A solar oven?! What will they think of next! :-) Yes, this new, environmentally friendly invention is also known as a solar cooker or a solar box oven, and is one of the latest creative and enjoyable ways that you can use solar power in your home.
Solar power ovens are available now to consumers and are also being used by charitable organizations in developing countries where many people do not have the daily necessities of life. Solar cookers can literally transform the lives of those who are struggling just to put food on the table.
For example, a woman in a developing country who needs to cook several meals using a traditional stove will need wood cut from local trees in order to fuel her stove.
Imagine the freedom when she suddenly has the capacity to cook meals without spending time cutting down trees and building fires, or adding smoke pollution to the air!
I am very impressed with the good work that these organizations are doing to bring solar cookers to the places that most need them. One such group is SolarCookers.org which also sells solar power ovens to help fund their charitable work.
For those in industrialized countries who are trying to live more eco-friendly lives, using a solar oven is a small way that we can help to reduce our carbon footprint. Anything we can do such as saving, reusing, recycling, and finding alternative energy sources for our daily tasks is a really big help!
As green living becomes more and more popular, products to help the eco-friendly are becoming more and more available, and easier to use. One such product is the solar powered oven which now has many useful features that make it more convenient to use.
A solar powered oven, also called a solar cooker, is a device that uses sunlight as its main source of energy in order to cook food. Though there are different kinds of solar ovens, there are a few characteristics that remain constant for all designs.
Solar cookers concentrate sunlight through the use of a mirror or some type of reflective metal. This makes the energy more concentrated, and therefore more potent.
All solar power ovens convert light to energy. The ovens use the color black on the inside of the oven to absorb sunlight and convert it to heat. Cooks can also use black pans to help improve the effectiveness of the oven.
Finally, all solar cookers trap the heat inside the oven. By trapping the heat inside the oven, it's possible for the oven to reach the same temperatures to cook food regardless of conditions outside.
These three characteristics aren't particularly effective individually, but since most solar power ovens use two or even all three, the ovens can reach temperatures necessary for effective cooking.
One of the advantages of a solar cooker is its accessibility to people. They are not too expensive, ranging in price from $50 to $300 or more, and come in a wide variety of styles.
Since they are powered by the sun, they cost nothing to use!
They are portable and can be carried from one location to the next.
Some solar powered ovens are so simple they can be made from scratch at home.
They can be used outdoors, even in areas where fire restrictions prevent outdoor cooking with wood stoves.
Solar powered ovens are a clean, energy saving alternative to burning wood for cooking, which adds pollutants to the air.
They can be used to cook a wide variety of foods.
It is unlikely you will burn your food!
While solar ovens are a viable alternative energy cooker for many people, there are some drawbacks.
Obviously, if your oven is powered by the sun, it will be difficult to cook food at night! Some new technologies such as the hybrid solar oven with electric backup will work at night or when the sun is covered by clouds, and will maintain an even temperature while you are cooking.
Some people who have bought commercial solar powered ovens complain that the black paint that covers the lining material inside the oven peels off.
According to consumers, some brands emit a plastic smell.
Some users of one particular oven brand found that the solar cooker put a plastic taste into the food. This is not a common complaint and so it is not clear if there were some problems with one batch or brand.
Wind can disrupt the operation of your solar oven.
Cooking vegetables in a solar oven will cause them to turn a dull green which indicates they have been overcooked.
Cooking with solar is a little different than using a regular oven.
You may need to slightly turn your solar oven throughout the day to keep it aligned with the sun, although new technologies are being developed that will eventually do this for you.
Some foods like bread will brown on the top instead of the bottom!
You'll need to cut your food into smaller pieces so it can cook more easily.
It's best to not open your oven while the food is cooking, as this will cause heat to escape quickly.
You'll need to plan your meal ahead of time and schedule cooking times to coincide with the strength of the sun. For example, food will cook more quickly a few hours before and after noon.
The length of time your food needs to cook will vary depending on your location, the wind on any given day, and the amount of sunlight available.
My friend Nathan has created a fantastic site on how to cook with the sun! For more in-depth information on solar cooking please visit Solar Cooker at Cantinawest.
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