Make Shoebox Solar Ovens: How To Make, Benefits and Warnings

A shoebox solar oven is a very inexpensive way to spend time outside and experiment with solar energy. These ovens are fun to make, simple and easy to use. They provide hands-on experience for kids in understanding the properties of a parabola and its relation to how light is focused on a focal point by reflecting off the surface of an object such as a plastic wrap covered foil-lined box.

Make Shoebox Solar Ovens: Steps by Steps

Using a shoebox solar oven requires only cardboard, scissors, tape, and sunlight. If you want to make more elaborate ones, you may choose to use aluminium foil covered cardboard as the reflector and cardboard lined plastic wrap as the cooking surface. It is not necessary to build a box shaped oven with all six sides the same size. A flat reflector can be used for cooking and a non-flat cavity about 2-3 inches deep will absorb enough heat for quick grilling or frying.

Material 

  • Small cardboard box (shoe box size)
  • Foil lined plastic wrap
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Toothpick or nail to poke holes in foil-lined plastic wrap.

How to do

Step 1: Cut out the original shoebox lid with scissors into 3 triangular panels. 

Step 2: Cover the inside of the box with aluminium foil. 

Step 3: Cut out a square opening in the center of each triangular panel and cover it with aluminium foil lining plastic wrap, leaving a one-inch border unglued or use tape instead of foil. You must leave an opening to allow air to flow in and out of the oven so that it can be heated evenly.

Step 4: Use toothpick or nail to poke holes in foil-lined plastic wrap. 

Step 5: Put back the triangular panels onto the lid. 

To use, place an object to be heated (i.e., a bowl of water) inside the oven on a stable base (i.e., a stool) and place thermometer into oven. Wait for about 20 minutes.

You can use plastic box to contain your food after cooking

Benefits of Shoebox Solar Ovens

1. Learning tool for children

Shoebox solar ovens are an excellent learning tool for children. Children can see how a parabola focuses light and understand what the optimal shape for a reflector is. They are simple enough to make with readily available items, yet can also provide a deeper understanding of the role that geometry play in solar energy. They are easy to use and involve little risk; children just need to be supervised when playing around with parabolas.

2. Safe and environmentally friendly

Shoebox solar ovens are safe and environmentally friendly, because they do not burn any fossil fuel; heat is generated when light energy is trapped by a reflective surface.

3. Easy to use

Shoebox solar ovens can be used for various cooking purposes. At home, you can use them to heat food, such as warm food, chicken, or a hot beverage such as a cup of tea. You can also use them to toast bread or other food items; the hot air will radiate and carry the heat from the oven, so that it will not need any additional heating device after baking.

4. Cheap

Shoebox solar ovens are inexpensive to make, costing less than $1.00 for each oven.

Shoebox solar ovens are popular and fun to use. They can be used to cook food, bake cookies, to heat foods or even for taking a hot shower. For a more advanced solar oven, you may use a cardboard box, cut out the bottom and cover it with foil. This will allow you to cook food in the box by warming up the air inside.

Warnings in Use Shoebox Solar Ovens

1. Avoid using Shoebox Solar Ovens in rain, snow, or wet conditions. There are some safety concerns that the oven may get wet and short circuit.

2. One needs to be cautious of the hot air inside the oven and needs to wear protective gloves when touching it.

3. When the oven is hot, the plastic wrap and foil may start to melt. If so, it is best to remove them from the oven immediately.

4. Do not use Shoebox Solar Ovens as a space heater. It will not generate enough heat for a large room. Also, you will likely receive a beating if it takes on fire in a crowded place.

5. Do not place objects into the oven with sharp edges or pointed surfaces (i.e., knives).

FAQs

Can you make a solar oven with a shoe box?

Yes you can use a shoe box as a solar oven. Shoeboxes are good because they are light, cheap and easy to carry around. You can tape the two corners of the bottom into an arch to make the shape of the parabolic reflector. However, if you want to make your own parabolic solar cooker with a shoebox, it is better to use aluminium foil not just plain paper or cardboard because aluminium foil can reflect light better than paper or cardboard.

How do you make a solar oven out of a cardboard box?

Follow the step-by-step instructions below to make your own solar oven.

  • 1. First of all, get a good-sized cardboard box and remove one end from it using scissors.
  • 2. Cover the remaining end with aluminium foil and poke holes in it using a toothpick or nail. This will act as the focusing area for the radiation from the sun rays.
  • 3. Now cover the whole box with aluminium foil and punch holes in it using a punch, so that you can heat up the inside of the box.
  • 4. Cut out a square hole in the top of your solar oven. This is to allow air-flow into and out of your oven.
  • 5. To get more heat from the sun, you can use a piece of cardboard to reflect some sunlight on to your solar oven.

How hot can a cardboard solar oven get?

The temperature inside a solar oven depends on its size and how well it is designed. A shoebox should heat up to about 170°F (77°C), with the average being 160°F (70°C).

How does a box solar cooker work?

The solar oven works like a greenhouse or car heat shield, using a plastic or glass (in the case of an automobile) cover to trap heat. The top of the box is also transparent to allow as much light in as possible.

The Shoe Box
Logo