Solar Powered Crock Pot and Solar Cooking
The chances are that you are spending a lot of money on electricity bills because you often prepare your meals with some hot plates. Perhaps you use gas to steam and cook for your family. Now, you feel like it is ripping you apart and keep wondering how to put a stop to it. Well, solar powered crock pot is the solution to this challenge.
This means you can use solar heat or energy to cook your regular meals, such as rice, beans, meat, vegetables, stew, etc. With this innovative technology, you can be sure of keeping your electricity bills considerably low.
A typical solar crock pot is similar to your usual kitchen pot, but possesses some electrical connections and a regulator. Nevertheless, they present different features, as they are made by different companies. While many families have known about this innovative cooking method for some time now, tens of thousands of people are just starting to know about it. Just before discussing the details, let’s understand its basics.
How Solar Cookers Work?
Let’s start with how it works. Essentially, this technology can be used in two ways. But before getting to that, there is a general principle behind it, which is converting sunlight (solar energy) into heat energy. Afterward, the heat energy will be used for cooking. In order to assemble the system, you will need to have an outdoor solar panel with a reflective surface exposed to the sun to absorb sunlight and convert it into solar energy.
In other words, the conversion happens because photons (light particles) are always in constant interaction with the molecules in a substance. When heat energy strikes the molecules, they will get excited. The excitation will result in the energy that is being given off.
According to conduction mechanism of heat transfer, dark surfaces tend to absorb heat more than light ones. So, the best material for that purpose is an aluminum foil or a mirror. However, this mostly applies to the second method. As said before, solar-enabled cooking is done in two ways.
Indoor or Indirect Heating Method
For this first method, you will need some batteries. When solar energy is channeled into the battery, it will charge it. Typically, you can use your 45 kw car batteries for this purpose. It will enable you to generate enough energy to cook your meals as fast as you possibly can. The batteries serve as the powerhouse for storing the energy needed for cooking your meals. However, before getting to this point, you must already have stocked your solar powered crock pot with the raw food you wish to cook. Next, connect the batteries to a charge controller.
From the charge controller, the power is fed into a socket. Once you notice that the socket is powered, then you will have to plug your inverter to the socket. Generally, the function of an inverter is to convert direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Finally, the pot is connected to the inverter. The advantage of this technique over the next one is that you don’t have to cook your meals in an open place.
Also, this technique will enable you to decide how fast you wish the process to go. This means that you can get a bigger solar panel, inverter and batteries to expedite the process. Depending on the capacity of the system, you could use more or less 5 hours to cook your meat.
Outdoor or Direct Heating Method
Alternatively, you can have solar cooking or solar oven set up outside of your home. This is the most common method and you just need a normal cookpot for this. You will need a solar cooker panel, a material made of carton and aluminum foil for absorbing solar energy and channeling it into the pot. Yes, it is specifically meant for this purpose! It is easy to unfold and set up. To ensure that, it is better to cook during a hot day during the summer.
Next, put out your cooking bag, which comes with spacers. The spacers are candle-like PVC sticks used to separate the bottom of the pot from the cooking bag. When you have opened and set up the mechanism, position it in a way that it can directly face the sun. Afterward, you cover the cookware with the cooking bag and separate the edges of the pot with the spacers. Then seal the opening of the cooking bag and pass it through openings of the solar crock panel.
With this method, you will need a black cookpot because black materials absorb and retain heat better. While you are using this, it is advisable to respect the temperature of your meal, as it will help you monitor the progress of the process. This technique takes a lot of time as you could spend 7-10 hours cooking your food. In other words, you don’t use it when you are in a hurry.
Where is Solar Cooking Used?
There are certain countries where solar cooking is ideal because they have high temperature year-long, that enable the meals to be cooked really fast. Generally speaking, solar cooking can be used in almost all the countries you can possibly think of. If you live in the United States, U.K., anywhere in Africa, South America and the rest of Europe, you would not have a challenge using this solar-powered technology.
The good thing is, in countries like the United States, Afghanistan, China, India and Argentina, many people are already using it. While you can use it in Russia, you may have a little challenge doing so in the middle of the winter season.
With respect to Africa, this cooking method is steadily making inroads across the continent. In Kenya, for instance, local communities are employing insulated baskets with high heat-retentive capacity to trap sunlight. As the users pointed out, these baskets are capable of retaining heat when the intensity of sunlight has reduced. In turn, this significantly tackles the challenge of sunlight fluctuations. In 2017, Reuters reported that over 1,500 households in Kenya’s Busia County banked on solar energy to put cooked meals on their tables.
Well, the narrative isn’t different in Zambia, a country in southern Africa. In rural Zambia, the locals are turning to solar-enabled cooking as an alternative to hot pots and firewood. Given that the country has intense sunshine in face of hard-biting energy crises, SunFire solar ovens, Zambia’s popular solar-cooking products, have become a household brand. The manufacturer, SunFire, leverages the outdoor or direct heating method (described above) to design, build and sell the products.
