DIY Solar Food Heater Made From Reused Materials.

My 9-year-old son needed an idea for his school science fair so we got together and made a simple DIY Solar Food Heater.


The following materials (which had been destined for the trash) were used: [Pic001]


One empty box of office paper with its cover

One used comforter bag, the kind that has a zipper on it

Six large bags of chips, the kind with the shiny silver inside

Something to hold the food, we used the metal rack from our Thanksgiving disposable roaster pan.  This worked well for heating the food already in plates.  On the hot dog experiments we used shish-kabob sticks

Packing Tape

Paper fasteners

Small piece of cardboard


Building Instructions:

Carefully open the potato chip bags along the seams [Pic003 & 004]

Clean the leftover potato chip residue using a moist paper towel [Pic005]

Tape the bags together with packing tape, thus creating one large silver paper[Pic006, 007 & 008]

Using the paper fasteners and a small piece of cardboard for support: attach the center of the paper to the inside bottom of the box [Pic011, 013 & 028]

Use paper clips (or cloths line pins) to hold the paper in place around the edges of the box [Pic012]

Cut off the excess paper from the edges and firmly tape the paper edge to the box [Pic014]

Remove the paper clips

Place the solar box inside the comforter bag [Pic015] 

Place the food holder in the unit, zip it up, place it in direct sunlight and you are done. [Pic030]


We ran numerous tests and learned that on days with 100% sun (no clouds) and temperatures of 70 degrees plus; our homemade Solar Food Heater worked.

This Science Project was meant to demonstrate energy conservation by heating our lunch with solar power, however, we were also able to cook hot dogs taken form a 42 degree refrigerator!  For the hot dogs we needed temperatures of 80 degrees plus and no clouds.

We also tested the unit by placing a house thermometer in it (no food) at an outside temperature of 72 degrees; in half an hour the thermometer hit its limit of 130 plus degrees!


Americans can collectively reduce our energy consumption with this simple DIY Solar Food Heater.



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    5 Discussions

    So me and one of my boys tried something similar and reached just taping 150 degrees F. Our test included one scrambled egg in a small mason jar and one hotdog wrapped in tin foil. While the kids were swimming we had our solar oven out and pointed directly at the sun for 45 minutes. End result was that the egg just barely started to gain substance and was largely still in scrambled liquid form and the hot dog was heated enough to eat. So in which would cook first, the egg or the hotdog, the hotdog gets props in this experiment. I read other some other solar experiments and it is suggested to use a can painted in black heat resistant paint because it soaks up more heat. I am going to try that. To see the small solar oven we made (cardboard, tinfoil and duct tape) see my Wordpress at I want to try something also with a fresnel lens I have that will more focus heat and see what comes of that. Kudos for your experiment still, it sparked me and my son to try one and now we are hooked.

    My hat goes off to your experiment. It is a lot more methodical than ours. And your idea of using a lens is great! Thanks for letting me know. I am already thinking about how to add a lens to our solar food heater. Only problem I am having is that our gadget is made from trash so that if I buy something I will be consuming and not recycling/reusing. I think it is time to visit the junk yard for a possible lens. Thanks for the comment, the information you gave us is valuable.

    Ah but my fresnel lense is a rectangular pocket one that is flexible and made from recycled plastic. BUT if you want to look for this instead, a projection TV has a huge lense on it. Those are typically two flexible plastic sheets, one is clear, the other is the fresnel type which you can then use for your solar projects. If you find one from a junk yard or that someone is giving away grab it. No consumption there just a rather large freebie. Also, the mulitcolor lights that are in the projection TV have individual magnifying glasses (with housings) on them which you can also use for experimenting. The only thing keeping me from grabbing several things like that is that we live in a condo. If we had a house i would, Im sure much to my wifes dismay. I can only imagine what the wives and families of our greatest inventors had to go through in their time.

    if you get on YouTube at all, look at this video of someone with a projection TV lens.