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How Many Watts Does a Microwave Use? Do They Consume Lots of Power?

Woman's Hands Closing Microwave Oven Door And Preparing Food At Home

Microwaves are a staple in every kitchen, whether they’re reheating leftovers or microwave pizzas. As with anything electric in your home, microwaves use a fair amount of electricity. Most modern microwaves are rated at 600–1,200 watts, but heavy-duty microwaves can range up to 1,500 watts. Urban legends say that microwaves use a lot of power, but how true is that?

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The wattage determines how much power it uses, but we have to do some math first to see how it impacts your power bill. A 1,200-watt microwave running for a full day yields 1.2 kWh (kilowatt hours). We doubt anyone is running their microwave 24/7, so let’s assume you use it for about 30 minutes a day.

Running for 30 minutes a day, a 1,200-watt microwave will draw 0.6 kWh, which is pretty tiny. The true cost depends on how much your area charges per kWh for electricity, but the average is about $0.12 per kWh. Let’s see how that translates into an hour, day, week, month, and year.

Microwave Power Usage:
  • Per hour: $0.14
  • Per day: $0.07
  • Per week: $0.31
  • Per month: $2.17
  • Per year: $26.28

Of course, this is assuming you only use your microwave for exactly half an hour every day. If you use it more or less or skip days, that will change your power estimate considerably.

Compared to appliances like washers and dryers, microwaves aren’t very greedy on power. In fact, they can even save you money because you’re not using your stove or other electric appliances to reheat food.

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Do Microwaves Use More or Less Power Than Other Appliances?

Well, $26 doesn’t seem like much for a year of use, but you have to compare that to other appliances to find out. For instance, how much power do electric stovetops use? Air fryers? Washers or dryers?

Don’t worry, because we’re about to break down the average costs of running those appliances and more below.

Appliance Yearly Cost
Electric Stovetop $131 (2 hours of use per day)
Window Air Conditioner $175 (4 hours of use per day)
Central Air Conditioner $613 (4 hours of use per day)
Air Fryer $65 (1 hour of use per day)
Washer $54 (2.5 hours of use per day)
Dryer $328 (2.5 hours of use per day)
Refrigerator $189 (24/7 use)

We must note that these are estimates only, and you should only use them to get a ballpark idea of what your appliances might be costing you. Every appliance has its own wattage that may vary. And, of course, you might not use your appliances for the estimated number of hours a day.

Overall, however, microwaves are very light on power, especially compared to a central A/C or dryer. They’re even more efficient than electric stovetops. Air fryers use several times the amount of power a microwave does, and even washers use more than double. Unless you exclusively use a microwave to cook, they’re a very energy-efficient complement for reheating food and some light cooking.

Close-up Of Woman Using Microwave Oven For Heating Food At Home
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

How to Reduce Microwave Energy Consumption

Because microwaves are pretty energy-efficient to begin with, a better strategy would be to look at how much you use some of your greediest appliances. However, there are a few ways to reduce how much power your microwave uses and save a few bucks.

How to Reduce Microwave Power Usage:
  • Cook with lower power settings
  • Unplug it when not in use to avoid passive energy siphoning
  • Meal prep to cut down on reheating food
  • Embrace cold leftovers instead of reheating them
  • Look for an EnergyStar-rated microwave that uses less power

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Microwaves are one of the most convenient appliances in our kitchen, and they use relatively little power compared to other appliances in the kitchen and at home. If you’re worried your microwave is drawing too much power, we’d recommend looking for a newer, energy-efficient model rated by EnergyStar.

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Featured Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

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