Power Goes Out – Solar Oven Can’t Compete with Clouds!

English: Sun oven made to cook with the sun: m...

Yesterday evening, just before I was ready to cook my dinner, our power went out. Unexpectedly, of course. I mean, when does your power ever go out that you are expecting it to happen?  I called the power company and went through an amazingly difficult series of screens and prompts.  Fortunately there was still daylight; else, I am not sure whether I could have seen all the numbers I had to punch in to get the message across.  I do have a flashlight, but from experience,  finding the emergency numbers and figuring out the last seven digits of my ESID are hard enough without having to hold a flashlight under my chin!

After calling the power company for a repair, I got the bright idea to grab my solar oven, set it up in the sun,  and cook dinner.  Unfortunately, the sun didn’t get the memo.  The minute – I swear, I saw it happen  – that I hauled the oven out to the sunny spot in the back yard, the sun went behind a bank of clouds, only to emerge intermittently.  I went back in the house and waited a little while, watching the sun come and go.  I figured I wasn’t getting anywhere except hungry, so I asked hubby to start up the propane grill.  Fortunately, the propane tank cooperated and I went out to rescue dinner  from the oven and finish cooking it in the pot on the grill.  I had predicted that the  oven temperature wouldn’t be over 150, and sure enough….it was 145 when I got it out of the oven.

I suppose this could be considered a failure of the solar oven, but really, when you think about it – it’s just a matter of physics.  The oven is set up so that sunlight enters it (when aimed properly) and is captured by the dark surfaces.  The reflectors magnify the effects of the sun inside the chamber. However, there has to be some sun in order for this to work!  The problem was that the power failure occurred late in the day, and there wasn’t much sun-time left, plus as I mentioned, the clouds chose an inconvenient time to appear.  The third confounder was that I had not kept the oven as clean as it could have been and some of the reflective surfaces had a bit of haze over them.  I am sure this affected the amount of heat I was able to generate as well.

It took an hour and a half to get the power restored, but no permanent harm was done.  I had dinner without much ado, and I learned a few things.  What did I learn?

  • Keep the sun oven clean
  • Keep the propane tanks full
  • Have an extra propane tank, just in case
  • Know where the telephone number is to the electric company
  • Know what your ESID is (write it down somewhere large and obvious, because you never know when you will need it)

This was a great opportunity, given the circumstances, to see just how prepared we are. Well, maybe we aren’t as prepared as we would like to be or that we need to be.  I’m very glad that this time, at least, it was just a dress rehearsal.  We have found some areas that need to be shored up, and some methods that need to be changed.  So, we’ll be working on those in hopes that the next time a drill comes along (I am sincerely hoping it won’t be The Real Thing) we will do better and have some easier lessons to learn.

Do you have other suggestions for what we might have done better?  Please leave me a comment!


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6 Responses to Power Goes Out – Solar Oven Can’t Compete with Clouds!

  1. Kent says:

    I also own a solar oven. Although it may be a little inconsistent, since it depends a lot on the sun, I still keep it.

    • Georgene says:

      Oh, absolutely! I certainly am not planning to get rid of mine; I just need to take better care of it and realize its limitations. I have had many a good dinner cooked in the solar oven!

  2. Amelia says:

    Solar ovens really can’t compete with the clouds so we should always have a backup. I did learn lessons from you though, keep the solar oven clean and always have an extra propane tank, thanks!

  3. Danielle says:

    I guess it is just that you were forced to use the solar oven in an inopportune time. It is better to have to an extra propane tank for emergencies.

  4. Dani says:

    Great article (really nice blog too). We made a solar oven out of pizza boxes as a learning experience for the kids. They loved cooking their own pizza in it.

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