When designing your kitchen it is very easy to get all caught up in the aesthetics of the appliances and counter tops, don't worry we get it, designing your dream kitchen is a very exciting task. However, it is important that within all this excitement, you don't lose sight of the practicality of the kitchen. When designing a kitchen one of the key aspects to keep in mind is the ventilation. If you don't have some form of ventilation over your range then you'll find yourself having to cook in a very warm and not-so-clean kitchen.
Another thing you may not want to consider, but do need to consider when planning a kitchen is that you will not have unlimited space. This means that there may be some compromises that need to be made to ensure that you have space for everything you want in your kitchen.
This is where the debate between the over-the-range microwave and the range hood comes in. This is because it's really a debate between having slightly better and more convenient ventilation and saving space. However, before we start to compare the two, we will briefly explain what the two options are.
An over-the-range microwave, what's that?
An over-the-range microwave is basically what it says it is. It is a microwave that is fitted over your range. The benefit of this is that by putting the microwave there it means that the space in the rest of the kitchen where the microwave would have been placed is now saved and can be used for something else.
Where an over-the-range microwave differs from an on-the-counter microwave is that at its base it will have a form of ventilation fitted. This ventilation works to keep your kitchen cool and it also removes contaminants produced when cooking from the air so that the kitchen is kept a clean space. The ventilation on the bottom of the microwave is replacing the range hood that would have been there if the microwave was not there.
So, what is a range hood?
A range hood is a much more common feature in the kitchen than an over-the-range microwave. Unlike the over-the-range microwave, the range hood's only purpose is ventilation. Because it is more specialized than its counterpart it does do a better job at ventilating the kitchen.
You will most likely have seen one before, however, if you haven't they are canopy that sits above your range. They contain a mechanical fan inside the canopy that sits behind a filter. The filter, just like the ventilation system in the over-the-range microwaves removes the majority of the nasty stuff in the air that is produced when cooking, this includes grease and other dirty particles in the smoke. The fan works to trap the contaminants and keep them out of the air.
How do the two compare?
An over-the-range microwave is an appliance that you would choose for your kitchen if you were short on space but still felt that you needed a microwave. This is because it does two jobs whilst only taking the space of one appliance. By sacrificing the range hood you can put an over-the-range microwave in its place that will still provide ventilation but will also serve as a microwave.
That being said, there are drawbacks to the over-the-range microwave. It will not do as good a job at cleaning your kitchen's air as a range hood would, basically the filter is much less efficient and the fans do not run as quickly. In addition to this, depending on how high up it is placed it can either reduce the space you have for cooking on the range, or it can be inconveniently high meaning it is harder to see whatever is cooking in the microwave and more of a hassle putting food in there and taking them out.
In terms of the less efficient filters on the over-the-range microwaves, it is possible to have them run at a similar level to a range hood. However, this will involve frequent cleaning and replacing of the filters. I don't think you need us to tell you this but cleaning a filter full of grease and other nasty stuff is not a very enjoyable task, especially if you have to do it regularly!
How high should an over-the-range microwave/range hood be?
The ideal height for both appliances is 28-36 inches, however this does not mean that you cannot stray from this range. For example, if you or some of the mebembers of your family are on the shorter side then it may be worth placing the over-the-range microwave slightly lower so that they can safely take food out of the microwave. You don't want to have a microwave that is constantly putting you at risk of spilling hot food over yourself!
How else can I save space in my kitchen?
If you have decided that you would rather have a range hood than sacrifice some of the filtration and ventilation in your kitchen but still need to free up some space for the microwave, don't worry! Below we will suggest a few ways you could potentially position your microwave so that you won't have to compromise on anything else in your kitchen.
Above a wall oven
If you have, or are planning on having an oven built into the wall then a great place to put your microwave is directly above it. This is a really nice option as it is nice to have the cooking appliances grouped together in one place both for convenience and for the aesthetic of the kitchen as well.
If you are planning on doing this just remember that you will need to make sure that there is an outlet in the section of wall behind where you are planning on putting the microwave. The last thing you want to have a section of wall left for the microwave to go into and they have nothing to plug it into!
On a lower shelf
This is a little unorthodox however hear us out... If you have a spare bit of shelf space, or even a couple of cabinets you wouldn't mind having removed then putting your microwave lower down is not such a bad idea. Not only does it look really neat it is also super accessible. Picking up hot food from lower down rather than from above your head is much safer.
On an upper shelf
The opposite of the last suggestion and maybe a slightly more orthodox idea, but it is orthodox for a reason. As long as you are ok with reaching an taking food down from up high then putting your microwave on an upper shelf is a really good idea.
Microwaves can often contrast with the rest of the aesthetic of a kitchen, especially if you bought it separately to the rest of the kitchen. If this is the case, then putting it up high out of eye line is a good way to sort of hide it until you want to use it.
In a draw
Another unorthodox shout from us here again but don't skip through this suggestion just yet. Just like the last idea, if you have a microwave that you think doesn't quite fit the aesthetic that you were going for with the rest of the kitchen then putting a microwave in some free draw space really isn't the worst idea when you think about it.
In a cabinet
This is very similar to the last suggestion. Hiding a microwave you don't really want people to see is a really good way to both safe space in the counter tops and maintain the aesthetic of the room. Just one thing to consider if you are thinking about either putting the microwave in a draw or cabinet, make sure that the wires needed for this are installed properly and safely by a professional.
Hopefully this article has made the differences between over-the-range microwaves and range hoods a little bit clearer to you. We have gone into detail explaining the pros and cons of each of them. However, if we were to summarise it all then if you have the space then your best option to get a range hood and then put a microwave somewhere else, simply because the range hood does a much more efficient job at providing ventilation and cleaning the air. However, if you are a little bit short for space and feel you need a microwave in the kitchen then the over-the-range microwave is a really good alternative.
Should I replace my range hood with an over-the-range microwave?
If you already have a range hood then we really would not recommend replacing it with an over-the-range microwave unless you really desperately want a microwave in your kitchen and don't have the space. This is because the over-the-range microwave is a significant step down in terms of filtration and ventilation.
Is an over-the-range microwave enough for a gas stove?
Yes! Ove-the-range microwaves do provide enough ventilation and filtration to operate above a gas stove, so don't worry it won't leave you breathing in poisonous air! It is true that a range hood would be a better option however if you need the space you should not be opposed to an over-the-range microwave.