Range Hood Vs. Microwave Vent: Pros & Cons

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Whether you are purchasing a brand new range or embarking on a massive kitchen remodel, you will inevitably have to make some important decisions about ventilation. The biggest decision you may come to is whether to buy a range hood or an over-the-range microwave vent.

Range hoods are usually a better choice over microwave vents when choosing how to ventilate your kitchen. Range hoods are more expensive, but they are also much more powerful and effective at removing smoke and grease. They are long-lasting and even quieter than microwave vents. Microwave vents don’t actually remove air, they circulate it. OTR microwave vents are, however, a good option for those with tiny kitchens.

Range hoods are often a better option than microwave vents, but they also have some downsides. In fact, range hoods and microwave vents both have several pluses and minuses that you need to consider before making a final decision. First, you should understand exactly why you need a ventilation system, and how you can understand how their effectiveness is measured.

Why Kitchen Ventilation Is So Important

As you map out your kitchen design or prepare for a new installation, you might wonder if ventilation is really that important, especially if you have windows in your kitchen. The answer is: yes, ventilation is absolutely important! A simple breeze through your kitchen is not going to protect the room and the people in it from the hazards of stovetop cooking.

For one, there are several harmful chemicals released while you cook. Everything from carbon monoxide to formaldehyde are released into your breathing space when you cook at high heat. Therefore you need a powerful vent system to remove these gasses so they don’t linger while you cook.

Additionally, vents do more than just remove fumes. They also help guide moisture and grease away from your walls and kitchen furniture. Without a vent, you might find over time that grease and moisture builds up on your walls, cabinets, and appliances. This can slowly deteriorate your kitchen and cause a messy cooking area.

What is CFM And Why Is It Important For Ventilation

If you are deciding between a kitchen range or an OTR microwave vent, you have probably stumbled across the term “CFM.” CFM stands for cubic feet per minute. This is the measurement of how much area can be successfully filtered in a room in a single minute. Vents and range hoods power and effectiveness is measured in CFM.

This number is very important, as it will help determine what options will work for you, and what options simply are not strong enough. There is no law on what number works best. If, for example, you rarely cook, you will require a much lower CFM. If, however, you cook frequently, and at high temperatures with smokey and oily foods, you are likely to need a higher CFM.

Many experts suggest not going below a 600 CFM if you are someone who cooks frequently. While this might seem like an easy number to go with, you will quickly find that most microwave vents do not go above 400 CFM. Therefore, it is best that you do the math and figure out exactly how much power you require before you start weighing other pros and cons.

Over The Range (OTR) Microwave Vent Pros and Cons

Pros Of OTR Microwave Vents

Space Saver

Anyone who has ever lived in a home with limited counter space knows that a microwave can be an inconvenient space waster. When you need to place a microwave on the kitchen counter, your counter space shrinks significantly. Therefore, installing your microwave above the stove gives that counter space back. It allows you to use the space for other purposes, while still providing a convenient location for the microwave itself.

Quick Fix For Kitchens With No Ventilation

If you have a kitchen with no ventilation, an OTR microwave vent is often the simplest, and cheapest, fix. You don’t need to invest in any intense installation if you already have the build for it. Ductwork can be quite expensive and challenging after all.

Easy Access

Having your microwave just above your stove allows you to work the stove and the microwave at the same time. This helps create a cooking “hub.” This is most helpful for those who tend to use bot h a microwave and stove to cook their meals.

Sometimes It Is The Only Option

Perhaps the biggest pro by default is the fact that sometimes an OTR vent might be the only logical option. If you live in an apartment building with no easy outdoor access, or are not allowed to adjust walls or install ductwork, a range hood isn’t an option. An OTR microwave can work in nearly any kitchen situation, even if the area is rather small and windowless.

Cons Of OTR Microwave Vents

Limited Coverage Area

It doesn’t take more than a simple look at the size of a microwave and the size of a stovetop to realize you might have a coverage area issue. Simply put, microwaves, and the vents underneath them, simply aren’t as large as the ranges they filter. This means there are bound to be areas of limited coverage.

This limited coverage often means the front two burners on a four-burner range get limited coverage. While the microwave might get some residual steam and grease, it will not be even close to 100 percent effective.

