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I now live in a place with lots of sunlight (and lots of rain) and would like to use a solar cooker. I have seen a number of designs for solar cookers (Wikipedia has a list), but I am wondering about which design to adopt.

Priorities for me are

  • usability
    We have a conventional (gas) stove, which we can use at will. Using the solar cooker can be a little more tedious, but boiling water should not be a one-day project.
  • safety
    With children around, saving a bit of energy is nice, but not if there is a high risk of going blind. I have seen an experimental design with a satellite dish, where the experimenter ended up with a second degree burn.
  • (sustainable) DIY design
    Preferably something rain-resistant (i.e. maybe not cardboard and aluminium foil) that can be built from materials available in non-specialist stores, which gives back the energy (and money) spent on materials in a reasonable time-frame.
  • I think your requirements of boils water and can't produce second degree burns are at odds with each other. That said, some designs certainly do have risks that other designs don't and this difference should be incorporated into any answer. – Ladadadada Jun 11 '13 at 7:35
  • @Ladadadada The guy burnt his hand putting the pot on the cooker... So just a couple of seconds. I can't imagine what would have happened, if he got his eyes anywhere near. – Earthliŋ Jun 11 '13 at 10:55
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The easiest design I've ever seen was made from materials obtained from a "Dollar" store. It was a cone shaped design made from:

  • A windshield reflector
  • Velcro
  • A cooling rack
  • A black enamel pot.

The windshield reflector was folded into a cone shape with the indention to fit around the rear view mirror forming the "tip" of the cone. Velcro was applied to the reflector to hold its shape. The "tip" was then bent flat and the reflector positioned so the concave inner part faced the sun. The rack was seated in the center of the reflector on top of the fold and the pot was placed on top of the rack.

Because the reflective surface of the cooker was flexible it could be adjusted easily to follow the sun throughout the day. It was easy to setup and tear down.

It's main drawback was that it was less efficient than a cooker with a glass lid to hold in heat. One of it's advantages was also a disadvantage. It's light weight and flexible reflector made it susceptible to wind.

I never saw anyone attempt to boil water in it but it was pretty good at baking muffins and cinnamon rolls.

Total material cost was around $5 US.

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