Common Pitfalls Associated With Solar Oven Projects

The most common pitfalls to look out for are often concerned with how solar cooking can best be accomplished. However, there are concerns, too, associated with building your own solar oven.

The parabolic solar cooker was the most popular style for several years. However, the high heat generated by a parabolic solar oven can be problem as the heat is enough to start a fire if the oven is placed near flammable objects.

No Flame

Some pitfalls to watch out for when working on your oven project concern safety of family members. By itself, a solar cooker is not a fire hazard.

There is no flame involved and children will not burn fingers touching the outside of your oven. The pan where the cooking is being done can become quite hot, however. Parabolic solar ovens, in particular, have large reflectors that can produce high temperatures.

A solar oven that is not stable can easily fall if a child bumps into it or even when you are trying to turn it to follow the sun. The primary danger, of course, is in the hot pan and heated food that can spill and cause burns.

Most problems you might encounter will be the necessity to use somewhat different cooking methods when using a solar oven.

For example, you can bake meat loaf in a good solar oven but instead of one large loaf you would need to break the meat down into portion sizes that would cook faster.


One problem that occurs is a failure to properly choose a location for the solar oven. You may look out the window and see a sunny spot and then build your solar oven there.

The first time you use your oven you discover the area is filled with sun for only two hours - and then afternoon shade is a problem from nearby trees.

To chose a location when you build your solar oven you need to monitor the area throughout the day to be certain there is no shade or obstructions that will block the sun.

If your region is known for steady winds or breezes, look for an area that has full sun but is also sheltered from the wind by a building or group of trees. Wind blowing on a solar oven will reduce the ability to create temperatures high enough to cook food.

Be Cautious With Later Use of the Oven

When you are ready to re-use a solar cooker you should carefully examine it to be certain there is not damage. Because cardboard is the most popular material for constructing a solar oven in most cases, dampness is a real concern.

Stored in a shaded spot outdoors or in a humid garage, the cardboard will quickly become unstable and may need to be replaced.

Your solar oven should never be exposed to the rain! If you fail to proect it, you will have to start over!

Mylar film, foil, plastics, glass panes and metal surfaces won't be affected but wood and cardboard will soak up the rain and need replacement parts.

Climate Pitfalls

Solar ovens work quite well on hot sunny days. However, there are some areas where a solar oven isn't feasible.

In cold climates, even strong sunshine is not enough to heat a pot in a solar oven. The same is true of areas where skies are often covered with white haze which blocks much of the sun's UV rays.

With a solar oven you have the same problems as you have with solar panels. They are only useful when the sun is shining. You cannot cook on a solar oven at night or on overcast days.

With a solar oven you need to base your meal times around the sun so your solar oven can work during the best daylight hours between 10 am and 3-4 pm. Planning mealtimes often means eating whenever the food is done cooking.

In developing nations, the climate is often a very hot and dry one. For that reason many who provide aid to such countries will often teach how to construct a simple solar oven to those who live there.

In Darfur, solar ovens have saved lives as women can cook with the sun rather than risk a journey to find wood in areas where random attacks are frequent.


The common pitfalls to look out for when working on your oven project are simple and common sense concerns.

Locating your solar oven in full sunlight and positioning it throughout the day to follow the sun will help food cook well.

Checking solar ovens before re-using them will alert you to any parts that have become saturated with water or may be loose and unstable.

Remember cooking pots must be dark (black is best) and lids must be kept on the pot at all times. Shiny or light covered cooking pans will not absorb the reflected heat and food will not cook properly.

Make sure you don't miss our guides on other alternative and renewable energy sources as well!