Need the skinny on over range microwave's

andrelaplume2March 2, 2007

We just got new appliances in our home. We did not yet replace the old range hood over the new electric range. We are trying to decide whether or not to just get a new range hood ($100 or so which will hopefully be quieter than the one we have now) or get one of those micro wave / range hood things ($200 and up).

Off the top of my head I see these issues:

The OTR unit will free some counter space.

The OTR unit might be incovenient as it hangs low on the range...not sure about this one.

The OTR unit might be safety concern for the kids who are just starting to use the microwave at counter level as it sits higher.

The OTR unit might be a saftey concern when it is used at the same time the range is used....?

Opinions Please...what am I not thinking of....

If the OTR is really the way to go then:

My current range is vented to the outside. Do the OTR units vent this way or do they all vent to the inside?

We are on a budget and I see these things range in price from $200 to $800. What features should I look for? Is the $200 model good enough if we just want a fan and basic microwaving?

How do these things hold up over time?


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Some OTR units can be vented outside, but check the manual/details before buying because all may not be capable. Hanging low over the range hasn't been a problem for us as the unit doesn't stick out (much) past the cabinets. As far as how low it hangs, I believe code says they have to be 18" min. above the stove surface, check on this. The free space on the counter is a BIG plus. Safety issue being over the stove isn't a problem in our experience and with kids, IMO, microwaves get used more so between meals or evenings when stoves aren't hot. The one feature I look for in buying a microwave is a turntable - either rotating or some oscillate now - this really evens out the heating despite what the salesman says about the hidden beam circulator - the microwave that came with our old house (no turntable) had 'cold' spots that would heat slower. As far as holding up over time, my only experience is middle and upper end units which hold up well.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 9:29AM
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The vent fans in these units are not as effective as the traditional exhaust fans. Vapors from boiling water will roll up the front of the microwave because it doesn't extend over the cooktop as much as the other fan.
While the advantage of not putting it on the counter is nice. I would never put one up with small children using it. Kids climbing over a cooktop with multiple burners to pop corn is a recipe for disaster. Unless you have the good kids who would never touch the microwave unless an adult is in the room.
The fans can be vented vertically or horizontally to the exterior or setup for recycling to the interior.
I generally pick an appliance that Consumers Reports give a favorable rating. They also chart them as to frequency of repair.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 5:04PM
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Hate mine! My ten-yr old can't reach it safely. The fan is inadequate. The stovetop lights are inadequate. I thought saving a bit of counter space was worth it, but would NOT do it again. Mine is a GE, vents to outdoors (there was a switch upon install to choose no vent or outside vent.) Unless you have EXTREMELY limited counter space, don't do it!

As soon as I have the $$$ I will be replacing mine with a more traditional vent and cab.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 6:42PM
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I hated both of mine too.

The ventilation is woefully inadequete, they are much more expensive, a pain to install, and prone to failure.

Depending on how many people are in your house, they can be VERY inconvenient. The cook working at the range and people wanting to use the microwave are in frequent conflict. Plus the cook gets a nice dose of radiation right at brain level.

I've said it before: I'd forget having a microwave before I put one over the range again. Far better to give up half an upper cab, and put the micro on a shelf far from the range.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 2:59AM
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I've had the micro over the range for at least 20 years now. I would not have it any other place. And there are times, though few, when both the cooktop, oven and micro are being used. It is not a problem.

The micro over the range frees up valuable counter space. Having small children was not a problem. They were not allowed to climb onto the stove nor were they allowed near a hot stove. Ours have always been electric ranges.

I cannot address the outside venting. Ours have always been the internal type.

Enjoy the journey.

eal51 in western CT

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 12:23PM
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If you are remodeling a kitchen, do stovetop cooking, - do yourself a favor and incorporate a decent ventilation hood -

"The OTR unit will free some counter space. - Yes it will - and this is the #1 reasons people choose to go this route

The OTR unit might be incovenient as it hangs low on the range...not sure about this one. - True, true true - bumped heads, spilled contents etc..

The OTR unit might be safety concern for the kids who are just starting to use the microwave at counter level as it sits higher. - Yes, just google otr micro and accidents - little hands reach in and spill contents on to themselves and everything else

The OTR unit might be a saftey concern when it is used at the same time the range is used....? - Not true, unless it is wired incorrectly -

Opinions Please...what am I not thinking of....

Biggest issue is that they are woefully inadequate and grease, steam, cooking juices etc will wind up on walls, ceilings, backsplashes - not to mention the smells that will linger.
Plenty sleek designs in proper hoods
Good luck

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 12:19PM
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Standing in front of the microwave with your head practically pressed up against the door shouldn't be a problem, unless the door is damaged or some such. It still makes me nervous, though.

