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Parabolic [commercial] Solar Cookers--a Comparison

Dr N K Srinivasan [Pleasanton, C A ]

Introduction
Parabolic solar cookers have come of age! They were once considered large, bulky dishes, difficult to move around and focus; they were even considered unsafe due to bright light falling on the eyes;they needed frequent adjustment to focus....all these were distracting points from the wider use of this cooker. Early cookers were designed and made in India by M L Ghai at National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi. The design was a simple stainless steel dish with a small grill at the focal point and a steel frame. The cooker was launched with much fanfare, by none other than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime-minister of India. It had limited success---women did not feel comfortable using the clumsy device in hot Sun.! Since then, much water had flown down the bridge, as they say: More effcient and convenient cookers with mirror-finish

aluminised mylar tapes or polished aluminum strips have been used. Even automatic tracking devices at low cost have become available. The energy crisis and the environmental issues [burning fire wood by one third of human population] have brought these cookers from museum pieces to practical devices for rural folk. Firewood is getting scarce;women have to walk long distances to forage forests. The use of petroleum based gas or natural gas is becoming costlier in India. Therefore a renewed interest in parabolic solar

cookers is seen in the last decade or so. Let me compare this cooker with its poorer cousin "Solar Box cookers". Box cookers are easy to make; cardboard boxes have been put to use, with simple paper or other insulation. Barbara Kerr and others popularised this since 1980's and these cookers have been widely used in Africa and elsewhere.[ See 'Solar Cooking International' website.] Box cookers are ideal for small families, to cook for 4 or 5 persons;but they are slow cookers...one has to wait for 2 to 3 hours to cook a few kilograms of food. Box cookers can be scaled

up but they become bulky , but still provide slow cooking only. Of course, slow cooking has its own charm-- at lower temperatures, it may retain nutrients better and solar box-cooked food tastes better.! For fast moving communities---especially for schools and homes for destitutes, box cookers are not suitable. always

Parabolic cookers enable fast cooking --typically 30 minutes to one hour [because of higher temperatures and more heat input and with the use of pressure cookers are very efficient and quick to cook. In fact in a typical sunny day, one can cook 3 or 4 batches ---that is ---if you are using a pressure cooker of 10 kg capacity ,you can cook 30 to 40 kg of food from 9 AM to 2 PM!! Family size cookers are typically 3 feet to 5 feet in diameter. Community cookers, which can cook for 30 to 50 persons , are 5 to 10 feet in diameter. Much progress has been made in the use of these cookers in India

and you can read my another article: 'Parabolic solar cookers' in www.scribd.com for details.

Meanwhile several commercial cookers with solid designs and excellent manufacturing have come to the market. These are mostly for family use though they can also be used for small hostels or groups. My aim in this article is to compare some of them so that interested buyers can make better judgement in purchase. I am comparing them on the basis of : 1 diameter of the dish [hence its power input or wattage, in technical terms], 2 weight [for convenience of movement, though some have castors ], 3 country of manufacture, 4 cost and 5 type of foil used for reflectoraluminised Mylar or acrylic selecting one for

sheet or aluminum strips All these brand models are available in continental USA and some of them in India too. As far as i know, all are well-made and the small differences would affect the user only in minor ways. Then one could go by the cost and diameter of the dish ,but you may have other criteria for selection. They need very little maintenance work, except cleaning the reflecting surface or replacing the surface after some years of use.

Commercial Models and their features

[For

regular commercial information, please visit their

websites through Google search.] 1 COOK_UP 200 lbs Europe ABS plastic frame Price: $369 --- dia: 3.25 ft weight 15 Made in

Parabolic Solar Burner ---

dia 4.92 ft

weight NA

Steel frame country-not USA Price $170 3 Sun-Power cooker

Made in some

-----dia 3.5 ft

weight 23 lbs Made in

Stainless steel frame USA $384

4 Tiny-tech industry --AGE ---dia about 4 ft square] weight 39.6 lbs[approx] Made in India Price Re:

5000 in India [US price may vary.] 5 Rudra Solar ----area 1.4 sq meter [SK 14 design]---aluminum strips ---Rs 6000 in India

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There are a few other brands as well from India and other places ; SK 14 designthese will be added in future revisons of this article. I might add that these cookers are of great value for personal [family] use and also as a gift item for others and institutions/groups. You can also sponsor these cookers for charitable/NGO groups in India and elswhere. An excellent site for much information on solar cookers: www.solarcooker at cantina west.com solar cookers owned by Nathan Parry. Visit also "solar cooking international " SCI of Sacromento,CA. --- areseller of