DIY Solar Oven

Harness the Sun's energy to cook a tasty treat.

What you'll learn:

How to make a solar oven for kids using recycled materials. 

Key takeaways:

This DIY solar oven shoes the impact of the greenhouse effect as well as how energy from light can turn into heat.

Let's learn how to make a solar oven for kids!

The sun is beginning to emerge, which means it's time to have some fun with the Sun! This DIY solar oven project is a great way to talk about solar topics. If your kids ask you "What is the greenhouse effect?" you can make this DIY solar oven to show them just how impactful it can be collecting heat. Maybe your kids are wondering "How does light turn into heat?", and this project will help them see that as well. 

Making a solar oven is pretty easy, and requires a few things that you likely already have around the house. While you can make your DIY solar oven with saran wrap, I much prefer the use of window insulation plastic that can be shrunk to look almost like glass. The window insulation kits will create a much better seal in your oven which will help the greenhouse effect skyrocket - and that means cooking your food that much faster.

DIY solar oven to make smores

Project Ingredients:
Window insulation
Cardboard box (preferably with a styrofoam insert)
Black cardstock
Metalized film

How to make a solar oven

  1. Cut a thin lid into your box
  2. Line the lid with metalized film
  3. Line the bottom of the box with black cardstock
  4. Cut a second lid using the cardboard as a frame (cut about 2 inches down)
  5. Cover your second lid with window insulation
  6. Set up your DIY solar oven
How to make a solar oven to make food for kids
how to make a solar oven
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DIY solar oven how to make a solar oven in steps
how to make a solar oven

How to make a DIY solar oven

1. Cut a thin lid from your box.

Our DIY solar oven needs to collect sunlight and direct it towards our food. To do this we need a mirror. We wanted to build a stand-alone solar oven that didn’t need too much setup, so we attached our mirror to the lid of our box. Think about what you want your solar oven to look like before determining where the mirror will go. Will your box be tall and skinny? Will it be flat and wide?

To collect the most light from the sun you want to put the mirror on the biggest surface of your box. That means if you want a hotter oven it needs to be flat and wide.

Once you have your box laying on one flat wide side carefully cut a lid into your solar oven. We cut right along the crease where the box bends from the top to the sides, leaving us with just a thin piece of cardboard that can flap up and down.

2. Line your cardboard lid with a metalized film.

The metalized film will reflect the suns light better than just plain foil, although foil can work if you want to save a little money. Using glue or tacks/brads attach a sheet of the metalized film to the inside of your cardboard flap. When the flap is down it should still look like a plain old box.

3. Line the inside of your box with black cardstock.

Why do you want black inside your DIY solar oven? Because black absorbs all colors of light, and the more light an object absorbs the more heat it absorbs as well.

4. Cut the second lid in your cardboard box.

If you want your DIY solar oven to get hot you need to utilize the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect traps UV radiation and warms up the little solar oven cell. We make our greenhouse effect using a layer of plastic, but we also want our box to be able to open and close. If we just put plastic wrap over the top and seal it you won’t be able to put your smores or anything else you want to cook in, and you won’t be able to get it out when it’s done.

If your cardboard box came with a styrofoam insert you can use this insert as the secondary box and just put the plastic wrap on a styrofoam frame. The added bonus with a styrofoam insert is that it is a heat insulator and will help your DIY solar oven retain the heat.

5. Cover the frame with window insulation.

I find using window insulation instead of saran wrap makes a far better solar oven. It is easy to put on as well. You just put the window insulation tape around the outside of the frame, attach the clear sheet, cut down to size and use a hair dryer to make it glassy. There needs to be a clear window for the mirror to reflect the light into your DIY solar oven. If there isn’t a window you can’t trap all those energetic light rays!

6. Setup and test your DIY solar oven.

You will need a sunny area and will want to prop your mirrored lid open so it directs the sunlight down into your solar oven. Once it is all setup you can add a few things in there to cook, our favorite is making smores!

 

How the greenhouse effect works.