There are likely two types of people looking for the answer to this question:
- College students preparing for their next (maybe first) semester.
- Parents looking to help their kids get ready for their next adventure.
Although this question is an important one, there’s a much more important one to consider first:
What does your college Resident Advisor [RA] think the answer is?
The reason for this is pretty simple, and easy to understand from the perspective of the college!
There are all kinds of concerns about heating elements and high-power appliances being used – by many people – across the whole dorm.
For that reason, you’ll find that colleges often set very strict requirements about the maximum wattage for any appliances introduced to the campus.
The good news is that there are plenty of excellent college dorm microwaves to choose from.
They’re small by design, don’t draw a lot of power as a result, and so are unlikely to fall foul of college regulations.
Still, it’s worth stressing again before we move on:
Don’t buy any appliances until you’ve checked the power rating is within the rules of the college!
With that out of the way, we can move onto answering the main question:
How many Watts does a dorm microwave need to be?
The simple answer to this is 700 Watts.
Microwaves are typically available with a power range of between 600 and 1200 Watts.
You’ll struggle to reliably cook or reheat anything quickly and efficiently once you go below 700 Watts.
I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, because microwaves with higher power ratings are typically larger, and/or can handle more advanced jobs like grilling.
Not only are you unlikely to even want a large microwave in cramped student accommodation, you only really need a basic selection of heating options, and perhaps a few handy presets too. To keep it in good working order, bookmark my easy cleaning guide too.
- First, check with your RA whether you can have a 700 Watt appliance in your dorm room.
- If so, pick a suitable microwave for the job. Assuming it meets the RA requirements, pick a slightly weaker microwave, albeit one that can still at least reheat food and beverages. (You might also consider grabbing some microwave-safe Tupperware for those leftovers.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to some of the related questions that often come up around this topic:
What’s A Good Microwave Oven For A Dorm Room?
When I investigated this for Viva Flavor, the top-performing dorm room microwave was the Amazon Basics Microwave Oven.
- Now it’s easier to defrost vegetables, make popcorn, cook potatoes, and reheat rice. With an Echo...
- Compact size saves counter space, plus 10 power levels, a kitchen timer, a child lock, and a turntable.
- Alexa is always getting smarter and adding new presets.
For a little more convenience in terms of presets, you might consider the Comfee Microwave Oven instead.
- Stylish (black) stainless steel finish, compact size: 0.7 cubic-foot capacity, 1050 watts and 11 power...
- Mute function, settings, clock, kitchen timer, child safety lock, easy auto-cook functions: Popcorn,...
- One touch express cooking function with 1-6 minutes and plus30 seconds functions, and two defrost...
Both are excellent options, for different use cases.
(Heads up! If you click on a product link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I never recommend a product I wouldn’t use in my own kitchen, and this helps keep the site running. Thank you.)
How Many Watts Does A Small Microwave Use?
A small compact microwave will use between 700-900 Watts. Most of the leading brands operate towards the lower end of this scale.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more