In Uganda, the locals’ accounts show a growing trend of solar-powered cooking across the continent. Indeed, it is the perfect alternative to fossil sources of cooking energy, such as firewood, charcoal and dung. Well, Kawesa Mukasa, head of the country’s solar research association, disclosed that they’ve developed and sold over 250 solar crock pots to the people. The type of solar crock pot distributed by the company works like the Fresnel lens (to be discussed later).
Looking at it from another perspective, there are many homes that are fed up with spending too much money on cooking their meals, as we explained earlier. This cooking method offers them a great alternative. Keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t completely eliminate the method you are used to now. Instead, this technique just serves as a complement. Often, it is deployed to refugee camps to cut cooking cost for a large number of displaced people. For instance, it was used to cook for over 40,000 families in 2005 in Darfur, South Sudan.
Pros and Cons of Solar Cooking
So far, our emphasis has been on how, where and why solar cooking is used. Today, the technology is increasingly gaining traction because people appreciate its benefits. While it has some attendant benefits, it also has some disadvantages. This part of our guide will put those two into perspective.
- Unlike other cooking methods where you must replenishing your fuel, solar cookers involve one-off payment, thereby making it cheap
- Applying this method for cooking your meals is user-friendly and easy
- It has high propensity of retaining essential nutrients in your meal, thus making it very healthy
- Given that it doesn’t speedily cook meals, the chances of burning food is significantly reduced
- Unlike the traditional means of cooking that make lots of noise, this technique is noiseless
- It is environmentally friendly because it doesn’t produce fumes and soot
- Contrary to the misconception that it can only be used for cooking vegetables, it can be used to cook, bake, and roast just anything
- Using this method reduces the experience of living in a room with steam and smoke, which may be very unconducive whenever someone is cooking
- In some parts of the world where people use gas for cooking, there have been dangerous situations with explosions, and even deaths. These are prevented by the solar method
- It is portable and long lasting
- When there is power outage or tornadoes, you would not have to worry because you can always make your food
- There must be sunlight before you can cook; and sunlight is unpredictable
- It takes a lot of time to cook meals
- Its limitations make it ideal to serve as a backup to old cooking method
Main Types of Solar Cookers
There are many solar cookers on the market. In this part of the guide, we will break them down one after another.
Solar Panel Cooker
This type is the simplest and most affordable one out there. You will love it because it doesn’t generate too much heat when in use. By concentrating sunlight into the cookware through its curved surface, it cooks the content of the pot. Just follow the above-mentioned explanations given in the second method to grasp how it works. More importantly, this solar cooker is affordable and simple. Shield it from the wind because it is not insulated. Also, it’s very likely that it can heat up to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and you need only 2-4 hours to cook. Feel free to use it to cook anything: soup, stew, beans.
Basic Box Solar Cooker
Unlike the Solar Panel Cooker, this type is constructed with a single reflector and an opening capped by a pane of glass. With the single reflector, sunray is concentrated around a dark-colored pot, which is placed inside the box. With this simple setting, you can use it to cook your meals. It is commonly used in India and can absorb and retain temperature as high as 392 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the size, you can place many pots in one.
By principle, Solar Panel Cooker and Solar Ovens have a lot in common. However, the latter use an insulated box to ensure that heat is retained. Well, they are perfect for baking, which explains why the panel is considered as an “Oven.” When sunlight makes impact on the box, it will then generate heat that would be trapped.
The good thing about this type of solar-powered cooking is that it is capable of reaching temperatures as high as those methods used for traditional cooking. Typically, it can reach 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, it is important that you use a dark cookware or bakeware, as they tend to absorb and retain heat more than others.
Parabolic Solar Stove
Just like the ones that came before it, Parabolic Solar Stove primarily channel its sunray to the cookware and can also generate a temperature up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Interestingly enough, it is capable of heating faster than the traditional cooking methods. Moreover, it can cook from sunset to sunrise, including subzero temperatures.
Fundamentally, Parabolic Solar Stove concentrates light on the bottom of the pot, helping it cook meals a lot faster than others. Regarding its panel, it is shiny, lightweight and durable. If you love to grill, fry and steam, this type is your best bet, as it is fast and hot.
This one takes cooking to the next level by completely eliminating the idea of concentrating sunray on the cooking pot. It is designed in a way that the solar energy passes through the lens to heat up the pot (food). In some cases, it is made of reflective rings that channel sunray onto the pot. Although the rings tend to be similar to the parabolic reflector, they are horizontally extended.
However, it is designed in a way that the diameter of the rings is bigger, thus allowing heat to get to the cookpot easily. With the intense heat generated from this mechanism, you can boil and fry anything. It is also easy to assemble. With intense radiation, you have to always keep close tabs on your meals.
