Inspired by an upcoming trip to Lake Mead last year, during which the forecast predicted temperatures around 115 degrees, the kids and I (well mostly me, but they immediately loved the idea) decided to build a solar oven. There are a number of instructions and tutorials online, so we pulled some ideas from each of those.
We started by finding two cardboard boxes that fit inside one another, with a few inches of gap in between. Then the kids glued black construction paper into the inside of the smaller box.
Next, we folded the flaps of the smaller box out and inserted the smaller box into the larger one, so the small box flaps were within the gap between the boxes.
The kids raided our paper shredder (but you could use crumpled up paper as well) and stuffed the gap with the paper shreds for insulation. We had part of a sheet of acrylic on hand from a previous project (my husband refurbished the Dance Dance Revolution pad that he had built from scratch in college), so I cut a piece of that for a lid.
Your lid should cover the boxes, but not block the flaps from the larger box from standing up, you need those to stand in a few minutes here.
Cutting acrylic is actually a little tricky. The best thing to do is score it with a box cutter (an exacto knife might work too, but be careful not to break the blade), and then bend it along the score line. It should break along the line easily, although it might not be an exactly clean break. Acryllic seems to be tempermental like that. (Oh, and you should wear safety goggle just in case.) Put a bit of duct tape along the edges of the lid, so they are not sharp.
Next, you line the inside of the large box flaps with aluminum foil. Finally, have fun painting the outside.
When we tried out the solar oven at the lake, I used some duct tape to fan out the flaps of the large box and hold them in that position. Then, I added some more aluminum foil to the gaps between the flaps, so that we could capture more of those rays of sunlight into our oven and raise its temperature.
We had great success at cooking hot dogs. The internal temperature reached over 165 degrees in about 10 or 15 minutes. The kids really wanted to try Easy Mac. Sadly, that attempt ended up with cups of cheesy mush.
Ummm, gross. If I was to do it again, I’d try heating just the water as hot as I could get it, and then add it to the noodles and cheese.
The scientist in me wishes I had tried the oven out when it was a more normal temperature outside. However, my husband threw it out a few months ago while cleaning the garage.
I’ve seen a couple DIY water desalinators floating around pinterest. Now I’m itching to try making one of those. Being so close to the ocean, I actually think it would be nice to know how to make safe drinking water, in case of an emergency.
Has anyone tried those out? Do you have any links to a good DIY desalinator tutorial?