Burning questions

How many watts does a microwave use? Let’s look inside

Cooking stands for a tenth of your energy bill. Microwave is a nice sidekick in the kitchen but is it energy-efficient? How many watts does a microwave use and should you worry about its impact on your electric bill? Let’s look into it.

Microwave is an efficient cooking support

600-1200 W

average microwave wattage

Typical household microwaves range from 600 to 1,200 watts. Smaller microwaves tend to have lower wattage, while larger and more powerful ones can have higher wattage. A common household microwave is rated at 800-1000W. To learn how much power your microwave uses, check the label on the rear side. Energy Star-labeled products are more efficient than conventional ones.

The wattage of a microwave impacts its cooking speed and efficiency. Microwaves with higher wattage are often more effective at providing uniform heating throughout the food: the entire dish is more likely to be heated evenly, reducing the likelihood of cold spots. Higher-wattage microwaves may also offer more versatility in terms of the types of food they can handle. They can deal with larger volumes and cook a wider variety of dishes effectively.

Electricity consumption of a microwave is tiny

The microwave power consumption and electricity expenses depend on your cooking habits. Some people use a microwave several times a day and some rarely turn it on. Let’s set an example to get an idea of how much electricity a microwave can use.

A microwave in standby mode still draws a couple of watts. Learn more in our article on energy vampires!

Let’s say, you use a 1000W microwave for 2 full hours every week. This amounts to 2 kWh × 4 weeks = about 8 kWh per month and 96 kWh per year. To give a comparison, the average monthly consumption of an American household is about 900 kWh.

The average cost of a kilowatt-hour in the US is about $0.17. Running the microwave from the example above would cost you $16 per year — basically nothing.

Out of cooking appliances, a microwave is probably the most efficient. The most comparable device to a microwave is the electric oven and its power rating usually ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 watts. If you want to learn more, check out our article on how many watts electric cooktop and oven use.

Two devices serve different purposes and aren’t interchangeable though. Microwaves are excellent for reheating, defrosting, and quickly cooking certain types of food. Ovens are more versatile and capable of baking, roasting, broiling, and even grilling in some cases. While microwaves are efficient, they can’t produce the same texture or flavor as traditional ovens.

5 tips to use a microwave efficiently

  1. Cover food. Use microwave-safe covers or lids when reheating or cooking food. This helps retain moisture and speeds up the cooking process.

  2. Arrange food properly. Cut food into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking. Smaller pieces heat more quickly and evenly than larger ones. Avoid overcrowding the dish, and if needed, stir or rearrange the food during cooking. To ensure uniform cooking, rotate the dish or stir the food midway through the cooking time. This helps distribute heat evenly.

  3. Use the right power level. Adjust the microwave power level based on the type of food you're cooking. Lower power levels are useful for defrosting and cooking delicate items. Refer to the microwave's user manual for recommended cooking times for various foods. Overcooking can lead to dry or unevenly cooked dishes.

  4. Thaw food before cooking. When possible, thaw frozen food in the refrigerator before microwaving. This reduces cooking time and ensures more even results. If reheating leftovers or cooking dishes that tend to dry out, add a small amount of water or cover the food with a damp paper towel to retain moisture.

  5. Clean the microwave regularly. Wipe down the interior of the microwave regularly to remove spills and splatters. A clean microwave operates more efficiently.

RV microwave can be powered with solar generator

The advantage of a microwave as a cooking device is portability. While there are portable cooktops and grills, a microwave is safer, lighter and requires less energy to use. That’s why sailors and campers commonly utilize microwaves in their travels. They often use solar panels to meet the energy needs of all of their equipment.

Portable solar panels come in different sizes and shapes. You can use flexible solar panels that can be installed with adhesives on your RV or boat. There are also foldable solar panels with kickstands that you can unpack and install anywhere. The energy needs of a traveler are relatively low and even a couple of solar panels sometimes are enough.

Consider adding a power station to your solar panels. The power station combines an inverter, a charge controller, and a small power bank – perfect for keeping your devices charged wherever you are. Together with solar panels, a power station makes a PV generator. To learn more about choosing the right solar panels for your PV generator, check out our article called "Finding Solar Panels for a PV Generator: Tips and Tools."

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Andrey Gorichenski
Senior Editor

Andrey had been a news editor and freelance writer for a number of medias before joining A1SolarStore team. Climate change and its impact on people's lives has always been among his interests and it partially explains his degree in Philosophy and Ethics.

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