What Size Breaker for Microwave? (15 amp vs 20)

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a kitchen remodel, staring at your shiny new microwave, and suddenly thinking, “Wait, what size breaker do I need for this thing?”

You’re not alone. It’s a question that can trip up even the most seasoned DIYers and kitchen enthusiasts. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

When it comes to hooking up your microwave, you usually need either a 15 amp or 20 amp breaker. The go-to for most microwave setups is a 20-amp breaker. This gives you that extra layer of protection against any unexpected electrical surges.

In this article, we’re diving into the electrifying world of microwaves and their power needs. So, stick around if you’re curious about keeping your kitchen renovation safe and efficient. This is one piece of the puzzle you won’t want to miss.

Understanding Microwave Power Requirements

When I started focusing on kitchen appliances, the microwave was one of the first items I looked into. It’s a crucial appliance in most kitchens, but its power requirements are often overlooked.

Microwaves typically have a wattage range between 600 and 1,200 watts, depending on the model and make. However, the wattage isn’t the only important factor; the current draw, measured in amperes (amps), is also crucial for determining the appropriate breaker size for the appliance.

For instance, a microwave with a 1,000-watt power rating operating at 120 volts would have a current draw of about 8.3 amps.

It’s commonly recommended to have a dedicated circuit for the microwave to prevent the circuit from being overloaded and to avoid tripping the breaker.

Here are some guidelines for breaker sizes based on microwave wattage:

Microwave WattageRecommended Breaker Size
Up to 800 Watts15 Amps
800-1,200 Watts20 Amps

Another factor to consider is the wiring length from the breaker panel to the microwave. Longer wire runs may require a larger wire gauge and a different breaker size to ensure no voltage drop.

It’s important to consult with a qualified electrician or professional when determining the right breaker size for your microwave. They can consider the specifics of your home’s electrical system and ensure the microwave is installed safely and efficiently.

The Role of Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers’ role is essential when discussing keeping our electrical appliances, like microwaves, safe and running smoothly. A circuit breaker is the ultimate safeguard for your home’s electrical setup.

A person in blue gloves working on a circuit breaker
Video | Silver Cymbal

Its job is to cut off the power if there’s ever an overload or a risk of a short circuit, essentially preventing electrical fires and keeping your appliances from getting damaged.

Choosing the correct size breaker for your microwave is key because it needs to handle the appliance’s power demands without tripping at the drop of a hat.

Here’s how it works:

  • Breakers come with an Ampere (Amp) rating, which tells you the maximum current they can handle before the trip.
  • The power your microwave uses (in watts) divided by your home’s voltage (typically 120V in the U.S.) gives you the current it draws in amps. The breaker you choose has to be able to manage this current so it doesn’t trip every time you try to heat up a meal.

For example, if you have a 1,000-watt microwave using a standard 120V outlet, it’s pulling about 8.3 amps. So, you’d be looking at a breaker that’s rated for at least 10 amps to be on the safe side.

However, it’s always best to get a professional’s advice to pinpoint the perfect size, especially if you’ve got a complex setup or multiple devices sharing a circuit.

Determining the Right Size Breaker for Your Microwave

A man opening a microwave oven

When it comes to keeping your kitchen safe and your microwave running smoothly, picking the right size breaker is key. I’ve tackled my fair share of kitchen renovations, and let me tell you, getting the electrical setup right is crucial for avoiding risks and keeping those appliances humming for years to come.

Every appliance, including your microwave, pulls a certain amount of current; we measure this in amps (A). The breaker’s role is to keep an eye on this current and cut the power if things heat up too much, preventing any damage or dangerous situations.

Regarding microwaves, there isn’t a universal breaker size that fits all. It depends on the wattage of your microwave and your home’s voltage, which is usually 120V here in the States.

To figure out what you need, here’s a simple formula: Microwave power (in watts) divided by Voltage equals Amperage. So, if you’ve got a microwave rated at 1,500 watts and working with a 120V circuit, you’re looking at about 12.5 amps of current draw.

Here’s a handy table to break it down:

Microwave Power (Watts)Voltage (V)Calculated Amperage (A)Suggested Breaker Size (Amps)

With those numbers in mind, I’d say go for a 20-amp breaker for a microwave like this to ensure you have enough buffer. It’s all about choosing a breaker that can handle more than your appliance’s draw.

