Most of us have microwave ovens at home. Nowadays they have become an essential part of the kitchen. I use ours every day, from steaming vegetables to warming up a cold cup of tea. Microwaves are very quick and convenient and that’s why the thought of having a campervan microwave is so appealing.
It’s super easy to cook food like eggs (poached or scrambled), soups, vegetables, baked beans, porridge oats, jacket potatoes or even the occasional ready meal. Cooking with a microwave will also save on washing up, which is always a good thing!
So if you are sold on the idea of having a microwave in your campervan, then before you rush out to buy a microwave from your local supermarket, you need to be aware that you can’t just use any microwave in your campervan. There are some important factors to bear in mind when choosing a domestic microwave for this purpose.
Read our campervan microwave buyers guide (below) to find out exactly what you need to know. Or if you’re in a hurry, skip to the section – which campervan microwave should you buy?
CAMPERVAN MICROWAVE – BUYERS GUIDE
230v Domestic Microwaves:
The main consideration when choosing a microwave is the power output of the oven. It may be tempting to buy a microwave oven with a larger power output (such as a 900W model) so your food cooks more quickly. But this is not going to be a good choice when choosing a microwave for your campervan.
The stated output power of a microwave oven (900W for example) is only approximately half the amount of power the microwave requires. A 900W microwave will actually need around 1800W of power (or approximately 7.5 amps). So if you’re staying on a campsite which only has 6 amp hookup (like a lot of European sites) then you won’t be able to use the microwave without tripping the hookup’s RCD unit.
Even if the hookup on site is 10 amp or even 16 amp, unless the microwave is the only appliance in your campervan that’s drawing power (which is highly unlikely) then you still might struggle to use a higher wattage microwave without it tripping the RCD unit.
Microwaves are not a ‘soft start’ appliance…
As soon as you push the power button the microwave will draw the maximum amount of current it needs (or even slightly more) for the first few milliseconds. This surge in current may be enough to trip some sensitive campsite RCD units, especially if the power consumption is already close to the limit of the hookup amperage rating.
To help avoid any problems, it makes good sense to choose a domestic 230v microwave with a low wattage output and different power level settings. That way if you find that the microwave does trip the campsites hookup RCD unit, you’ll have the option of trying a lower power setting on the microwave to stop the RCD unit from being overloaded.
One last point to consider is the weight and physical size of the campervan microwave. Because you’re going to be using the microwave inside your campervan where space is limited, you need to choose a model that is both lightweight and compact.
What about 12v Microwaves?
Yes there is such a thing, but they are expensive. Compared to a domestic 230v microwave, fitting a 12v microwave into your campervan is a lot more complex. A 12v microwave oven will draw a large amount of current from the 12v system, meaning heavy duty cabling from the leisure battery to the microwave will be required. If you use the 12v microwave regularly, then this will very quickly drain your leisure battery.
All in all, unless your campervan has a very robust 12v system, then fitting a 12v microwave in your camper is not really the best option. If you do want to run a microwave off your 12v system, then the general opinion would be to buy a low wattage 230v microwave, and use an inverter (installed close to the leisure battery) to run it.
Which Campervan Microwave should you buy?
Well to summarise. The ideal microwave to use in a campervan needs to be low wattage, 600W to 700W will be ideal. It should have a range of power settings and be compact and lightweight. Plus, it should be easy to use.
Manual or digital?
A digital microwave gives more precise cooking times however, they can be tricker to use, more expensive, and the clock will need resetting everytime you unplug the microwave. A manual microwave on the other hand, is simple to use and cheaper to buy.
OK, so which Microwave do we recommend for a Campervan?
Well, the good news is that most value/basic microwaves should be suitable for your campervan, as long as the input power consumption isn’t too high.
As a rule, the more basic a microwave is – the cheaper is it, which is good for us, right?
I’ve researched and found three microwave ovens that are available on Amazon, that I consider suitable for use in a campervan (and that won’t break the bank)…
Microwave No. 1:
Due to its compact design, this little 14L – 230v – 600W Daewoo microwave is the perfect size for any campervan, as it’s the smallest microwave available. Even though it’s compact, the Daewoo will take a 25cm plate, and the 250mm glass tray means that the QT1 has the same effective capacity as a 20L microwave, which is pretty impressive.
