Microwave ovens can be an easy way to save time in the kitchen. Microwaves cook many foods more quickly than a conventional oven, but it can be difficult to choose the best microwave oven for your particular kitchen layout and budget. Countertop and over-the-range microwaves offer installation options that will fit in most kitchens.
The two major types of microwave ovens are over-the-range models and countertop models. Over-the-range microwaves hang from cabinetry above the stove, often incorporated into the vent that allows hot air from the stove out of the house. Countertop microwave ovens are stand-alone units with a flat base or small feet to stand on a kitchen countertop, or stacked on top of another appliance, such as a refrigerator.
One of the biggest differences between an over-the-range microwave oven and a countertop model is the process for installation. Installing a countertop microwave consists of simple placing the microwave in the desired spot and plugging in the power cord. To install an over-the-range microwave oven you'll need to cut away a section of cabinetry directly above the range, install support brackets and slide the microwave into place. You may also need to add additional molding around the microwave to cover the cut edges of the cabinet surrounding it.
While it may be more difficult to install, an above-the-range microwave oven takes up less valuable counter space as a countertop model does. Instead, the oven takes away cabinet space or reduces the amount of space available for installing an oven vent above the range. Installing an over-the-range oven when you design your kitchen makes it easy to install an electrical outlet near the installation site, but placing a countertop model in a completed kitchen limits you to areas within reach of an existing outlet.
To some kitchen users and designers, the appearance of a microwave oven may be as important as its function. While both over-the-range and countertop models come in a variety of finishes, including black, white, woodgrain and brushed metal, the look of an over-the-range microwave is more integrated into the kitchen design. The microwave may also appear to blend in with the rest of the kitchen fixtures, whereas a countertop model might be hard to miss due to its more prominent location.
All types of microwaves come in a wide range of prices. The price of an individual model depends largely on its brand, interior dimensions, special features and style. However, according to Consumer Reports, countertop microwave ovens cost significantly less than comparable over-the-range models. This makes countertop models a better choice for budget-oriented kitchens.