Ideas and Plans
Making a quality homemade solar oven is easy when you have access to good supplies at an economical price. Some times though, all of the best materials may not be readily available where you live.
We would like to help you out a little by connecting you with, what we consider some of the better materials and suppliers that we have found through our own personal use and research.
Have you already built a homemade solar oven? How did it turn out? What things did you do well and what things did you do... not so well?
Share with us your own experiences of building a solar cooker from scratch!
** You can contribute your story by clicking here to go to the submission form Already Built My Own Solar Cooker
One of the most important materials is, of course, the reflective sheeting or substance that is used for reflector panels and the lining for the interior of solar boxes.
You can use a variety of reflective materials such as aluminum foil, Mylar, reflective tape, mirrors, aluminum printers plates and even reflective paint.
The reflective material for panels and lining can sometimes be the most difficult of the materials to obtain. Outside of aluminum foil the other reflective materials usually are found in specific businesses or industries and are not as readily available to the consumer public. You can find some of these reflective materials in craft, lumber, hardware and supply stores though.
A good, though somewhat expensive Reflective Material can be bought at… http://www.reflectechsolar.com/pricing.html
Here we found another; mylar based tape at: mylar tape
And another, very excellent one, made by Nashua, is the aluminum backed tape which you can see here at this site http://www.findtape.com or you can easily pick it up at any Home Depot.
The next best tape, though not near as reflective, is silver colored duct tape and its related cousins
Note: It is possible and feasible to use only tape as the principal reflective surface material that you would adhere to cardboard or wood, but it is probably better used for binding or finishing the edges and corners of the larger reflective materials you have already adhered to the board.
Silver or Chrome Paint also is an option for obtaining a shiny reflective surface. One of the best paints on the market comes from Krylon. You can find out more about its qualities and how to purchase it at: http://www.krylon.com/
...You can now purchase from us here at Solar Cookers at Cantinawest, where we provide our very own, priced right reflective vinyl.
For (86% Reflectance rate)Adhesive Backed Silver Reflective Vinyl sheets, Silver Reflective Vinyl
Reflectech Mirror Film: This material is somewhat similar to Mylar, but of a higher grade and quality, which also makes it a bit more expensive though. http://www.reflectechsolar.com/index.html
MonoKote chrome sheets http://www.monokote.com/metallic.html used by Model Airplane builders and very reflective.
Mirrors, the glass variety, can be found readily available at any local glass store, but one should be aware that these must be used with care, as they can more easily break. Also they are heavier and will usually cost more than most materials and are not flexible for shaping and forming angles.
Aluminum foil, of all reflective materials, is probably the most readily available and most economical, nevertheless it is the least durable and resilient due to the fact that it tarnishes more quickly with use, and it is more flimsy, which can cause it to tear or wrinkle more easily. These facts would necessitate the frequent replacing of the aluminum whenever it becomes damaged or ineffective.
For a good Funnel shaped Solar Panel Cooker, you can use the insulated Reflecitx brand, reflective material which is also available at Home Depot and Lowes. This is the same material often used in car windshield reflectors and such.
And a great recyclable material that several people have used are; the scrapped aluminum printing plates that can be obtained from your local printing concern such as a newspaper or commercial printer. You can read a short example of how one guy in Australia made use of printing plates in just this way Aluminum Printing Press Plates
This is a site that can help the do-it-yourselfers, offering materials for makining reflector panels for your own homemade solar oven: Solar Oven Reflectors
Note: Stainless Steel sheet, Aluminum sheet, corrugated plastics, reflective sheet plastics and such can be used to form the panels and sections of a parabola, solar reflector panels, and the inner walls of box cookers etc.
And, all are very durable and long lasting materials with which one could create the different reflective parts of a solar cooker, but these are usually found at specialty production or industry specific manufacturers and are usually more expensive due to this fact, unless purchased in large bulk quantity or as a special deal order.
Cardboard is the material that is most economical, especially in third world countries where other materials are more expensive and where there is a scarceness of wood, metal, glass and plastics.
Cardboard (corrugated box) can be easily folded or cut to the shapes or dimensions of the solar cooker, not only for the housing or box but also for the reflector panels as well.
But cardboard is one of the weaker or less durable of the materials available. It can lose its shape and form easier and does not stand up as well to repeated use or exposure to the elements.
It is possible to simply find the cardboard boxes needed for the box and the reflector panels, but you can not always guarantee that you will have the correct sizes for the dimensions you may desire.
You can though, purchase at reasonable prices the cardboard and cardboard boxes to the exact sizes that you need and save time and effort while more effortlessly building your solar cooker. There are many corrugated box sellers on the internet so you can pick and choose; here is one we have used before.