Another plus point…
Is that the maximum power consumption for the QT1 is a very reasonable 1000W or 4.17 amps. So there’ll be no problems using it on campsites with 16 amp rated hookup. Depending on what other appliances and gadgets are being used at the time, you still should be able to use the QT1 on 10 amp rated hookup too. The QT1 has 7 different power settings to choose from. So if you do find that using the microwave does trip the campsites RCD unit, then you can select the half power setting which should fix the problem. It is also possible to run the QT1 off of a 12v system by using a pure sine wave power inverter.
Other features of the QT1 include:
- 14 litre microwave capacity
- 10 inch turntable
- Dual wave system with Daewoo diamond pattern microwave deflector
- 35 Minute dual speed timer
- 7 power levels
- Power saving mode
Specifications of the QT1:
- External Dimensions – 424 mm wide x 316 mm deep x 225 mm high
- Internal Dimensions – 275 mm wide x 297 mm deep x 178 mm high
- Maximum power consumption 4.17 amps
- 600 watts microwave output
- Voltage 230v
- Weight – 9.2Kg
Microwave No. 2:
Although compact, the 17 litre Lowry LMM1725 is surprisingly spacious on the inside and will comfortably fit a standard size dinner plate. At 700 watts, this pocket-rocket of a microwave will provide enough power to cook your food quickly and with as little fuss as possible.
The maximum power consumption is 1000 to 1150 watts (4.17 to 4.80 amps) so there shouldn’t be any problem using the microwave on 10 to 16 amp hook-up (depending on what other equipment is being used at the same time).
The Lowry LMM1725 has two large and simple to use controls. The top dial is for selecting the five different power (plus defrost) settings (Low, Defrost, M-Low, Medium, M-High and High). The bottom dial is used to set the 30-minute cooking timer. The microwave comes in 3 different colours, black, white and silver.
Features of the Lowry LMM1725:
- 17 litre microwave capacity
- 24.5 cm turntable
- 30 Minute Timer
- 5 power settings plus defrost
Specifications of the Lowry LMM1725:
- External Dimensions – 450 mm wide x 360 mm deep x 260 mm high
- Maximum power consumption 4.80 amps
- Maximum output 700 watts
- Voltage 230v
- Weight – 10.5Kg
All in all, the Lowry LMM1725 is a very simple to use, affordable, and practical campervan microwave which has received very good Amazon reviews, take a look for yourself.
Microwave No. 3:
Our final campervan microwave recommendation is the Hotpoint MWH 1311 B curve solo microwave. The Hotpoint has a unique curved space-saving design, which enables the 13 litre microwave to fit snugly into a corner. This is something most standard microwaves just can’t do.
The Hotpoint output power is 700 watts and input power consumption is 1100 watts or 4.78 amps. So again, there shouldn’t be any problem using the Hotpoint microwave on 10 or 16 amp hook up (obviously this depends on what other appliances are being used at the same time).
The versatile MWH 1311 B microwave oven has five power settings which are accessed via the easy to use manual dial controls.
Features of the Hotpoint MWH 1311 B:
- 13 Litre capacity
- 28 cm turntable – fits standard size plates
- MultiWave Technology – microwaves enter the food from two directions for even cooking and defrosting
- 5 power settings – 160W – 350W- 500W – 700W – Jet
- Eco mode
- Child lock
- Manual dial controls
- Unique retro styling
- Easy to clean
Specifications of the Hotpoint MWH 1311 B:
- External Dimensions – 392 mm wide x 353 mm deep x 360 mm high
- Internal Dimensions – 290 mm wide x 290 mm deep x 170 mm high
- Maximum power consumption 4.78 amps
- Maximum output power – 700 watts
- Weight – 13.21Kg
Which Microwave Oven would I choose for our Campervan?
