The Microwave Wattage Guide: How Many You Really Need

Source: Canva

When looking for a microwave, it’s essential to understand how watts work. There are many microwaves on the market with different wattages, making it challenging to find the most suitable one for your home. Check out the wattage guide below to find out how many you need and then discover other factors you may want to keep in mind when shopping for this essential appliance. 

Is the wattage of your microwave important?

Before getting into the importance of your microwave’s wattage, you’ll want to understand the meaning of the term “wattage”. It refers to the universal measurement for electrical power, and the specific number attached to an appliance explains its operating power capacity.

When it comes to a microwave, you can usually find its wattage by looking at the user manual that comes with the appliance. If you can’t find your manual even after rummaging through tangled laptop cords and dusty toaster oven boxes, your next best option is to find the wattage on the microwave itself. In most models, you can usually find it on a label right on the door or along the inside of it. 

The wattage is one of the most important considerations when buying a microwave. This is because the number of watts in your microwave determines the appliance’s performance. The higher the microwave’s wattage, the more powerful it will be and the quicker it will perform. A microwave with a higher wattage will also cook food more evenly. Getting a microwave with the right wattage for your needs will allow you to cook food without wasting energy and help you avoid the struggle of trial and error when warming, defrosting, or cooking food. 

Below is a microwave wattage chart that shows the microwave size in cubic feet and liter plus the watts which belong to them:

Microwave Size (Cubic Feet)Microwave Size (Liter)Microwave Wattage
Small 0.6 Cu. Ft.17 Liter600 Watts
Small 0.7 Cu. Ft.19 Liter700 Watts
Small 0.9 Cu. Ft.25 Liter 900 Watts
Medium 1.0 Cu. Ft. – 1.5 Cu. Ft.28 – 42 Liter 950 – 1100 Watts
Large 1.6 Cu. Ft. – 2.2 Cu. Ft.45 – 62 Liter1100 – 1250 Watts

What’s the most suitable wattage for microwaves?

No matter the type or range, a microwave generally utilizes between 500 to 1200 watts or more. Smaller models typically offer less power, while the bigger ones are more powerful and better suited to a family’s needs. You’ll find that most recipes specific to microwave ovens are written for the 700-watt. If you have a standard 700-watt microwave, you can expect it to boil a cup of room temperature water (approximately 75°F) in 2 minutes and 3o seconds. That means you won’t have to go through the trouble of converting the cooking times of recipes. 

On the other hand, if it takes more or less time for a cup of water to boil in your microwave, consider converting cooking times to suit the wattage of your appliance. For example, if you have a 1000-watt oven and a recipe meant for a 700-watt model requires you to cook for 1 minute and 30 seconds, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time to approximately 1 minute and 3 seconds. 

A bag of popcorn in a microwave. Source: Canva

Below is a microwave chart that show the amount of time it takes to boil a cup of water and popping a bag of popcorn:

WattagesBoil a cup of waterPopping a bag of popcorn
500 W3 minutes and 30 seconds3 minutes and 10 seconds
600 W2 minutes and 55 seconds2 minutes 40 seconds
700 W2 minutes and 30 seconds2 minutes and 15 seconds
800 W2 minutes and 11 seconds2 minutes
900 W1 minute and 57 seconds1 minute and 45 seconds
1000 W1 minute and 45 seconds1 minute and 35 seconds
1100 W1 minute and 35 seconds1 minute and 25 seconds
1200 W1 minute and 27 seconds1 minute and 18 seconds
1300 W1 minute and 21 seconds1 minute and 13 seconds
1400 W1 minute and 15 seconds1 minute and 8 seconds
1500 W1 minute and 10 seconds1 minutes and 5 seconds

How many watts does my microwave need?

The microwave wattage that will best suit your needs will depend on how you plan to use it. While some individuals use their appliances to warm up/defrost nearly every meal, others occasionally use microwaves. That being said, you’ll want to go for an appliance that can handle almost anything you’re likely to throw at it. Your priority should be to choose a powerful microwave to cook your food evenly without wasting energy. Here are some of the options you might want to consider:

1. 500 watts

Microwaves with this low wattage are not ideal for cooking food. Individuals who opt to use these compact, low-power options find them best suited to dehydrating foods or quickly heat a beverage. 500-watt microwaves are ideal for those who use the appliance on occasion. These microwaves don’t have too many features to cook different types of food or other specs to encourage fast and even heating. Furthermore, they tend to be much more affordable than their counterparts.

2. 600 – 800 watts

Microwaves with this wattage level can steam or even fry some foods, and you can also heat a frozen meal or cook eggs and other small foods. Heating beverages like coffee and tea is also more efficient at this wattage. However, since the microwave wattage in these models is still considerably low, the food is cooked or heated slowly. Furthermore, they may not cook/heat food evenly. Many households have a microwave with wattage that falls within this range. 

