If you’ve been reading “The Morristribe” for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of solar products.
Sustainability is the goal around here, and for the most part, most solar products aren’t sustainable in my area. They require parts, service and elements that wear out, that may or may not even be available again and further, leave me in another type of bondage.
As a matter of fact, I am boxing up three solar battery chargers, including the solar batteries, to send back due to less than stellar performance today. But that’s another post.
Living in the Midwest, we simply don’t get much in the way of equatorial-strength sun rays. I really believe these are necessary to have a good chance with solar products.
However, that said, solar cooking intrigues me. Solar ovens do not need complex parts, only a sturdy heat-retaining box and excellent reflectors. The simplicity of the concept and product encouraged me to give it a try. I really wanted to be successful.
“The Sun Oven” company was gracious enough to loan me a solar oven to “test out”, given my disappointment in solar products in the past. Thank you to them for that. If I didn’t like it, I could return it, postage paid.
It was July 2011 when these experiments were conducted. I purposely waited for a long stretch of hot, sunny days to use the oven.
After three homemade versions of a solar oven, which all failed miserably, we broke out the solar oven.
The quality of the solar oven was impressive. Removable blue film protected the reflectors. The oven included a thermometer (nice) and a small pot for cooking.
The weather was predicting a week of 90 degree weather, hence, it was the perfect week to try out the “The Sun Oven“. My goal was to reach a temperature of 300+ degrees and to maintain that long enough to cook something.
Keep in mind that food must be maintained at 165 degrees, minimum, to avoid food-borne pathogens and food poisoning.
I decided not to bake or cook anything in the oven this time, we simply filled the pot with water about 1/3 full.
Starting at about 10am, the oven was set on the back patio, facing south and aimed towards the sun’s direction. The box was set at the summer position of 30%.
Just a note here, someone needs to be available throughout the day when using the solar oven so that the box can be turned every couple of hours to face the sun!
The thermometer reacted quickly and the temperature of the box increased over several hours. After about 4 hours, the thermometer barely reached 300 degrees, but then dropped quickly after that. Within another hour or so, I wasn’t able to maintain temperatures high enough to avoid bacteria growth.
Remember, this was a 90+ degree, sunny day.
Surely, I had done something wrong. I expected much higher and sustained temperatures, after all, the product’s videos show a lady baking bread on her porch in the dead of winter with snow on the ground.
I even called the company to make sure I wasn’t missing something. The representative told me that I was doing everything correctly, so we tried again the next day.
I got the same result the next day and for the next three days after that. ”The Sun Oven” just didn’t perform as I expected.
Bottom line: I couldn’t substantiate the $300+ price tag for the results I was receiving. The company took the oven back, no questions asked and they even paid for the postage.
This has been my experience with most solar products. Living in Ohio, granted, we don’t receive tropical-type sun strength necessary for solar products and here in lies the problem, in my opinion.
Folks living closer to the equator could very well have different results, and I would encourage you to try solar cooking.
Further, a solar oven in my area could prove to be a useful part of an emergency plan, if it could be purchased at a more reasonable price. However, I’m looking for sustainability.
Other methods of outdoor cooking, (i.e. fire pit and grilling) makes a lot more sense for this Midwest girl.
There are going to be different experiences with solar cooking and that’s ok. Finding what works for you in your part of the world is important. What has been YOUR experience with solar cooking?