Range Hood vs. Microwave over Stove

Kitchen ventilation is key to a healthy home that’s free of stale cooking odors. As our kitchen counters have become filled with more and more cooking gadgets, espresso machines, hot pots and more, however, there’s been an effort to bundle ventilation in with the functions of an over-the-range microwave. But can an OTR microwave handle double duty as an exhaust hood, in the interest of saving counter space? It turns out that the purpose-built range hood performs much better. A good ducted range hood looks sleek and attractive, while venting odors, grease, hot, moist air and combustion debris safely outdoors. If you’re considering a range hood vs. an over-the-range microwave, we recommend a real range hood.

Problems with the OTR Microwave for Kitchen Ventilation

Over-the-range microwaves just can’t compare to the ducted range hood for kitchen ventilation, according to research from the well-respected Consumer Reports. None of the OTR microwaves they tested did the venting job well. Our experience, as experienced kitchen remodeling contractors, has also convinced us that a high quality range hood is your best option for stove ventilation.

Here are some of the most compelling problems we’ve encountered with OTR microwaves, doubling as kitchen exhaust hoods:

Micro awkwardness: The over-the-range configuration can be inconvenient. It seems that many homeowners (or their family members) are either too tall or short for the microwave to be used comfortably. Taller people risk hitting their forehead on the microwave whenever they use the stove. Shorter folks cannot easily reach and use the micro.

Potential for spills and burns: The high microwave location means that it’s easy to spill hot food on oneself when removing it from the microwave. In addition, stove burners could present a danger, if used at the same time. There may not be sufficient clearance for safe usage between the range and microwave. For example, clothing might touch the stove burners while you reach into the micro. There could also be the chance of a steam burn if you reach over a boiling pot to put something into (or remove it from) the top-mounted microwave.

Lack of ventilation: The microwave simply doesn’t vent as well as a quality range hood, which is made for that precise purpose. OTR microwave/vent combos filter the incoming air, rather than venting it outdoors. The filtered air is then re-circulated (along with the somewhat-filtered cooking odors, kitchen grease and potentially unhealthy combustion byproducts) back into the room. The humid, moist conditions near your stove will remain, since the filter is not effective at dissipating moisture in the air.

Noise: The double-duty microwave/ventilation system requires greater fan strength, so OTR microwaves (and ductless vent hood filters) are generally louder than ducted range hoods.

Unattractive appearance: OTR microwaves don’t look so great when placed over the stove. Maybe they’re not truly ugly, but in comparison to a range hood, which you can match to your stove and kitchen décor, the microwave loses the beauty and style contest.

Ductless Vent Hoods: Not Ideal, but an Effective Compromise

Ductless vent hoods, while not the best option, are still superior to OTR microwaves for venting kitchen fumes. Ductless vent hood filtration systems are generally more effective than the OTR microwaves, since the hoods are designed specifically to filter kitchen contaminants out of the air. Ductless hoods offer homeowners flexible installation options, because they don’t need to be installed near an air duct to the outdoors. If your kitchen stove is not near a duct you may prefer (or need) the ductless vent hood version. However, ductless exhaust hoods do require that the charcoal filter be changed regularly.

WV Experts in Kitchen Design and Construction 

Although the top-mounted OTR microwave could be a bit easier on your short term budget and a space saver, in the long run it pays to choose a range hood. Range hoods are available at a number of price points, so cost need not be a deciding factor in favor of the OTR microwave. As a bonus, think of the decor possibilities that range hoods can offer. They come in such a wide range of sizes, designs and colors, you can add style and elegance to your kitchen with the right range hood. If you’re considering a kitchen remodel, to include a stunning and high-performance range hood, Miller’s Residential Creations can help you make the right choice. Contact us to learn more about your options.

Brian Miller is the owner of Miller's Residential Creations, a custom home builder and remodeling company servicing Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan Counties of West Virginia since 2004.
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