Solar Ovens And Cookers
Have you ever heard of a sidewalk so hot you could cook an egg on it? Well, it's that same heat that can be harnessed to cook with, but on a much cleaner surface. Solar ovens are cooking devices that heat food with only the use of
solar energy. They are simple to use, very convenient and surprisingly cheap. The solar cooker
has been around since the early 1900's and was used fairly extensively before the mainstreaming of what is now conventional fuel/coal.
Benefits of Solar Cooking
Solar cooking is very simple and accessible, although sunlight is required in order for solar cookers to work. A solar cooker can be both purchased pre-made, which may be more reliable, or made at home from everyday materials. Before cooking, all you need to is aim the cooker at the sun, other than that, the technology is very similar to a conventional oven. The difference is, that a conventional oven requires far more unreadily available fuel or electricity. In contrast, sunlight is in pretty much constant supply in most parts of the world.
A solar oven can cook everything that can be cooked in a conventional oven, whether it's muffins or a roast. This all for much less expense than conventional cooking methods, and without the detriment to the environment through carbon emissions, deforestation and other secondary adverse affects of our usual suspect power sources. A major problem with much of the conventional cooking methods, especially in the third world, is that cutting wood to make fires for cooking and also for heating causes mass deforestation and desertification. Solar cooking is a commonly used technology among humanitarian organizations because it only requires solar energy to work. Especially in war-ravaged countries like Darfur, where electricity is in very short supply, or not in supply at all for both villages and refugee camps, solar cookers are a very viable alternative to conventional cooking methods. Solar cookers are definitely not a technology reserved for the poverty-stricken, however. The technology is very convenient, and it is incredibly cost effective both for the first and the third world.
Solar cooking technology is so simple, and all without any negative environmental impact. Close to seventy-five per cent of North American households cook at least one hot meal a day, and a third prepare two or more. Think of all the electricity/fuel you would save if you used a solar cooker when possible? According to the
World Health Organization, cooking food with wood as a fuel base has just as much negative impact on the health of your lungs as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. While most of the people reading this article will have access to the internet, and therefore are unlikely to cook often over an open fire, in any camping-like situation a solar cooker would be beneficial for both your health, and the forest around you. In many areas of the world, campfires are banned for long periods of the summer, as the risk of forest fire is too great. A solar cooker
is a great solution to camp cooking woes. While it may not be able to toast your marshmallows on a whittled stick, a solar oven could definitely make a mean smores.
Heating Methods Used
There are various methods of harnessing solar energy for the purpose of cooking food, however they are all based on a few basic ideas. The basic method used in every
solar oven is usually a combination of concentrating sunlight, converting light to heat, and/or trapping heat. Concentrating sunlight involves the use of a device, usually fixed with a mirror to concentrate the light and solar energy into a small "oven" area. The smaller the cooking area, the more concentrated the energy and the faster your food will cook. The conversion of light to heat basically only requires the inside of the oven (or if there is a pot involved) to be black, as black absorbs and attracts heat. In order to trap heat, the air inside the cooker needs to be well-isolated in order to prevent the release of heat. To do this a clear solid, for example a clear lid or clear plastic bag. Ironically, this will produce a
greenhouse effect, similar to the one currently happening around the planet, to cook your scrumptious meal. By themselves, these methods are pretty ineffective, however together in combination they can pretty easily reach temperatures hot enough for cooking.
Types of Solar Ovens
There are several different types of solar oven technologies. There are
solar box cookers,
Solar kettles and hybrid solar ovens. You can click the link to each of these different types for a basic look into what each of these solar cooking types has to offer.