Invisible touch

17 Apr, 15

Philippa Turrell takes a look at extraction which is out of sight but not out of mind

While in volume terms the chimney or canopy hood may be the most popular choice of extraction, for consumers who aspire to grander open-plan schemes, discreet extraction has come into its own. Howard Bogod of DR Cooker Hoods, which supplies Elica, comments: “The trend towards clean limes and seamless units in kitchens has led to a growth in ‘hidden’ designs, where appliances reveal themselves only when their function is required.” And his view is re-iterated from the ‘shop floor’ by Gordon Bates of kitchen retail showroom In-toto Exeter who adds: “I would say we are doing around 70% discreet extraction.” So, accomplished designers and retailers targeting aspirational consumers will consider the options of ‘hidden’ extraction, which include downdraft, built-under and ceiling models.

Downdraft was focus

Until recently, downdraft was arguably the focus of the hidden extraction market, probably because of its eyecatching rise and fall action from the worktop, demanding attention at exhibitions and in-store. MD of Sub-Zero and Wolf, Craig Davies comments: “Downdraft is a great option where the cooktop is situated directly in front of a window, if you have a very high or vaulted ceiling, or you just want to avoid any overhead ventilation. It also disappears when it’s not in use, which is great in combined kitchen and living spaces.” And he suggests: “Make sure the downdraft itself is at least 350mm tall to effectively extract smoke and steam from tall pots and pans.”

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Yet, for all their gadgetry credentials, downdrafts are still a relatively small part of the extraction market. Product manager of built-in hot appliances at Electrolux UK & Ireland Robbie Prestedge provides some figures: “New downdraft (table/hob extractors) are still niche at 1,000 units, but have grown by 3%, with an average price of almost £1,300!”

The popularity of downdraft extraction has been somewhat restricted by planning requirements, as they require a sizeable kitchen island which may not always be achievable in a project. Joan Fraser, product development manager at Smeg UK, adds: “Downdraft models are a little more little more limited in terms of where they can be used, so this on its own inhibits use in some situations.”

Ceiling on rise

Instead, cooker hood experts point the way to ceiling extraction as the fastest-growing ‘hidden’ extraction. In fact sales and marketing manager for Westin, Ann Onions claims while downdraft sales have remained the same “Westin has seen sales in the premium market of ceiling units up by over 40% on last year.” And her view is echoed across the industry, as Chairman of AirUno Geoffrey Baker says for the premium end of the market “The most popular type of extraction is the ceiling hood” and that it is “still growing very fast”. And Danny Lay, sales director of Caple, also points to the popularity of ceiling hoods in his extractor sales, pointing out the fastest-growing model  “in the premium market is our CE901 ceiling hood.”

The ceiling hood has been favoured not only for the purity and simplicity of its design, blending into the environment, with stainless models now joined by painted options. But a significant factor in the choice of a ceiling model is that is aids sight lines across an open plan space. Unlike an island or focal hood, which is purposely designed to draw attention, the ceiling hood allows an uninterrupted view of a kitchen. For schemes which are designed as part of an overall ground floor aesthetic, the ceiling hood is coveted. And there have been advances in the development of the ceiling hood, which has reduced barriers to installation there are models which are no longer dependent on the positioning of the joists and some even operate in recirculation mode, so don’t even have to be ducted out.  Danny Lay of Caple comments: “Ceiling hoods which don’t need to be recessed, which is a real advantage for the fitter, are leading the way.”


Built-under boost

So far we’ve failed to mention the third and arguably, the least magazine-friendly models – built-under hoods. Although not as aesthetically pleasing as the downdraft and ceiling hoods, industry experts point to build under extraction as also gaining favour. Ann Onions of Westin says: “Sales of built-in over hob units [are] up by 30%”. But these aren’t to be confused with lower-priced built-in models, as Danny Lay explains: “Built-in are entry level products but the built-under hoods are premium products for Caple.” And he points out they can be used to complement an array of kitchen schemes and styles, as he adds: “We sell built-under to consumers who are creating bespoke, classic kitchen designs or very contemporary German kitchens where they are hidden so the only products on view are an oven and a hob.”

Don’t duct the issue

So, accomplished kitchen designers will embrace all three ‘hidden’ extraction options to meet the style needs and wants of their clients. But they must also pay equal attention to the choice of the ducting, as industry experts believe it is still a common specification error. Incorrect ducting not only reduces the power of the extractor but can also make it noisy to operate, acting as an irritant for the end-user.

Ann Onions of Westin says: “99% of our service calls relating to poor extraction performance are due to ducting issues. The major ones are duct size is too small; duct is convoluted or blocked, duct has too many bends [or], duct is too long.” And Gordon Bates of In-toto Exeter agrees, adding: “The most common problem with cooker hoods is not designing the ducting route and specifying the correct ducting.” And he offers fellow kitchen designers the advice: “150mm is now a normal requirement but not always used. Rigid round ducting pipe is more efficient than flexible pipe – [offering] less resistance, helping with efficiency and sometimes noise levels.”

Will or won’t wifi?

But of course in this age of cooking know-how, technological developments in extraction haven’t and won’t remain still. And here our extraction experts have a broad and often disparate view of what will be the future influences of hob design and sales. Already there has been the influence of automatic control with hob to hood connectivity, although there are mixed views of its significance. Robbie Prestedge of Electrolux UK & Ireland says hob to hood connectivity can “benefit the consumer as they do not have to worry about hood settings or speeds and can fully concentrate on their cooking without interruption”.  And national sales manager of Gorenje, Stuart Benson agrees that there is a market for connectivity, stating: “In regards to hob and hood connectivity, we expect this to become more and more popular with consumers, especially among early adopters, as manufacturers develop products with this functionality”

Whereas, Danny Lay of Caple slams connectivity as “a gimmick as it’s vital that extraction is switched before cooking and remains on 10 minutes after cooking has finished for optimum performance and this is something we always recommend to consumers. ” Whereas, Gordon Bates is perhaps a little more diplomatic, as he suggests: “Hob to hood connectivity, I am sure will be a future development, but I am not sure if it will revolutionise the cooker hoods.”

Longing for LED

Instead Bates believes it will be the choice of LED lighting which will become more important to hood design and sales, as he comments: “Future influences will be the introduction of LED lights which has been slow in coming. We have situations where cook or warm white LED lights are fitted to furniture and ceiling lights, only to have a halogen yellow light from the hood. I am sure options will be available to match the kitchen lights with the cooker hoods lights.” With the cooker hood now coming under the EU Energy Label, LED lighting make become key for manufacturers who wish to improve efficiency of their products.

All about energy-saving

The EU Label not only includes extraction rates and energy but also the sound level of operation and luminosity. This, Danny Lay says: “will mean more efficient and more expensive cooker hoods. Eventually, it will work its way through and cooker hoods will become less expensive again, but there will be a cost implication for the higher extraction rate.” But, these will enable consumers to make a more informed purchasing decision than on shape alone. In fact, Ann Onions suggests the future of extractor design could be part of holistic way to effectively ventilate the home, particularly for open-plan commenting: “Our research has shown the ceiling extractors are much more effective in terms of global rather than local extraction.” And she adds at Westing: “Future developments are focusing on passive and sealed houses, whole house ventilation systems and eco-friendly energy saving solutions.”

So be under no illusion, a cooker hood may be no longer just a cooker hood. And certainly with discreet extraction there is, and will be, more than meets the eye.

This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News