Today is National Microwave Oven Day (yes, that’s a real holiday) so let’s take a minute to learn about this household appliance.
Who Invented The Microwave?
It’s a funny story, actually. The creation of the microwave happened completely by accident. Over 70 years ago, a Raytheon engineer by the name of Percy Spencer was working in a lab on military-grade magnetrons. During his work, he realized the snack he was carrying had melted.
He then ran additional tests on an egg and unpopped popcorn kernels. After seeing what the magnetron could do to these food items, he began developing the microwave oven and about a year later in 1947, the first one hit the market. It cost almost $2,000, making it a costly investment for the average consumer. It wasn’t until 1967 that manufacturing costs fell low enough for the microwave oven to become a common household appliance.
How Energy Efficient Are Microwave Ovens?
You may be wondering, “If I need to heat up a cup of water, is it better to use the microwave or stovetop?” From an energy standpoint, the microwave wins this round but only by a small amount.
Microwave ovens dedicate all of their energy to heating the food item, or in this case, liquid, whereas a stovetop burner dedicates energy to heating the surrounding air and the kettle or pot. Ultimately the amount of energy you save by utilizing a microwave over the stovetop is so negligible that you’d be better off switching your light bulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) than worrying about your microwave.
That being said, microwaves do save significantly more energy than a traditional oven. In fact, according to the federal government’s Energy Star program, heating small amounts of food in microwave ovens can cut energy costs up to 80% compared to full-sized ovens.
All in all, the amount of energy you save by using a microwave is almost irrelevant. If you’re looking to save big bucks on home energy costs, start with heating, cooling, lighting and laundry.