Microwave Ghost


Photo of microwaves by waitscm.When our microwave handle broke off, we didn’t give it a second thought. Reinforced with heavy black Gorilla tape, the newly modified handle was almost an improvement--flexible and more pleasant to the touch.

Unusual Developments

But earlier this week our microwave started turning itself on unbidden and cooking every time we shut the door. When we tried to program it to cook, it heated things to boiling in mere seconds.

When your microwave starts to exert its own will, it may be a sign that something is amiss.

How Is This Possible?

The microwave my family had as I was growing up lasted more than 20 years. This microwave is less than three years old, and while operational, exhibits the relatively disturbing behaviors listed above.

I began investigating replacement options by reviewing the excellent Consumer Reports magazine and online updated reports (available via subscription or free by request when you visit your local SMCL branch).

Decision Fatigue

The trouble emerged when I read individual consumer reviews on highly rated brands. Every time I thought I settled on a recommended microwave, I would read reviews complaining that the microwave broke down within 2 years, 1 year, even within a few months!

Dissatisfied Comments May Be Over-Represented

Whether that information is genuinely posted by consumers or salespeople is anyone’s guess. Almost no one recommends extended warranties except in special cases, but to be honest I think I’m going to purchase one.

Planned Obsolescence

The fear of making the wrong microwave choice and the apparent decline in the lifespan of your average microwave makes me think of toasters.

My toaster is terrible (like many contemporary toasters), but toasters were once expensive technological marvels that worked beautifully.

DIY Squared

Find out much more about something you probably haven’t devoted near enough thought to by reading Thomas Thwaites' The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch. We don’t have a copy on the shelves yet, but you can check our new Link + service to identify nearby libraries that already have it available.

Here’s Thomas discussing his project on The Colbert Report.

If you’d like additional evidence this book is worth your time, read the interview he did with Dwell. Or catch the TED talk.


Building a toaster from scratch is inspiring, but not enough to entice me to install my own new mass-produced microwave. For the intrepid, you might want to watch an instructional video on the web or check out a book at the library. Troubleshooting and Repairing Microwave Ovens might do the trick.

Photo credit: waitscm


Author Bio:

Carine Risley has done diligent research into making an informed choice about an appliance she doesn’t even use all that much. She does think vintage toasters can be objects of design wonder and admiration.

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