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How to Make a Solar Oven

When it comes to cooking food, a large quantity of energy may be required, regardless of whether you are using a gas or an electric oven. Other cooking tools may also use up a lot of electricity, and sometimes, on a camping trip, for example, you may require an easier method to heat up your food.

A solar oven may be just the thing to help you in such situations. The main benefit of this device is that it uses solar energy, which is free and readily available practically everywhere. A high quality solar oven can, therefore, help you out in some tight spots, making sure that you never go without warm food, no matter where you are.

The good news is that, by using some cheap materials, you too can build your own solar oven and make it work in practically no time at all. All you need is some enthusiasm and an open mind, and you will be enjoying some tasty dishes in no time at all.


What Are Solar Ovens?

A solar oven (also known as a solar cooker) is generally seen as a device that can use sunlight to heat foods and drinks, and to sterilize them. While top class versions that can work in less powerful light are also available, being made with solar cells, they are mostly considered to be expensive, and are, therefore, quite rarely used.

Most solar cookers out there are relatively cheap and low-tech, and are simply used to aid the reduction of air pollution, and provide people with an alternative to fuel consumption. Nevertheless, using solar ovens can be quite fun, especially since it involves outdoor cooking, and can be seen as a more unusual way of having a barbecue.

There are also various types of outdoor solar ovens, depending on the methods used for achieving the best results with the sun’s energy.

The most basic type is a solar cooker that uses a reflective mirror made of metal or polished glass to reflect the rays of the sun, and concentrate them in order to maximize their heating power, directing them to a relatively small cooking area.

Another method is the use of a low reflectivity surface to convert light into heat, and enhance the cooking power of the oven. This method is not very difficult to use, however, heat retention may prove to be difficult on cold, cloudy days.

Last, but not least, the idea of trapping heat inside the container has proven to be quite effective. This method basically makes use of a sealed plastic bag in order to isolate the hot air inside the container. In contrast with the previous one, this technique allows for far better performance during cold or windy days as well.

Besides using any of these techniques separately, you can also combine them in order to achieve even better results. Most people prefer to use variations of the reflective method, however, as it is considered to be somewhat more efficient than the other two.


7 Easy Steps to Building Your Own Solar Cooker


  1. The first step is to gather all your supplies and materials. You will need a cardboard box that will be the food container itself, a plastic wrap, clear tape, an aluminum foil and newspapers, as well as some black construction paper.


Most of these materials may be cheap, but try to make sure that they are of at least an acceptable quality, so you can work with them more easily. Also, don’t hesitate to play around with the architecture of the solar oven, and add other materials or design elements to enhance its functionality, if you feel the need to do so.


  1. The tools you will need are not very complex, as you will simply be measuring and cutting cardboard, aluminum foil and paper. Make sure you have a box knife and scissors, therefore, and in order to achieve best results, ensure that you can also use a precision ruler.


You might consider that the tools and materials you use shouldn’t have to be of such good quality for a small project like this, however, that is far from being true. In order to ensure the proper functionality of your solar oven, as well as its long term reliability, the tools need to be easy to use and reliable, so you can work under the best circumstances.


  1. Next, you will need to cut a large flap into the lid of the box and cover its inner side with aluminum foil, taping it securely, and making sure that it is smooth enough to reflect the sunlight perfectly. The role of the flap will be to act as a mirror, reflecting sunlight into the container.


Additionally, you can also use a metal sheet, or other reflective materials; however, it is generally considered that aluminum foil is the most practical and least expensive choice.


  1. In order to make the box airtight, you must use the clear tape or a transparent plastic bag to seal the opening you have made when you cut out the flap. This is done in order to ensure that, while the box will allow sunlight in, the interior temperature will not be affected by airflow differences.


A poorly designed solar oven that does not have proper insulation will not be able to provide too much heat, so make sure that your efforts are not in vain, and consider this aspect with increased care and consideration.


  1. The black construction paper has the role of improving the interior heating of the box by absorbing sunlight and turning more of it into heat. Make sure you fasten the paper securely, as this is where your food will be placed.


  1. The newspapers have to be used to provide insulation so that the oven can hold more heat. For this purpose, you will have to roll up some sheets of newspaper, and tape them inside the box in such a way that they create a type of insulating border around the cooking area, keeping the heat from escaping. While it is important to get proper insulation, make sure that the lid can still close.


  1. Now, you’re basically done; all you need to do is use the ruler to set the angle for the reflector to precisely 45 degrees, in order to maximize the amount of sunlight that will be reflected into the box. You can then get to work, and start cooking anything from toast to hot dogs, by simply preparing your dishes and letting the sunlight do the rest.


Other Considerations

There are some aspects that need to be cleared before you can start using your new solar cooker to the full extent of its capacity. First of all, remember that it’s a homemade solar oven, so it does have its limitations. You will not be able, therefore, to cook complex meals on it that may require diligent temperature control, or a large amount of heat.

Also, the quality of the materials may not endure extreme conditions, and may gradually decay over long periods of time, so if you want to use your oven in the future, make sure you take care of it properly, putting it away safely while you are not using it.

If you want to achieve better results, you can build a somewhat more complicated device that will also require careful planning, as well as a lot more work. For example, you can build a special wooden box, providing it with better interior insulation, and using a polished mirror to reflect the sunlight.

Also, you can use more flaps and mirrors, surrounding the box, or even add round-shaped reflecting material in order to concentrate the sunlight more intensely. There is truly no limit to what your creativity can add to the project, as long as you follow the basic principle that the solar oven was designed for, and don’t overlook safety aspects.


General Conclusion

Of course, not all would prefer the idea of using these methods to heat food. A DIY solar cooker may be cheap, but some might consider the process of building it to be slightly difficult.

Nevertheless, if you have a little time to spare and you like doing some light, rewarding work, with a little patience, you can finish your solar oven project in practically no time at all. You can then enjoy a quite useful alternative method to regular cooking stoves, and save energy by heating your food in a natural and environmental friendly way.

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