How to Use a Solar-Powered Oven

A step-by-step guide to using the sun for cooking, plus tips on making your own solar cooker

Solar energy can be used in many ways: to generate solar electricity, to heat buildings or water and even to heat food through the use of solar-powered ovens. Solar-powered ovens, like solar electricity, use the sun as their energy source. Solar cookers (also called solar ovens, solar-powered ovens or solar oven cookers) are ideal for any area that gets a lot of sun most of the year.

According to Solar Now, Inc., solar ovens can be used about six months out of the year in northern climates, and year-round in more tropical regions. Solar Cookers International says that cooking with solar-powered ovens is easy, safe around children and educational. Solar oven cookers, the group adds, are clean and easy on the environment. The following steps will get you cooking in your own solar-powered oven.

Step 1: Learn the advantages of solar ovens and solar cookers

According to Solar Cookers International, using an easy solar cooker or solar-powered oven is a convenient way to cook food without heating up your kitchen, and like with solar electricity, you can cook without consuming fuels.

Step 2: Research and choose the right type of solar-powered oven for your needs

Solar Cookers International advises that the three main types of solar oven cookers are heat-trap box cookers, curved concentrator cookers and panel cookers. There are hundreds of variations of each of these main types.

Step 3: Understand how your solar-powered oven works

Just like solar electricity is created using energy that is collected from sunlight, solar oven cookers heat food using heat that is collected from sunlight. According to Solar Cookers International, solar-powered ovens work because sunlight is converted into heat energy, which is preserved for cooking. Solar oven cookers need sunlight, because sunlight is the fuel. They won’t work on cloudy days or at night. Food should be placed in dark, metal pots with tight-fitting lids. A heat trap, usually made of plastic or glass, keeps the heat in, and a shiny surface reflects extra sunlight onto the pot.

Step 4: Make your own solar cooker

Here are some easy instructions from Solar Now, Inc.:

  • You need a pizza box, aluminum foil and black construction paper.
  • First draw a one-inch border along all four sides of the pizza box top.
  • Then cut along three sides, and fold back along the uncut fourth side to form a crease.
  • Glue a piece of aluminum foil along the flap.
  • Line the bottom of the box with aluminum foil and black construction paper.
  • Then, cut a piece of plastic larger than the box opening, so it can be taped to the underside of the pizza box top and create a tightly sealed window.
  • Close the window of the pizza box top that you just created using the plastic, prop open the flap of the box and face the box toward the sun so the aluminum reflects through the window into the interior of the oven.
  • Turn the solar oven cooker toward the sun and leave it until the food is cooked.

You can turn it to face the sun every few hours as the sun moves. Test how hot your solar oven can get using an oven thermometer.

Hybrid solar oven cookers are also available. These are a bit more detailed than the easy solar oven pizza box example above. Hybrid solar ovens are hybrid solar-electric, meaning they can be run on solar power, electric power or hybrid mode (solar when the sun is out, and electric when the sun is gone).

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