Everyone loves microwave ovens, even those of us who have plenty of time on our hands. But the convenience of quickly heating a burrito requires a lot of  electricity. How much? Let’s see.

Before getting too deeply into technical details, here’s the quick answer for powering a small 600 Watt microwave:

200-400 Watts of solar panels

200-400 Amp hours of deep cycle batteries

2,000 Watt DC-to-AC pure sine wave inverter

We’ve explained solar panels and deep cycle batteries several times before, so let’s focus on inverters for a while.

Inverters convert (invert) the DC current of solar panels and batteries to the AC current standard plug-in devices use. There are two types of inverters: modified sine wave and pure sine wave. Without getting into the technical reasons why, suffice it to say you need a pure sine wave inverter for electronics, like microwaves and TVs. And you need one large enough to handle the draw of a  microwave—as well as its higher start-up draw. My inverter is a Xantrex SW 2000.

However, you’ll probably want two inverters. Inverters suck a lot of power, even when they’re turned on with nothing plugged into them. (To conserve battery power, turn your inverter off when not in use.) And most things you want to power don’t require 2,000 Watts. Using a big inverter would be a waste, like driving a 40-foot RV to the store instead of the tow’d. Something more like a 400 Watt modified sine wave inverter will do.

My 600 Watt microwave actually draws nearly 900 Watts while cooking. Within seconds it can run my mid-day, full-sun battery power down from 14.3 Volts to 12.2 Volts. When I use the microwave at night, the voltage can drop into the 11s. Inverters are set to shut down when incoming power gets too low. So you need a lot of reserve power to run a microwave. And you need enough solar panel wattage to recharge the batteries quickly the next day—while still powering whatever else you’re using.

I won’t get into stuff like amps-per-minute or the Peukert Effect. I think you already understand the main point: you need some serious power to run a microwave. Now you need to decide whether you have the money and space to make it happen.