3. 800 – 1000 watts

A microwave with a wattage that falls within this range is likely in the higher end of standard models. You can rely on this microwave to efficiently cook chicken, boil rice, make popcorn, or cook a small dessert thoroughly. That being said, it’s important to use the correct setting for each different type of food since the wattage is higher than average. Remember that food cooked under a high wattage requires little cook time.

4. 1000 – 1200 watts

Once the wattage in microwaves goes higher than 1000 watts, they’re closer in efficiency to ovens than standard microwaves. These high-wattage microwaves are more common-place in restaurant kitchens as they are designed to perform quick and effective heating and cooking. You can safely use these microwaves to prepare raw meats with the proper techniques and instructions. However, these models are too powerful for microwaveable dinners or heating a beverage. 

What is microwave input and output wattage?

It may be confusing to see two different wattages mentioned on your microwave’s user manual or at the back casing of the microwave. One is the input wattage, while the other is the output wattage.

The input wattage indicates the microwave’s power from the wall socket through the home grid. The overall watts are utilized by the microwave to power up and run features like the turntable, keypad, LED display, and generate the microwaves required to cook/heat the food.

On the other hand, the output wattage refers to the actual wattage required by the magnetron to generate microwave energy in the internal chamber of the appliance and cook the food. Therefore, the sole purpose of this type of wattage is to heat and cook.

Consequently, the input wattage of a microwave is a combination of output watts, the watts required to run other mechanical parts of the device, and the energy loss during the process.

The efficiency of a microwave-based on input and output wattage typically ranges from 60 to 80%. On average, a microwave will have around 65% efficiency. Therefore, if the input wattage is 1000 watts, the output wattage will be around 650 watts. Here are some examples:

  • 900 output wattage – 1350 input wattage (about 67% efficiency)
  • 700 output wattage – 1100 input wattage (64% efficiency)
  • 1100 output wattage – 1700 input wattage (65% efficiency)

Can you alter the wattage of your microwave?

It’s possible to change your microwave’s output wattage as most appliances have varying power levels, usually from 1- 10 (1 being the lowest and 10 the highest). For example, if you’re using a 1000-watt microwave and you only want 50% of the power, you can set it to run at level 5. If you’re going to use only 700 watts out of the available 1000 wattage capacity, you can select power level 7. At the highest level, you will be utilizing the provided output wattage on the user manual. 

The 8 Factors to Consider When Buying a Microwave

In addition to the wattage, there are several other factors to keep in mind when choosing a microwave for your home:

1. Type 

Some of the most common types of microwaves include:

Countertop microwaves

Countertop microwave – Source: Canva

As the name suggests, a countertop microwave will typically be found on a kitchen countertop. These models are the most common type you’ll come across, and their prevalence could be attributed to the fact that these units are easy to purchase, replace, and set up. There’s virtually installation required with countertop microwaves – all you have to do is plug them in and start cooking. 

The main concern when trying to determine if a model is suitable for your needs is the size of the appliance and whether there’s enough room on your countertop. 

Pros of countertop microwave:

  • Most of these microwaves are usually the most affordable options
  • They are easy to set up and replace, with no installation required
  • They are lightweight 

Cons of countertop microwave:

  • They can take up quite a bit of countertop space
  • Because they are typically smaller, they often lack many features

Over-the-range microwaves

Over-the-range microwave – Source: Canva

This type of microwave is installed directly above a stovetop or cooking range. These appliances can often be installed to blend right into your kitchen – having them installed flush amongst kitchen cabinets is a popular interior design option. 

These microwaves can help you save on countertop space, making them an excellent option for those who have compact kitchens. Many of these microwave models also feature a light fixture at the bottom to help illuminate the cooking surface below them. Furthermore, most over-the-range microwaves have a built-in ventilation system that can get rid of odors, excessive heat, and fumes, much like an exhaust fan or range hood.

While there are plenty of benefits to look forward to, with this type of microwave, there are a handful of downsides to keep in mind as well:

  • They are more costly to purchase and maintain than countertop varieties.
  • They require installation
  • They are often difficult for children (as well as some adults) to reach

Built-in microwaves

Built-in microwave – Source: Canva

A built-in microwave is generally any microwave that can be installed into your kitchen in almost any space that can fit the dimensions and electrical requirements of the model. These may be a suitable option if you are remodeling your kitchen having custom cabinets installed or if you want a drawer-style microwave. These models are installed directly above a wall oven in many cases, but the location you opt to install yours will likely depend on your kitchen design. 

Pros of the built-in microwave:

  • Their elegant built-in look often blends in well with other appliance
  • They don’t take up counter space

Cons of the built-in microwave:

  • It’s advisable to get a professional installer to build one into your kitchen. That being said, if you’re a DIY enthusiast, you may be able to install it yourself – just remember to keep the microwave’s venting needs in mind.
  • They are quite expensive.