To build a more durable, and usually economical, solar cooker; wood is probably the best material (panels or boards) for constructing the enclosure or casing of your cooker.
Wood is more rigid and can withstand the elements for longer periods of time. It is also modifiable so that you can build a cooker to almost any size you desire, depending upon the amounts and sizes of wood available to you.
The most popular wood forms for building a solar cooker are usually compressed board or building lumber and plywood.
With some forms of fabricated wood you have to be careful to not use those that have chemicals that were added during the board forming process. These can cause problems with noxious off-gassing when the cooker is heated.
Wood also is a material that is more economical and readily available in many countries compared to metal or plastics in sheet form.
To obtain wood at the most reasonable prices, it would probably be best to visit your local lumber or hardware supply store.
For those who live close to a building or manufacturing concern that uses, in any way; lumber, board/panels, this can be a great source for wood at little or no cost.
**Here is a "Scrap Wood and Lumber Exchange Site" that may come in handy for those who would like to get their wood at cheap or no cost. Look and see if some is available in your area http://www.recycle.net/Wood
Here is an alternative for those who would like a ready made Wood Box for their solar oven Ready Made Wood Boxes
Everything from grass and hay to newspaper and packing peanuts has been used for insulation by people constructing a solar oven.
Each one can do the job of insulating; some are more effective than others though.
In fact even plain old air is a good insulator that will help to trap and retain the acquired heat from the sun's rays. Of course the air itself has to be stabilized by containing or trapping it in order to form a pocket between the inner and outer walls of the solar cooker. Moving air will not act as an insulator.
Most people that build simple solar ovens will usually use crumpled or stacked newspaper, folded or stacked cardboard and even cloth or bale cotton to form an effective insulation barrier.
When none of these materials are available it can be just as effective to use straw, hay, grasses and even fur or wool; these items have been used for centuries as insulation for many different purposes.
Note: Modern insulations, such as fiberglass, certain foam insulation etc. can be used also, but it is preferable that these be used only when it is possible to completely seal them into the chambers of the walls of the oven where they will never be exposed to the elements, moisture, food, or human beings.
Most all of the lightweight, cheap foams will melt and/or out gas at high temperatures, only the cyanoate based foams should be considered for solar cooking.
Here is a unique product that we found that uses natural materials for creating insulation...a cotton insulation
As was mentioned earlier, glass can be used, but as noted, it is heavier and more fragile which will make it more difficult to conform (shape) to the size of your solar box cooker unless you choose to have it professionally cut to size. You could though, construct the box cooker to conform to the size of the glass that you may already have.
If you do use glass you may want to use tempered glass, since it is more durable and heat resistant and will not break as easily. (This glass is used in making oven doors and coffee pots etc.) Tempered glass though, is more expensive than your regular window pane glass. You can try finding this glass, and others, at your local glass shop or search this site for more information on locations, ordering and purchasing.
For non glass coverings or lids you can use everything from clear (transparent) Mylar, acetate film, Plexiglas, and many others that can be found locally or on the internet.
Taking into account all of these options, you will have to decide how much you want to invest into your homemade solar oven. You may want to build your solar cooker to last for years by using the best quality materials, or you may just build something simple and inexpensive that you will use for quick demonstration purposes only.
Here is a listing of a few of the many available sources of non-glass transparent material.
Clear Plexiglas sheet at
Clear film in acetate or clear Mylar also works well, Or better yet,Lexan; all found at these suppliers
And most economic of all, is to use something such as plastic wrap, orshrink wrap to create a sealed, transparent lid or cover for your cooker. This would work much the same way that an oven (turkey roast) bag functions while being used in a solar panel cooker. Note: Plastic Wraps will not sustain very high heat, it can be used for a simple low temp. demo cooker though.
And most economic of all, is to use something such as plastic wrap, or shrink wrap to create a sealed, transparent lid or cover for your cooker. This would work much the same way that an oven (turkey roast) bag functions while being used in a solar panel cooker. Note: Plastic Wraps will not sustain very high heat, it can be used for a simple low temp. demo cooker though.
Did you know that an umbrella makes the perfect beginnings of a parabolic solar cooker?
Even an old satellite dish can be converted to a very effective and powerful solar cooker, having been proven by this person in his colorful and "enlightening narrative of his experiments with a satellite dish solar cooker…http://www.backyardnature.net/j/solardsh.htm
These above mentioned items already have the parabolic shape and form; they just lack the reflective surface to complete the piece.
Cardboard, poster board, plastic sign sheet, aluminum and other rigid and semi-rigid materials have been used to form the parabola requisite for creating a parabolic cooker.