Evacuated Tube Cookers
Last but not least, these cookers can generate up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit of heat or even more. They can be used for cooking bread, vegetables and dessert. While they share lots of similarities with the types reviewed earlier, they are capable of working well even when it’s cloudy. GoSun, the leading solar crock pot maker, is pioneering this innovation. From findings, it heats food with the aid of the tube, so there is no need for preheating the tubes.
Top 5 Best Solar Cookers and Crock Pot
5. Solavore Sport Solar Oven
This solar crock pot is a must-buy. It is an all-weather appliance, and you can use it to prepare your meal really fast. You just have to set up your meal and wait for the sun. It measures 27.2 x 12.2 x 17 inches and weighs 8.8 pounds. It produces no smoke and no fire, which means you don’t have to worry that your kids would be exposed to harm. It also has a free-standing oven thermometer and high-performing reflector. In addition, it is highly durable, so you will certainly have less to worry about.
- Comes with a free-standing thermometer
- Has a Reusable Water Pasteurization (RWP)
- Within 3 hours of sunshine, you can cook, roast and grill
- It takes time to get food ready
- Performs better during intense sunny condition
4. Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Deluxe
If you have up to 8 persons in your home, you don’t have to worry about cooking for them as this solar crock pot is designed to take care of them all. With an innovative cell insulation, it can reach a temperature of 285 degrees Fahrenheit. Made of premium quality, Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Deluxe has everything you need to get your food ready – from start to finish.
Essentially, it weighs 8 pounds and has a dimension of 19 x 15.5 x 2 inches. Interestingly, you don’t have to assemble any of the part. You merely spend seconds in setting it up, and it is easy to use. So, choose your best solar cooker today.
- It is durable and perfect for camping, domestic use and boating
- This product is built to accommodate different ranges of cookware
- It is one of the most versatile solar cookers on the market as it can be used to cook varieties of different meals
- It reaches temperatures as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which many people consider the most appropriate for baking
- This solar crock pot is pricey
3. GoSun Grill
This is the best solar cooker in its category; the reason is that in just about an hour, you will dish your meals to the delights of your loved ones and guests. GoSun Grill has taken this technology to the next level with the advent of this unique cooking mechanism.
It is fun, safe and easy to use anytime, any day. Still, it’s designed for outdoor purpose and can make food for up to 8 persons. More importantly, you can use it to do a lot of things, such as baking, boiling, frying and steaming your meals. It doesn’t produce any waste, soot or fuel.
- Generates enough heat for making all kinds of meals
- It cooks pretty fast
- Users can adjust the temperature to suit the meal they are making
- It is very expensive
2. SUN Ovens International
With 28 years of research into solar technology, Sun Ovens’ product has become one of the most widely used around the world with no fewer than 126 countries currently using it. Over the years, the maker has improved its as-is technology, inculcating features that make it stand out. For instance, it has wind resistance, aligns seamlessly with the sun and efficiently harnesses the power of radiation.
With temperature between 360 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit, you are sure to prepare your food within the fastest possible time. Moreover, you can set the rate at which you wish your meals to be cooked, making it the perfect fit for preparing all meals. It measures 24 x 15.5 x 20.5 inches and weighs 22 pounds.
- It is rust-proof and has anodized aluminum reflectors
- This is ruggedly built, easy to set up and use
- It is a lightweight cooking appliance
- It is pricey
1. Emergency Zone SunCore Portable Solar Cooker Oven
With this product, you don’t have to worry about how to position your pot to get the most of solar energy. This means you don’t have to guess how to position your solar crock pot anymore. This is made possible with the aid of sundial indicator, which helps users to get the perfect angle for maximum heat output.
The device plays a dual purpose, as it is also capable of regulating the internal temperature of the solar crock pot. With a built-in thermometer, you can always watch the temperature of the system and compare it with the most appropriate temperature for making such meals. It weighs 13.1 pounds and measures 29 x 13 x 4.5 inches.
- It is portable, so you can take it anywhere you want
- No fuel, electricity or fire is needed
- Many prospective users will consider it costly
- It cannot cook a lot of meals
In conclusion, technologists have harnessed sunlight in many different ways. No doubt, solar crock pot is one way to achieve that. Before going ahead to buy any of the products reviewed above, it is noteworthy that you read the guide thoroughly. Then, you are strongly advised not to pack up your traditional method of cooking when you buy solar crock pot. The reason behind this is that solar crock cookpots complement the traditional method.
Furthermore, in a bid to give you the best product on the market, we did some legwork for you. So, this guide is thorough as it captures all the key information you must have before buying the best solar cooker on the market. More and more users are turning to this method of cooking because it has lots of benefits (as discussed above). Why wait? By placing an order for one of these products now, you are joining the growing list of environment-friendly people who are taking the right steps to save the environment!