23 September 2010

[liff] Building Your Own Solar Oven

2496.We were, yesterday, introduced to the world of solar cookery, which sounds kind of funny here in gray, rainy Oregon, but it can be done.

Those looking for it may have seen, betimes, an ad for a "Build Your Own Solar Oven" class held at Lents Park. After missing a whole bunch of dates, me and The Wife" finally managed to make one, at Lents Park, yesterday.

The idea of a solar cooker is simple and one might imagine, as old as sunlight - or at least as old as kids cooking bugs under a magnifying glass. Sunlight is energy that has been used for heating things for a very long time now, and the solar cooker does just this; by collecting and concentrating sunlight in a small insulated space, you cause the temperature in a small chamber to rise and this ambient heat provides surprisingly sufficient cooking temperatures for food preparation.

The design is actually a rather common one. Take a regular cardboard box, 20 x 14 x 12. Leave the top open. Construct a high back and sides for the opening, coated in aluminum foil; this is your collector field, and operates surprisingly well (remember, angle of incidence = angle of reflection - you don't have to have a fancy parabolic reflector or anything). These surfaces reflect enough light into a smaller, foil-lined box within this bigger box (the space around serves as insulation) to, once this light is received and reflected about by the smaller cavity, to raise the air temperature in the smaller cavity to 200F or even more.

There are some catches, naturally. For best effect, you have to keep the box turning to catch the full light of the sun; cook times are longer, and these things don't work so well at night. But it's a fun project, and there's a sense of self-sufficiency you get from doing it off the grid, as it were.

The teacher, a delightful woman named Dawn Starr (appropos, no?) walked us through it step by step, giving us encouragement and enthusiasm throughout. We could have bought a kit somewhere I suppose, but having an experienced and downright perky hand guide us along really made it more of a fun event. There was another person there, a retiree fellow who spends a lot of time in Arizona, so he's going to be able to make mad use of this stuff, yeah.

This is good stuff to know, whether you just like to play with it, if you're the type who digs autarchy, or just wonders how you're going to make it through the first few days after The Change happens.

You can get information from Dawn at her website, http://buildasolaroven.com/. Nice lady!

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