Do Microwave Ovens Need Ventilation? Here’s What We Found…

Image of microwave oven kept with proper ventilation

In modern kitchen designs, kitchen appliances are often hidden out of sight. Not only does it free up valuable countertop space but it also makes the kitchen look neat. While it is fine for most appliances, it may be unsafe for devices like ovens that need ventilation space. That is why before you stash your microwave in a concealed cabinet, you should check if it is safe. So, do microwave ovens need ventilation?

Yes, microwave ovens need ventilation. However, the venting needs differ according to the model and design. Proper clearance and ventilation are necessary for efficient operation and safety reasons. Adequate external ventilation is a must for microwave ovens without built-in ventilation systems.

Let’s now talk in detail why microwave ovens need ventilation.

Why Do Microwave Ovens Need Ventilation?

Microwave ovens use microwave radiation to cook food. The microwaves heat food particles and water and cause them to vibrate rapidly. This vibration produces heat that cooks the food. As food cooks, the air inside the oven expands. This air needs an outlet, which is why ovens have vents on the sides or top.

The vents allow expanding hot air to be released. So, you should allow enough clearance for these vents when installing a microwave oven. Proper airflow ensures efficient operation. Otherwise, the device may start malfunctioning, and efficiency will be compromised.

The instruction manual of the appliance will usually specify the minimum clearance requirements and ventilation needs of the device. Follow these guidelines when installing your microwave oven and it should work fine.

Over-The-Range Microwave Ovens

Over-the-range microwave ovens are built-in models that fit above a cooktop. They sit flush against the wall and have a small footprint.

Over-the-range microwave ovens have built-in ventilation systems with internal exhaust fans. These fans protect the microwave oven from overheating by routing the heat which is produced. The ventilation system may connect to an exterior vent or recirculate the heat back into the kitchen. So, the device efficiently eliminates odor, steam, and smoke.

Over-the-range microwave ovens use external or recirculating venting systems for ventilation. Let us look at how these systems compare.

Related Further Reading:

Comparing The Effectiveness Of Recirculating And External Venting Systems

When the microwave is connected to an external vent, the exhaust is routed outside the kitchen. So, the kitchen will be free from odor, steam, and smoke. Meanwhile, a recirculating venting system sends the exhaust air through a filter made of materials like charcoal. It helps to eliminate smells and particulate matter. However, the air will be directed back into the kitchen.

Both arrangements have their advantages and disadvantages.

A microwave oven with an external venting system has higher installation charges because of the work involved. The device needs a physical vent with ducts through which the removed air can pass.

You will have to install ductwork and make an opening in the ceiling or roof to send the exhaust fumes out. It is not easy to move a microwave with an external venting system as you will have to rework the entire venting system.

Another factor to consider is that you need appropriate permissions to install the venting system. It should conform to the construction standards while satisfying the criteria set by the manufacturer.

A recirculating microwave oven is easier to install. Since it does not require access to the outside, you can place it anywhere. The absence of any exterior components also gives you the flexibility to move the device around as you wish.

So, if you are looking for a quick and inexpensive solution, a microwave oven with a recirculating venting system is the better choice.

When choosing a microwave oven with a recirculating vent design, you must pay attention to the filter. These devices usually have charcoal filters that absorb particles and odors. The efficiency of the filter will deteriorate with continuous use. So, you must change it annually or every six months. Replacing the filter at the right time will also extend the lifespan of the microwave oven.

Aluminum filters last longer than charcoal filters. These metallic filters can be cleaned and degreased regularly and reused.

Related Further Reading:

Does A Microwave Need Space Around It?

The instruction manuals of countertop microwave ovens will mention that you should not block the air vents on the appliance. Blocking these vents will cause the appliance to overheat and lead to oven failure.

So, how much space should you leave on all sides of the microwave oven?

It depends on the model or manufacturer. Nevertheless, a minimum of three inches of space on all sides of the oven will provide enough clearance. Leave three inches of space between the walls and the top, sides, and rear of the microwave oven.

If you place your microwave oven inside a cabinet, do not push it to the wall. Leave enough space on the sides of the vents, as well as at the top and bottom.

Interesting Further Reading:

Safety Precautions For Microwave Oven Installation

With a few safety precautions during installation, you can ensure that your microwave oven operates properly. Here are the factors to consider.

  1. Place the microwave oven at the right height. The microwave oven should be easily accessible and within reach of those operating it. The door should not be higher than your face. You should not have to stretch to place or remove things from the appliance. If it is placed too high, hot food or liquid can spill and cause accidents.
  2. Always place the microwave away from inflammable objects like wood, cloth, and paper. Although microwave fires are rare, they can cause extensive damage in the presence of inflammable objects. Reduce the possibility of such accidents by placing the oven away from such objects.
  3. When installing an over-the-range microwave oven, leave enough room to work comfortably on the stovetop. Leave a gap of at least 30 inches between its bottom and the stove to reduce the risk of burns and accidents. Use the vent on the underside of the oven to vent the stove when it gets too hot.
  4. Always use microwave-friendly containers to cook or reheat food. Metal vessels can cause fires or explosions. So, avoid any containers with metallic surfaces at all costs.
  5. Microwaves do not cook food evenly. So, some parts of the food will be hotter than the rest. Stir the food to distribute the heat pockets before consuming it.
  6. Attend to spills immediately. If anything splatters or spills inside the microwave, clean it quickly. Prevent it from getting into the door area. Food that is stuck in the door edges can crisp up and form a wedge. This will prevent the door from closing properly and cause microwave energy to escape.
  7. Stop using the microwave if there is any problem with the door. Get it promptly repaired by a qualified professional. If the light, fan, or turntable continues to operate when the door is open, it usually indicates a failure in the door sensors. It is dangerous to use the microwave in such a condition.
  8. Always unplug the appliance for cleaning. Do not let any water or cleaning solution near the power outlet.
  9. If the microwave smokes or catches fire, turn off the power immediately. Let the flames die down completely before inspecting the device. If the fire doesn’t stop, step away and call the fire station for assistance.