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How to Decide Between Countertop and Over-the-Range Microwaves

Young couple shop for microwave ovens in home improvement warehouse. They are examining a particular model.

The microwave: It’s where we go to whip up popcorn for a family movie night, or to heat up leftovers on busy weekdays, or make hot chocolate on a rainy afternoon. When simplicity is your goal, your microwave is always there for you — so make sure you’re picking out the right one!

Countertop and over-the-range microwaves are the two most common types you’ll find when you start shopping — but what are the pros and cons of each, and how do you pick between them? To choose that perfect microwave for your kitchen, you’ll want to take a few things into consideration.

Kitchen Size

If you have an especially small kitchen, this question is a no-brainer. Countertop microwaves eat up valuable surface space that could be used for food prep, storage, or even decorations. Over-the-range microwaves are installed under your cabinetry, up off the countertop. In a small kitchen, you’ll want to save every inch of counter space you can and opt for an over-the-range microwave.

Venting Power

One of the biggest benefits of an over-the-range microwave is that it also doubles as a vent, essentially functioning as two appliances in one. This is the perfect solution for the average home cook, but for people who do professional cooking in their home kitchens, an over-the-range microwave might not cut it.

Over-the-range microwaves are great at siphoning out small amounts of steam, heat, smoke, or oil from your cooking surface, but it’s not nearly as powerful or quiet as a dedicated vent hood. The average over-the-range microwave vents air at a rate of around 300 CFM (cubic feet per minute), while dedicated range hoods can reach rates above 450 CFM. If you plan to frequently cook large quantities of food, you may want to opt for a countertop microwave and leave the ventilation to an appliance designed just for the job.

Microwave Height

One drawback of over-the-range microwaves is that getting food in and out isn’t always practical. Kids and shorter adults may have trouble reaching them, and can even run the risk of spilling their hot food. Countertop microwaves have the benefit of being easily accessible for just about everyone.

On the other hand, some people may prefer not to have to hunch or lean over when getting food in and out of the microwave. Especially if you’re taller or struggle with back pain, having an over-the-range microwave that sits comfortably at head-height may be preferable.

Ease of Installation

Countertop microwaves require no installation or pre-measurement of your space — all you have to do is plug them in and get cooking! Of course, you can always call our store if you want help getting a microwave installed stress-free, but if you want to start using your microwave as fast as possible, a countertop microwave is the simplest option. Countertop microwaves are also easy to take with you if you move around a lot, so once you’ve invested in that perfect microwave, you can keep it with you for a long time.

If you have any other questions about whether a countertop or over-the-range microwave is right for you, give us a call or stop by our store to talk to an associate. Our appliance experts are prepared to guide you through the buying process and show you all the best options of either variety. With our extensive selection, you’re sure to find an option that perfectly fits your space and your needs!

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