Well my first choice would be the Daewoo QT1, however, I found that since writing this article these seem increasingly difficult to get hold of – so, in place of the Daewoo, I’d have to recommend a 600 to 700 watt, bog-standard, no frills, value, manual, compact microwave like the Lowry LMM1725. In fact, this is what my wife and I have just bought! Our compact microwave oven is pretty much identical to the Lowry (both in size and power input and output), the only real difference is that ours is unbranded.
We are heading out on another road trip in the next few days, so this will be the perfect opportunity to see how a microwave like the Lowry LMM1725 performs in a real-life camping situation. I’ll let you know how we got on.
Life on the road with a microwave oven
Since buying our microwave oven, we’ve been looking forward to testing it out and seeing just how well it works in a real-life situation. So far we’ve used it on three campsites, two sites with 16 amp EHU, and one with 10 amp. Did it work OK? You bet it did – it worked like a charm! Cooking on the road has never been so easy.
We used the microwave on full power (whilst the fridge was on and on a couple of occasions with a 1000 watt kettle boiling too) and there was no sign of tripping the EHU. Food cooked perfectly, and in a fraction of the time it usually takes. Just set the timer and – ping! All done.
Washing up microwavable plastic containers is so much easier than trying wash up a saucepan with burnt-on scrambled egg at the bottom. Before buying a microwave, it used to take me longer to wash up than it did to cook.
Would we recommend a microwave for a campervan?
I’d be intrigued to test the microwave on hookup lower than 10 amp just to see how low we can go before the microwave does trip a campsite’s RCD unit. However, as long as you don’t have loads of power-hungry devices running at the same time, using a 700-watt microwave like the Lowry LMM1725 on 10 amp and 16 amp EHU is going to be cool, no trouble at all.
If you’ve got the space in your campervan to store a microwave, then I’d definitely say buy one. It makes life on the road so much easier. We wish we’d have bought one year’s ago!
Installing a Campervan Microwave:
Generally speaking, microwaves are not designed to be jiggled about. If you read the manufacturer’s instructions, they will usually state that the microwave should be placed on a solid flat surface, and not in a campervan flying down the M5!
If you’re going to install the microwave permanently in your campervan, you may need to include some sort of shock mount, or find a spot in the vehicle that’s less prone to vibration (easier said than done, I know). And don’t forget to remove the rotating glass plate before you set off or you may not have one when you arrive at your destination!
As with any microwave, good circulation around the oven is a must. This can be difficult to achieve if you are going to permanently install the microwave, especially if space is at a premium. An average microwave will require approximately 100mm of clearance around the top, sides and back.
Does the Microwave need to be a permanent fixture?
You have the option not to make the microwave a built-in fixture. That way, when you’re on the move you can remove the glass plate and turntable and store the microwave somewhere safe. (We store ours low down in a bottom cupboard.) When you arrive at your destination you can just slot the microwave back into its allotted space. It could sit on top of the cooker or work surface or even on a camping table in your awning .
5 Interesting Microwave Oven facts:
The use of microwaves to cook food was discovered by accident in the 1940’s by an engineer called Percy Spencer. Apparently he was working in the lab building magnetrons (part of radar equipment) when he noticed that a chocolate bar in his pocket was melting. Percy then had a eureka moment when he realised that microwaves could also be used to quickly heat up and cook food.
In 1947 the first commercially available microwave went on sale for $5000! it was called the Radarranger. The Radarranger bared little resemblance to modern microwave ovens, and you’d have struggled fitting it into your kitchen as it was 1.8 metres tall and weighed 340 kilograms! The Radarranger was water cooled (today’s microwaves are air cooled) and it used around three times the power of a modern day microwave oven.
Microwave ovens work by vibrating molecules in the food, this causes heat by increasing the molecules thermal energy. Water in particular is rapidly heated up by microwaves radiation due to the polarity of its molecules. Oils such as olive oil (which contains little water) do not have the same polarity as water, that is why oil doesn’t heat up very well in a microwave oven.
Contrary to popular belief, microwave ovens don’t cook from the inside out, in fact the reverse is true. The inside of the food is heated up as the heat from the outside is transferred to the inside.
A survey taken in 1994 showed that 63 percent of households in the UK owned a microwave. In 2016 that figure rose to 93%. This makes the microwave one of the most popular household appliances in the UK.
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