Do you want to know if your microwave oven needs ventilation or not? You are starting to wonder, “is my over-the-range microwave supposed to have a vent?”
I’m glad that you asked!
It is a question many people have when they are deciding to purchase this new appliance. Some people might not know the difference between having an external ventilation system, or a recirculating system with a charcoal filter. So in this article, we will discuss these options and their benefits of installation.
So the question we must ask ourselves is, does an over-the-range microwave oven in my kitchen need a ventilation system?
Yes, you do. A microwave oven oftentimes needs ventilation. Machines that generate heat in turn build up pressure. For safety purposes, the combination of the two must always be given an exit door. Also, to avoid odors from lingering around in your home, it is necessary to clear and ventilate the air it creates which also helps your device operate efficiently and safely. There are mainly 2 types of ventilation strategies you need to consider: the ventilation system and the recirculating/filtration system.
It is important to understand why a ventilation system is key and what pros and cons there are to owning it.
Why do microwave ovens need ventilation?
Microwave ovens use microwave radiation to heat up food. When heat is produced inside a chamber like in a microwave oven, the air inside begins to build up.
This air needs to be released and so most microwave ovens have an outlet for it to come out of.
These vents can be located on the sides or even the top of the microwave and it allows the air to escape.
This is important because if the vents are not working properly, then your microwave oven will be inefficient and unsafe for use!
It’s important to read the instructions manual so that you can understand how to install microwave ovens so that they will ventilate properly.
There are different types of vents that can be used and it’s important to know the pros/cons for each type before making a decision on which one you want to be installed in your home.
How does an over-the-range microwave oven’s external ventilation system work?
Over-the-range microwave overs are usually installed and permanently attached to the wall. This means that they are not able to move around and ventilate as well. This is why it’s important for them to have an external ventilation system installed on their sides or top of microwave ovens so air can escape.
An externally vented microwave uses a fan that is installed outside of the home. These fans can also be included within the model microwaves themselves. The fan pulls air from inside and pushes it out through a vent on top or the side, depending on where you have your microwave located in relation to an exterior wall (if there is one).
The pros are that this type will work with any size kitchen because they can be mounted anywhere as long as it’s at least 30 inches away.
External ventilation systems work great because it’s a natural way to remove cooking smells and it’s also quieter than an internal vent.
The benefit of external venting forces most of the moisture, heat, odor, and particles to go directly outside.
The downside of external vent systems is the installation costs and they can be more expensive than an internal system. You need to hire a professional for this job, which will cost about $500-$600 on average in most cases (depending on where your home’s located and the complexity of the job).
The cons are that the fan can still be noisy, especially if you have your microwave in close proximity to where people will sit or stand while they’re eating their food (like near the kitchen table).
How does a microwave recirculating filtration system work?
Over-the-range microwave ovens also come with one other major type: recirculating and filtration.
This method of ventilation recirculates the air and brings the heat back into the kitchen.
These ductless compartments cycle the air and pull it through a filter before making its way back into the kitchen.
Some of these filters are equipped with a charcoal filter that can remove odors and other particles from the air.
The pros of this type are: it’s quieter, there is no need for a venting system to be installed in your home (which means less construction).
They’re easier on energy usage than traditional ventilation systems because you don’t have any ducts or vents running through them.
Which is better for microwave ventilation? External or recirculation/filtration?
Different events require different forms of maintenance.
External ventilation systems for microwave ovens often have to conform to building code and standards in order to be safe and effective.
As explained earlier, the costs of hiring a professional to come in a built the external ventilation system is expensive. These builders will likely use materials made of galvanized steel, stainless steel, or copper. There also needs to be a smooth interior to where the gas vents to the outside. This method requires installing ducts through the home so that the air can exit.
It also means that the place you choose to vent your microwave will the only place you can have your microwave. It won’t be easy to move since external venting will be limited to only one place in the kitchen.
