One of the worst things about losing power is the inability to cook or keep perishable food items cool enough so that they won’t spoil. Barbecuing is a great way to cook off the grid, but your options are limited as you have only the grill. Barbecuing is also a messy business that creates a lot of smoke, dust and soot. Building a solar oven or a rocket stove is an ideal way to ensure you have a fast, easy way to cook if the power goes down.
If you live a country that does not get enough sunlight to power a solar oven, you can still build an effective stove to cook off-grid. Rocket stoves are becoming increasingly common in the developing world, and they can even be used to heat your home as long as you ensure there is adequate ventilation.
A clay pot-in-pot fridge, or Zeer, is ideal for keeping food cool in the event of a blackout. It can be made from simple equipment that most people will already have lying around the house. Both the oven and the fridge are great projects for those that wish to take the first steps towards living off grid. They can also be used on camping trips or by households that wish to reduce their carbon footprint.
A solar oven is a great way to cook dishes such as stews, baked potatoes or even pizza. Before you begin you will need a large cardboard box and a medium size box that can fit inside with a space of about 10cm or 5 inches all the way around. You will also require a roll of aluminum foil, old newspaper, box cutter, black spray paint and duct tape. To make the reflector flap, you will need another piece of cardboard that is the same width as the large box. Lastly, you need a pane of glass big enough to cover the large box.
Cut the flaps from the small box. Spray the bottom of the small box with the black spray paint, and glue aluminum foil all around the inner sides. Line the bottom of the large box with some crumpled newspaper. Place the small box inside the larger one, and push wadded up newspaper all around the sides as insulation. Cover the reflector flap with aluminum paper and tape it to one of the flaps on the large cardboard box. The reflector flap should be perfectly in line with the side of the large box, so prop it into place using some pieces of wood as a splint.
Place your pot or casserole dish inside the smaller box, and then place the sheet of glass on top. For best results place your solar oven in an open space away from trees or telephone poles that can cast shadows.
To build your own rocket stove, you will need a number 10 (96oz) can with lid and 4 regular soup cans (8oz). You will also need some form of insulating material such as sand, ash, foam or even dirt. Start by placing one of the smaller cans against the side of the larger can close to the base and draw a circle around the base of the small can. Using tin snips, cut out the circle carefully and slot the small can inside the circle so that it is sticking out of the side of the big can. Take the second soup can, and place it inside the big number 10 can. Line it up against the other soup can that is sticking through the side, and draw a circle around the outside of the second soup can. Remove the second soup can from inside the large can to cut out the hole you have just drawn on the side. Place it back inside the large can, and slot the first soup can into the second can.
You should now have an elbow shape inside the large can made from the two smaller ones. Take your third 8oz soup can and remove the base. Using the tin snips cut vertically all the way down the side of the can. Carefully slot the third can into the second can so it extends the vertical height of your elbow. Take your insulating material and pour it into the number 10 can ensuring that it completely surrounds your elbow and covers any small holes or gaps that might be present. Keep pouring the insulating material inside the large can, leaving a space of around 5cm from the rim. Using the tin snips, cut tabs all the way around the rim of the larger can. Take the lid for the large can and place it on top of the third can. Draw a circle around the third can onto the lid. Cut out the circle, and slot the third can through the lid and push the lid all the way down until it rests on top of the insulating material. Fold down the tabs that you cut into the rim of the large can to hold the lid in place.
You now need to make a wood shelf. Take your fourth soup can, and cut out a T-shape using the tin snips. The bottom of the T should be the same width as the diameter of the first can so you can slot it inside to hold the wood. The top bar of the T will stick out of the first can to hold it in place. The shelf should be able to hold the wood in the air and not let it touch the bottom of your rocket stove. Place some wood onto the shelf and another long piece down the chimney. Get the fire going with some crumpled up pieces of paper. Place a pot of food on top of the chimney and enjoy!
Building a Zeer is a straight forward task that will keep food and drinks cool in hot weather. You will need a large clay or terracotta pot and a smaller one that fits easily inside. Plug any holes that the pots have in the base using putty, duct tape or clay. Sprinkle a layer of sand into the bottom of the larger pot around 3cm deep. Place the smaller pot inside the larger pot. Ensure that the rim of the smaller pot does not reach higher than that of the larger pot. Carefully pour sand into the larger pot, filling the gap between the inside of the large pot and the outside of the small pot. Take a jug of cold water and pour it onto the sand until it is completely drenched. Place a wet tea towel on top of the zeer and leave it to cool. You can test the temperature of the smaller pot using your hands. Once it is cool enough, place your food and drink inside. The zeer works through evaporation, so placing it in a dry, well ventilated spot will yield the best results. Regularly check the sand and top up with water when required.
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