need to think about going in the ceiling joists between the 1st and 2nd floors and then making right turn to exit out the side wall at that level.

The kitchen wall backs up to a small powder room, and the current downdraft venting goes down to our basement ceiling and makes a right turn there where it is set up to vent through a window. Hooking up with this current system would be easiest.

Actually, someone on some other thread about venting mentions the old-fashioned kitchen wall vents where the fan ventilation just goes directly outside. We actually tossed this around for a little while because adjacent to the range area we have a ceiling-high set of cupboards with a small door on top and a regular door on the bottom. I kind of half jokingly said that perhaps we should just put one of those old-fashioned fans in that space, and open the cupboard door when we want the ventilation.

I guess the other thing I should probably mention is that we live in Minneapolis so need to be able to cope with a very great range of outside temperatures.

And, of course, I need to throw in that I am getting more attracted to the idea of a 30" Bluestar or Viking basic open burner range.

I contemplated the idea of getting a new cabinet made (it is possible since our cabinets are all custom anyway) to go with the cooktop and oven idea, but the units we've seen require a lot of space beneath the cooktop in order to accomodate the blower unit. I don't know if that would leave space for an oven under this, and frankly, with my more period-inspired kitchen, a range would be a better look.

Thanks again, and any other ideas are greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 12:15PM
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"but the units we've seen require a lot of space beneath the cooktop in order to accomodate the blower unit"

If you're referring to the blower motor you can install a remote unit outside the house. We have a Dacor cooktop with a pop up vent and the remote blower motor is mounted outside the house.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 4:04PM
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