Construct a solar oven
Did you know? Enough sunlight falls on the earth every hour to meet global energy needs for an entire year. All we have to do is learn how to harness it! We understand not everyone is ready to install solar panels on their roof today, and that’s great. That doesn’t mean we can’t start using the sun’s energy today using a solar oven. Using materials you already own and a few tools, you can build your own solar oven to cook, bake, boil or steam just about anything.
A solar oven is an incredible tool used all over the world. It’s the only way to cook that uses pollution free, 100 per cent renewable energy. Its genius is rooted in design. Using reflective panels, the sunlight’s energy is concentrated. Then, it’s converted into heat using a black or non-reflective surface on the inside of the oven. A glass or plastic cover helps trap the hot air inside and heat up the oven. Similar to a conventional oven, a solar oven can reach temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit!
While the standard energy consumption rate of electrical ovens (2 kWh) and gas ovens (.112 kWh) doesn’t seem like much, every watt counts! Multiply that by every house on your street, for at least one hour per day, for a lifetime, and you have hundreds of thousands of kilowatts up in smoke! Not with a solar oven.
Unlike conventional ovens and other cooking methods, it uses no gas, electricity, or wood for fuel. Plus, energy is saved in other indirect ways as well. When cooking during the summer months, we often use even more energy to cool down the house after it’s been warmed by a running oven. With a solar oven, you can cook outdoors and keep your house cool!
The best part: building your own solar oven is easy. Grab the materials, follow the instructions, and let the sun shine! For a host of recipes to try out in your new oven, visit sunoven.com/usa/recipes.
Tools and Materials Needed
• Large, flat sheets of corrugated cardboard
• Duct tape
• Adhesive spray
• Cardboard shoe or beer case box
• Aluminum foil or mylar sheets
• Aluminum baking tin (6” x 12” x 3” recommended)
• 1 Turkey-sized transparent oven bag
• Shredded newspaper
• Felt pen
• Utility knife
• Meter stick or metric tape measure
• Oven thermometer
1. Cut 2 trapezoid shapes: Widths 20” and 6” - Center Height 23.5” Widths 25.5” and 12” - Height 23.5”
2. Use a meter stick and felt pen to draw the outlines of what will become your reflector panels. Using the utility knife, cut out two of each panel for a total of four panels. Friendly note: slip scrap cardboard under the material you are cutting to avoid damaging floors or tabletops.
3. Roll out enough mylar or aluminum to cover one side of each panel. Affix the material to the cardboard following the instructions on the can of adhesive spray. Be sure to smooth out any wrinkles.
4. Cut 8 pieces of duct tape 23.5” long and set them aside. Arrange your panels in front of you, foil side down, alternating wide sections with narrow sections and with the 6” and 12” bases closest to you. The panels should form a semi- circle in front of you.
5. Carefully position the panels so a 1/8” space remains between them. Press one of the duct tape strips lengthwise over this “joint”. Repeat with the third and fourth joints, then flip over and repeat on the other “foiled” side.
6. Stand your “reflector” up, foil side in, and bring the edges of the two outer panels together. Have a friend hold the reflector in position while you add the last pieces of duct tape.
7. With more duct tape, fasten the cardboard box (remember either the shoe box or beer case) to the bottom of the reflector by its flaps. A few more strips of well-placed duct tape with make your oven more rigid.
8. Stuff shredded paper into the gaps between the box and the reflector for insulation. Leave a little on the bottom of the box as well.
9. Time to test your oven! Place the oven thermometer inside the aluminum baking tin and place the baking tin inside the plastic oven bag. This is your baking chamber.
10. Press the baking chamber tightly into the bottom of the reflector. Outside, and preferably with sunglasses on, arrange your oven so that the chamber is fully illuminated by the sun!
The Ecology Center a regional hub for sustainability in Orange County, CA, seeks to bring all members of the community together in a solutions-based educational setting to inspire and create a healthy and abundant future for all. The Center highlights empowering and cutting-edge environmental perspectives that can be applied to the way we live our lives, making it possible for us to coexist with a thriving environment.