Always check the manual for your microwave to see if there are any specific instructions or requirements. And remember, while these tips are a great place to start, every kitchen and appliance setup can differ.

Specific Breaker Sizes for Microwaves

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Video | Silver Cymbal

When delving into microwave installations, it’s crucial to understand that not all microwaves are created equal. Their power consumption varies, directly impacting the breaker size needed.

Based on my experience and research, I’ve compiled guidelines to help you choose the right breaker size for your microwave.

Most standard microwaves you’d commonly find in homes require a 20-amp breaker. It caters to the average power requirement of microwaves ranging from 600 to 1200 watts.

It’s a safe bet if your microwave falls within this power bracket. However, the demand for those with more powerful models, especially over-the-range microwaves or those integrated into custom cabinetry, can be significantly higher.

Here’s a quick reference table for common microwave types and their general power consumption:

Microwave TypePower Consumption (Watts)Recommended Breaker Size (Amps)
Standard Microwave600 – 120020
Over-the-Range1000 – 160020 – 30
Built-In Models1200 – 180030

Remember, these recommendations serve as a general guideline. Always refer to the specific requirements listed in your microwave’s manual. In addition, different homes and kitchen setups might have unique electrical considerations requiring a more tailored approach.

Installation Considerations

When tackling the installation of a microwave, it’s crucial to look at the big picture, ensuring everything is set up for a smooth, safe operation. Here’s the lowdown, straight from the heart of home renovation:

  • Wire Gauge: This is about the wire’s thickness and ability to handle the current. There is a mismatch here, and you’re looking at overheating, which is a no-go.
  • Circuit Load: This is the total power drawn from everything on the circuit. Adding your microwave without checking this can lead to trouble.
  • Dedicated Circuits: For those power-hungry microwaves, giving them their own circuit is the way to go. It prevents overloading and keeps your kitchen running smoothly.
  • Local Building Codes and the National Electrical Code (NEC) are your blueprints for a safe electrical setup. Always check these to get the specifics for your area.
  • Ventilation and Proper Spacing: Key to keeping that appliance humming without a hitch. It’s crucial to give your microwave enough breathing room.
  • Manufacturer’s Guidelines for Clearances: Stick to these to ensure your microwave stays cool and functional.

Taking these steps ensures your kitchen’s electrical system is up to snuff and sets the stage for your microwave to deliver its best performance while keeping safety at the forefront.

Professional Installation and Safety Tips

When it comes to installing a microwave and selecting the right size breaker, here’s my take on why bringing in a pro is a game-changer:

  • Safety and compliance are at the top of the list. An electrician ensures your setup is safe and meets all local building codes. They have the skills to tackle surprises and ensure your electrical system is up to the task.
  • Avoid overloading circuits. This is key. Overloading can cause your breaker to trip and, in the worst case, become a fire risk. A pro will check your circuit’s total load and see if your microwave needs its own dedicated circuit, especially the high-power ones.
  • Proper ventilation is crucial, especially for over-the-range or built-in microwaves. They need clearances to avoid overheating, which is essential for safety and keeping your microwave running longer. An electrician will make sure your kitchen’s setup meets these ventilation requirements.
  • Choosing the right wire gauge makes all the difference. For 20-amp circuits, go with 12-gauge wire; for 30-amp circuits, 10-gauge is the way. It’s all about ensuring the wires can handle the load safely without getting too hot.
  • Consider GFCI outlets in wet areas of the kitchen. They’re not always necessary for microwaves, but they’re an extra layer of protection against electrical shocks.

By focusing on these professional installation and safety tips, you’re not just ensuring that your microwave operates efficiently. You’re also taking proactive steps to safeguard your home and family.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Do I Find My Microwave’s Wattage?
    • Check the label on the back or inside the door for power specifications. If unavailable, consult the user manual or manufacturer’s website.
  • Can I Use an Extension Cord with My Microwave?
    • An extension cord is not recommended due to the high power demand of microwaves, which can lead to overheating.
  • Can My Microwave Share a Circuit with Other Appliances?
    • Avoid sharing a circuit with other high-power appliances to prevent overload and tripping of the breaker.
  • What If I Don’t Have a Dedicated Circuit for My Microwave?
    • Consult a licensed electrician to evaluate your electrical system and recommend solutions, like installing a new circuit.
  • How Often Should I Have Electrical Inspections?
    • Consider inspections when adding appliances, renovating, or every few years, especially in older homes. Consult a professional for advice.




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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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