Important Uses of Solar Ovens

••• Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A solar oven is a device that lets you harness the power of the sun to heat food and water, even when no utility services are available. It is well suited for developing countries that lack access to power, and works well for camping. For obvious reasons, solar ovens are most effective in locations that have plenty of sunshine. You won’t be able to cook when it’s cloudy or during inclement weather. Solar ovens work by capturing the sun’s rays and focusing them into the oven’s chamber, where it heats food, water and other items in a pan, dish or other vessel. A solar oven can reach temperatures ranging from 250 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cook food and boil water, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Cooking Meals

People use solar ovens to cook their meals when they have no access to gas, coal or firewood to heat a stove. By harnessing sunlight to cook, families don’t have to walk for miles to gather firewood, freeing up time to focus on other activities. What’s more, solar cookers used in refugee camps help keep vulnerable people safe from attacks, as they don’t have to venture away from shelter and face exposure to wild animals, criminals or enemy soldiers, according to Solar Cookers International. SCI is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of solar cooking and teaching people how to use solar ovens. Because solar ovens don’t generate smoke like wood-burning stoves, their use can reduce the incidence of health problems such as bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia, according to the Solar Oven team at Cornell University.

Pasteurizing Water

Access to potable water can be difficult to come by in developing areas of the world. More than 1 billion people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water, according to Solar Cookers International. When the water supply isn’t safe to drink, you need to pasteurize it, killing organisms that cause disease. In locations where fuel, such as firewood, is scarce, a solar oven enables people to heat up their water to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes about one hour to purify one liter of water in a solar cooker on a sunny day.

Sterilizing Medical Equipment

In areas where basic health care infrastructure is minimal or nonexistent, medical providers can use solar ovens to sterilize their medical equipment. You can place bandages inside the oven before applying them to wounds or surgical sites, for example, or use the oven to sterilize medical instruments. A solar oven is also useful for heating up compresses when the facility lacks running hot water or a microwave oven.

Canning Foods

Food scarcity is a serious problem in the developing world, and it’s prudent to set aside surplus fruit and can it for long-term storage and future use. The canning jars go inside the solar oven and heat up until the contents begin to boil. Then you remove the canning jar and allow it to slowly cool. As it cools, the lid is forced down, forming a tight vacuum seal. Solar cookers are not suitable for canning meats or vegetables because of the risk of botulism growing on non-acid foods.


About the Author

Julius Vandersteen has been a freelance writer since 1999. His work has appeared in “The Los Angeles Times,” “Wired” and “S.F. Weekly.” Vandersteen has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from San Francisco State University.

Photo Credits

  • Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

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