Mark and Diane Weidner have a sure-fire way to cook green: They use a solar oven that requires nothing more than a mostly sunny day and a bit of tending. The best part is that whether they’re baking potatoes or cooking up a batch of spaghetti sauce, the kitchen inside their Fredericksburg home stays cool, a big plus on a summer day.
Their Sun Oven cooker is lightweight and portable and can produce temperatures of between 250 to 375 degrees, a range that suits many dishes. It has a fiberglass oven box with a tempered glass door and shiny aluminum flaps that are used to focus sunlight on the oven.
It functions best on clear days with few clouds. “On average in summer, we use it twice a week at least,” Diane Weidner said. “Sometimes you get a little cloud cover, a passing cloud, but it still works.”
The oven has no mechanical parts and needs no maintenance other than cleaning. When baking potatoes or making something else that might take an hour to finish, the oven can easily be swiveled to follow the sun so it captures the most sunlight.
The Weidners, whose energy-efficient home near Dripping Springs was featured in the July 1997 edition of Texas Co-op Power, have another type of solar cooker that uses a parabolic mirror, similar in shape to a satellite dish, to focus solar energy on a glass bowl that acts as an oven chamber. That cooker can achieve even higher temperatures than the Sun Oven. “It’s very effective,” Weidner said.