Microwaves provide a convenient way to cook and reheat foods quickly while off-grid or boondocking in an RV or trailer. However, powering a microwave requires more thought than simply plugging it into an outlet at home. You’ll need the right inverter and properly sized battery bank to handle the power demands. This article provides a detailed guide on choosing the best inverter for running your microwave off-grid.
Here’s a quick answer: To run a microwave off-grid, choose a pure sine wave inverter sized 20% above the microwave’s peak power draw. A 900W microwave needs a 2400W surge, so get a 2880W inverter. Also ensure your battery bank has enough capacity – figure 100 watt-hours per microwave cooking watt. Adding solar helps recharge batteries for extended use.
How Microwaves Use Power
The first thing to understand is that microwaves have a large surge of power draw when starting up, well beyond their rated wattage on the label. This start-up surge provides the jolt of power needed to get the magnetron tube oscillating and generating the microwave energy.
A typical 900 watt microwave will have a start-up surge of 2400-3000 watts. This lasts only a few milliseconds but is essential for getting the microwave running. Once started, it settles down to the normal 900 watt cooking power range.
This start-up surge is often 2 to 3 times the rated wattage of the appliance. The bigger the microwave, the higher this starting power demand will be.
Choosing an Inverter Size
The inverter needs to be sized appropriately to handle both the short surge power and the running watts of the microwave.
Here are some guidelines on sizing your inverter for different microwave types:
- Small RV microwave (500-1000W): Requires 1500 watt inverter minimum
- Medium countertop microwave (1000-1250W): Requires 2000 watt inverter
- Large countertop microwave (1500-2000W): Requires 3000 watt inverter
To allow a safety buffer, increase the inverter size by 20% over the peak microwave power draw. So for a typical 900W microwave with a 2400W start-up surge, choose an inverter in the 2880 watt range.
Pure Sine Wave vs Modified Sine Wave
Inverters come in two main types – pure sine wave and modified sine wave.
Pure sine wave inverters provide clean, smooth AC power that replicates your home outlets. This is important for sensitive electronics like microwaves that may have issues with the “dirtier” power from modified sine wave units.
Modified sine wave inverters are cheaper but produce more erratic power with more peaks and valleys. They can cause buzzing, lower performance and even premature failure in microwaves.
Our recommendation is to spend a little more for a pure sine inverter for optimal microwave operation and lifespan.
Battery Bank Capacity
The inverter needs a properly sized battery bank to supply enough power for the microwave. Small battery banks may have insufficient capacity and voltage drop under heavy loads.
Figure about 100 watt-hours of battery capacity for every 1 watt your microwave runs at. For a 900W microwave, have a 100 x 900 = 90,000 watt-hour battery bank. This provides enough power for a full 5-10 minutes of microwave use.
Also consider the high startup amperage. A 900W microwave may momentarily draw 80-120 amps at 12 volts when starting. Make sure your batteries and cabling can supply this amperage without overloading or causing a voltage drop.
Adding more batteries in parallel increases both total capacity and amperage capabilities.
Solar for Recharging Batteries
Having solar panels to recharge batteries allows extended microwave use without draining batteries.
As a rule of thumb, have 1 watt of solar for every 2 watts your microwave draws. So for a 900W microwave, plan on around 450 watts of solar.
More solar allows you to run the microwave longer by replenishing the batteries. angle the panels to optimize sun exposure, especially around meal times when you are most likely to use the microwave.
Tips for Running a Microwave Off-Grid
Here are some additional tips for successfully powering a microwave from batteries and inverter:
- Use microwave-safe inverter rated extension cords avoid voltage drops. 10-12 gauge wire minimum.
- Keep batteries fully charged. Only use the microwave when batteries have a full state of charge.
- Limit other loads on the inverter when running the microwave to prevent overload.
- Use power management to stagger high power appliances like microwaves and air conditioners.
- Pre-heat for 30 seconds to soften frozen foods before cooking to reduce power demand.
- Optimize cooking times and power levels to avoid excessive runtimes.
- Maintain batteries properly, check connections, clean terminals regularly.
FAQ – Microwave Inverters
What size inverter do I need for a 1000 watt microwave?
For a 1000W microwave, choose a 2000W continuous inverter (with 3000W+ surge capacity) to allow a safety margin. Pure sine wave recommended.
Why does my microwave trip my inverter?
Frequent tripping is usually caused by an undersized inverter or weak battery bank unable to handle the load. Increase inverter capacity and battery size. Check for loose battery connections or faulty wiring.
How many batteries to run a microwave off-grid?
Figure around 100Ah of battery capacity per 100W of microwave power. So for a 1000W microwave, have 1000/100 =10x 100Ah batteries = 1000Ah total battery capacity. Have at least 200-300 amp-hours for short term use.
How long will my batteries run a microwave?
Depends on battery capacity and microwave usage. A 1000W microwave running for 5 minutes uses 5000 watt-hours. With a 500Ah @12V battery bank this equals 6000 watt-hours, giving you around 60-90 minutes runtime. Adding more batteries extends this.
What gauge wire for microwave inverter?
10-12 AWG wire is recommended for microwave inverter connections to prevent voltage drop under heavy loads. Use thick dedicated inverter cables.
Can an inverter run a microwave and fridge?
Yes, provided the inverter is sized appropriately for the total combined load. A 2000W+ inverter with 3000W+ surge capacity can run a 1000W microwave and 300W fridge simultaneously. Make sure your battery bank can supply enough power for both.
Powering a microwave off-grid requires an appropriately sized pure sine wave inverter and substantial battery capacity to handle the high start-up surge. For a typical 900W microwave, choose a 3000W+ inverter and at least a 900Ah battery bank. Adding solar panels helps recharge the batteries and allows for extended cooking times.
Carefully consider the microwave’s power demands and size your inverter, batteries, and solar system accordingly. With the right equipment and proper sizing, you can conveniently use your microwave in your RV, trailer, or any off-grid application. Just be sure to follow the guidelines provided to select components that can handle the heavy loads.