This article is a guide to building your own panel solar cooker. To learn more about solar cookers and what they do, read this article: SOLAR COOKERS: AN INTRODUCTION
Panel solar cookers are the first form of solar cooker that is truly affordable to the neediest of the world. In 1994, a group of engineers created a model called the CooKit (a truly respectable double entendre), which could be produced for a mere $3-7 US, using basic household materials.
Since no fuel or fire wood is needed, the CooKit actually saves people money (more than 4 times it’s cost in fuel wood each year), reduces deforestation (and by extension desertification), and offers a safer alternative to open-fire cooking.
You can build a panel solar cooker quite easily yourself. It offers an alternative to regular cooking, should you lose power or if you spend a lot of time in the wilderness.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
The items you’ll need are:
1) 3×4 feet of carton board
2) 1×10 feet of aluminum foil
4) Foam paint brush
5) A box-cutter type knife
7) Large ruler/straight edge
8 ) Plastic oven bags
9) A black cooking pot, with a black or clear cover
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
1) Preparing the Cardboard
The first step is preparing the cardboard. It will have to be cut and folded into an ideal shape. Here’s the outline from Solar Cookers International, the manufacturers of the CooKit:
2) Attaching the Foil
Mix equal parts water and glue to make a 50/50 mixture. Apply this mixture to the dull side of the tin foil, and paste the foil to the cardboard, shiny side out. Apply the foil like you would wall paper, tight and smooth. Leave flat and let it sit and dry over night.
And that’s… pretty much it.
COOKING WITH IT
To cook with it:
1) Place it on a flat, dry surface away from any shadows (or future shadows- your cooker will have to stay shadow-free for many hours).
2) To cook a meal for noon, have your cooker facing south east, and begin cooking between 9-10am.
To cook a meal for the evening, have your cooker face south west and begin cooking between 1-2pm.
For all day cooking, have your cooker face directly south.
(Note: These directions apply to the Northern Hemisphere only. If you live in the South, they must be reversed).
3) Place your food in your black cooking pot.
4) Place the pot in a plastic oven bag, then put them into a second oven bag (double bagging has been shown to increase the cooking temperature by 20 C).
5) Place your pot in the center of your solar cooker.
6) Raise your front flap enough that it reflects some sunlight, but not so much that it casts a shadow onto your cooking area.
7) Allow your food a few hours to cook. Don’t worry, with the lower temperatures the food won’t dry out or burn, so you won’t need to check every few minutes like you do with traditional stoves.
A solar cooker is best used in conjunction with other cooking methods, as weather conditions are not always ideal for solar cooking. With a few hours of cooking, this solar cooker can feed up to 5 people.
On windy days, stones or bricks can be used to keep the panels in place.
When not in use, fold the panels up and store in a safe, dry place away from animals. If taken care of, this solar cooker can last for 2 years or longer.
For more information on building various other solar cookers, check out solarcooking.org, a phenomenal resource on the subject.
Good luck and stay prepared!