Solar cooking basics
How does solar cooking work?
If you park your car in the sun and closes its windows, it heats up on the inside. A solar box cooker heat trap designed to keep all the heat inside for cooking purposes. There is no electricity involved.
WHY SOLAR COOK?
Solar cooking is the simplest, safest, most convenient way to cook food without consuming fuels or heating up the kitchen. Many people choose to solar cook for these reasons. But for hundreds of millions of people around the world who cook over fires fuelled by wood or dung, and who walk for miles to collect wood or spend much of their meagre incomes on fuel, solar cooking is more than a choice — it is a blessing. For millions of people who lack access to safe drinking water and become sick or die each year from preventable waterborne illnesses, solar water pasteurization is a life-saving skill. There are numerous reasons to cook the natural way — with the sun.
Benefits to households
HEALTH AND NUTRITION
- Moderate cooking temperatures in simple solar cookers help preserve nutrients.
- Those who otherwise could not afford the fuel to do so can cook nutritious foods — such as legumes and many whole grains — that require hours of cooking.
- At times many families must trade scarce food for cooking fuel. Solar cooking helps them to keep more food and improve their nutrition.
- Smoky cooking fires irritate lungs and eyes and can cause diseases. Solar cookers are smoke-free.
- Cooking fires are dangerous, especially for children, and can readily get out of control — causing damage to buildings, gardens, etc. Solar cookers are fire-free.
- Millions of women routinely walk for miles to collect fuel wood for cooking. Burdensome fuel-gathering trips can cause injuries, and expose women to danger from animals and criminals. Solar cooking reduces these risks and burdens, and frees time for other activities.
- With good sunlight, solar cookers can be used to cook food or pasteurize water during emergencies when other fuels and power sources may not be available.
- Many poverty-stricken families worldwide spend 25% or more of their income on cooking fuel. Sunlight — solar cooker “fuel” — is free and abundant. Money saved can be used for food, education, health care, etc.
- Solar cooker businesses can provide extra income. Opportunities include cooker manufacturing, sales and repair, as well as solar food businesses like restaurants and bakeries.
- At moderate solar cooking temperatures food doesn’t need to be stirred and won’t burn — food can simply be placed in a solar cooker and left to cook, unattended, for several hours while other activities are pursued. In the right circumstances it is possible to put a solar cooker out in the morning and return home in the late afternoon to a hot meal ready to eat.
- Pots used for solar cooking are easy to clean — a fact especially valuable for women who must walk many kilometres to collect water.
- Many solar cookers are portable, allowing for solar cooking at work sites or while pursuing outdoor activities like picnics, trekking or camping.
OTHER HOUSEHOLD USES FOR SOLAR COOKERS
- Heat water for household chores.
- Preserve (“can”) tomatoes and fruits.
- Sanitize dishes and utensils.
- Kill insects in grains and other dry food staples.
- … and many more!
Benefits to health professionals
- Many solar cookers can be used to disinfect dry medical supplies such as medical instruments, bandages and other cloth materials, as well as to heat compresses.
- Indoor smoke from cooking fires leads to childhood pneumonia, responsible for over four million deaths per year. Solar cookers are smoke-free.
- Preventable waterborne diseases are responsible for 80% of all illnesses and deaths in the developing world. Solar cookers can be used at the household level to pasteurize water and milk, making them safe to drink. A Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) can be used with a solar cooker (or traditional cooking apparatus) to determine whether water has been sufficiently heated to be safe to drink.
Benefits to businesses
SOLAR COOKER BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
- Solar cooker manufacturing and assembly.
- Solar cooker sales.
- Solar cooker repair.
- Solar food businesses such as restaurants, bakeries or catering.
OTHER BUSINESS USES
- Sanitize dishes and utensils.
- Boil rice straw to make paper.
- Extract wax from honey.
- Dye fabrics.
- Pasteurize potting soil.
- Remove husks from rice grain.
- … and many more!
Benefits to governments
- Reduce imports of — and subsidies on — biomass and fossil fuels.
- Where forests are disappearing and many people suffer from fuel shortages, solar cookers reduce families’ fuel wood needs by 30-50%.
- Electric companies that have trouble meeting peak hour demand because of heavy use of stoves and air conditioners can reduce that demand by promoting use of solar cookers.
Benefits to humanitarian, development and relief organizations
- Address clients’ fuel shortages affecting local health, nutrition and education.
- Budget savings for institutional cooking fuels and disaster relief situations.
- In some regions distribution of biomass and fossil fuels are subsidized by aid agencies. Broad use of solar cookers can decrease these costs so that more people can benefit from these humanitarian funds.
Benefits to environmental programs
- Two billion people rely on wood and charcoal for cooking fuel. Solar cooking alleviates the conflict between their basic needs and the need to preserve earth’s dwindling forests.
- Biomass and petroleum fuelled cooking fires pollute the air and contribute to global warming. Solar cookers are pollution-free, and, when used in large numbers, may help curb global warming.
- Kitchens remain cool while food solar cooks outdoors. This reduces the load on air conditioners and refrigerators in summer months, saving fossil fuels (and lowering utility bills).
With complements to Solar Cookers International