Are Over-The-Stove Microwaves Just For Decoration?

Maybe, when it comes to over-the-stove microwaves, you have two choices: you can use your stove a lot, or you can have a working microwave. Or, as reader Kyle’s wife puts it, you can have a kitchen built for looks or a kitchen built for cooks, but not both. Kyle wrote in about yesterday’s post regarding GE over-the-stove microwaves, and agrees with tipster JLP that perhaps the real problem is that over-the-stove microwaves aren’t designed to actually be used over stoves.

JLP, to refresh your memory, paid $700 for a sleek stainless steel microwave in 2007, and now has a largely decorative stainless steel door above his stove. It doesn’t work because the keypad is fried, and the repair cost alone could buy him a cheap microwave from a discount store for every room in his house.

Kyle writes:

I feel for JPL’s woes with his GE microwave. I don’t think it’s GE in particular.

Last year my two year-old over-the-stove microwave stopped heating anything. A repair technician diagnosed a blow transformer that would cost a minimum of $100 to replace. He recommended NOT repairing it, as the replacement transformer would probably suffer the same fate. He said in his 20+ years of experience repairing microwave ovens, you’re lucky if your microwave lasts more than two years. While he couldn’t pinpoint a reason, our common speculation was that over-the-stove microwaves are not “hardened” to withstand the heat and humidity and aerosolized stuff (like grease) that comes off a stove which leads to a high rate of failure. Maybe failures happen more for those of us who don’t use the built-in fan because it’s so stinkin’ LOUD. Or maybe the difference is microwaves with fans that vent to the outside rather than recirculate. Someone should do a statistical study…

But the repair guy said microwave ovens in general are crap at lasting more than a few years, so you’re better off buying a countertop version that’s a lot less expensive to buy or to replace.

I offer to JPL, and others, my thoughts on a solution:
(1) remove the custom OTS microwave, and put in a shelf.
(2) Put a standard microwave oven on the shelf.
(2a) put the microwave oven on the counter and put something else on the shelf, like the toaster oven or small appliances that you would normally keep on the counter.

We did 2a. Yeah, it’s not as pretty, but I’d rather pay for functional than pretty. My wife said it best: “There are two types of kitchens: those built for cooks, and those built for looks. Rarely do the two meet.”

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