Like all appliances, microwave technology keeps on getting better with every passing year, but are new microwaves always better than old ones?
The answer is, unsurprisingly, yes, and here are the main reasons why:
- Energy Consumption: Although buying a new microwave represents an upfront investment, you will eventually save money in terms of ongoing energy consumption. New microwaves run more efficiently, and feature an enhanced standby mode that will further reduce your power bills.
- Efficiency: Not only does this power efficiency reduce your power bills, it also reduces the time it takes to actually cook the food. You can’t put a price on your time!
- Poor Performance: Older microwaves have a tendency to lose some of their oomph over the years. If you’ve inherited an old microwave – or bought one second-hand – and it’s performance is becoming lackluster, it’s definitely time to upgrade.
- Extra Features: Even wallet-friendly microwaves feature plenty of presets these days. They make it much easier to prepare a wider variety of foods, and without you having to tweak power settings and timers.
In the rest of this article I’ll explore these important points in greater detail. I’ll also answer some of the questions I know people often have in relation to this thorny problem.
For the last ten years or so it’s been a requirement for new microwaves to perform to higher efficiency standards than ever before.
The key takeaways here are:
- Countertop microwaves must achieve a 75% reduction in energy use while on standby.
- Over the range microwaves must achieve a 51% reduction in standby mode.
What that means for you is that any microwave produced prior to 2013 simply will not be as efficient when it comes to power consumption. That, in turn, means higher bills for you.
Don’t forget that microwaves spend most of their time in standby mode! Unless you’re really working your home microwave hard, chances are it’s sitting there in standby, waiting to go to work.
For a long time, microwave functions consisted of little more than a selection of power settings and a timer In recent years, however, we’ve seen even budget microwaves include a host of different dedicated presets and functions.
If you’ve only ever owned an older microwave, you might not appreciate just how useful some of those presets can be. Once you’ve used them, you won’t know how you ever put up with the more hands-on approach!
Consider as well that many modern microwaves also come with convection and grilling functions built-in. That packs a lot more versatility into a single appliance, which is always very welcome when you have a small kitchen in particular.
Even now manufacturers don’t exactly make it easy to repair a broken microwave. They’d much rather you buy a new one, after all.
That said, it’s a lot easier to find replacement parts, the newer your microwave is. I never recommend conducting your own repairs on home appliances, but if you can find the part, you’ll almost always be able to find someone qualified to replace it.
That’s not something that can often be said about older microwaves. By the time you’ve tracked down a few pricey parts and paid to have them installed, you may as well have just upgraded to a new microwave.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before I finish this article I wanted to answer some of the questions that commonly come up when discussing this topic.
Are Old Microwaves Safe?
Old microwaves are as safe as any other appliance, assuming they don’t show any signs of physical damage. If that’s the case, I highly recommend buying a new one, or finding a qualified tradesperson to inspect it.
It’s much more likely that the magnetron inside the microwave will have worn down. This is the component that generates the microwave’s energy, and they don’t last forever. If the microwave’s seen a lot of use, you may well find that your food isn’t being heated properly.
Is It Worth Getting A New Microwave?
It’s worth getting a new microwave if you’ve noticed your current appliance is struggling to heat food properly. Alternatively, you may be spending more time than you’d like fiddling with timers and power settings to get your dish just right.
Every few years or so, the latest tech makes its way into more budget-focused models. You might well be surprised at just how much is included with a modestly-priced microwave these days.
Should I Replace My 20 Year Old Microwave?
Assuming it still even works, a microwave this old may no longer be considered entirely safe. As mentioned earlier, it really does depend on whether:
1) There are any signs of physical damage or wear and tear.
2) The microwave has been used so much that the magnetron no longer works properly.
Only you can answer that, although I’d certainly recommend getting a microwave this old inspected by a qualified professional before using it.
You’re almost certainly missing out on some really useful technology too, so it’s always worth looking at the market to see what’s new.
How Often Should You Replace Your Microwave?
Microwave ovens typically last for around seven years. They can sometimes keep going a few more years after that point, but you’re more likely to experience some kind of failure or degrading performance.
I hate wasting money on upgrades I don’t need to make, but I do try to keep an eye on the market every five years or so. The appliance markets move fast, and there might be a few new features that will transform your kitchen life!
I hope that’s helped you make your mind up about whether to keep your old microwave, or exchange it for a newer model.
It really comes down to what features you need from your microwave, your concerns about power consumption & efficiency, and whether or not the microwave is showing any signs of damage.
If that latter point is true for you, make sure you get it checked out by a repair professional. Watch out for the costs this will involve too, as it may well be better value to invest in a new microwave altogether.