What's the issue with OTR microwaves?

jennifer2413July 11, 2012

In reading back, it seems everyone prefaces their posts with "I know they're frowned upon..." but I can't find the original reason nobody likes them.

Can anyone enlighten me? (I just ordered one!)

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An OTR microwave is a real spacesaver. I have one now.

But I am getting rid of it in the remodel.

The reason that people (including me) don't like OTR microwaves is that the vents included in them are basically worthless. Also, if you are short (like me), then taking a hot bowl of liquid out of the microwave is a nerve-wracking experience.

If you are reasonably tall and you don't do the type of cooking that requires good venting, you will probably be ok.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Most "combo" appliances work less well than the separate appliances that they are attempting to replace. For an OTR, they suck because they don't suck. Even the most ambitiously rated ones, such as the LG and Samsung models, are only rated at 400 CFM. The problem is that rating is under the most optimal of conditions, such as an adequate duct size straight out of the house with no bends. Anything less, and especially with one that "recirculates", and performance drops dramatically. Add in the fact that they don't really adequately cover the front burners, or in a remodel situation, are actually too close to the burners to allow pots to be stirred, and a vent hood will win every single time on functionality for venting.

They're also loud. When comparing a similar CFM sized standalone vent hood, all OTRs will be significantly louder. That's a big deal in today's open concept homes. There is already enough sound transmission throughout the space without adding more noise.

They are unsafe for operation for children and older people and interfere with the cook's work. Getting a bowl of soup out is only for strong adults, and you still have the chance of burning yourself from the pot below or from the slosh of the soup or the jostling of the person standing there trying to stir the pot below. If you have kids, I hope you have a separate countertop one for them to use safely by themselves.

In a very small kitchen, they are a necessary evil in order to save space, but they are never anyone's first choice for either a vent or a microwave.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 12:26PM
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I will now commence freaking that I should have gotten a hood. ACK.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 1:01PM
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Depending on your family needs, I wouldn't freak too badly if I were you. We had one at our previous house and it worked just fine for the sort of cooking we do. It definitely worked better than the vent hood that was in place in our current house when we bought it. I am also on the shorter side at 5'4" and never experienced any problems removing soup, tea, or any other hot liquid, and I wouldn't consider myself to be exceptionally strong. There are only two of us so we never had any problems with people fighting for space in front of the stove either.

The vast majority of new homes around here still seem to have OTR microwaves so I guess most people manage with them okay but, then, most people don't take their cooking as seriously as the folk on this forum ;-) Obviously, they are not an ideal choice for anyone doing a lot of wok cooking etc.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 7:25PM
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Thanks, akrogirl! Now to address the INSANELY bad reviews the one I chose got on Amazon...I don't get it. The reviews are fine everywhere but there.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 8:10PM
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Jennifer, I had an OTR MW in my renovated kitchen, and switched it out for a hood within one month of installing it. I disliked the OTR MW for all the reasons mentioned. One other thing is that an OTR MW is ridiculously expensive, since the MW part is no different than a $110 counter-top model. They also break within a few years because they are exposed to heat.

Also note that if you are getting a pro-style range, its btu's are too powerful for an OTR MW and could melt the underside of the MW or fry the electronics. Check the installation instructions on your range and see if it prohibits an OTR MW.

You mentioned freaking out. No need. I sold my 1-month-old OTR MW on Craig's List, and it was snapped up in about an hour after posting the ad. Since you don't have yours yet, can you return it to the store/website when it arrives?

Also, if you want to buy a less expensive hood, there are some good deals out there on eBay, and don't forget Costco (their deals on hoods come and go; I remember Costco had a fabulous Kobe hood for about $500, that was buzzed about on the Appliances Forum, but then it was gone a couple of weeks later).

