How to Build a Solar Oven

Build a homemade solar cooker to prepare whole meals with free, renewable energy.

| January/February 1974

©1959 by D.S. Halacy, Jr., and originally published by the Macmillan Company as a chapter of the book, Fun With the Sun. Reprinted by permission of the author. 

The "greenhouse" effect is well known to those who grow plants in such structures and also to those of us who have left the windows of an automobile rolled up on a warm, sunshiny day. The rays of the sun go through the glass well enough, but the reflections of longer wavelength are unable to bounce back out of the car. The result is aptly described as resembling an oven. And that is just what we're going to build: a solar oven that will do a real job of cooking on a clear day, even in winter.

One aim of solar scientists is to provide a means of cooking for those countries in which fuel is scarce or expensive. Dr. Maria Telkes, a well-known experimenter in the field, has designed such an oven, which she feels might be mass produced at a reasonable price. Our design is copied from the Telkes unit, which has been demonstrated in foreign lands.

Basically the solar oven consists of a box for the food and a glass cover to admit and trap heat inside the container. The box shown is made from galvanized iron but could as well have been aluminum for lighter weight. The reflector panels are of aluminum.

Besides the sheet metal parts, we need a piece of double-strength window glass, a sealing strip for the pane and 3 handles. We will insulate the box with spun glass material 2 inches thick for greater heat retention.

16 square feet of 28-gauge galvanized iron
24 No. 6, 3/8-inch sheet metal screws
12 square feet of 2-inch fiberglass insulation
22-by-24 inches of double-strength window glass
3 drawer pulls
On spray can flat black paint
6 2-inch roofing nails
8 feet of sealer strip
4 pieces of .025-by-22-by-24-inches aluminum sheeting
4 small turn-buttons with installation hardware

David S.
10/1/2010 12:51:10 PM

It seems that this article could be updated to fit with today's materials. I have not attempted to make the solar oven, but I do plan to in the future. I think the box could be made out of plywood since its only purpose is to hold in the heat. The glass could be fixed in place with any of the common silicones or epoxies, as long as they are heat resistant. I would think that as long as you didn't move it around much, the oven's reflectors could be made of the 12" mirror tiles available at any big box store. Just mount them on a plywood backer. Those would have to be more efficient than just semi-polished aluminum. I would keep the metal "false bottom" as it absorbs the reflected heat and becomes essentially the "burner" for the oven.

8/16/2009 9:17:00 PM

I have one of those really BIG cast iron dutch ovens. It came with the corresponding cast iron lid, but I have a glass lid that's about 1/4" - 1/2" thick (rounded on top) that fits it perfectly. When we were moving recently, I left it in the car to be unpacked last. It was so hot I had to use a cloth to pick it up even by it's handle. So, I was wondering, is there a way I could adapt this pot for it to be used efficiently as a solar oven?

1/5/2008 2:27:22 PM

Can I use the body of a basic toaster oven which has a hinged glass front. The toaster oven is a metal black box with a glass front. I am hoping that this can work by adding some aluminum reflectors around the box. Please give feedback.

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