Not As Powerful

One of the biggest downsides to OTR microwaves is the fact that their vents simply aren’t as powerful. There is a good chance you require about 600 CFM. OTR microwaves, however, usually only operate at a maximum of 300-400 cubic feet per minute. Many stovetops require more than this – especially larger ranges that are used frequently. This might make an OTR microwave vent an impossible option for your needs.

Doesn’t Always Remove Grease And Smoke

While some OTR microwave kitchen vents are ducted, they are often filtration devices. This means that they filter and recycle air rather than removing it from the home. This also means they do not remove the grease from the home, but rather recirculate it. This can lead to a greasier kitchen area.

Can Be Quite Loud

OTR vents tend to be quite loud. They need to do more work to pull air through filters, and this often results in loud blowing and motor sounds. Some range hoods can be loud (especially older ones), but they are often designed to be much quieter.

Not Visually Pleasing

If you have a chic and well-designed kitchen with detailed cabinetry, having a microwave on display right in the middle above your stove is an eyesore. This is especially true if you splurged on a state-of-the-art new range. A microwave, no matter how fancy it is, will cheapen the overall design effect in more glamorous kitchen concepts.

Can Be Hard To Access

Placing a microwave a couple of feet above a kitchen range might seem like a great idea for someone who is 6 feet tall. If, however, you are not on the taller side, this microwave placement is actually quite inconvenient.

If you are short, you might struggle to reach buttons, or even risk spilling contents in the microwave. Or worse, you might need a small stepping stool just to access the microwave. That certainly takes the convenience out of using a microwave.

When One Breaks They Both Break

Another logistical concern you should consider is that since this is a dual device, it is only as strong as its weakest link. In other words – if one breaks they both break. You might have experienced this in the past, where you try to turn on a microwave vent only for the homeowner to tell you it stopped working years ago. Or maybe the microwave is faulty, but it isn’t replaced because the vent still works just fine.

Pros And Cons Of Range Hoods

Range Hood Pros

Long Lasting

Range hoods are usually built to last. In fact, many professionally installed range hoods come with a several year warranty. They don’t suffer the strain and limitations of other vents, and involve solidly built ducts and fan blowers, making them a reliable option.

Create More Open Space Above Range

If you like to cook and are a bit on the tall side, the last thing you want is a microwave in your face the entire time you try to cook. A range hood opens up the area above your stove. This gives you much more space to maneuver, smell the food and work your magic.

Larger Capture Area

Range hoods are also quite larger in surface area than OTR microwave vents. This means there is a larger capture area. There are no vulnerable areas, which allows the range hood to suck up and remove significantly more dangerous air.

More Powerful

Range hoods are, in general, almost always more powerful than other ventilation like microwave vents. If you are someone who cooks frequently, especially using oil and high temperatures, you likely need a powerful ventilation system. Range hoods offer exactly that.

Easy To Clean

Range hoods often come with easy-to-remove racks that are dishwasher safe. In addition to removing the grease from the air in the kitchen, they make it easy to remove the grease from the hood themselves.

Range Hood Cons


Range hoods are often much pricier than other ventilation options. Sometimes they can be installed by a navy DIY master. Mostly, however, they require at least a bit of professional help. This also costs a pretty penny.

Require New Home For Microwave

If your microwave is not above your range, it has to go somewhere else. This means you lose space somewhere, as you will have to put your microwave elsewhere.

Not Suitable For All Homes

If you have a very small kitchen, or a home with limited outdoor access, a range hood might not be a suitable option. A microwave vent may be the only setup that works well in the space provided.

Final Thoughts On Range Hoods Versus Microwave Vents

Both range hoods and OTR microwave vents are popular options for those looking to ventilate their home. Range hoods, overall, are the superior option. They have more power, they allow for more space above the range, and they have more surface area to suck up the generous air. They are even easy to clean and quieter than most OTR microwave vents.

While microwave vents are less powerful and effective, they are sometimes the best choice also. If you have a small kitchen, it helps maximize your counter space. Your kitchen and apartment might even be set up in a way where an OTR microwave vent is the best and only suitable option.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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