Solar cooking is simply one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health and the environment. Most of our health-damaging food comes from:
- Fast Food: McDonald’s, etc.
- Overly processed supermarket food like frozen dinners
- Snacks, like cookies, ice-cream, etc.
Solar cooking encourages you to:
- Avoid fast food
- Cook your own fresh home-cooked meals and not eat over-processed food
- Eat your fill, and reduce your desire for snacks and desserts
- Be a bit more physically active, more attuned with the weather conditions outside, and spend more time out in the sunshine
This is all good stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience it feels great!
Just Google “Solar cooker” or “Solar oven” and you’ll see there are hundreds of designs you can use and dozens of pre-made solar cookers you can buy. If you’re so inspired, you should build one or buy one. It’s a lot of fun to experiment with.
However, here at CLR we strive to get sustainable results, but also be cheapskates — or as we like to say “Green without the Green”, so we set out to design our own “nearly free” solar cooker that can be made by anyone without skills in just a few minutes. AND WE DID!
This first picture is the CLR Solar Cooker Mark I
Anything you leave out in the New Mexico sun gets hot — often too hot to touch, so the idea behind this five-minute prototype was to simply put a regular pot on a sheet of reflective rigid foam insulation with some other pieces to reflect in additional sunlight. It was a fail.
The pot did get hot, that’s for certain, but it never got hot enough to cook. The problems were numerous, most importantly the breeze just blew the heat away since the pot was exposed, and the pot being silver reflected a lot of sun away.
So, with those issues in mind, the next experiment was the CLR Solar Cooker Mark II:
This prototype worked great right away. I don’t have an oven thermometer, so I’ll have to get back to you on the actual temperature it reaches in the chamber, but let me tell you it’s VERY HOT — it burned my fingers and I had to use oven-mitts to extract the pot from the cooker. And, it actually cooks — with similar performance as a crock pot on the “high” setting.
Here’s what it’s made of:
- A piece of acrylic — actually it’s an old window from the Airstream that we replaced with the proper glass OEM window. Rather than throw it away and add it to a land-fill, we saved it and used it in this oven
- About half a sheet of rigid foam with reflective thermal barrier that was left-over from lodge construction. This is not the “greenest” material, it was scrap and it is always better to use scrap than to send it on to a land-fill or store it indefinitely.
- A few feet of Gorilla brand tape — very aggressive (and expensive) stuff.
- A ceramic pot saved from an electric crock-pot that stopped working. Yes, I spray painted it black.
Total price to make this project: Less than $20
Total time to build: 30 minutes
As soon as I have more data on the Mark II’s performance I’ll make a new post and let you all know about it. I have a feeling I’m going to need to add some reflectors to increase the heat in the chamber, but only experimentation will tell.
More on this project will be posted soon