Do you love the convenience that comes with using a microwave as I do? Sure. I know you do.
The feeling when you get to your apartment tired and hungry and have to light up your microwave oven and take a whole hour to get your food ready is miserable. It’d be better if you could warm some leftovers, and in the next minute, your tummy is sorted.
Sometimes, you might be a little confused and end up running the appliance while empty! Has that ever happened to you? Perhaps once or even several. What happened? If you find yourself in this situation, you might panic. Sure, it’s a terrible occurrence.
In this article, I’ll explain how microwaves function and what happens if you accidentally run them while empty. Keep reading.
Effects of Running an Empty Microwave oven
A microwave is made of, among other parts, an electron tube called a magnetron that produces microwaves when you run the appliance. The metallic interior of the microwave reflects the waves like a mirror does to light. The waves are then absorbed by the meal you’re heating, causing the water molecules present to vibrate, thus, producing heat.
If you run an empty microwave, the energy generated has to go somewhere. With the absence of content to absorb, microwaves find their way into the components of your appliance, including the magnetron that produced them.
With time, the heat damages the magnetron, and it won’t be able to produce electromagnetic radio waves; thus, the appliance will stop heating your food!
How Long Can You Run a Microwave Empty?
Running an empty microwave is something you need to avoid. But who can do such action if not accidentally? If you run an empty microwave for a few seconds, you shouldn’t panic. However, running it for more than 5 minutes might cause some damage to the appliance.
Nonetheless, the exact time your microwave can withstand its heat depends on its make. Some have a highly protected interior that might resist the heat’s effects longer, while others do not.
In some cases, if you leave your microwave running for a long period of time, it’s capable of causing a fire. Therefore, you need to switch the appliance off immediately so you remember your mistake!
Why Can’t Empty Dishes Be Heated in a Microwave?
Wondering why your microwave gives you super hot food in minutes but doesn’t heat empty dishes? This is probably a question that runs through your mind. I used to ask myself the same until I did profound research! Read on to find out why.
As we’ve seen above, the appliance functions by releasing electromagnetic waves through its magnetron tube; its interior reflects the waves and directs them to the plate at the center. Then the microwave energy is absorbed by the water molecules in the food, causing them to vibrate and release heat.
With an empty dish, there is no water content to absorb the waves; thus, no heating can occur on them.
Can Running an Empty Microwave Cause a Fire?
Any cooking oven can burn or catch fire. This doesn’t mean the appliances are bad or something. It can be an electricity mishap or any other fault you can’t figure out.
Microwaves are one of the safest kitchen appliances you can have in your home or office kitchen. However, just like any cooking oven can accidentally catch or cause fire, they too might suffer the same, although it’s rare.
If you happen to run your microwave empty accidentally, there’s a likelihood of it catching fire, especially if you leave it for several minutes. As we said earlier, the waves released are absorbed by the food item you’re heating. If there is nothing in the microwave, the waves produced have to find a way to be absorbed, and the microwave has to take it in.
The more energy accumulates in the entire microwave, the more likely it is to cause a fire. However, some of the microwaves in the market are designed to overcome this challenge.
Recently, my microwave started behaving weirdly, and I couldn’t hesitate to talk to the company’s customer care. One of the problems was sparking any time I turned it on, regardless of the material I used to heat my food.
Another problem that was becoming a bother was the appliance running itself even when there was no one around. Although this sounds weird, you need to disconnect your microwave from the electricity socket when you’re not using it.
Imagine if the same problem hits you; worst, the appliance can set the timer and run for as long as “it wants.” This can end up bringing your home down with fire!
I dreamt last night that something knocked me over, pinning me against the microwave and turning it on – empty – and in the dream I was panicking because *everyone knows* that if you run a microwave empty it will explode.— West Coast Lass (@Liv_F) September 22, 2021
Waking me asks: Does a microwave explode if run empty?🤔
What happens if You Turn On a Microwave With the Door Open?
Sometimes you forget to close your microwave door and rush to run it. Fortunately, this appliance is designed so that it doesn’t work with its door open. This is one of the best features if you ask me because you can imagine the mess and the accidents that could be happening.
Assuming your microwave develops some faults and starts running with its door open, there are a lot of dangers associated with this. Having explained how the microwave functions, you can remember the tube (magnetron)that we said releases microwaves which are reflected by the appliance’s interior walls towards the center, where they are absorbed by the water molecules of the contents you’re cooking.
The waves produce heat by triggering the water molecules in the food to vibrate. If these waves are not contained in the appliance, you can imagine how many things in your home contain water and will be affected.
If you stand within the beam of the waves, your internal organs will be heated and damaged. Your eyes might be the first victims! What if your pets are present with you? They’ll suffer the most since they have lower body mass.
Also, the sparks may get to the metallic electronics, especially those poorly protected, and may end up frying!
The stuff in your cabinets may also start cooking, not to mention the warping wooden doors due to moisture. That’s how bad the idea of operating the microwave open is.
If you ever experience such, please do not use your microwave until you get it fixed by the experts. You can also replace it altogether to avoid such accidents.