Save Resources by Constructing Your Own Solar Cooker

Construcing your own solar cooker has become a popular do-it-yourself project today.

You might start with the most basic of cookers that utilize a reflective surface. These are inexpensive and quick to make.

It may seem like an environmental gimmick to build a solar cooker but these ovens have a very practical application for many parts of the world. Half of the world's population burns wood or dried dung to cook their meals.

Building Your Own Solar Cooker

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This creates tons of particulates in the smoke produced. In these areas, filtering the smoke and cleaning the air and water are not concerns. Creating enough power to cook food is the primary force and the result can be seen in countries where forests have disappeared.

Cities and villages are covered with smog and ozone levels are routinely high due to numerous wood and dung fires burning daily.

A Variety of Solar Cookers

The parabolic solar cooker concentrates sunlight with a reflective circle that redirect the sun to a particular point of the cooker.

That point is where the food is cooked. The problem is that all the heat is concentrated in one spot which become extremely hot.

When parabolic solar cookers were distributed to villagers in Bolivia those cookers were often placed near a building and the heat collected by the reflective collar was enough to cause a fire.

Box cookers are safer but less effective at building heat to cooking temperature. In a box cooker, a box is insulated and covered with a lit that reflects sunlight into the box.

The lid is often glass or clear plastic and meant to slowly heat the interior of the cooker. Energy is lost when the box is opened to place food inside and heat is also lost through the sides. A good box cooker can be complicated to build.

A funnel solar cooker combines elements of a parabolic and a box cooker. The reflector for this cooker is shaped like a large funnel and covered with aluminum foil on the inside surface.

A glass jar is painted black and located at the bottom of the funnel to collect the heat. Wrapping the jar in white or clear plastic bags helps retain heat as sunlight passes through them.

Thought this funnel solar cooker is still being tested, it offers a safer solar cooking method than the parabolic solar cooker and can be built for extremely low costs.

Constructing a solar cooker can be as simple as cutting out one side of a cardboard box and adding a reflective material to the remaining inside areas and floor of the box.

For campers and wilderness hikers, building a collapsible solar cooker may be just the ticket. Made of two boxes, this solar oven folds down to the size of a briefcase. This makes it a great choice for those who don't have space to transport a large contraption.

Site Evaluation

When constructing your cooker it's critical to evaluate the site before locating the solar oven. How many cloudy days are common to your location? Most areas of the U.S. have enough sun to use a solar oven but the potential for using solar energy does vary by area.

The second consideration is to look for obstructions that might block the sun. You need to consider the path of the sun across the solar cooker throughout the day. Trees, buildings, utility poles and other obstacles could reduce the heat going to your solar oven.

Remember the path taken by the sun across your property changes with the seasons of the year. Looking out the window to see if an area is sunny is not a good way to decide on solar cooker placement.

With a proper site survey that takes into account both the longest and shortest days of sunlight of the year, you can build your solar cooker in a location that will collect enough solar energy for the season when the cooker will be used.

Readily Available

You can buy solar cookers commercially but the supplies needed for construcing your own cooker are readily available. There are numerous website online dedicated to plans for building and with a little time and effort you can have a great solar cooker with only a small cost involved.

The parabolic cooker is a larger solar oven that uses a contoured reflective surface to collect as much solar radiation as possible and reflect it to the center of the cooker where the cooking container is located. The parabolic cooker is efficient and you will be surprised at the heat generated on the cooking surface.

Box solar cookers can be made in many designs. They can be placed directly on the ground or placed on a table or built with attached legs. One popular style of box solar oven uses only cardboard, aluminum foil and glass for construction.

The design is similar to a square urn you might use as a container for flowers on the front porch. It is flared at the top and narrows toward the bottom of the container to concentrate the solar energy.

The inside of the cooker is completely covered with reflective aluminum foil. The four sided flared reflector sits on a cardboard, insulated box where the actual cooking occurs. This solar oven is easy to relocate or move to storage during off seasons.

Recommended Reading


If you are new to building solar cookers, the box plan is a good beginning. This is an easy concept for beginners to grasp; the materials needed are inexpensive and may be found in your home.

If you are happy with your box cooker you may expand the number of solar cookers you use or try constructing a cooker using the parabolic or funnel style.

No matter which design you choose, you may be surprised at the heat generated by a solar cooker.

P.S: Don't miss our guides on different alternative and renewable energy sources as well!