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How Much Less Energy Does a Microwave Use Than an Oven? I Did the Math

You can trim real money from your energy bill by using the microwave more in place of the big oven. Here's how much.

samsung microwave on counter
Giving certain foods a "nuke" instead of firing up the big oven will shave money off your energy bill.
Samsung

If your goal is to save money on those pesky monthly energy bills, there are several changes around the home that'll help. Turning off the lights when you're not using them and keeping the thermostat set to this temp. But you can also swap out more energy-efficient cooking appliances in place of the big oven.

Your main oven uses significantly more energy than an air fryer, for instance. If you don't have an air fryer, a microwave is another more cost-effective cooking appliance, and while it won't do all the jobs that a standard oven will, finding ways to use the microwave more could keep your total energy spend from ballooning this winter. 

I've calculated the total energy it takes to run a microwave and compared that to the rough energy pull (and cost) of a full-sized oven. Here's exactly how much you could save over the course of a year. 

Microwave vs. large oven


Microwave Gas oven Electric oven
Average energy draw per hour 1,200 watts 7,000 BTUs 3,000 watts
Cost per hour $0.20 $0.40 $0.51
Cost per year (365 hours cooking) $74 $146 $182

Much like the air fryer, the microwave proves to be an extremely energy-efficient way to cook -- even more so when you consider how quickly it cooks. You can certainly save money on your energy bill if you find ways to use your microwave instead of the large oven.

Here's how I got these figures.

20200413-161759-01

Microwaves can't do everything but they can save you some money on your energy bill.

Molly Price/CNET

How much energy does a microwave use?

Microwaves run solely on electricity and a standard microwave requires about 1,200 watts. Larger and more powerful microwaves may pull slightly more energy than this rate while smaller microwaves generally use a bit less. If you were to use your microwave for 15 minutes every day, that would break down to 300 watts per day or 0.3 kWh. In New York, where I live, a kWh is roughly 17 cents so your daily cost would be about 5 cents. Multiply that by 365 and you get a rough yearly total.

And what about the cost to run a microwave?

To run your microwave for 15 minutes every day uses roughly 109.5 kWh and in New York state would cost you about $18.60 a year. If you used it for an hour each day, it would cost about $74 for a year

Read more: I'm Loving This $98 Microwave That's Also an Air Fryer

kitchenaid-ovens-passion-red

Large ovens may be versatile but they pull loads more energy than smaller ovens. 

KitchenAid

How much energy does a gas oven use?

To calculate the operating cost of your gas oven, we take the energy rating of the oven in Btu and divide it by 100,000. Multiply the result by the cost per therm of natural gas in your state (varies by state), then multiply by the projected number of hours it is used. 

How much does it cost to run your oven?

To calculate the operating cost of an 18,000-Btu oven, for instance, you'll divide 18,000 by 100,000, giving you 0.18. We'll also need to find the average price per therm of natural gas in your state. This chart has the most recent prices via the US Energy Information Administration. Note that this chart is listed in dollars per thousand cubic feet, so you'll need to divide by 10. For instance, if the chart price is $23, you'll use $2.30 to calculate the cost. 

In New York, the price is currently $2.20 per therm (about average for the US). Next, we'll multiply that price for a therm by the number you calculated in the last step (0.18 in this example) to get the operating cost per hour of using your gas oven. 

For a New Yorker, it'll cost about 40 cents per hour to run an 18,000-Btu oven. If I were to run an oven for an hour per day, it would cost $146 per year. In some states, including Georgia, Florida and Ohio, natural gas is about 30% higher than the national average. In Hawaii, it's more than double.

stove top

Modern ovens are more efficient than they used to be but they can't compare to air fryers or microwaves.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How much energy does an electric oven use?

To find the total cost to run an electric oven, you'll calculate the wattage pulled per hour of cooking. Most electric ovens draw around 3,000 watts, a rate that varies depending on the temperature. Once you find the wattage via the appliance tag or an online product listing, multiply that by the number of hours you use the oven each day (we'll use 1 hour for this calculation), then divide by 1,000 watts to find the kilowatt-hours, or kWh, of electricity used. 

And what about the cost to run an electric oven?

Next, find the average price per kWh of electricity in your state. For that, you can consult this chart that has the 2020 prices listed in cents per kWh. Multiply that amount by the number you just calculated (3 kWh in this example) to determine your operating cost per day. 

Working with New York's current electricity rate of 17 cents per kWh, a 3,000-watt oven would cost about 51 cents per hour when run at high heat. If I used my oven for roughly an hour per day for one year that would equal roughly $182 per year

How much energy and money can you save using a microwave?

A microwave uses significantly less energy than either a gas or electric oven. To use your microwave for one hour every day would cost you about half the total energy of a natural gas oven and 60% less than an electric oven. Keep in mind that you very likely won't use your microwave for an hour every day, since it cooks so much faster than a standard oven.

chefman9fryer

Air fryers are still my pick for an energy-saving alternative to your large oven.

Chefman

I still recommend an air fryer to cut energy costs

While a microwave proves to be an energy-efficient appliance, it lags far behind other ovens in terms of results. Microwaves are fine for defrosting and reheating certain frozen meals, but if you overcook food in a microwave (not hard to do) you'll almost certainly end up with a rubbery, inedible lump.

Air fryers are another quick and energy-efficient countertop appliance that churns out markedly better results than microwaves. An Air fryer is a super convection oven that blasts food with quickly circulating air so it gets crispy on the outside without overcooking the inside. Air fryers also require almost no preheat time which means even more savings on your monthly electric spend. Here's my complete guide to air fryers to help you decide. The best part is you can get an excellent air fryer for under $75.

More ideas for saving on energy