Plenty of rules and regulations are in place to make sure that the external ventilation system is safe and effective. But the benefit here is that you get to enjoy the ventilation for a really long time with very little worry from maintenance.
If you were interested in using a charcoal filter for circulating vents, this would be an easier install.
The downside to this is that you will lose its effectiveness over time. These filters need to be replaced every six months. But this all depends on your cooking styles. If you cook more often using the microwave, then you will need to replace the filter more often.
Since there’s not much construction involved in this method, you won’t be forking over a ton of money for professional installs.
You’ll only have to worry about filters. Some microwave models will allow you to buy filters that are washable. However, washing filters will have their limits, and eventually, you’ll need to replace them.
Take for example how KitchenAid recommends that if you want to reuse your aluminum filters, you’ll have to wash them using degreasing detergents, then dry with a paper towel. You can also wash your filters in a dishwasher.
However, it’s important to check with the manufacturer before washing your filters through the dishwasher.
If you’re unsure, consult with a professional
If you’re unsure of how to go about installing a ventilation system for your microwave, the best thing to do is consult with a professional.
In fact, it doesn’t need to be a third-party source. You can also contact the manufacturer of your microwave oven.
Some brands will be able to provide you with great information about which ventilation method is best to use for their specific oven.
Helpful tips on using and installing a microwave
I wanted to give you some advice on how to go about installing a ventilation system for your microwave. The advice I provide below is not exhaustive, but it should give you a good overview of what to do.
1. Start with reading the manual
Reading the manual can give you great insight into what type of ventilation system you should use. You may also find that the manual will provide instructions on how to install a vent or filter for your microwave. You also get the benefits of understanding what to do and what not to do when using and your microwave.
2. Don’t install microwaves near flammable objects or devices
Keep microwaves away from flammable objects. You don’t want to install a microwave right next to a device that creates an open flame for example.
3. Make sure the range microwave is a good distance from the stovetop oven
It’s important to leave a good distance from the over-the-range microwave to the stovetop oven. This gap will help prevent the heat from the stove from traveling up to the microwave and possibly damaging the microwave.
On another note, the gap in between can give you enough space to avoid accidentally burning yourself.
4. Use microwave-safe containers to cook your food
Microwave-safe containers have a property that allows them to survive not being melted by the waves produced by the microwave.
5. Clean out your microwave regularly
It’s important to make sure you keep food and liquids from building up in the microwave. This will help prevent any bacteria from growing and keep your food safe to eat!
It will also stop rust from forming and this will otherwise damage the microwave and cause health and safety issues for you and your family.
6. Don’t use the microwave if you can’t close the door
Microwaves use radiation to cook your meals. If your microwave door happens to be damaged or not closing properly, don’t force it to close or try some way to rig it closed. If it happens to open, while the microwave stays on, you’ll likely be exposed to radiation.
7. Don’t cook with metals in the microwave
Electrons from microwaves have a way of bouncing off of metal and this can cause sparks. This is a fire hazard so it’s best to avoid cooking with metals in the microwave.
8. Microwaves can overheat water
It’s called “superheated water” and it can seriously injure you if you didn’t know your water was scolding hot. This water may not be boiling but it can erupt causing burns.
9. Microwaves use a form of radiation to cook
There has been a lot of research done with exposure to microwave radiation, however, none of the conclusions are conclusive.
It has been a ton of this question studied in mice but ultimately there’s a lot of yes’s and no’s. At this point, we don’t really know.
10. Clean the vents
Keeping the vents clean is an important first step in having your microwave function longer. I recommend wiping it down once every month so that the dust and particles are cleared from the vents and not obstructing any of the air and heat flow.
My final thoughts
The microwave is a modern invention that has become an integral part of the kitchen. It’s used for everything from cooking to reheating food and beverages.
Most microwaves need ventilation in order to function properly. If your microwave doesn’t have any vents on the top, back or sides, it may not be working correctly.
Ventilation of microwaves helps to keep the air inside fresh and clean.
Related further reading: