How do you like your Jenn-Air downdraft range or cooktop?

k9fanOctober 15, 2011

Our new kitchen is going to have either a gas range or a gas cooktop in the island, and we went appliance shopping today. We thought we would have lots of choices, but since we don't want a hood over the island (we don't like the look), we had a lot less than we expected.

We learned that we either need to buy a range or cooktop with a built-in downdraft, or buy the range or cooktop and a separate downdraft unit which will take up some space both behind and under it. If the latter, the drafting unit has a panel that has to be raised and lowered every time you cook. We didn't like the look of the unit the salesman showed us, so assuming that was typical, we will have to buy something with the downdraft built in. It seems that Jenn-Air is almost our only option.

If you have a Jenn-Air downdraft range or cooktop, can you comment on its effectiveness, any noise issues, and any other issues we might not have thought of? I am leaning towards getting the range, and my husband is leaning towards getting the cooktop and putting a separate oven in the wall, away from the island.

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They are next to useless.

It is just plain physics.

See thread below.

You can also google more threads.

Here is a link that might be useful: Jenn Air Down Draft Cooktops

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 4:54AM
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A client of mine has the range, and the downdraft does not really work. The electronics for the oven have failed twice (at $400 a pop for repairs) and one of the oven door hinges has failed. In about 7 years of ownership it has been on the fritz half that time. He is looking for something else.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 7:31AM
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We have a 12 year old JennAir downdraft gas cooktop,and have had no problems with it as a whole. HOWEVER, I NEVER use the downdraft fan because all it really does is pull the flame and heat away from what I am cooking. We are starting our remodel next week and are limited also because I really really like my cooktop in an island...we chose to go with a "regular" gas cooktop and the pop up downdraft system. I've heard that one of the issues with that system is that your pop up fan thing can tend to get dirty from food splattering on it.
PS- I think that my JennAir was made before that company was taken over by Whirlpool (?)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 7:49AM
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I have had a Jenn-Air cooktop (electric) for over 30 years and am currently on my second unit.

On the plus side, they do not have a hood, they look elegant - the current glasstop is easy to clean, and they fit nicely into a stock counter width.

But, they have serious drawbacks. My three biggest complaints are:
1) the downdraft is not very effective for serious jobs (like wok stir frying or frying fish) ... a far more powerful venting is really required for these situations
2) the unit like most other consumer units does not produce enough BTUs for serious cooking again citing wok stir frying as an example
3) the actual burners are two small for my needs ... someone said a 10 inch pot was standard but I have 3 14 inch woks, a 14 inch and 12 inch frying pan as well as a 12 inch stock pot for soups ... since the cooktops are narrower than most ranges it means only two diagonal elements are truly useful at a time.

I am in the process of planning a winter remodelling ... that Jenn-Air will go and be replaced by a 36 inch gas fired BlueStar.

I dont think you will be happy with the Jenn-Air and can only suggest that you put aside your dislike of a hood in favour of the practicality.

Regards ... Doug

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 7:50AM
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It is one of the most useless things I've ever owned. It came with the house we bought. I put up with it for 10 years and got rid of it during our remodel. The only thing it would exhaust was steam. Forget about frying an egg. In the winter, it drafted in cold air and I had to block it with a towel.

My advice it get over your hang ups about hoods. At least they work.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 9:49AM
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Sorry if I came across the wrong way. If you'd be willing to consider a hood, they have stylish ones that are very unobtrusive for use over an island. If you just had to have down draft and don't like the rising wall kind, then you could also try Gaggenau. They used to have one that rises up and can be positioned over a pot or grill. But I don't see that on their website anymore. Take a look for yourself and see if any of their options work. Maybe it was Miele, but I'm pretty sure it was Gaggenau.

Oh, nevermind, it's discontinued.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gaggenau

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 11:30AM
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Sophie Wheeler

When someone has a successful idea, companies rush to make knockoffs to sell. The fact that JennAire is pretty much alone in the downdraft world should tell you a whole lot. Downdrafts are basically worthless with gas appliances. If the blowers are strong enough to work against the laws of nature to suck the naturally rising steam and smoke downwards, then they have enough power to pull on the flames of a gas cooktop. JennAire is also notoriously repair prone, and once they have you locked into their configuration, they've got ya! You'd rather do a $600 repair every couple of years than rip it all out and start over.