Because a complete parabola is difficult to form by hand from one continuous piece of material, it is usually necessary to create the parabola in sections or by pieces of equal length, width and thickness and then to link them together by adjoining the edges. Sometimes, getting the dimensions correct can be a challenge in constructing a parabolic cooker, but you can get help with this also by using pre calculated and measured templates that are available from a number of sources.
If you are good with mathematics and physics though, you can do all of the calculating and drafting yourself and create a very effective parabola.
Cardboard or poster board are the easiest materials to use when creating a parabola, but if you can give a little extra time, effort and expense you could create a quality parabolic cooker by using materials such as anodized aluminum sheet, corrugated plastic sheet etc., thus constructing a durable, quality Solar Cooker.
For access to more information on solar oven designs please visit our web page
These lenses are hard to get a hold of but we have found a source so that you can purchase you own Fresnel lens. For those who would like to purchase a Fresnel Lens to make your own "concentrator cooker" you can contact Paul Lennon for details, cost, and shipping information on his product. Fresnel Lens order info.
Homemade Fresnel Lens Solar Cooker-Bruce Joseph, Tucson AZ
Roasters, canning jars, frying pans…all can make excellent cooking vessels.
Thin, darkened or blackened, aluminum and steel pots are the quickest heat conductors for cooking your food in a solar cooker…
Note:Here at Solar Cooker at Cantinawest; we now carry a variety of dark enamelware cooking pots and pans for all of your solar cooker needs, and we offer them at very reasonable rates.
Black Cast Iron pots such as small dutch ovens or enamel covered cast iron can be used but, one needs to be aware that cast iron heats up more slowly because of it's thickness and density; therefore increasing the already slower cook times in solar cooking. Once the cast iron is hot though, it is a very good material for retaining heat and will keep your food hotter for longer periods of time. Many have used cast iron successfully and continue to do so for their solar cooking.
The porcelain or enamel cast iron can be quite expensive to purchase new, but here are some nice pots that can be acquired online http://www.bizrate.com/cooking_baking/products__keyword--porcelain+cooking+pots.html
Here is a lobster company that sells black porcelain pots www.mainelobsterco.com
Here is a great little pressure cooker for campers,hikers and solar cooking enthusiasts alike. It is small, compact and even the right color. You can purchase it here on our website along with other useful pots and pans for all your solar cooking needs Halulite Pressure Cooker
A very easy and economical way of solar cooking your food in a versatile container is by using Kerr or Ball canning jars.
These jars are designed to withstand heat and pressure required in modern canning methods; therefore they are excellent as solar cooking vessels.
The only alteration to the bottle is to paint it black with a flat, non toxic, heat-resistant paint that is sold for use on Barbecue grills and such.
This paint can be found at many hardware and home improvement stores or at online retailers.
The solar cooker black paint can also be used to touch up scratches and nicks on the insides of your box cookers, such as the SOS Sport Solar oven and the GSO (Global Sun Oven) and others.
Canning Jars should have a lid in order to prevent your food from boiling out into the cooker, but they should not be tightened to the extent that they will not allow some steam and pressure to be released from the cooking contents.
Note:If you use brand new, rubber ring, canning lids, you can tighten the lid a bit more since these lids are designed to release steam while pressure cooking, and when the cooking is done and the bottle and contents are cooling they will create a vacuum that will seal the rubber ringed lid to the mouth of the bottle.
Some solar cooks claim that using a sealed canning jar will speed up the cooking process due to the fact that the jar acts as a mini-pressure cooker.
These are just a few of the many different kinds of cooking vessels and materials you can acquire for use in your solar cooker, and previous experimentation has brought to light many of these products as feasible materials, so don't be afraid to try something new or different.
You can use simple and inexpensive cooking/oven thermometers, ranging from just a few dollars to a fancy Infrared remote temperature gauging thermometer that can cost a "pretty penny".
Here is a great source for all kinds of thermometers Chefsresource.com
And a source for andvanced industrial and scientific thermometers Instrumart.com
...or on Amazon is one that I like and that many others recommend:
for supporting your cooking pots and pans inside of your solar cooker, allowing for free movement of hot air beneath and around your cooking food vessels see Trivets
and more trivets here http://www.thefind.com/kitchen/info-chefs-trivet
These gloves are great for handling hot pans and trays, making it so much easier to pull items from your solar cooker without the bulk and discomfort of oven mitts. Oven Glove
...Or get two at Amazon
For Excellent advice, help, and knowledge on building your own solar cooker; visit the always helpful and friendly solar cooking group on:
Build a Pizza Box Solar Oven
If you have been successful, and even unsuccessful,in building a solar cooker, whether it's the first solar oven or the tenth oven, we would like to hear how you did it!
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