With the accepted notion that climate warming is man-made, we aim to reduce our carbon dioxide output. Solar cooking replaces gas, electricity, or other forms of energy most of which produce greenhouse gases in production, transportation, and during use. Thus, cooking with the sun can reduce our “carbon footprint”. However, solar cookers have an energy cost in the production and transportation also. Therefore, if one buys a solar cooker and uses it a few times a year only for the fun of it, it really does not save any substantial emissions. So this begs the question: how many times of solar cooking is required to have saved enough energy to compensate for the energy that has been invested in making and transporting the cooker to my home? I don’t have the answer yet; it appears neither does anybody else. It very much depends on the cooker and on the type of cooking it is used for. This is a question my colleagues at the university and myself would like to find the answer to. So this is work in progress, and I hope to report the answer in these pages within a year or two. Of course, the fastest energy return is from the kind of solar cooker that is made of recycled material and that would have been thrown in the garbage or landfill.
There are other benefits of solar cooking – it is mostly (especially panel cookers and box cookers) a slow and low temperature process which is known for the health benefits and quality of food. Slow cooking retains more valuable vitamins and generally tastes better as it keeps the natural juices in the food.
Another benefit, especially in warm climates, is the avoidance of heating up the house when cooking indoors. The extra heat generated in the kitchen has to be rejected to the outdoors, which is usually done by an electricity powered air conditioner. Thus in summer the energy gain is double; no use of cooking gas (or electricity) and less need for cooling the home. This can actually be quite substantial: cooking with gas on a stove is terribly inefficient, much of the heat from burning the gas is ends up in the air and little is used for heating the cooking vessel.
How many days a year can I use a solar cooker?
(note that most papers are available for download at a cost from the publisher, however, individual articles for private use can typically be obtained by writing an e-mail to the author).
Volume 37, September 2014, Pages 288-306
Solar cooker realizations in actual use: An overview
- Conference papers:
10TH GRADE HIGH SCHOOL PHYSICS EDUCATION VIA SOLAR COOKING, ConsolFood2018 conference in Faro, Portugal
On high school physics and student assistance in introducing solar cooking to Bedouin,
Hezi Yizhaq and Daniel Feuermann
Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental and Energy Research,