Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Harvest Festival #2: Solar Ovens

While preparations for the evening meal progressed inside the Grange, the back lot bustled with displays of food system self-sufficiency. Here, three solar ovens show how easy it is to gather enough heat from the sun to cook splendid family meals without using an ounce of wood, gas, or electricity. (Okay, if you don't count the manufacture of the materials to build the ovens.)

The oven on the lower left was made onsite, using cardboard cut and arranged for the purpose, and covered with ordinary aluminum foil. The interior of the box is black to absorb heat, and capped with a clear square of plastic or glass to contain the built-up infrared light reflected from the panels. For folks wanting a ready made oven, one is displayed on the right, ready to fold out and use, with shinier panels. But for the real investment, the large capacity oven stands in the back, with reflection panels like mirrors! According to some information posted about, the interiors of these cookers can eventually reach 375 to 400F in adequate sun exposure, even in the homemade model - perfectly sufficient for most oven recipes. The only catch is adjusting your meal planning for the amount of time this slow method of cooking requires.


Laurie said...

I used to date a guy whose Mom was part of an organization providing these solar ovens to third world countries. I think they are SOOOO great. ANd such a simple idea.

Love your shots of them.

Bibi said...

Great invention, these ovens. Would love to have one, but I'm going to have to wait until next summer when we see the sun again..it's only out intermittently today!

Virginia said...

Just crock pot cooking with an energy friendly twist. Down here it would probably work most of the year.

Halcyon said...

It is an interesting idea, but not very practical for everyday use. It would be fun to have a solar bbq party - impress the neighbors!

Tanya said...

I've never seen these before. I imagine the adjustment would be hard, but then who knows, one day it might be the norm?

Petrea said...

It's practical for southern California much of the year. A great idea. And would cut down on air conditioning, as it the oven wouldn't be heating the house.

Wayne said...

Ed Begley Jr. used a solar oven on Living With Ed a few times back when I watched the show. I don't get that channel any more.

Kym said...

Another one of those ideas I would like to use but I know I'm not evolved enough yet. I would start with the best of intentions and then end up a little behind and pop back to a conventional stove and that would be the last of that.

USelaine said...

Laurie - I remember hearing a presentation by an early "inventor" of the cardboard variety in the late seventies in Sacramento. He talked about the usefulness they would have in fuel starved Africa. Now we may all be fuel starved.

Bibi - Sunlight is definitely a requirement, but I don't think it takes all day. Depends on what you're cooking, I suppose.

Virginia - You hit the nail on the head! I forgot to mention that the cooking pot should be as dark as possible, to absorb the heat. I've seen those dark blue glazed metal pots used most of the time, with a matching lid. I always think of them as camping pots.

Halcyon - I figure it's a good idea to learn how to do it, then have it available for a fuel emergency. Unlike flames or electricity, these ovens don't have to be monitored. You won't start a house fire if you put a rice and vegetable casserole in a solar oven, point it south, go to work, then bring it in when you get home at suppertime. At least, I think that's how it works.

Tanya - It's just a new technique. We are so used to microwaves, that this sort of thing seems glacial for speed. But now you know what to do if you have to cook without conventional power. Just think how fast a car takes to heat up with the windows closed on a hot day in an open parking lot. Not too long, really. This just magnifies it.

Petrea - I didn't think of the house cooling benefit. There's all sorts of information on the internet. Hey! Wikipedia even has something! I should have linked that in the post caption. Check out the big list of external links at the bottom. Sure to have recipes there as well.

Wayne - Ed Begley Jr. is huge on all this stuff. He comes up to Hopland, here in Mendocino county, every year for SolFest, hosted by the Solar Living Institute down there. That's another link I should have included.

Kym - As I said above, it's useful to know how to do it, even if you don't end up using it all the time. You're pretty well set with firewood, even in tough times, I imagine. My mom has that "fall back" too. But as Petrea pointed out, you don't have to heat up the house with flames in the summer by using one of these. 8^)

Hey, thanks everybody. I'm glad you enjoyed looking at these as much as I did. Well, I hope you did.