Microwave Watts Guide: How Many You Need For Different Purposes

Researched & Written by Craig

If you’re looking to buy a microwave, then it’s critical you understand how watts work.

You’ve probably noticed that microwaves come in different wattages. This is a measurement of how much energy an appliance uses. Basically:

Watts are a 200+ year old term for how much electricity something uses per hour. One Watt is one Joule of energy used per second. It takes one Joule of energy to move one kilogram up ten centimeters. Watts are used to measure how much power it takes to run things like appliances and electric devices.

There’s still more you can learn about microwave watts. Want to know more? Keep reading.

Do Watts Matter in Microwaves?

Yes, watts matter when you’re buying a microwave. The number of watts your microwave uses affects how quickly and thoroughly it can cook your food. A higher wattage – the number of watts per hour it uses – the better it will work.

Depending on the microwave, you’ll see a variety of different wattages. Most microwaves sit between 600 and 1200 watts. Bigger microwaves will tend to have a higher wattage, and they’ll usually be more expensive. Meanwhile, budget models are typically smaller and lower-wattage.

How Many Watts Does My Microwave Need?

Since microwaves come in a range of wattages, it makes sense to choose your next microwave based on what you need. However, it’s important to make sure that your microwave can handle anything you’re likely to throw at it. Getting a microwave that’s strong enough to cook your food without wasting energy is your goal.

600-800 Watts:

The cheapest microwaves on the market tend to be between 600 and 800 watts. These microwaves are able to cook instant meals, heat small foods, and reheat drinks. Most microwavable foods give cooking instructions for 800 watt microwaves, so any lower than that and you’ll spend longer cooking your food.

800-1000 Watts:

This is the higher end of traditional microwaves. Water boils quickly, raw food is cooked all the way through, and popcorn takes no time at all. Most microwaves in this range come with a variety of settings so you don’t accidentally burn your food.

1000-1200 Watts:

Once microwaves break 1000 watts, they’re closer to ovens than traditional microwaves. Restaurant microwaves tend to be in this range and above. With the right preparation techniques, you can even safely cook raw meats in these microwaves. However, it’s a little overpowered for microwave dinners or reheating a drink.

Best Wattage Range for All-Rounder Microwave

If you’re looking for a home microwave that’s effective but not overpowered, then look for one between 800 and 1000 watts. This will cook food quickly without leaving cold spots. On the flip side, it won’t draw an excessive amount of power, so you don’t risk burning your food.

You can find microwaves in all sorts of styles in that wattage range. Countertop microwaves, over-the-range microwaves, and microwave drawers all come in the 800-1000 watt range. That means that you can find a microwave in this range no matter where you want to put it.

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Microwave?

The cost to run a microwave depends on three things:

  • The wattage of the microwave.
  • How long the microwave runs.
  • The cost of electricity in your area.

These three factors combine to decide how much it costs to cook your food.

Lower wattage microwaves cost less to run per minute. The tradeoff is that lower-wattage microwaves cook food less quickly and less thoroughly. In some cases, it might be cheaper to get a stronger microwave that cooks food more quickly.

There’s an equation you can follow to figure out how much it costs to run a specific microwave.

(Kilowatts/hour) x (time running) x ($ per kilowatt-hour) = Cost to Run an Appliance

Now there’s a lot there, so we’ll break it down.

First, there are a thousand watts in a kilowatt (kW). If your microwave is an 800 watt unit, it uses .8 kilowatts per hour.

Next, the amount of time your microwave is running dictates hour much electricity it uses. If it runs for two minutes, that’s 1/30th of an hour.

Finally, electricity companies charge per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Usually, the price is just a few cents per kWh. On average, the US energy price is 12 cents per kWh, or $0.12/kWh.

When you plug all these variables into the equation, you get the total cost to run a microwave.

.8 kW/hour x 1/30th hour x $0.12kWh = $0.0032

To run an 800 watt microwave for two minutes at 12 cents per kilowatt, it will cost you… 1/3 of a cent. Running that same microwave for a full hour would cost 10 cents.

Over the course of a month, unless you’re using the microwave for hours every day, it’s just not very expensive to cook with a microwave. The electricity cost difference between an 800 watt microwave and a 1000 watt microwave is less than a dollar a month for most users.

Conclusion

When you’re shopping for a microwave, wattage is unavoidable. Understanding how watts work and why they’re important is key to getting a microwave that meets your needs. I hope this guide has helped you understand watts and electricity just a little bit better.

If you’re in the market for a new microwave, check out our related articles. We specifically review units to make sure they’re worth purchasing.

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