Last updated: 2 April 2018
Designers and manufacturers have taken varied approaches to creating solar cookers. The most commonly used have been solar box cookers and solar panel cookers. They work well for slow cooking, are generally less expensive to buy than other styles, and are fairly easy for most people to build themselves. Variations of these designs have typically been used to introduce solar cooking in deforested developing countries starting in the 1950s. High-quality manufactured models are available for purchase from vendors in many countries.
Parabolic solar cookers also have a long history of use, primarily in Europe and Asia. They cook at higher temperatures and usually require more complicated fabrication. A number of models are available from manufacturers. They can be used in series to create steam for institutional kitchens feeding thousands of people per day.
Evacuated tube solar cookers are compact and can cook quite efficiently. Several models are available commercially. Other variations of solar cookers are also included in the subcategories listed below.
Solar panel cooker designs
- Inexpensive to build or buy, and typically can be collapsed for storage or transport
- Slow cooking retains flavors and nutrients, and requires little, if any, reorientation to the sun
- Usually achieves temperatures to 110 - 140 °C (230 - 284 °F), and cannot fry foods
- Homemade units are difficult to weatherproof
Solar box cooker designs
- Some large enough to cook with multiple pots, also great for baking and slow cooking
- Can be constructed with simple materials, with several high quality commercial designs also available
- The box design may block light entering the cooking chamber unless the unit is tipped
- Cannot fry foods. Cooking temperature range is 135 - 200 °C (275 - 392 °F)
Parabolic solar cooker designs
- Cooking times are similar to a traditional stovetop
- High temperatures allow for food to be fried and grilled, typically 120 - 230 °C (248 - 446 °F)
- Requires periodic reorientation, often every fifteen minutes, which may be done with a mechanical solar tracking apparatus
- Generally more expensive than panel and box cookers, and require more storage space
Evacuated tube solar cooker designs
- Usually compact, and can cook quite efficiently with relatively small reflectors
- Contemporary designs have aesthetic appeal
- The cooking chamber requires careful handling to avoid thermal shock and breakage of the glass tube
- Glass technology somewhat limits the size of opening of the cooking chamber
Solar trough cooker designs
- The curved trough reflector is efficient at gathering and focusing sunlight along a straight focal line
- Works well with evacuated tube cooking chambers to create a compact package easy to store
- The trough design does not focus sunlight onto a standard cook pot
- Not particularly well-suited for home enthusiast construction
Solar array cooker designs
- Mirrored reflectors are flat panels, not requiring the complex curved shape of parabolic cookers, they can still reach temperatures typical of parabolic cookers
- The metal frameworks to hold the mirrors can be assembled by craftspeople with basic welding skills
- Due to the relatively large size and geometry of some designs, they typically need to be reoriented by hand or by a mechanical tracking system
- Can require more ground space than other solar cookers
Fresnel solar cooker designs
- High temperatures can be reached to boil and fry when cooking
- Easy to build on-site due to the flat lenses, avoiding complicated convex structures
- The frameworks of structures holding the lenses can be produced with local resources
- Highly concentrated solar radiation with a point focus can produce burns
- They may require more storage space than other solar cookers
Other design types
- Institutional solar cooker designs
- Fresnel solar cooker designs
- Solar wall oven designs
- Hybrid solar cooker designs
- In-the-ground solar cooker designs
- Photovoltaic cooker designs
- Introduction to solar cooking
- How solar cookers work
- Solar cooker construction plans
- Commercial models that you can buy
All construction plans
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