Measured Performance of Over the Range Microwave Range Hoods

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The California residential building code requires kitchen exhaust ventilation to protect indoor air quality. The requirement can be met with a kitchen exhaust fan or a range hood that conforms to airflow and sound specifications based on certified, standard test results. Appliances that integrate an exhaust fan with an over the range microwave (OTRs) are popular for their space saving utility; but for years there were none with the certified performance data required for building code compliance. This project, initiated during that period, aimed to evaluate OTR models found in new California homes and compare their performance to range hoods that minimally met code requirements. The study aimed to expand on limited information available about OTR performance with a particular focus on measuring the fraction of cooktop-generated air pollutants that are captured and removed by the exhaust devices, a parameter called “capture efficiency”. Airflow and capture efficiency (CE) were measured in a simulated kitchen in Berkeley Lab’s FLEXLAB facility. Airflows were measured using several variations of a balanced-pressure flow method (Walker et al. 2001) including a protocol that had been used in the California Healthy Efficient New Gas Homes (HENGH) field study. Measurements were made for six OTRs observed in the field study, including three with certified test results (published after the start of this project) for airflow and sound. Measurements were also made on two standard range hoods with comparable airflows and costs to the OTRs, when accounting for the microwave functionality. CE was measured using the CO2 emitted from burners while heating pots of water (POW) as a tracer and calculating the ratio of added CO2 in the exhaust flow over the total CO2 generated from burning fuel. Results show that OTRs generally met the California code requirements for airflow, which are the same as those of the residential ventilation standard of ASHRAE. It was determined that the field protocol used in HENGH study homes was biased low by ~14% on average. The CE performance of OTRs tested in this study were consistent with those tested under controlled conditions in prior studies, showing CE increasing with airflow and being higher for emissions occurring at the back cooktop burner(s) compared with front burner emissions. The measured CE covered a range of 40% to 85% for the front burners and 60% to 100% for the back burners. The relationship of CE to airflow for OTRs was within the range of those found for standard range hoods in this study and prior studies, with the key caveat that OTRs appear to have more consistent CE performance for emissions on the front burner.

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