Sustainability 101: How To Build A Solar Oven

Published on October 24th, 2011 | by

3 Solar Cookers

In most homes and apartments, cooking takes place on a stove, in an oven, or, on those nights when you’re just too tired to think, in the microwave. But these aren’t the only ways to prepare a meal, and they’re certainly not the most energy efficient.

You know those hot summer days when you can see heat waves rising from the sidewalk, and people say things like “that sun’s hot enough to fry an egg”? Well, there’s more wisdom to that statement than you might think.

Solar ovens are simple devices that capture heat from the sun with a reflective surface that’s angled or curved towards a cooking pot. Because they can be easily made from cheap materials like scrap cardboard and tinfoil, they are widely used in areas of the world where trees and fossil fuel are scarce or expensive. Once made, they can be used to cook food and boil water in a reasonable amount of time for absolutely no cost.

When you think of solar, you probably think of solar PV panels, but solar energy comes to Earth in both heat and light. Solar panel prices are cost-competitive with other electricity generation options because solar panels have become very efficient at turning light into electricity and the savings are often much greater than the cost. In the end, solar panels are a great way to reduce your electricity bill, but you don’t have to cook with electricity. Solar cookers capture solar energy’s heat and use that heat to cook your food. You don’t really have to consider “the cost of solar panels” versus “the cost of solar cookers” — you can get both … or make them! Many of the advantages of solar energy are the same for both types of solar.

Cooking with solar energy is just one of the many topics featured in Eric Smith’s new book, DIY Solar Projects: How to Put the Sun to Work in Your Home. Smith was nice enough to let us publish a few excerpts from this book so that we can learn more about how to cook with the clean energy of the sun instead of coal-fired electricity or natural gas.

On the next few pages, you’ll find easy to follow directions for building your own solar oven. Then later this week, we’ll feature some of Smith’s favorite tips for cooking on a solar powered stove!

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Straightedge
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw or plunge router
  • Tape measure
  • Drill/driver with bits
  • Speed square
  • Stapler
  • Eye and ear protection
  • #8 countersink bit
  • ¾” × 4 × 8-ft. BC or better plywood
  • 2 × 12 × 8-ft. SPF SolaRefle× foil  or heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • 1⅝ and 2½” deck screws
  • Clear silicone caulk
  • Contact cement, or white glue and brush, optional
  • Mid-size black metal pot with glass top
  • Wire rack
  • ¼ × 17¼ × 17¼” tempered glass
  • No-bore glass lid pulls (Rockler item no. 29132)
  • ¼ × 2″ hanger bolts with large fender washers and wingnuts


Cutting List

Key                        Number               Dimension                          Part                        Material

A                             2                              1½ × 11¼ × 19″                 Base                      SPF

B                             2                              1½ × 11¼ × 16″                 Base                      SPF

C                             1                              ¾ × 19 × 19″                        Bottom                 Plywood

D                             1                              ¾ × 10 × 17″                        Adjustable leg   Plywood

E                              1                              ¾ × 20 × 33¾”                    Back                       Plywood

F                              1                              ¾ × 10 × 25¼”                    Front                     Plywood

G                             2                              ¾ × 20 × 31¼”                    Sides                     Plywood

H                             1                              ¼ × 17¼ × 17¼”                Cover                    Tempered glass

>>UP NEXT: How To Build A Solar Oven – Steps 1 – 7


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About the Author

Beth believes many societal problems can be solved through sharing or other alternatives to the corporate system. I'm interested in exploring the growing collaborative consumption movement and how sharing is changing the way we work and play. See what I'm up to by following me on Twitter as @ecosphericblog.