Recently my brother, my son, and I made a five hour journey to attend a conference on alternative energy. We learned how to make biodiesel fuel. We learned how to make clean distilled water from sunlight. We even learned how to harness the suns rays to power regular batteries. However, the most simplest thing we learned, was how to build a solar oven and do solar cooking. Making a solar oven is very simple. I am sure that you’ve heard the saying, “It’s so simple a Caveman can do it.” Truth be known, maybe the caveman invented solar cooking. This type of solar oven can bake cookies, pies, pizzas, bread, baked beans, and meat among other things. Laurie Stone built her first solar oven out of cardboard and aluminum foil. Over the years she worked to perfect the best yet simplest type of solar oven. She eventually even installed one into the wall of her home. Now don’t think that Laurie is the inventor of this type of oven. She has only perfected it for her needs. She got the idea from cooking pioneer Barbara Kerr. who lives in Arizona. It helps to live in Arizona when you need to use the energy of the sun. Still Laurie feels that the solar oven will work anywhere.
In writing this article, I wanted to learn as much as I could about solar cooking. I used google adwords to find as many different ideas that I could. I was even able to come up with recipes for solar cooking.
Your solar oven can be mounted in an exterior wall or you can make it portable. If you decide to place it in an exterior wall, you have several considerations. First, you have to able to plug the oven hole when it isn’t in use. Second, the hole and placement of the solar oven must be on the sun side of the house. It must be located where you can get at least 3 to 4 hours of sun each day. Third, you can make a swivel table to rotate your oven on. That way you face the sun longer.
Making your solar oven is very simple. The dimensions are 48 inches wide, 29.5 inches deep.2.5 inches tall in the front, and 20.5 inches tall at the back. If you viewed the oven from the side, it would look triangular. With the exception of the glass top, the box is made out of 3/4 inch particle board. Make your box first. The back side that 20.5 by 48 needs to have a door cut into it. This door should be big enough to place a pie through it easily. The bigger the item you are cooking the bigger the door. If you cook a 16′ pizza, you got to be able to get it in. Once you cut out the door, attach some small hinges to the outside part of the door. Set it to the side. You can use small screws or finishing nails to hold the solar oven together.
Next you must insulate the inside of the box. You can use Styrofoam or a cotton baits. It should be at least half an inch thick. You can even use Ultra touch recycled denim. You can staple this in place with a staple gun. Line the bottom with metal roof flashing. Cut it to fit flush within the box. Do the same with the sides and the back as well. Be sure to cut around the door area, after all you got to get the food in. Now go back to your door and do the same for the inside part of the door only. Here is a good idea. Use high temperature aluminum tape to tape the metal in place. Now attache the door and hinges back to the oven. Make sure they are secure. You can put a small hasp on the outside of the door to keep it closed. You might even use an old screen door hook as well.
Now take an old grill rack that will fit into the bottom of the oven. You might even try an old microwave rotating glass plate. Now you are ready to place your glass in the top. Keep this in mind. The glass should be at a 35 degree angle from the top to the bottom.. You can make the glass so that it can be removable. You may have to clean it sometime. This might be a bit tricky to do but, frame it up over the top of the box. Get it as airtight as you can. You don’t want heat to escape. Do not use Plexiglas. Use a regular good strong clean piece of glass. Regular window glass.
Now paint everything a flat black color on the exterior of your oven. Do not paint the glass. Some of the interior ovens used aluminum foil but, the sheet metal works better. Maybe experiment with both.
The oven will reach temperatures up to 300 degrees. Usually it stays between 250-275 degrees. It works best between 11 am and 2 pm. The oven works best between April and September. It is okay in March and October. It doesn’t work as well in the very cold moths. Also, don’t think that this will add heat to your home in the winter. It works because the heat is collected and built up in the oven by the suns rays.
Once you have your oven made try doing some simple things like Brown and Serve Rolls, cookies, and other small items. After you learn more how it works, you can try different things.
One of the solar stoves had an old thermometer, that had been taken off a grill and relocated on the back of the box above the door. However, this isn’t necessary unless you want to add one. You can get more information on solar ovens and energy at www.solarenergy.org
resources; Laurie Stone, Conventional Solar Cooking