The only good way to do an island cooking station is with an over head hood and plenty of room around it in all directions. If you can't accomplish that with your layout, then perhaps it's time to look at another layout without an island cook station. It's a lot more expensive choice to do an island cooking zone correctly than to have your same choices be on a wall. And only 10% of you kitchen work time is actually spent cooking. Unless you have a giant island with a prep sink on it also, you're going to spend most of your time with your back to your family and guests rather than interacting with them. Think about reworking your layout to be able to have your prep station be on your island. You spend about 70% of your time in your kitchen prepping, and 20% cleaning, so think about the workflow in your space planning.

Post your layout here to get other options to having an island cooking station. Or choose an overhead hood.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 12:15PM
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Wife hates the island cooktop idea. She had one & she says the workflow is awful. I just rebuilt the kitchen to move the cooking area from the island to the wall where the sink is. Is a whole lot happier now. Course I chucked the cooktop & put in a professional style range. We had a JennAire at first - large pos. The others are right - does not work, there has to be a way to get an overhead vent hood in. We have a 2nd floor & there was enough space between levels to get a 10" vent pipe in.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 1:19PM
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Dacor supposedly has a better downdraft than JennAir, but when we rented two summers ago our rental unit had a Dacor gas range w/downdraft - and it did NOT work, plus, it was LOUD! And, as others pointed out, it redirected the frame away from the pots & pans!

The only time a downdraft will work adequately is if...

(1) The downdraft is a telescoping downdraft (i.e., raises a foot or more above the cooking surface - keep in mind that for gas, the cooking surface is where the pan rests - on the grates, not the top of the range/cooktop itself)

(2) The pot or pan is several inches shorter than the top of the vent part of the downdraft

(3) The pot or pan is right up next to the downdraft

(4) The food is not producing a lot of steam, grease, smoke, etc.

Again, as has been mentioned before, you're working against physics for the most part...steam, smoke, etc. rise, not fall. Downdrafts do not grab things from the top, they grab from the side or unless you meet items #2 & 3 above, you're fighting a losing battle.

To make matters worse, an open installation (i.e., island or peninsula) is exposed to more and stronger air currents than installing against a wall. The best installation is: Cooktop/range against the wall
A hood 6" wider than the cooktop/range (e.g., 36" hood over a 30" cooktop/range)
A hood at least 24" deep
Upper cabinets next to the hood on both sides [With a strong hood, this isn't as necessary b/c everything is captured quickly]

Note that a need for a hood is not dependent on the type of fuel you use (gas/induction/regular electric); rather, it's dependent on how/what you cook. High-heat, frying (wok or other), high-steam, smoke (e.g., frying, browning, grilling), high-grease (frying, browning), and high-odor will all necessitate a higher-cfm (power) and larger hood.

BTW...The reason for the "wider than cooktop/range" recommendation is that smoke, steam, etc. expand/spread out as they rise, so any hood you get (or downdraft) needs to be able to capture a wider area than the cooking surface itself.

There are many different options out there for island hoods - I recommend you seriously look into them. If you install it 6" or so higher than recommended to reduce it's obstruction, then oversize it even more. At least 27" deep, even stronger cfms, and, possibly, 9" or more wider than the cooking surface.

Some things to think about:

  1. If the reason you're installing your range/cooktop on the island is b/c you want to "visit" while cooking, then keep in mind the following statistics from kitchen work studies:
  • 70% of the time spent and work done in the kitchen is spent prepping (some studies say 75%)

  • 20% is spent cleaning up

  • 10% is spent cooking - by far the least amount of time of all tasks!

Granted, in a very low %-age of cases someone might not meet the exact #s above, but in the vast majority of cases, the above numbers hold. Even if someone spends 25%...

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 2:37PM
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All good information above. I had a JennAir and the downdraft wasn't effective, same island spot I had a Thermador with a telescope and it was much better. In this kit I had the option to put my range on an outside wall with a hood and it is even better. That said I miss the island cooking and facing the activity.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 2:57PM
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Wow, buehl especially has really laid it all out. There should be a sticky pointer to that. Thank you so much.

Even before reading her/his response, we had pretty much been convinced against the Jenn-Air range by the universal chorus of No's :-/ so thanks to everyone for their input. Looks are important to us, but function is most important.

We just traipsed over to our house -- we have the advantage of temporarily being in a rental just across the street -- and it looks like it's change order time. We will put the range on one of the walls instead of on the island. (We wish our architect had explained to us the implications of having a cooking surface on the island the way buehl did). Our next decision is, with the range out of the island, should we drop the island altogether and just put a kitchen table in the middle of the room.

I would love to post a schematic of our kitchen layout, but so far I have not been successful in adding a jpeg to my postings. When I tried it in the test forum, it said "spam alert" (!)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 4:30PM
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Fori is not pleased

I have a 10-15 yearish old JA electric range that came with my house. I don't use the downdraft because it's not vented (ew). My mother had one and it worked pretty well and she used the interchangeable grill thingy and burned stuff often. There may be some luck involved.

