Solar cooking up north

Hello, everyone. I'm thinking about getting a solar cooker for cooking and heating small amounts of water for when the grid gets unreliable. But I live pretty far north (in Vermont, maybe 44 degrees north) and I'm wondering if it's worth the investment. We also get a lot of precipitation, freezing temps in the winter, and cloudy weather.

Does anyone have experience using a solar cooker in these conditions? Is it worthwhile?

Chris in VT

ClareBroommaker's picture

At 38* North, we do not attempt to use ours after US Thanksgiving. You are considerably farther north. There probably are some days we could use it, but with all the cloudiness, rain, and a little snow, we just have not attempted. But that Thanksgiving use has included cooking a turkey.

Why don't you slap together a cardboard and aluminum foil one to test out whether it might work for you? That is how we got into solar cooking in the first place. But be more responsible that us and don't leave out a cardboard appliance in the rain.

My parents experimented with solar cooking and drying during the summer, at a bit over 49 degrees north. It does work, at least in summer on sunny days. I don't know too much about the details of how well it worked, though. They did not seem to use it much.

Thank you ClareBroommaker and pygmycory. It doesn't sound worth buying a cooker (they seem pretty expensive) but maybe a simple diy version would be good for some things. I can't make promises about not leaving things outside though!

good morning!

I've been using a solar cooker for many years now in Minneapolis--45 degrees north. I'd say the sun is high enough to use about 5 months of the year, especially if i wrap a down sleeping bag around it on the outlier months. For the record, I LOVE using it. In the deep summer, I can cook without heating the house (or using any energy). It's pretty easy to adapt to any slow cooker recipe, and I regularly bake bread. I probably use it 3-4 times a week during the proper season.

It does always make me cringe/laugh (never quite sure which), when I see a youtube video crowing "solar cooking in February". Inevitably when I go there, they're in somewhere like Missouri. The camera takes in trees with leaves and running water while the host proclaims 'how extremely cold it is today". Meanwhile I look at at my snow-covered ground that has been frozen solid since November, many times to minus 20-ish, and shake my head.....spring is still 3 months away...

Anyway, would love to discuss more!

ClareBroommaker's picture

Yeah, I think it is the angle of the sun that matters most---not the ambient temperature. So, I (in Missouri!) probably could begin to use the solar oven again in February, if we'd have a sunny day. Today we have sleet and freezing rain, very gloomy. There are no leaves on the trees, but the maples almost all years begin to bloom in February.

Do you wrap your blanket around the food container? I had not thought of that.

No, not around the pot--around the outside of the oven to reduce heat loss to the environment....when the ambient temperature is cool, I wrap a down sleeping bag around the body of the cooker, and i gain 10-15 degrees! If there is a lot of wind, you can gain some degrees by shielding from the wind, too. Living in the cold, one does get to noticing these things!

Spritchi, what kind of solar cooker are you using?

It is 10F right now but sunny here. I am sooo tired of winter.

Hi Chris,

I have a Sun Oven. My friends have a Solavore. They both work equally well, I think. We both wrap the outsides of our ovens in down sleeping bags during seasonal transitions.

I got my Sun Oven by barter on Craigslist. I contacted a person selling the oven and proposed a barter instead. Turns out, the woman's husband had passed away and she was just ready to let his prepper stuff go. I helped her put together 2 bug-out bins for her and her two kids and took the oven (which was never used and just taking up space in her garage) off her hands. So keep an eye out for an opportunity to get an oven cheap!

I am really tired of winter here, too. We still have 2 months to go, although I pruned my fruit-bearing trees yesterday (standing in enough snow that it kept threatening to enter my tall boots!)