Microwave Running Cost Calculator: How Much It Costs You

Microwave running costs

If you, like 90% of Americans, rely on microwaves to heat up your leftovers, make a quick snack, or even defrost food, it’s only natural to want to know how much it costs to run this kitchen staple.

After all, being mindful of the energy usage of your appliances can help you save hundreds of dollars on your utility bills.

On average, running an 800-watt microwave that’s always plugged in and used for about 15 minutes per day costs $1 per month or $12 per year. However, this may vary depending on different factors, such as your microwave’s wattage, usage frequency, and the electricity rate in your area.

Read on to learn exactly how much your microwave is costing you each year and how to reduce this amount!

How I’ve Estimated Microwave Running Costs

If you’re a data nerd like me, you might be curious about how I came up with the calculator above.

Well, wonder no more! I took a few factors into account, including the microwave’s power output, the electricity cost in your area, and the number of minutes you typically use it each day.

If you’re not sure about your microwave’s wattage, please look inside the door or near the controls. You can also find this information in the manufacturer’s manual.

Can’t find your manual? Check out our detailed guide on how to find any product’s manual online.

I also considered that microwaves use around 5 watts of electricity per hour when they’re plugged in and not actively being used.

Now, it’s important to note that the results you get from the calculator may be on the high side. That’s because microwaves are designed to turn the magnetron on and off during cooking to ensure the temperature is just right. This means they don’t use their full power output for the entire cooking time.

So, while our estimate is a great starting point, your actual running costs may be a bit lower depending on how much you use your appliance.

How to Lower Your Microwave’s Running Costs

Unlike other major appliances, microwaves generally don’t use a significant amount of energy. However, I understand that you may still be interested in ways to save money on your energy bills.

Here are a few essential tips that will help you get started!

#1 Clean It Regularly

Food splatters, grime, or grease can quickly build up and cause your microwave to work harder and longer than it needs to, which can be both frustrating and costly.

Grease buildup in microwave
Clean your microwave regularly to prevent grease and grime buildup.

By quickly cleaning your microwave every week, you can prevent this issue from happening. Not only will this make your appliance last longer, but it can also help you save money on your energy bills.

Follow these simple instructions to clean it:

  1. Gather your materials – You’ll need a soft cloth or sponge, a microwavable bowl, and a cleaning solution (equal parts of white vinegar and water, dishwashing soap, and a drop of lemon essential oil).
  2. Place the bowl in the microwave – Heat the bowl with the cleaning solution and run it for 3–5 minutes at the highest settings. Avoid opening the microwave’s door right away, please leave the bowl for a few minutes. This way, the steam can loosen up stuck bits of food, dirt, and grime.
  3. Wipe down the interior – Carefully remove the bowl and turntable tray. Then, take the sponge and wipe the interior, please focus on any stubborn stains. Don’t forget to clean the turntable in the sink with dish soap and water. Wipe the interior with dry paper towels and place the turntable back in the microwave.
  4. Wipe down the exterior – Wipe down the exterior of the microwave with a damp cloth.

Extra tip: Once you’ve finished cleaning your microwave, put two tablespoons of baking soda and a cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Then, run it on high power for 3 minutes and carefully remove the bowl. Finally, use a damp cloth to wipe down the inside of the microwave.

This quick action will help you get rid of any unpleasant smells.

If you have an over the range microwave, don’t forget to remove the grease filter and clean it with hot, soapy water at least once a month.

#2 Use Your Microwave’s Features

Most microwaves have an auto cook feature that automatically sets the correct cooking time and power level based on the food you’re cooking.

This feature keeps you from guessing the correct cooking time for each dish, which is not only convenient but also energy efficient, as it reduces the likelihood of overcooking your food. This means that you won’t need to run your microwave longer than necessary.

In my experience, using the microwave-safe plate cover can also help you save energy, as it can help retain heat, reducing the cooking time.

Microwave-safe plate cover
A microwave-safe plate cover can retain heat and save energy.

A plate cover can also help prevent food splatters and retains moisture, which is great to keep your food from drying out. It also makes the cleaning process much easier!

#3 Plan Ahead

Believe it or not, planning your meals ahead of time can also help you reduce your energy usage.

For example, instead of using the microwave to thaw food, try thawing it in the refrigerator 12 to 24 hours in advance. This avoids the need to use your microwave excessively, which will help you save money in the long run.

I also recommend separating your food by density and arranging it in the microwave according to its thickness (denser items like meat can take longer to cook than lighter items like soft vegetables).

This can ensure your food heats up evenly and reduces the number of times you need to reheat a meal in the microwave.

Additionally, you may have noticed that the cost of running your microwave varies depending on whether you leave it plugged in even when you’re not using it.

Unplugging your microwave when it’s not in use can help you lower its running costs even further.

And don’t forget to leave at least 2–3 inches of space on all sides of the microwave to allow for proper heat dissipation. By doing this, you’ll avoid any potential damage to your appliance and its associated repair costs.

#4 Use Compatible Dishware

It doesn’t matter what type of microwave you have, whether it’s a countertop microwave or a drawer microwave, you should always use compatible dishware.

You see, microwaves use electromagnetic waves to warm up food. When you use dishware that is not specifically designed for microwave use, it can cause the waves to bounce off or be absorbed. This can pose a health hazard, damage your appliance, and lead to expensive repair costs!

By using microwave-safe containers, you can also ensure that your food is cooked evenly, which will keep you from having to reheat your food countless times.

Compatible dishware is typically made of glass, ceramic, and certain plastics. Don’t forget to search for the “microwave-safe” label of the dishware before using it in the appliance.

Never put any type of metal, styrofoam, or any container that is not labeled as microwave-safe in your appliance.


I hope that this article has helped you discover the costs of running your microwave and ways to cut down on these expenses.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to take care of your appliances and save thousands of dollars, be sure to check out our free Appliance Challenge!

Thank you so much for reading, have a great day!

Hi there! I’m Craig, and I’m the founder of Appliance Analysts. When it comes to appliances and anything electrical, I’ve always loved opening things up, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. This website is where I share free advice from myself and our experts to help our readers solve their appliance/HVAC problems and save money. Read more