Another aspect of OTRs: how many people in your house use these appliances? If only one or two, probably not an issue.

But when I had mine there, it seemed like I couldn't even fry an egg without someone wanting to make a cup of hot chocolate or tea, warm a sweet role or soften up the butter.

It's like having the garbage can under the sink. A constant-- albeit low level-- hassle as people jostle for space.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 2:38PM
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They work poorly. They don't vent well. They are loud.

Let me be clear--if you really like to use your vent hood, don't get an OTR. They are hanging microwaves which save counter space. They are not vents. We never use ours as a vent, as it is nearly worthless. And we cant talk to each-other.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 12:29PM
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I reluctantly caved to my wife's wish for a GE over-the-range microwave. As others have noted, the only real benefit is that they free up counter space. But there are many drawbacks: exceedingly pricy, installation costs, in-home repair costs vs. tossing it in the car (or garbage can) when it inevitably croaks, etc.

We bought one of the GE Spacemaker models in 2002 for $252 at Best Buy. 32 months later we had to pay $120 in labor costs to replace a faulty magnetron under warranty. 33 months later we are faced with the same situation, only this time the labor cost will be $149. If we decide not to pay for another repair, we will end up paying Best Buy's installers $160 (plus the cost of a new micro) to remove and replace it (this time probably NOT a GE).

If you want a real eye-opener, take a look at the enclosed link. There are, as of today, 23 pages of customer complaints about GE's microwave ovens, and some of the stories are frightening.

I'd recommend a countertop model that scores well in Consumer Reports. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: NUMEROUS complaints about GE microwaves, many are over the range models

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 2:28PM
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In our old kitchen, we had one, and I HATED it. For one, ours was not vented to the outside, so if you turned it on it would merely blow slightly-less smokey steamy greasy air right in my face. Also the unit was quite loud. Even on low it was annoyingly loud, on high it sounded like a small rocket taking off. Lastly ours was set too low which blocked my view of the knobs on the back of the range, and I would frequently turn on or adjust the wrong burner on the range (and ruined a few non-stick pans this way)

With that said I know where you can get one in nearly new condition, for next to nothing.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 4:57PM
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Forget it unless you like to get a crick in your neck and an ache in the back. My daughter has an OTR in a fairly new house, they use it for storage because it broke and wasn't worth fixing. For $50 or $60 they bought a nice small microwave that isn't taking up a lot of counter room.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 10:31PM
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Different strokes I guess...
We have never had a microwave any other place, over four homes. Other than the valid criticism that the exhaust fans are not as powerful and yet are noisier than a plain exhaust fan, we have not experienced any of the other problems. We have never had small children trying to use it, but we have gone through periods when it was being pretty heavily used by four adults living in the house.

I installed one of the first units available (1979 I think), and just installed a new GE in my latest remodel. Used mainly GE, although I did install a Whirlpool in my daughter's place. Never needed a service call.

Good Luck
Organize your priorities and do what works best for your home.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 11:11PM
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We prefer the microwave over the stove however I would concur with others above that they are louder than your traditional vent hood & don't work quite as well but do work. Ours is vented through the top to the outside which is the way most new ones come equipped. Typically you rotate the motor/fan housing to set it up for either top outside vent, rear outside vent, or recirculating in which case you need the charcoal filters.

Since you are on a budget the main thing you should check is the clearance between the bottom of the cabinet to the stove. Ours required a 30" minimum. Thus, if you are less than that you may have to raise all your cabinets which might be fairly expensive.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 10:39AM
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We've had the GE model over the stove for many years, and finally got rid of it when we did the kitchen remodel. We moved the old unit over to the rental house we own.

They can be vented out, but frankly, the fans are not strong enough to move much air. At most, you'll get rid of some water vapor when boiling, but they really don't carry that much grease out. Even then, like someone else mentioned in here, when boiling a big pot of pasta water, you get water vapor everywhere on the front of the micro unit, and it condenses and drips down all over the place.

You do save on counterspace, that's the only plus I can see.

Another thing to remember...they are usually plastic, and after a few years, they look pretty grungy from all the cooking grease. And if you have a white one, the plastic yellows over time and cracks from the grease and heat.

I agree with the others in here...if you have up to $800 to spend, get yourself a decent hood, then spend $100 on a small countertop microwave. You'll be happier in the long run, and won't be in a bind if/when you have to replace your micro/hood combo.

And if you do any serious cooking, the micro/hood will not even come close to cutting it.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 5:30PM
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