As kitchens have grown to become the showplace of the home, and for all we love our appliances, the microwave is undoubtedly the "Black Sheep" of all appliances. For every ten times you have heard someone say 'you have to see my new' "Sub-Zero refrigerator" "Viking range" or my "dual zone wine refrigerator" I challenge you to remember that last time a neighbor dragged you in to marvel at their new "Sharp carousel" or "GE Spacemaker OTR" (over the range) microwave. It just doesn't happen. Clearly I am more likely to have a client tell me: "I don't care where you put the microwave" but keep in mind, still almost every kitchen gets one, even if it's just for popcorn and tea.
So the question becomes: where does the microwave belong? Of course the NKBA has suggested guidelines for placement and they are that microwave be placed somewhere between 24" and 48" above the floor. Off the bat, we know that every time we put a microwave over the range, we forfeit compliance with that guideline. In many kitchens this placement is chosen because there simply isn't enough room to give up anywhere else in the kitchen. The obvious drawbacks to placing the microwave over the cooking surface are:
- Reaching up over a hot surface to retrieve very hot dishes
- Combing a busy work station with a sub-station
- Settling for less powerful ventilation for surface cooking
- Cannot be combined with Grill or Griddle range-top accessories
It's is easy to guess that the potential hazards of placing the microwave over the cooking surface, and they range from scalding, (I learned at the age of 16 with tomato sauce), to inadequate removal of grease and food smell, to compromised food quality because someone couldn't open the microwave or tend the saute pan because of competition for the same floor space.
That being said, arguably in half of all kitchens with microwaves in the design, the microwaves are over the range, and the pluses to that are:
- Saves counter space
- Replaces a vent with ventilation/cooking/ and light in one appliance
Alternatives to this location, which are clearly recommended if possible include pairing the microwave with a wall oven in a tall cabinet, including it in an island or base cabinet in an area of the kitchen away from the stove, or placing it on a special purpose shelf in an upper cabinet, making sure it is not too high.
The drawer microwave, made by Sharp as well as others, is an excellent choice for the under counter application, as is any of the counter top microwaves so long as you measure them for fit before ordering cabinetry, you will probably find that a family size microwave will require a 27" cabinet for proper fit and function. It is a good idea if you have small children to check the microwave for a locking mechanism.
When placing a microwave on a dedicated shelf a good thing to remember is that if you use the microwave for reheating, keeping it close to the refrigerator is not only a good idea, but the end panel on the refrigerator will offer the microwave shelf the extra support it needs. Not supporting the cabinet properly can void the manufacturers warranty and cause future problems.
An experienced kitchen designer will be able to help you choose the appliances that are right for you and make sure they are installed properly. Make sure you ask questions, and look for the Energy Star Seal, spending a little more now can save you more in years to come!