First it is worthwhile to talk a little bit about the Sun Oven. Here are some basic stats. The SUN OVEN is 19” x 19” with an average depth of 11”. The total weight is only 21 pounds. The back of the outside outer box is 14″ high and the front of the outer box is 9″ high. The back of the oven chamber is 11″ high and the front is 7″ high, with an average depth of 9″. The door opening for the oven chamber is 14″ in diameter. When opened the reflectors are 32″ in diameter.
The following materials used to make a SUN OVEN®:
Reflectors Anodized aluminum (which will never oxidize, rust or corrode)
Outer shell ABS plastic
Bezel Poplar wood (kiln dried)
Inner shell Anodized aluminum
Door Tempered glass
Between the aluminum inner shell and the plastic outer shell there is a thick batt of food grade fiberglass insulation.
The fit and finish are very nice.
Using the Sun Oven is fairly easy if you read the instructions and watch the videos. However if you do not do those things it is much harder. Don't ask how I know this. It is really important to position the Sun Oven properly. It needs to be facing the sun or slightly ahead of it and the elevation needs to be adjusted so as much sun is hitting the inside of the oven as possible.
Today I did a test to see how the Sun Oven does at getting up to real cooking temperatures. After setting it up I started a timer. After 15 minutes the temp in the Sun Oven was a bit above 300 degrees. At the half hour mark it was sitting at about 340. At the hour mark it reached a peak at 360. The temp would slip down a little bit when the sun moved away before time to adjust it. Someplace on the website I read that they recommend checking it every half hour and making a minor adjustment to keep it in the suns path. Also some folks will position their ovens so they will get the prime afternoon sun and go to work leaving the oven to do it's thing.
It is a bit early for a review but we will use the same format to discuss initial experiences and impressions.
The Good: A well made product. Some folks use theirs regularly for years. There isn't really anything on it that could break through normal use (obviously if you run it over with a truck or something that is an issue) which would not be easy to fix.
Capable of cooking using the power of the sun so it will not run out of fuel. Being able to bake and do the kind of long duration cooking that will just suck fuel on a Coleman stove is really nice. Like a lot of folks right now we do not have a wood stove, let alone one with an oven. We will not necessarily have one all the time (we are semi nomadic due to my job) until we settle down. A solar oven goes a long way towards filling that niche.
The Sun Oven does have some downsides. It is fairly large at 19"x19"x12"ish. You could fill the inside space with anything light like clothes or bedding but the thing is still pretty big.
Weather is a consideration. I am not exactly sure how much sun these ovens need to work but they do need some. Folks in perpetually overcast places might want to do some research before making a purchase.
Also Sun Ovens are not cheap. I think for the right person in the right climate they could definitely pay for themselves in normal times and be priceless in an emergency situation. On the other hand it would be a pretty expensive item to purchase and have just sit around.
There is a learning curve with solar cooking. You really do not want to try it for the first time when normal options are not available and wasting or ruining food is a serious problem. This is something that pretty much needs to get figured out before you need it.
The Ugly: No ugly at this time.
I see a couple real roles for the Sun Oven. The first is as a way to save some money on the old gas/ electric bill. Along these lines it is just fun to fiddle around with. The second is as a way to cook in a set location be it a retreat or home or whatever. Being able to bake without an oven would be really nice in such a scenario. This oven could be the difference between having mediocre flat bread as your staple and real genuine bread. It is not really so good for a bug out type situation but in a basecamp or home type situation it has real potential to be an important part of ones cooking plans.
It is true that there are other solar cooking methods including DIY projects based on cardboard boxes and aluminum foil. The Sun Oven folks put a lot of time and energy into making that thing gather and hold as much heat as it can. They are really efficient which means you get more cooking out of the available sun than a less efficient solar cooker.
I think deciding if a sun oven is for you or if you should go another way depends a lot on what you want a solar cooker to do. If it is going to be a novelty you want to play with once or twice then a Sun Oven would be a hard sell. On the other hand if you are looking at a solar cooker being a key part of your overall cooking plans do you really want to be relying on a cardboard box and some aluminum foil?
As I start cooking with the Sun Oven we will talk about it more. Hopefully some of that will happen this coming week.