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Can I Save Energy by Cooking with My Microwave?

Most consumers already know that microwave ovens use less energy than conventional ovens and stoves. In our earlier article entitled “What are the Benefits of Microwave Cooking?,” we touched lightly on the energy-saving perks of these machines, but now we want to show you how those savings actually happen.

How Do Microwaves Actually Cook?

Can I Save Energy by Cooking with My Microwave? | Direct Energy

Microwave ovens transfer heat more efficiently by directly heating up the water in the food. This heat energy transfer rate is about 30% to 80%. On a stove top, the heat transfer time from the burner is much less — 12 to 14 percent of the heat energy goes into the food you’re cooking.

In addition, the quality and type of cookware you use also determines the rate of heat transfer. What you’re cooking also effects cook time. While it has been pointed out that water boiled on a stove top actually takes 25% less energy than a microwave, it’s not the same stuff as a bowel of frozen vegetables or a serving of lasagna or a few strips of tasty bacon.

How Much Energy Can You Save with Microwave Cooking?

Can I Save Energy by Cooking with My Microwave? | Direct Energy

According to United States Department of Energy data from 2014, cooking accounts for two percent of an average home’s energy use. So, on a $200 monthly electric bill, about $4 is going to cooking.

A rough comparison of appliances suggests that using an oven for one hour every day for thirty days cost $4.80 while a microwave costs just 90¢. That’s a good percentage reduction, and the amount saved does add up over the course of a year. But there’s more to it — especially when you consider the energy costs associated with cooking that affect the other ways your home uses energy.

How Can Microwave Cooking Help Me Save Energy in Other Ways?

Can I Save Energy by Cooking with My Microwave? | Direct Energy

Here’s the key principle: microwave ovens don’t produce a very big heat load for your air conditioning system during the summer. Stoves and ovens do. After all, they’re meant to get hot enough to cook food.

In a microwave, only the food, the container, and a small area of the microwave oven actually gets hot. On a stove top, burners must come up to temperature (up to 400° F or 204° C) and then take time to cool down after cooking is finished.

Admittedly, this might have little noticeable impact most of the time. But on really hot days, using multiple burners could make being in your kitchen just miserable by adding extra heat and humidity to your home. A 350° F (177° C) oven pumps wasted heat into your kitchen that can last for hours, adding to your home’s heat load and requiring your air conditioner to run longer.

What are Other Benefits of Microwave Cooking?

Can I Save Energy by Cooking with My Microwave? | Direct Energy
Another benefit? Your kid can safely operate a microwave without being burnt – unlike your oven.

It’s simple – microwave ovens don’t produce as many indoor pollutants as does other cooking methods. Indoor pollutants from cooking are especially important in newer built homes because they are much better air-sealed and have fewer air-changes with the outside. Consequently, toxins like nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), formaldehyde (HCHO), ultra-fine particles, and other lung irritants can linger in a home for up to 24 hours. The oven cleaning cycle releases even higher amounts of formaldehyde.

While using kitchen exhaust fans and air purifiers have been shown to effectively reduce these indoor pollutants, it doesn’t eliminate them entirely. Microwave ovens, meanwhile, emit “substantially lower” amounts of pollutants when cooking that aforementioned lasagna or bacon compared to using an electric or gas range.

By using a microwave oven instead, you avoid exposure to pollutants, and you also save some energy since you won’t run exhaust fans and air purifiers as often or for as long.

What do you like most about microwave cooking in your home? Share with us in the comments!

About 

Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

4 thoughts on “Can I Save Energy by Cooking with My Microwave?

  1. Great points; if only more foods tasted as good microwaved as they do conventionally prepared. Also the texture of food is very important, and microwaves create a very different texture in many cooked foods. Until they can mimic exactly tastes and textures, efficiency will fall to flavor every time.
    Microwaves can be combined with conventional cooking as well; if you start them in the microwave and then transfer them to the stove or oven, you save a little time, and recover most of the tastes and textures you would miss out on with a total microwave cooking. Even if I microwave a baked potato, I will then spray it with oil, salt it and toaster oven it for just 10 minutes to restore the features of a baked potato to a microwaved one.

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