Thursday, June 21, 2007

Solar cooker

Almost every Monday afternoon I deliver newspapers to the Arcata Co-op. If it’s sunny, there’s a good chance that Bart Orlandi is outside cooking something in his parabolic solar cooker.

The food doesn’t look very appetizing, but one thing is for certain – it’s hot. I’ve seen him stir a steaming pot of vegetables, make something that resembles rice and even pop some corn.

I’m always impressed by the display and, almost every week, I think to myself that I should build my own solar cooker just for the heck of it. The thought preoccupies by brain for a few minutes before the demands of work push it down until it settles in with the gooey mass of hare-brained ideas that bubble away and simmer in my little crock pot of a brain.

I figured the idea would stay there where it belongs, but then something happened. I heard a report on the radio about an exhibit titled “Design for the Other 90%.”

Most consumer products are designed for the richest 10 percent of the world’s population. Those rich folks include myself and everyone who reads this blog. We’re filthy rich. It may not always seem that way, but it’s true. Trust me.

The exhibit features products for the other 90 percent. There are lots of neat ideas in the exhibit, including bicycles designed to carry large loads.

For some reason the website made the solar cooker idea bubble up in my brain.

Dammit! I don’t have a lot of capacity upstairs, so my only recourse was to excise the idea and get it out of my head so I could make room for more useful ideas and information. And the only way to do that was to build a solar cooker and test it out.

So earlier this week I went in my garage and fired up the TMD – tools of mass destruction.

Awful noises emanated from my secret compound as scraps of lumber were transformed into a solar cooker. When the dust settled, and I stopped sneezing, this is what I had.

Solar cooker closed

That’s my wallet on top just to give you a sense of the size. This is what it looks like when closed. It's sitting atop my utility trailer in a sunny location in the yard. The outside box is made from cedar fence boards. The internal box is made of thin plywood. The outside of the box was painted black. The inside and the lid were lined with foil. There are some old newspapers inside for insulation.

I used Plexiglas from an old newspaper box for the cover. I placed an old mess kit pot, filled with water, inside. The water was about 65 degrees at 5 p.m. today. Then I positioned the lid so that the sun reflected on the pot.

Solar cooker with pot

I took this shot and then we went to the Six Rivers Brewery. After some Cadillac margaritas and a crab cake BLT, we returned home. About an hour and a half had passed. The water was about 112 degrees, with little bubbles at the bottom of the pot. It felt very warm like a nice bath.

The water temperature increased by 47 degrees. But is that enough to warm or cook food? Modications may be necessary.

On Friday, I’ll put some water out at noon and see what happens. Then, next week, we'll go back into the laboratory if necessary.


Blogger Bodie Pfost said...

Hey Jack.

I love your blog.

You do good work.

Next time you're at the Co-op, stop in and say hi.

I'm a cashier there.

9:36 AM  

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