Saturday, May 9, 2009

Solar Oven Designs To Use At Home

By Tim McDonald

In most 3rd world places, where electricity and other fuel sources are hard to come by, solar oven designs have been used. Not only are they effective in cooking food, but also for water purification in sunny countries like Sudan.

But just because first world countries have enough energy supplies, it does not excuse us from using solar cooking at home and helping to conserve that energy. What's great about solar cooking is that it uses the power of the sun to cook food - though it may take 4 times longer than a conventional oven.

A number of interesting solar oven designs have been made over the years, but they typically take one of three forms: parabolic design, panel design, or box design.

Parabolic Design:

With the parabolic shape, reflective metal alloy is put into a bowl-like shape, where the sunlight is then focused on a single point. The advantage of this type of design is that it efficiently uses the sun's energy to cook food in the shortest time possible. The only drawback is that it is usually a fixed structure that is hard to transport, and it is the most expensive of the three.

Panel Cooker:

Similar to the parabolic design, the panel design focuses sunlight to a single point. However, it is less rounded and made up of a number of small, flat, reflective panels.

The panel shape is not as efficient as the parabolic shape, but it has the advantage of being foldaway, portable, and rather simple to make. These cookers can be found in a number of interesting deigns, but the simplest is by far the one made by folding one of those reflective windscreen blinds.

Box Cooker:

Very different to the other two designs, the box cooker works by trapping the sun's heat, instead of simply focusing it on a central point. It is designed in such a way that it let's light in, but stops that heat from escaping. As more sunlight comes in, the hotter it gets.

Essentially the entire box heats up, allowing larger quantities of food to be made at once. The box cooker is easiest of the three to make, since it can literally be made from a cardboard box, tin foil, and sheet of glass or perspex.

What I like most about solar oven designs is that they can be put together with simple materials found at home in the course of an afternoon. It's a fun project to do with your kids, and the shapes you come up with are really limited to your imagination. And do not just think your solar cooker is only good for boiling water or steaming vegetables. People have successfully roasted meat in them and even baked bread. Another pro is that your solar cooker will be outside when used, so it will not cause your whole kitchen to heat up and put strain on your indoor cooling system - another way it helps you to conserve energy.

And since over two-thirds of Americans (according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey) cook food on a daily basis, just imagine how much power we could save if more of us used solar oven designs during the sunny months.

So get started cooking with solar today. There are a number of commercially available solar cookers on the market. Alternatively you can make your own at home by searching online, where a variety of free solar oven designs with full building instructions are provided.

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