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Monday, December 10, 2007

Solar cooking... first attempt

One of the ways I will be cooking off grid is to use the sun, it's free, nearly always available where I live, and it works great! My first attempt was about a month ago, it was the last time my husband and I went to our property to take a trailer load of stuff out there. We spent a week there lugging boxes of stuff across the dry creek bed and over to our cabin. My mother in law came out with us, yes we are trying to get her to move out there as well, we figured the best way to convince her what a great place it is was to show her. On one of the days we were there, my husband and my MIL went to our other neighbor's house around the mountain from us, I haven't been over there yet, but I understand they have a beautiful rock garden, as my MIL is a major rock hound (she belongs to at least 2 gem and mineral clubs and is very active in them), anyhoo she and my husband went over to see the rock garden, I was left at the cabin on my own, I got a bit bored and decided to work on making a quick solar oven.

I had lots of various materials laying about, I took a medium sized cardboard box, this is a box that reams of copy paper come in, it has a lid that fits over the top and comes completely off, I don't have the exact dimensions of the box, but it holds standard size copy paper (8.5x11), 2 reams wide and 6 reams deep, I hope that makes sense (grin). I took the lid and cut a flap, I measured in on the top about an inch or so from the edge, I cut three sides and left one side attached, I creased that side so it would open and close. Next I took some clear, heavy duty plastic wrap and lined the opening in the lid, I used heavy box tape to secure the plastic. I had purchased several solar or space blankets, these are silver colored mylar film. I lined the box with the space blanket, I didn't want to cut it as this was just a temporary oven. The mylar hung over the sides, but that was OK, I put some canned food in the box, placed the lid on the box, propped it up facing the sun and waited. The box heated up pretty well, but I wanted to improve the heating, so I took a black plastic trash bag, I put it inside the box and placed the canned food on it and folded the excess bag over the cans. I replaced the lid and waited again. While waiting, I decided that I wanted some hot water too, I found a half full (or for the pessimist, half empty) bottle of water, I removed the lid from the solar oven, when I reached in to open the black bag, I was surprised at how hot the bag had gotten, I jerked my hand back, it didn't really burn, but it was much hotter than I expected it to be. I placed the water bottle in the black bag and closed the lid. I came back about an hour later, the food and water were hot. I'm glad that I remembered to squeeze the bottle a bit before I closed it otherwise the bottle might have burst, it got pretty hot, hot enough to make the plastic bottle shrink a bit. I used the heated water to wash with and I had to add cold water to it, it was too warm for comfort.

We ate a hot lunch that day and I had hot water to wash with, so I consider my first experiment with solar cooking a success. I can't wait to get back out there and build a better solar oven.

If you are interested in learning more about solar cooking from real people, not sales people, go to these sites, you can talk to real people who have purchased their own solar cookers/ovens and/or made their own, you can get recipes, tips and more. The first one is a smaller group, I like the members there very well, the group owner is very nice and helpful. The second group is larger and has lots to offer as well.


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