How much does it cost to run a microwave and is it cheaper than an oven?

You might be wondering how much does it cost to run a microwave if you're trying to use less energy at home. We've done the sums to find out

microwave with door open and light on inside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wondering how much does it cost to run a microwave? Microwaves are amongst the most used kitchen appliances, offering a quick and convenient way to cook food, but how much does a microwave cost to run each time you use it, and how does that compare to other kitchen appliances?

Millions of households have spent the best part of 2022 worried about how much their energy bills will cost (opens in new tab), following a 54% increase in the energy price cap (opens in new tab) back in April. 

While another 80% increase has been avoided thanks to the government bringing in an energy bill freeze (opens in new tab) for two years from 1 October, energy bills remain high, with families keen to still save energy in their home where they can. 

Goodto.com's Money Editor Sarah Handley (opens in new tab) says: "So many of us are looking to cut our energy use at home in an attempt to keep bills as low as possible. The first step is to understand how much energy our most often used appliances cost to use to find out where we can make the best savings."

 How much does it cost to run a microwave? 

It currently costs about 6.5p per day to run a 700W microwave. If used daily, that works out as £1.98 per month and £23.76 per year. But from 1 October, when the Energy Price Guarantee comes into effect, this will rise to about 8p per day, £2.43 per month and £29.16 per year. 

But how much your microwave actually costs to run will depend on the model you have, how powerful it is and how often you use it. 

For example, if you have a 900W microwave, up until 30 September, you can expect to pay around 8.4p per day, £2.55 per month or £30.60 per year. But from 1 October, this will rise to 10.2p per use, £3.10 per month or £37.20 per year. 

For a powerful 1200W microwave, you'll currently pay around 10.9p per day, £3.31 per month or £39.72 per year, rising to 13.3p per day, £4.04 per month or £48.48 per year from 1 October. 

A microwave typically uses between 700 to 1200 Watts, so take a look at the table below for average running costs of using each model for 20 minutes a day. But bear in mind, if you have a microwave with a higher wattage, it could cook your food quicker, so you don't need to run it for as long. 

 

Cost per use (from 1 October)Cost per month (from 1 October)Cost per year (from 1 October)
700W microwave8p£2.43£29.16
900W microwave10.2p£3.10£37.20
1200W microwave13.3p£4.04£48.48

But while a microwave might already be relatively cheap to run, making sure you use it correctly will avoid using more energy than necessary.

Thea Whyte (opens in new tab), small appliances expert at AO.com said: “Choosing the correct mode will allow the microwave to work more efficiently. If you’re defrosting food, make sure to use the defrost function instead of just using the normal features.

"You can also save energy just by switching off the plug to avoid using phantom energy.” 

Are microwaves cheaper to run than conventional ovens?

Microwaves are a lot cheaper to run than ovens. The Energy Saving Trust (opens in new tab) says this is because ovens tend to heat the air space and your food, whereas a microwave only heats your food, which makes it a lot more effective and means it consumes less energy than an oven. 

A conventional oven uses around 2,000 to 5,000 watts on average, which is more than double the average microwave, which uses between 700 and 1,200 watts. 

For example, to use a 700W microwave for 20 minutes will cost around 6.5p, but using an oven for the same amount of time will cost about 20p, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau calculator (opens in new tab)

Remember too that you may need to preheat your oven, which means you're using a significant amount of energy getting your oven up to temperature before you've started cooking your food. 

Goodto.com's Money Editor Sarah Handley says: "If you are cooking something that could be done in either a microwave or an oven, then opting for your microwave is a sensible choice. But not all foods can be cooked in a microwave, and sometimes your oven will still be the best option. But even reducing how often you reduce your oven can lead to significant savings."

Household appliance running costs Oct 2022

(Image credit: Future)

Is it cheaper to boil the kettle or use the microwave to make a hot drink? 

Per minute, it is cheaper to use a 700W microwave than it is to use a 3kW kettle, when it comes to boiling water. A 700W microwave currently costs an average of 0.33p per minute to run, while a 3kW kettle will cost around 1.7p per minute to run. 

But while it may be cheaper to use a microwave, it might not heat the liquid as effectively. According to a report from Mashable (opens in new tab), a kettle heats the liquid from the bottom, which causes a process called convection to happen. This means that when the liquid at the bottom of the kettle warms up, it becomes less dense and moves to the top, and the cooler liquid that was at the top moves to the bottom to be warmed by the heat source. This results in a really even heat throughout the liquid. 

But in a microwave, the liquid will be heated from all angles, which prevents convection from happening - so it's likely that the top of the liquid will be really hot, but towards the bottom of the cup, it will be much cooler. 

From an effectiveness point of view, it's better to use a kettle than a microwave to make a hot drink - and in this case, the potential cost saving might prove a false economy. 

If you found this article useful, you might also be interest in our other appliance running cost articles: 

Vaishali is a journalism graduate who has experience working with the likes of Leicester Mercury, Inews and The Week. She also comes from a marketing background, where she has done copywriting and content creation for businesses. Currently, writing about all things personal finance, Vaishali is passionate about finding the best deals around, whether it's the best credit cards or the cheapest personal loans, as well as sharing top money hacks to help people save and better manage their money. 

With contributions from