Last updated: April 13, 2016
Solar panel cooker designs incorporate elements of box and parabolic cookers. They often have a large reflector area and the cook pot has some form of enclosure to retain heat. Panel cookers are capable of cooking at approximately 120 °C (248 °F). They are the easiest style to make and relatively inexpensive to buy. Solar Cookers International's "CooKit" is the most widely used panel cooker.
Panel cookers, due to their ease of construction and low-cost materials, are the simplest solar cookers to build and the most common. Tens of thousands of these are in use in refugee camps around the world.
In the year 1999, a very simple, low-cost solar cooker was presented by Prof. Roger Bernard (1995) of France. The original model was modified by Solar Cookers International and named the CooKit. There are simpler panel cookers and some that cook better than the CooKit, but the CooKit folds down to be the size of a large notebook. This makes it one of the most popular solar cookers on the planet. The main CooKit article shows many different variations.
Richard Pocock of South Africa has been working on solar cookers for over 17 years, and has developed two interesting designs, the Pentagon Star and Suncatcher. Pocock claims, though the Suncatcher design looks like a variant of Cookit, it was developed independently, starting with a parabolic cooker design approach. He wanted to make the parabolic cooker simpler, and landed on Suncatcher design. As the photo illustrates, the design does convey more sunlight to the cooking pot, though most of it is from above, as in the Cookit type of designs.
Panel cookers made from windshield shades
Kathy Dahl-Bredine developed the Windshield Shade Solar Cooker while experimenting with various designs of cookers to introduce in the indigenous communities where Kathy lives and works in southern Mexico. She hit upon an utterly simple way to make an instant portable solar oven by taking an automobile windshield shade and turning it into a solar funnel.
Darwin Curtis and Louise Meyer of Solar Household Energy have a proven panel cooker with the specially designed HotPot. It uses a glass pot enclosure with a custom black metal cooking pot inside. The reflector is constructed from folding polished metal panels. They won a grant from the World Bank to distribute this type of cooker.
A very simple but efficient Solar Panel Cooker has been designed by Sharon Clausson of USA. Using durable, reflective vinyl covered panels (originally placemats formerly sold by Ikea) she has presented a very simple design. The reflector panels, which can be bent are attached to a firm piece of hard board, on which cooking pot is kept in a transparent plastic bag. Beauty of this cooker is the panels can be folded and held in position with a cloth hanger clips.
Solar funnel cookers
Steven Jones has another interesting variation, which he calls the Funnel Cooker. The Funnel Cooker has several advantages. It is simple to construct and store, and there is little waste of unused construction materials. Supporting the funnel may pose problem, but this can easily solved with placing the funnel in an open box, as shown in the photo. Two small sticks or stones can also be propped up at the back to hold the funnel in the right position. Funnel Cooker construction plans
Molly Baker has presented another interesting variation of the Funnel cooker called the Molly Baker Solar Oven. The cooker is made from stiff cloth and the inner lining is a reflective material, perhaps like the one produced by Clear dome Solar. When the fold is opened and plastic tubes are inserted at the top and bottom, the cooker forms a stiff cone ready to cook. The innovator has not shown a greenhouse enclosure, but the cooker will perform better with one. Molly Baker solar oven construction plans
These funnel cookers should work well, but some appear to have a limited reflective surface area. Bigger reflectors should work better.
Another interesting design has been created by Teong Tan from Singapore. He realized that a cooker with an aperture at 60 degrees captures most of the sunshine, similar to the Funnel Cooker. But the Funnel cooker is unstable without additional support, and hence Teong designed a new cooker called Fun-Panel. It combines the best features of Funnel cooker as well as cookit. Preliminary studies indicate that it performs well.
Teong has conducted a comparative study on greenhouse enclosures as well, and finds that the HotPot works well.
Double Angle Cookers
There seems to be renewed interest in this type of solar cooker that shares some of the properties of panel cookers like the CooKit and of parabolic cookers.
DATS Solar Cooker
Teong Tan fabricated what he calls the DATS cooker, meaning a Double Angled Twelve Sided Solar cooker. The motivation for this design was mainly to avoid the transparent plastic enclosure/guard around the cooking pots that is used to reduce heat loss.
In India, Ravindra Pardeshi and his wife Shobha, developed a similar cooker, the Parvati Solar Cooker, named after the inventor's grandmother. They took inspiration from Professor Mannan’s improvement of a VITA Design. They initially fabricated Professor Jone's Funnel cooker, but then developed the Parvati design. They have conducted a number of experiments and suggest that stacking the vessels one above the other gives better results than placing them side by side.
This is an important detail that all panel cooker users should consider. Rather that making the cooker base wider to place pots side by side, consider making a panel cooker with taller sides to stack pots for more efficient cooking. However, this does make checking the cooking food less convenient. Parvati website...
They have have a ray trace diagram showing the sun's movement as it passes over the cooker, which should be useful for other solar cooker designer to review. Click on the adjacent illustration to activate.
- Evaluation of Several Original and Commonly Used Solar Cooker Designs - Dane Dormio and Dr. Steven Jones
- Use of the solar panel cooker for medical pressure steam sterilization - Ms. Barbara Kerr and Mr. James Scott