What kind of exhaust duct do you have? If you are still in construction, see if you can get an exhaust duct that is 8" in diameter if possible. That way, you will have less noise, and more efficiency in your exhaust.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 8:20PM
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I have NEVER spilled while taking something out of my OTR UNTIL a few days ago AFTER reading a thread about how terrrible they are...you guys are jinxes! ;)

(or, I'm just short...)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 8:27PM
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I just finished an update to my kitchen, I raised the cabinet above my cooktop so I could fit an OTR microwave. We put in the 36inch GE profile over a 30 inch cooktop, the exhaust isn't the best, but neither was my old hood. I wanted this, I have not had any issues remocing anything, and have not found it loud. I also like how it looks, I have no regrets.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 9:48PM
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instead of spilling hot liquids, use larger containers or less liquid. The tradeoff is minor. Don't be ambitious. Fill it less up.

Before freaking out about lowered suckage capacity when the duct is long or bend-y, tell us what your duct size is, where it goes, how long it is, how many times it bends.

Please know that you can use a one size larger duct and that this reduces the air flow resistance, and then this makes a weak blower blow better.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 9:27AM
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beachlily z9a

When we built our home, we put in a stainless steel Kitchenaid OTR microwave. Because the cabinets were set low, I couldn't get pasta out of the pot because of the microwave. It was always a struggle. The handle on the machine broke three years later and it cost more to repair the handle than the entire unit cost. We bought a nice hood and a cheap microwave to sit on the counter because I don't use it much. Also easy to replace when it breaks. Love the hood and would never, ever have an OTR microwave again.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 11:00AM
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re: hot liquids and spilling because of too much in the cup...I have 3 kids...inevitably, my cup of coffee goes cold in the morning before I get a chance to drink it. So I reheat it in my OTR. That was what I spilled the other day! The Keurig filled my cup to the highest level...which is needed first thing in the AM!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 2:42PM
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Jennifer2413, I have an OTR micro and love it. I'm puny and even my son stands on a stepstool to get food out of the microwave.

I don't deep fry or anything, and rarely have to use the fan hood anyway, so it's fine for my needs. We have a small galley kitchen, so the space savings is important.

My only question is that if I go from my 30 inch cooktop to a 36 inch cooktop, will I be just as happy with the microwave hood which won't cover the 30 inches? I don't know.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 4:46PM
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As with any advice you might get online, all that matters in the end is if you made the best informed decision for *you*. This forum is a great place to get information but ultimately, nobody's opinion matters but yours.

That said, one additional thing to consider regarding OTR microwaves is the possibility of flair ups while cooking. If you don't saute or stir fry at high heat a lot, this may not be an issue but if you do, you know that there could be occasional flair ups. The low mounting height and the mesh filter can be dangerous if not kept really clean. The grease that collects on mesh filters is known to be a potential fire risk if flames from a flair up is sucked into the vent. Make sure you keep the filters clean if you have an OTR range and like to saute or stir fry.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 4:48PM
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Thanks. I appreciate all the input.

Now to address my other concern: are Amazon reviewers just notoriously negative? I ordered a KA stainless 2.0 cu foot OTR, to go with all KA appliances. Reviews at Ajmadison and HHgregg were totally fine. Reviews at Amazon were abysmal. I have no idea why...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 10:25PM
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And I have no idea what kind of exhaust duct I have. :-0 Will ask contractor. I know it's vented to the outside...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 10:31PM
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Sometimes the negative reviews at amazon are meaningless. Read them in detail. Sometimes people give items 1 star because the item arrived late, the package was damaged, they sent the wrong color, etc. Amazon is really good with returns and these kind of problems are usually corrected quickly. On the other hand, many people tend to review things on amazon and with any product, you will find people who love it and people who hate it. It's rare to find anything on amazon that gets all 4 and 5 star ratings.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 11:45PM
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My 5 year old OTR Microwave is breaking. It will be expensive, tough,and a Pita to change out. If it were a countertop model, or even on a microwave shelf, then no big deal. Something to think about. It also doesn't have a very powerful vent, a hood would have been so much better.

But it looks pretty. Never again!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 10:40AM
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