Should I Unplug a Microwave When Not In Use? (Explained)

The trusty microwave has been heating up our dishes in record time and with little fuss. Whether it’s a battered old thing in a student dorm room or a shiny state-of-the-art piece of sophistication in the heart of your kitchen, these devices are ubiquitous in our homes.

However, you may be wondering whether your microwave should be unplugged when you don’t need to use it.

In this article, you can learn about why and when you should unplug your microwave.

Here’s If You Should Unplug A Microwave When Not In Use:

The main concern is that leaving a microwave plugged in will drain electricity even when it isn’t being used. It’s true that this does happen, but the amount of energy being wasted is relatively little. If you don’t plan on using your microwave for more than an hour, then, unplugging is a good idea.

microwave being plugged in

Is It Safe To Keep A Microwave Plugged In When Not In Use?

Your microwave does not pose a serious safety risk whilst not in use.

Microwaves do draw some power when plugged in due to their digital displays, however, the wattage is low.

There is a small risk that an old or damaged microwave could short circuit and cause an electrical fire. Replacing microwaves over 10 years old and caring for them correctly are far more important safety factors than unplugging.

Does Unplugging A Microwave Save Electricity (and Money)?

We live in a world in which sustainability is a key component in doing our part for the planet. Saving on our energy bills keeps both the cost to our bank balance and the planet low.

Your microwave uses power even when it is on standby mode and therefore, it is using electricity and costing you money when it is left plugged in.

You may believe that your microwave only uses power when you decide to defrost that frozen fish or reheat that slice of cold pizza, but the truth is, that even whilst on standby, it will be using up to 7 watts of power.

The reason for this usage of power is due to:

  • The digital display showing the time.
  • The user interface standing by for command inputs.

The folks at estimate that:

“In a single year a microwave using 4 watts in 24/7 standby mode will use 35 kWh”.

Now that may not sound like a huge amount, but everything does add up.

If you want to save on energy costs you may want to consider unplugging your microwave when you feel it is not necessary to have it on standby.

Should You Unplug A Microwave When Going On Holiday?

The most obvious time that you probably don’t need your microwave on standby is when you’re jet-setting across the globe.

Offsetting your carbon footprint is easier said than done, but by unplugging appliances that use energy even when not in use is a good step in the right direction.

If you’ve got a trip planned and want to save energy whilst you’re out of the country then unplugging your microwave makes sense.

Also, it’s worth considering how unplugging your microwave may give you a little more peace of mind whilst you are away.

Read this blog here about can I leave chargers plugged in all the time?

3 Great Reasons To Unplug Your Microwave Whilst On Holiday

  1. Reduction In Energy Costs.
    • As we’ve already seen, microwaves use power even whilst not in use.
    • Unplugging it will reduce your costs and whilst it won’t pay for your hotel room, it will give you the sense that you deserve another cocktail at the pool just for being energy savvy.
  2. Protecting Your Microwave From Unexpected Power Surges.
    • Energy surges can come in many forms, even an unexpected lightning strike could create a sudden spike that may damage appliances that are connected to your power outlet.
    • Disconnecting your microwave ensures that no matter what the cause of the surge, your microwave is safe from damage.
  3. Prevents The Chance Of An Electrical Fire.
    • Don’t panic. The chance that your microwave will create a fire whilst you’re sipping margaritas is low. A microwave that is in decent shape and hasn’t been subjected to damage should be fine.
    • However, microwaves that have had a lifetime of micro-surges may no longer be in the best working order, and thus, an electrical fire could be caused if it short circuits whilst you are away.
    • Of course, ensuring your microwave is unplugged when you leave for your holiday will make this worry a moot point.

As you can see, the reasons for unplugging your microwave whilst on holiday make it a no-brainer.

So if you’re about to spend a week unplugged and taking it easy, why shouldn’t your microwave, too?

Do Microwaves Last Longer When Unplugged?

The longevity of our appliances is important and we’re all looking for ways to get the most out of them before they need to be replaced.

Unplugging your microwave won’t add years to its lifespan, but it will help a little.

A microwave should have a lifespan of around 10 years. However, you may notice it begins to get a little sluggish with age, such as:

  • An inability to cook products in the time it should take.
  • The seal of the door becoming damaged and breaking away.
  • The user interface is not responding as it should.
  • Bad smells, smoke, or sparks.

The continual use of energy that your microwave is consuming will be ever so slowly wearing the machine out.

However, going this extra mile (unplugging it at every opportunity) may seem excessive if this is your primary reason for unplugging your device.

If you’re concerned about keeping your microwave in top condition then there are better ways to care for your microwave than simply unplugging it, such as:

  1. Purchase A Surge Protector.
    • Worried about surges and the risks of electrical fires? Rather than unplugging your microwave in between uses just plug it into a surge protector.
    • If a surge happens, you can be sure that your microwave will be safe from damage.
  2. Keeping Your Microwave Squeaky Clean.
    • If you have the remnants of food splattered inside your microwave then you should remove them at the next opportunity.
    • The residue from previous meals will absorb energy when your microwave is heating up your next dish, meaning your microwave is being made to work harder than it should.
    • Regular inspection and cleaning are crucial to your microwave’s overall health.
  3. Remember What Can & Cannot Go In Your Microwave.
    • Some materials are safe to go inside your microwave and some really are not.
    • If you are placing items in your microwave that are not suitable then you are likely to damage your device, and worse still, could cause an explosion.
    • All metals and aluminum foil should never be placed inside your microwave for heating.
  4. Treat Your Microwave Door Kindly.
    • It’s easy to slam the microwave door closed without thinking, but that door is a crucial part of what keeps your microwave alive and well.
    • Opening the door whilst the microwave is still cooking is not a good practice either and can cause the fuse to blow.
    • Carefully closing your microwave door will protect the complex mechanisms inside the latches and will allow your microwave to last longer.
  5. Don’t Heat Up Empty Space.
    • Never switch on your microwave when there’s nothing in it to heat as this will lead to the microwave cooking itself – not a good idea, obviously!
  6. The Pre-set Programs Are Your Friend.
    • The presets on your microwave are actually designed to make the most efficient and effective use of your device.
    • Using these modes should ensure that you cook your food correctly and save energy doing so.

Is It Bad To Unplug Your Microwave?

Unplugging your microwave is not going to damage your appliance, on the contrary, unplugging it at the right times could be a good thing.

As we’ve seen, when you’re out of the house for an extended period of time, such as a holiday, unplugging it may well be the smart move.

However, there is a downside of unplugging your microwave that we’ve yet to touch upon.

Remember, one of the main things that your microwave is doing whilst on standby mode is keeping the display on – that display shows you the time.

If you unplug the microwave there is a good chance that when you plug it back in again and switch it back on you’ll find that the clock needs to be set.

Unplugging your microwave will mean:

  • Each time you plug it back in you will need to reset the time.
  • If you forget to reset the clock then your microwave will display the wrong time.
  • If you rely on that clock in your kitchen then that could be a problem for you.

Unplugging your microwave might not be a bad thing, but it could lead to repeatedly having to set the clock and that could get annoying fast.

Can It Hurt To Unplug Your Microwave Every Night?

Unplugging your microwave every night is absolutely fine, but perhaps a little overzealous.

There are advantages to having your microwave unplugged, but to unplug your microwave every night may be a step too far.

However, if you do not rely on the microwave’s clock and are incredibly keen to save money, no matter how much, then severing power to this device as part of an energy-efficient routine in your home will do you (or your microwave) no harm.

If your concern is due to safety, and the worry over power surges, then you should plug your microwave into a surge protector.

Read our other blog here about should you unplug computers when not in use?


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