Convection microwaves

These unique microwaves utilize an entirely different method of heating/cooking food. They are much more similar to ovens because they use high heat temperatures and an internal fan to circulate the air. In contrast, standard microwaves typically use electromagnetic waves to heat food items from the inside out. 

Convection models are easily the most versatile type of microwave as they can be used for a wide variety of cooking functions, including baking, broiling, and roasting. Furthermore, convection microwave varieties are available for countertops, built-in, or over-the-range.

Upsides of the convection microwaves:

  • They are convenient and versatile
  • They offer more cooking options

Downsides of the convection microwaves:

  • They are more expensive than standard models
  • If you have limited experience with this type of microwave, you can easily burn your food

Below is a microwave sizes chart:

Microwave TypeHeight (In.)Width (In.)Depth (In.)Capacity (Cubic Ft.)
Small Countertop10″-11″15″-18″12″-16″0.5 Cu. Ft. – 0.9 Cu. Ft.
Standard & Large Countertop12″-15″21″-25″16″-20″1.0 Cu. Ft. – 2.2 Cu. Ft.
Over-the-Range17″30″15″-18″0.8 Cu. Ft. – 2.1 Cu. Ft.
Built-In Microwave17″-22″24″, 27″ or 30″20″-25″1.0 Cu. Ft. – 2.2 Cu. Ft.

2. Cost

When it comes to cost, there are two things to consider:

The cost of purchase

How much an appliance cost is always an important consideration when making a purchase, no matter its size. You might have noticed that the price ranges for microwaves tend to vary considerably depending on the type of model. Countertop models are generally the most affordable options, whereas built-in varieties are typically the most expensive. Similarly, low-wattage varieties are cheaper, whereas higher-wattage microwaves are more costly. 

The cost to run the microwave

The cost to run a microwave will depend on:

  • The wattage of a microwave
  • The length of time your microwave runs
  • The cost of electricity where your live

As previously mentioned, lower wattage models cost less to run per minute. However, these microwaves cook food less quickly and thoroughly, which might end up running up your electric bill. Therefore, it might be more cost-effective to go for a higher wattage microwave that cooks food more quickly in some cases. 

3. Size

The size of a microwave will determine how well it fits into your kitchen. The last thing you want to do is buy a microwave you love only to find that it can’t fit in the space you wish to have it in. Your chosen unit must fit precisely to the size specifications available for built-in microwaves. Contrarily, countertop models allow a bit more flexibility in terms of dimensions. That being said, you still need to keep in mind the amount of counter space available and how much of it you’re willing to give up.

4. Preprogrammed settings

Microwave preprogrammed settings – Source: Canva

Whether or not pre-programmed settings are a priority will depend on your personal preferences. While some people may never use them even when they’re available, others find it tasking to input a time anytime manually they use their microwaves. 

Many microwaves feature at least a popcorn setting that you can adjust based on the size of the popcorn bag. Another familiar setting on most microwaves is the “defrost” setting. High-end models typically have a wider variety of pre-programmed settings for different purposes, ranging from reheating pizzas to baking potatoes.

5. Durability

The average lifespan of a standard microwave is about 9 years, but the most durable varieties can have a shelf life of around 10-12 years. If the durability of a microwave is a crucial consideration for you, consider looking at any reviews attached to the model you plan to buy to get a better idea of how long it may last. 

6. Safety 

Source: Canva

One of the main safety concerns regarding microwaves is the slight possibility of a fire hazard. There’s also the need to teach children to be careful when using them – particularly over-the-range varieties that require reaching over the stove to retrieve hot food items.

7. Ventilation 

Ventilation is an important consideration for those who may want to go for an over-the-range model that replaces the range hood in the kitchen that would otherwise provide ventilation.

8. Noise

Noise may not concern everyone, but some microwave models are generally older than others. If you’re bothered by the noise these appliances produce, it might be a good idea to test out the microwave you want to purchase to determine how loud it is. If you’re making a purchase online and have no way of testing it out, the customer reviews will often note if a model is particularly noisy, so you can determine which models to avoid. Some microwaves may even have decibel ratings listed for each unit.

How hot does a microwave get?

In regular use, the microwave’s maximum inside temperature can reach the 212°F (100°C), which is the boiling point of water.

Final thoughts

Understanding how microwave watts to work is key to finding a model that best meets your needs. Hopefully, this guide will help make your microwave shopping experience much easier!

Last update on 2023-04-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Zoltan Szatmari

Zoltan is a test and industrial engineer from Europe who loves learning anything new and working on small projects. When he is not working, he is usually hiking or going to the cinema.

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