Okay- can we just take a moment to appreciate what an amazing piece of technology the microwave oven is?
It was commercialised for home use just 60 years ago by the firm Tappan, whose adverts were gloriously ‘atomic age’ – observe:
In 10 years, we’ll have an oven like this on the moon!
And it was only in 1967 that the ‘counter-top’ model we know and love appeared.
After thousands of years of cooking with combustion of one type or another, suddenly we have this amazing new method of heating food, one only made possible by modern science.
It was, like so many inventions, the result of a chance and accidental observation backed up with graft and cleverness. Oh, and some military funding!
Percy Spencer, it’s inventor, designed radar systems for the defence company Raytheon during World War Two, and noticed that food left near said systems (which used, surprise surprise, microwaves as their primary method of tracking) began to heat and even cook.
A few ingenious experiments later, and he had microwaved popcorn.
Spencer didn’t get any royalties for his amazing, world changing invention, but his expertise and hard work secured him a successful career, more than can be said for many pioneers in similar situations – for example Sir Christopher Cockerell another radar-engineer who also invented the hovercraft and had to fight for his rightful cash.
These days Spencer’s patents are licensed everywhere, and Raytheon still continues to innovate with radar…by being the world’s biggest producer of guided missiles! Thanks guys! Well, better guided than unguided, I suppose.
So, anyway, all this is leading up to one thing…I went and bought a microwave!
I have been very, very keen to get one for several months now, which is again linked to my meal planning shennanigans. When my old one, an un-frilly Asda budget model, packed in a few months ago, I hardly noticed except that I couldn’t reheat my tea. At the time I was cooking most days so I had very little need to reheat – now it’s different.
I resent having to get out a sauce pan and burn gas just to claim back a meal I’ve already cooked from the icy wastes of my freezer- in terms of energy, time and yes, washing up, it is so much more efficient to use dielectric heating to rotate polar molecules.
It turns out that, although there are many, many microwaves on the market, if you are shopping for a COMPACT microwave, your choices are very limited. One that came up time and time again when I was searching was the 14L Daewoo ‘QT-1’ (QT-1! Hah! Get it? I must admit I didn’t, for a long time) which gets decent reviews and is very dinky – unfortunately its functionality is limited and it is entirely manual, whereas I prefer the efficiency and precision of a digital control panel.
That left a very clear choice, and it was the Russell Hobbs 17L microwave.
That should be microwaves as there are several colour variations (the red ones are pretty swanky), and it comes in both manual and digital – the manual dial-based one (serial number RHMM701) is ever so slightly smaller and cheaper too, which nearly swayed me, but ultimately my prejudices against manual microwaves triumphed and I bought the digital model in black, serial RHM1714BC. (NB: I just discovered there is also another digital model, the RHM1718B, which doesn’t even have the dial. Perhaps I should have got that one instead – d’oh!)
So how does it perform and handle?
Review – Russell Hobbs 17L Microwave
Well, I haven’t had a chance to use it much yet, but so far I have found it very intuitive in function, very versatile and a good size for the tiny house kitchen.
It heats evenly and well, and looks very nice indeed.
However, there are a couple of things to mention if you are considering investing in this model.
Firstly, at 700W it is not as powerful as those I’ve used in the past, which of course increases cooking duration. I have tried the defrost setting two or three times and judging the time (based on weight) seems very hap-hazard – heating a bag of frozen soup to piping hot, for example, needed an extra 4 minutes at maximum power on top of the 8 minutes of defrosting.
(Also, on the defrost setting, it stops around three-quarters in to allow you to stir – this could be seem as annoying or helpful depending on your opinion of such things, or even depending on your mood at the time)
Second, having deliberately plumped for the digital version I was irked to find controls are a rather bizarre combination of digital and manual, the large round dial at the bottom being used to set power, time etc, usually at increments of 10. The dial is absent from the aforementioned RHM1718B model, so look out for that.
This is compounded by probably the most frustrating design decision – said dial is not just a dial but the main ‘start’ button – the far more obvious and, I would argue, logical button for this function is right next to it, and is in actuality the ‘pause/stop’ button.
That means that several times now I have a) pressed the pause/stop button after setting the power and time, thus sending me back to square one and having to reset everything and b) nudged the dial forward or backward at the same time as pressing it to start, resulting in cooking for longer or shorter than I wanted. A very minor niggle, of course, but annoying nonetheless and entirely avoidable had it been considered at the design stage.
Finally, although it is by no means huge, it is not quite as compact as it could be (the dimensions – as I say, it’s a good size for the tiny kitchen, but if you want something truly diddy and have no issue with dial-a-waves, get the manual version, or indeed look more into the QT-1.
These worries aside it is very good, I look forward to many happy years using it and I would recommend it to any Tiny House Investor!
I have developed a system for judging all my purchases, henceforth to be known as the Tiny House Review of Investment in Five Things, or THRIFT for short. Along with this, the first use of the system, I have added some footnotes just in case I’m not being clear. The exact scoring system will be posted sometime soon, I promise – all you need to know for now is that the maximum score in any field is 20 points, making a total of 100.
Thriftiness – 15 points
(I am still on a budget, and always near-broke, so thrift and frugality are important if I want to end the month in the black!)
I picked this up at, from what I can see, is the lowest commercially available amount: £65.
I got it from www.wilko.com, whom I trust in general as a brand who provide quality at a good price, plus I have Utility Warehouse Cashback Card, which means when I spend with them I actually save on my household bills- bonus thrift!
I did have to pay for the delivery (about £5) but it was worth it – the courier (DPD) could not have been more helpful, phoning me up when I was out and making sure it was left in a safe place.
As I mentioned before, I could have go the manual one, which would have been £20 cheaper, so I don’t get the full 20 marks.
Local Karma – 0 points
(I like supporting local businesses – not least because of the local multiplier effect!)
As already mentioned, I bought this online, so sadly no local businesses benefitted. Boo! Bad Spekti!
Eco-Friendliness – 5 points
(I’m a big middle class lefty liberal hippy, so I like eco-friendly stuff!)
I couldn’t find any stats (if you can find some, dear reader, it would be very helpful!) on how much environmental impact microwaves have – that is, when they are disposed of – but it seems that these days they can be recycled by local authorities and the majority of the parts can be ‘harvested’, as it were, for raw materials – nevertheless, they do count as white goods and, if not treated carefully, microwave radiation can be dangerous. That said microwaves are more energy efficient than other forms of cooking and don’t require gas, so if the system ever goes full solar/wind power, they do win out that way.
Long Term Value – 20 points
(Fairly self explanatory I think!)
I will be using my microwave every day, and I have a warranty I can register which will keep me safe for a fair few years – in fact I’ll go do that right now!
‘Nice Thing-ness’ – 15 points
(Remember on my last investment blog I mention I wanted to buy ‘Only Nice Things? Well this is me trying to put it into action!)
Russell Hobbs is a trusted brand – although I couldn’t find a review for this specific product on Which? Magazine, the holy grail of all independent reviews, all the customer reviews I could find were positive, so I am confident it will prove a Nice Thing. Also as mentioned above it looks very swish, far better than the old model I had – it’s curved handle and two-way-glass door and are très stylish, making it funky as well as functional!
Plus it doubles as a mirror!
It isn’t a top-of-the-range, all the whistles-and-bells, last-you-50-years job, but then that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted something to heat my food efficiently, and it does that a-ok.
Total T.H.R.I.F.T. Score – 55/100 – Fair
Okay folks, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading – Spekti out!