The convection oven on my JA range, however, is pretty dang great.

I'd suggest a cooktop with a popup downdraft behind it and a separate wall oven, either under it or somewhere else. (First I'd suggest rethinking the kitchen for a proper vent.)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 4:43PM
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There was a Jenn-Air downdraft stove in my original kitchen and so when I went to remodel I read all the reviews about downdraft technology and found that I hadn't improved in the 20 years since the previous owners had installed one. Unfortunately, I didn't have the budget to add a hood or reconfigure the kitchen to move the stove, so here I am with another Jenn-Air downdraft. I agree with the previous posters: it's not a heavy-duty fan and won't do much other than suck about half of the steam/smoke out of the house. Mine leaks in winter as well and I have to keep it covered with a kitchen towel. The only thing I like is that it blends in well with the counter.

I don't find the cooktop all that easy to clean, either.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 5:07PM
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I'm glad I asked :-) I do a lot of sauteeing and light frying. It would have been too bad to get a stove that couldn't vent odors.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 5:14PM
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"We wish our architect had explained to us the implications of having a cooking surface on the island the way buehl did."

Buehl has been incredibly helpful to a lot of us!

It sounds like you have made a wise decision but in case this post gets referred back to in future, one more reason to get a hood that functions well: As all that steam and food particles rises, where does it go? Well, I had a poor, nearly non-functioning hood before my remodel and I can tell you. It settles on your upper walls, the ceiling, any pottery you have on display. This is more than dust. It is gunk. You can't dust it off, you have to scrub it off.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 5:25PM
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SusanCF and everyone else: my primary reason for ever coming here was precisely this question. The chorus of complaints caused me to change our whole, basically, house in part at least, design -- I removed a window in order to carve out space for a hood. I was so unconvinced of its utility or need.... but I want to say that while the advice I took here was blind, I am happy to have taken it. And I am deeply grateful for the heartfelt outcry. I appreciate having been stopped and all that sharp warning to you is valuable: does get your attention, doesn't it?

So -- the consensus here is definitely to nix the island range if possible, if not then definitely live with an unsightly hood smack dab in the middle of your room; the downdraft just won't cut it. I think there is one person with the Jenn-Air who wanly supports it, but their experience is a little limp.

Good luck with re-working things. And to all the rest of you: Thank You.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 6:00PM
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The biggest thing to gain from an island prep area vs a table is all the storage area in the island. We don't use out microwave a lot, so we put in the end of the island with a cookbook size books shelf below it.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 9:16PM
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"...but so far I have not been successful in adding a jpeg to my postings. When I tried it in the test forum..."

Have you had a chance to read the "Posting Pictures" topic in the "Reade Me" thread? It gives step-by-step help for several photohosting sites as well as general web locations (i.e., a direct URL instead of HTML code), and PDFs.

Where do you store your pictures online? Maybe I can help....

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 11:28PM
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buehl, thank you for offering to help me post the pic. Your message gave me a clue (I hadn't put it onto a hosting website). Here is a schematic of my kitchen, in case anyone would like to make a comment on it. Since we started planning, we've moved the range (from the island to the wall), moved the dishwasher (from the left to the right of the sink), and reduced the island from 60" to 54" and from 36" in height to 34".

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 7:16PM
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Sophie Wheeler

You'd be better served by choosing a 36" lazy susan corner cabinet instead of the blind corner cabinet. You can store most of your pots and pans in that and still be able to get to them without a flashlight and spelunking helmet that the blind base will need. That will leave you 18" to the left of the sink for a pull out trash. It will also leave you room for a tray base next to the range. The MW would be more functional closer to the fridge. Put it in an upper cabinet next to the fridge or maybe in a base cabinet in the island across from the fridge. The island needs to have 15" overhang for comfortable seating, not 12" unless you want people sitting sideways.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 7:47PM
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Hi hollysprings,

Thanks for your suggestions! For some reason neither of us is crazy about the lazy susan concept. Maybe it's the name :-) We think that we'll get around the corner cabinet problem by having a second access door from the dining room.

I know that microwaves are commonly placed in upper cabinets, but what with moving hot dishes in and out, we feel more comfortable having it at counter height. Closer to the fridge is a thought, though.

I just saw in another thread the recommendation to have more than a 12" overhang for the island. Since it's only 36 inches across, that would mean maybe 21" deep cabinets. Another thing to look into. (Personally, I don't like sitting on stools anyway, but then I will mostly be the cook so I won't be the one sitting.)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 9:21PM
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