Monday, June 23, 2014

A Slow Cooker on Solar Power

This is not going to be some sort of fancy post about a "solar" cooker with mirrors or foil or glass or anything like that.  As simple and effective as they may be, I was more interested in something that would simplify our life, rather than complicate it.

Cookers of the solar type are generally home-built, something I wasn't all that keen to entertain at the moment, and I feel that they lose their power to keep food safely and consistently heated when a cloud passes overhead.

At the same time, I had noted that our charge controller has a habit of tapering off the amps going into the batteries shortly after peak output, as they take on more and more electrons.  This notably resulted in the solar system spending large portions of the day ignoring loads of potential energy.  We generally have been using that up by doing laundry on sunny days, and pumping water, and things of that nature.

After awhile I began to wonder about other loads that might be utilized during these times of overabundance of power.  Enter the humble slow cooker...

Research online revealed a great range of possible wattages, but the enticing price and overall hint of energy savings finally gave me incentive enough to at least try it and see.

I ordered one of the smallest ones I could find, while still feeling that it would have the capacity to cover the three of us, plus occasional guests.  I ended up with a 2.5quart model with a simple off/low/high range.

In practice, it has been really a great addition to our household and has so far this spring and summer earned a position in our pantry.

On low it seems to draw about 10 amps from our 12V battery bank, and on high I would say closer to 16 or 17.  This means that it is very realistic and not at all nerve-wracking to plug it in even at 11 or 12 on a sunny morning and already it won't be drawing down the battery bank.  We often turn it on high for the first hour or two before switching it to low to continue cooking our evening meal.

It also means that it doesn't heat up the cabin as much as starting some sort of fire would do at the end of the day.

One of our favourite meals has been to simply throw in a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs with a large helping of barbeque sauce and enjoy this on some buns with a side salad.

Here is my attempt today at turkey burrito mix - it was a "mixed" success though - I added a bit of water to make sure it didn't dry out, but instead, it turned into a burrito slurry.  Worked okay, but soaked through the tortillas right away.



You can see that in spite of it being set on high, my battery bank was charging just fine.


Donna has become a wizard at making different casseroles, and one that I could have over and over again is her perogie one.  Each one has been different, first with chicken and gravy added, then with ham and asparagus, and lately with sliced sausage.

I am so blessed to have Donna here, enduring one scheme or experiment after another, and making the good ones actually work and be enjoyable.  Her commitment to keeping Kenny and me healthy, grounded and happy never fails, even at the expense of her own needs at times.  I am constantly amazed at the good fortune I have had to find her, and often find myself questioning if I really deserve someone so great.  Homesteading really requires an exceptional spouse and Donna is one of a kind!

Speaking of which, one of my friends from Aikido just told me that they were getting married this fall.  I'm very happy for them, they were such a great training partner and exhibited a wonderful spirit on and off the mat, and their future spouse will be very lucky to have them in their life!  Best wishes!

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