The truth about horsepower in blenders and food processors

Does your food processor really have as much horsepower as a weed wacker? Those horsepower ratings aren't always what they seem.

Blenders and food processors of today pack a serious punch and manufacturers want you know know it.

Horsepower and wattage ratings are prominently displayed on the packaging and advertising (sometimes accompanied by dramatic videos of Apple products getting obliterated by a nondescript countertop blender.)

Just how powerful are those blenders, though? Does your food processor really have as much horsepower as a weed wacker? Discover why you should be wary of power ratings of various food processors and blenders and how to more accurately compare different models.

Advertised versus actual horsepower

Some manufacturers advertise a peak horsepower while others advertise the actual operating horsepower.

What's the difference? A lot, actually.

Kelly Nelson/CNET

Take the Vitamix 7500, a popular $530 blender, as an example. It's marketed as a 2.2-horsepower blender. But, it operates at 120 volts and 12 amps, or 1,440 watts. To convert 1,440 watts to horsepower, multiply it by a factor of 0.00134, and you get 1.93 horsepower.

You get the same discrepancy with Blendtec blenders. The Blendtec Classic 560 is listed as having a peak horsepower of 3. It's a 1,560-watt blender, which means the motor is actually producing 2.09 horsepower.

This means the Ninja Mega Kitchen System, which retails for nearly $100 less than the Blendtec Classic 560 and $329 less than the Vitamix 7500, provides almost the same power at the blades: 2.01 horsepower.

What is peak horsepower and why does it matter?

Peak horsepower is the amount of power generated when the motor meets resistance, such as the instant the motor starts spinning. This initial boost in torque makes the start of the blending process easier. Soon thereafter (a split-second, at best), the power of the motor drops to the running horsepower.

In the case of the Blendtec Classic 560, 3 horsepower may be reached at the instant the blender begins working, but it cannot realistically sustain that power. It quickly drops to closer to 2.41 horsepower for the duration of the blending process.

The benefit of a higher peak horsepower in day-to-day use is minimal, since it is only achieved in short bursts.

How to better compare blenders and food processors

Since all you need to calculate the wattage of a blender or food processor is the input amperage and voltage, ignore the listed horsepower rating (which is typically peak horsepower) and do the math yourself. Compare listed or calculated watts and you might find that you can get much more bang for your buck than you expected.

For instance, compare these blenders:

Vitamix 7500

  • 2.2 peak horsepower
  • 1,440 watts
  • $529.99

Blendtec Classic 560

  • 3 peak horsepower
  • 1,560 watts
  • $299.95

Ninja Mega Kitchen System

  • 2 rated horsepower
  • 1,500 watts
  • $199.99

With each of these blender models, you are getting nearly the same blending power, around 1,500 watts or close to 2 running horsepower. However, the prices range from $200 for the Ninja model to $529.99 for Vitamix's blender.

But wattage isn't the only factor to consider. Once you've decoded the power rating, other preferences will guide your purchasing decision. Maybe you prefer blending your morning smoothie directly into a portable tumbler, or you might want to make a hot soup directly in your blender or food processor. Whatever the case, the power of a blender or food processor can certainly dictate what it's capable of, but it's only one part of the process.

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