Are you a layman who intends to be a self-sufficient learner? Here is one such thing that you can learn to build. The ‘solar oven' is a laughably simple design that can be built in about ten minutes. Using two cardboard boxes and a plastic oven bag, you can use the energy of the sun to heat food, either as an experiment in solar technology, or because it's a low-resource means to cook food. This design can also be utilized in a disaster-preparedness scenario in which you don't have access to more conventional means of cooking. This design has been adapted for populations in developing countries that primarily use wood for cooking fires. Wood cook-fires in developing countries lead to health problems that come from inhaling airborne ash, as wood fires indoors, without proper ventilation, will collect smoke.
This design, of course, can be modified, as long as the basics of the design are covered. This method has been applied and fiddled with for years. The beauty of it, however, remains its utter simplicity. It should be noted that this isn't a rapid method of cooking food. Recipes in a conventional oven call for higher heats than a solar cooker can usually accomplish, to make the food cook faster. A recipe in a solar oven will generally take twice as long to cook than in a conventional oven. Also, since the light of the sun is concentrated on the cooking vessel itself, some browning may occur. This particular model we're building will evenly cook your food, as best a solar oven can. This model also will keep food warm at a suitable temperature without burning.
If you're worried that the materials may catch fire, have no fear. Paper burns at 451 degrees F, while your solar oven may get only as hot as 250 degrees F, or so.
The solar cooker will work with a minimum of 20 minutes of sunlight for an hour, with a cloud cover no larger than 25-30%. Obviously, at more cloud cover, your food won't cook.
You will require just the simple materials, for building a solar oven. The materials mentioned below are easily available to use:
- Two cardboard boxes, one smaller than the other. (The smaller one needs to hold a cooking vessel). There should also be a few inches of space when you put the smaller box in the larger box.
- An additional sheet of cardboard
- Aluminum foil
- A pot or mason jar with a lid, spray painted black
- Plastic wrap or a sheet of clear plastic or glass that is roughly the same size as the top of the larger box
Now We Make it!
- Crumple up the newspaper and put it in the smaller box.
- Place the smaller box in the larger box.
- Fill the space between the outside of the smaller box and the inside of the larger one with crumpled up newspaper.
- Line the inside of the smaller box with aluminum foil, shiny-side-up. Glue it in place and make sure its more or less flat.
- Lay your sheet of cardboard on the top of the larger box and trace the outline of the larger box. Add a few inches to the outline you traced and cut the piece to this size. This will be the reflector. Line one side with aluminum foil, shiny side out. Attach this to the outside of the larger box, near the top, so that there's maximum reflective area sticking up.
- Lay your clear plastic or glass over the top of the opening of the larger box.
- To cook something in your oven, place the food you want to cook in your black vessel and place it in the smaller box. Then point the solar cooker toward the sun. Move it as necessary to follow the sun's path while cooking.
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