First, why would I go to the effort of building a solar oven? After all, studies show that cooking uses only 4 – 10% of a home’s total use of electricity. Couldn’t I save more money faster by putting my efforts elsewhere?
Maybe. We already keep the temperature around 75* in the summer (okay, it’s not the suggested 78*, but here, where it’s so very humid most of the time while it is so very hot, 78* is just not much relief a lot of the time). That’s higher than many keep it, which is 68 – 72*. So we save there some already.
We have two refrigerators and a chest freezer, so that doesn’t help the bill much. It would be nice to move down to one fridge, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon, especially since their presence here predates our moving in with my uncle. And we do use all the space in them, somehow. I’m not sure where we would put everything for us all in one fridge. And that freezer’s not going anywhere, sorry!!!
So then there’s the water heater. Well, that’s gas, and the gas isn’t that expensive for now. And the laundry? We wash nearly all of our laundry in cold water. The dryer, on the other hand, has only one remedy: line drying. I’ll be getting a clothesline shortly to see how we do with that. I have pretty active allergies, our daughter has somewhat active allergies, and she, our son, and my mom all have asthma. So clothes full of pollen might not work out very well, but we’ll see. We’re willing to try.
Since the powers that be have openly admitted that the changes coming down the pike will cause the cost of electricity to “necessarily skyrocket”, I figure any attempt to save electricity is called for, including solar cooking. Like I said, I’m no environmentalist. I don’t believe all the scary doom-and-gloom-man-is-killing-the-planet stuff (and I have read quite a bit on both sides of the subject!). Not that that means that I think we are free to pillage the earth and leave devastation in our wake. God said for man to be fruitful and multiply, and to have dominion over the earth and to subdue it. Dominion includes the responsibility of caring for that which you have dominion over, and wisely managing what you have. I’m not an environmentalist, but I do like saving money.
What can you cook with a solar oven? Apparently, quite a bit. Bread, cakes, and cornbreads, pretty much anything you can cook in a crock pot, and many things you cook on the stove. Some things merely require modification of the process. Rice, for instance, requires you to heat the water and rice separately in the solar oven before putting them together to cook. Potatoes need to be cut pretty small in order to cook properly. Most, if not all, foods benefit most from being cooked inside dark cookware so they will more efficiently collect heat.
In order to do other things like making reductions, frying, or sauteing, you would need your conventional stove or a solar concentration cooker like a parabolic cooker. These things are very sensitive to the movement of the sun across the sky, though, and require adjustment of the mirror(s) frequently. I don’t want to babysit the thing, so I’m going with a plain solar oven.
A solar oven can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. You can spend nothing on it and build it out of scraps, or you can spend several hundred on one that is ready to use and will supply supplemental electric heat should the sun duck behind a cloud for too long. I’m spending about $15. Only about $5 of that did I really need to spend. The rest of it I spent on some spray adhesive that can adhere foil. It will come in handy for other projects, too.