Summertime is Here!
Keeping our Homes Cool and Using Solar Cookers

by Bob Banner

In May there was a day that was unusually hot so I decided to do what I did in the summertime when I lived on a farm in Templeton, in a triple wide mobile home with some friends. It became my job to keep the house cool since I was the one who worked at home while the others worked in air-conditioned offices. So, this is my story for people who live here at Creekside (Mobile Home Estates) when those really hot days occasionally sneak up on us in SLO.

solarcooker

solarCoookers

If I know it’s going to be relatively hot the next day, the night before I open all the windows to cool down the entire house and then at around 6-7am I close everything. Close the windows, the curtains and make it as dark as possible. This will guarantee keeping the house cool throughout the day. Depending on the type of installation you have, I typically open up everything around 3-5pm depending on the winds and how hot it is. Rather than using air conditioning or trying to stay cool while the hot air is coming in through open windows, try it and see how it works for you. My roommates were always delighted if they came home for lunch and realized how cool the house was, just like their air-conditioned offices.

On another note about conserving energy as well as cutting back on the utility bills is using a solar oven to cook food during the day. It’s fun and quick and why would someone want to use the oven inside in an already warm house?! Well, of course, I did sometimes in my younger days but now I’ve gotten a bit smarter with my energy uses. In a pot I put in some potatoes, eggs, maybe a yam or whatever else is lying around at the time. On other days I may put a spaghetti squash or butternut squash in the pot as well.

I put the pot inside the solar cooker that actually has room for two pots. I find a nice place where the sun will hit for about 4-5 hours. I set it out in the morning, aim it toward the sun and in about 3 to 5 hours I have cooked veggies ready to be made into potato salad or for the butternut squash a perfect vegetable for some delicious soups.

Some solar cookers have wings which means you have to aim it toward the sun and periodically move the cooker as the sun moves. I purchased the cheaper model without the wings and I simply put it in the middle of where the sun is and where it will be in about 3 to 5 hours. It might not get hot enough for some foods but it’s perfect for my purposes. That way I don’t have to check it periodically. I’m lazy in a good way so I can put it out at 8 or 9am and when I come home around 4 to 5 it is definitely cooked, unless of course it’s been a cloudy day all day long. And even if it’s a bit overcooked it still is great for a potato salad where you can add raw vegetables, sauces, herbs, etc.

The temperature ranges from 200º to 225°, the ones with the wings with direct sun will go from 250º to 275º (or more depending on the one you purchase). I purchased mine from the Solar Sun Society (solarovens.org); it’s the one primarily used by Afghan women since it is very light weight. They of course are now using solar ovens to help reduce the use of their dwindling resources of trees being used for firewood. Since we have this remarkable source of energy, why not use it!

On another note of being green, I think it’s wonderful that Creekside has a recycling program. Now we need a composting area or green waste so it doesn’t all have to go to the landfill. There’s a number of easy compost makers that one can purchase through the city or online and sometimes even burying it deep enough in one’s garden does wonders for making healthy soil from what we consider waste. In nature there is no such thing as waste. Waste equals Food!

Keeping cool and learning more about how to be sustainable more often is also cool. Not only is it good for humans, the planet and other species, but much of the time it’s also less expensive. Save the money so we can continue doing what we really love to do.
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Bob Banner can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]. See what else he is up to at http://www.HopeDance.org or call  (805) 235-1733..

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Solar Cooking Class:
The next Solar Cooking Class is on Saturday, October 15, 12:30pm-2 pm @ Davies Farm  5009 Jesperson Rd. in SLOFor more information call:  805-458-1241

We offer these free classes on the third Saturday of every month from May thru October and always have a booth at the Earth Day Celebration at the Regional Park.