Have you ever noticed how on the back of frozen foods, the microwave instructions are never “one size fits all?” You hope that they provide a wattage chart so that you can determine the amount of the time the food needs in your particular microwave.
This can make it very difficult to determine the correct setting on your microwave so that the food doesn’t come out still partially frozen or overcooked. So, how many watts does a microwave use and what wattage do I need in my home?
The overall wattage rating given to a microwave depends on its volume. In general, the larger the volume, the higher the wattage and the more power that is consumed. On average, a microwave oven has a power wattage that is between 800 and 3000 watts; with the standard size microwave typically found in a home being around 850 to 1800 watts.
However, compact microwaves can be 500 watts or less and 3000 watts only exists in commercial brands and will almost never be found in a household setting. In an effort to help you save energy and grocery money, let’s dive further into this question and help you determine that individual wattage you need for your household.
Table of Contents
- What Is The Wattage Of A Microwave?
- How to Determine the Wattage of Your Microwave
- How Much Is My Microwave Costing Me?
- How Much Electricity Does a Microwave Use on Standby?
- What Microwave Do I Need?
- Relevant Questions
What Is The Wattage Of A Microwave?
Wattage refers to the operating power of electrical equipment, expressed in watts. As previously mentioned, the amount of watts a microwave uses is established by its volume. A microwave that is larger will have a much higher wattage and a greater power consumption.
The standard size microwave, most often found on a kitchen countertop, will use 850 to 1800 watts of power. Whereas, the most common wattage for the average, modern microwave is 1200 watts. The exact number will depend on the particular model and brand of microwave.
If you have a compact microwave in your dorm room, office or small apartment, it uses between 500 and 800 watts while heating. On the other hand, there are microwave ovens available up to 3000 watts. However, a wattage that is this high will most often be found in a restaurant, school cafeteria or other commercial environment.
How to Determine the Wattage of Your Microwave
Finding your microwave’s wattage can be as easy as searching the model on Amazon or any standard search engine. Examine the product description listed online or go directly to the manufacturers website to check the technical specification. You also may be able to locate a label with wattage information inside your microwave oven.
For ease, we’ve outlined the most common microwave oven capacities and their corresponding wattages in the table below. Although these are standard, they may vary depending on model and brand name.
Microwave Oven Capacity
0.6 – 0.7 cubic feet
500 – 700 watts
0.9 cubic feet
1.1 cubic feet
1.6 cubic feet
2 cubic feet
How Much Is My Microwave Costing Me?
Unless you have a microwave that is massive and is using up to 3000 watts of power, your overall energy costs will only amount to a few dollars, or even a few cents a year.
However, how much electricity your microwave uses while cooking and the exact amount that your it costs you annually will depend on a few major factors:
- Your microwave’s wattage. Compact microwaves, beginning at 500 watts, and even conventional full-size microwaves will cost you much less than the larger, commercial types.
- How often you use your microwave. Microwaves utilize a far small amount of standby power, instead, most of their energy goes into the heating process. In this case, the more that you cook, the higher your microwave bill will be.
- The power settings you use. If you’re using your microwave at its full, 100% power then it will consume very close to the established wattage when in use. However, most microwaves provide the option of settings that can let you use a fraction of the max power. When you use settlings such as “melt” or “defrost,” your overall energy consumption will be slightly lower.
With that said, a microwave this is rated for 1,000 watts will consume about .02 kWh per minute (using the national average for electricity rate per kilowatt hour). If you were to use this microwave one minute every day for a year, it’ll cost you roughly 73 cents in cooking power – pocket change.
How Much Electricity Does a Microwave Use on Standby?
If you are a particularly conscious energy consumer, though minute, you know that your microwave is always using up some amount of power. That digital clock on the front simply isn’t powering itself.
The exact amount of power that your microwave uses while it is on standby, or not cooking, usually averages roughly five watts. However, if you want to know how much your specific microwave is using on standby, you can plug your microwave directly into an electricity monitor.
Consider this: standby power is always flowing whenever the microwave is plugged in, and for most, that’s a full 24 hours a day. At 12 cents per kWh, a unit that uses five watts on standby is going to cost you 44 cents a month, or about $5.26 per year. In fact, it’ll actually cost you more to power the digital clock than it does while it’s cooking food.
If this amount of energy seems wasteful to you, you can always unplug your microwave when it’s not in use. Consider using a power strip to connect all of your countertop appliances. That way, you can easily shut off the power to multiple standby power units at once.
What Microwave Do I Need?
Purchasing the right microwave for your household can be a challenge. Trying to navigate all of the various types, sizes and wattages may seem a little overwhelming. However, we’ve outlined everything you need to know to help make an informed decision on what microwave is best for you.
What Type of Microwave Do I Need?
The three types of microwaves can be broken down into over-the-range, built-in and countertop. For the most affordable, easy to install, portable option consider going with a countertop microwave. These are the most common type of microwave out there and installation is as easy as unpacking the box and plugging it in.
Whereas, their over-the-range and built-in counterparts are more expensive and you’ll generally need the assistance of a professional to install. They cannot usually be taken with you when you leave a home but are excellent at drawing odors and smoke up and away, filtering it before it’s distributed back into the room.
What Size Microwave Do I Need?
After you’ve determined the type of microwave that makes the most sense for your household, think about how much kitchen space you’d like to sacrifice. If you have limited counter space, you may want to side with a smaller model.
A countertop microwave’s internal capacity can range from 0.5 cubic feet (big enough to fit most conventional sized dinner plates) to just over 2 cubic feet (accommodates much larger cookware). The most common internal sizing is between 1 and 2 cubic feet.
However, keep in mind that the external measurements will vary so always check and measure your desired space to ensure that it will fit. Also, verify that you have an outlet in close proximity as it can be a real pain to have to fish wires.
What Microwave Wattage Do I Need?
Deciding on the microwave wattage for your specific household will depend on your cooking and heating needs. While you may find microwaves with a wattage below 500, this is not recommended for anything but dehydrating foods. Cooking food in a microwave that is less than 500 watts is almost impossible.
A microwave that is between 500 and 800 watts is a cheaper option than the higher, more powerful wattages. At this range you’re able to steam and fry foods. Also, microwave dinners and other small foods do great at this power. Food items don’t take very long to cook at 500 to 800 watts but, in some cases, may cook unevenly.
Microwaves with wattages from 800 to 1,000 allow you to cook proteins, pop popcorn, boil rice, and bake small desserts effortlessly. However, you will need to make sure that the microwave is set to the required setting for each individual food type. Cooking under a higher wattage allows for an even faster cook time.
When it comes to microwaves that are higher than 1,000 watts, you’re heading into oven territory. These are very powerful units and, in some countries, they are regularly used to cook full meals. You can’t go wrong with purchasing a microwave over 1,000 watts as it will cook food quickly and efficiently.
Is 800 watts enough for a microwave?
Most recipes that require the use of a microwave are written to specify a power of at least 800 watts. This wattage ensures that the food cooks evenly and the final result is as desired. 800 watts is a great baseline for most households and going any lower may not be powerful enough for the type of recipes you plan to use it for.
How much should I spend on a microwave?
The price of a microwave will depend on its overall capacity, power, brand and particular features. If you’re looking for a good quality countertop microwave, you can expect to spend over $100. While there are cheaper models on the market, they’ll be much smaller and may not have the adequate cooking power you’re looking for.