Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Solar Food Dehydrator

There are many designs for solar food dehydrators and we decided to use the design by Eben Fodor in his book: The Solar Food Dryer.  Here is a website about this book.

There are a lot of steps to making this so I decided to not include the detailed instructions and pictures with each step.  If you are interested in the details and specific dimensions, borrow the book from your library (like we did) or purchase it.  We used an old window from when we had our windows replaced, so we modified the dimensions.  Our dryer is: 35.5" by 27.5"

Here's a breakdown of pricing:
4x8 sheet of birch plywood: $32.17  (we only used about half of it)
3 Food grade safe screens: $29.90 including shipping (purchased from the book's website)
Screws: $1.25
Hinges: $5.04
Sheet Metal: 11.78
Weatherstripping: $3.49
Wood for legs, shelves, etc: Free
Thermometer: Free
Window: Free

We wish all of the materials could have been reused from other projects, but we don't have large sheets of wood lying around.  Purchasing and transporting the wood was an adventure.  The plywood we purchased was FSC Certified and therefore cost $7.00 more than other non-FSC plywood which looked a lot nicer.  It was one of those moral dilemmas in the hardware store.  FSC means the wood came from responsibly managed forests.  Transporting this large sheet of plywood was quite the experience.  With the help of our cargo bicycle trailer, we propped the 4x8 sheet of plywood on it.  I walked behind the trailer holding the board steady, while Jon steered the bicycle.  We only had one mile to walk this thing---a brisk 15 minute walk with a lot of questionable stares from onlookers.  I planned to take a picture of our caravan, but it started to sprinkle the remaining .25 mile (of course!) so the wood went in the garage asap.  With only a '98 Honda Accord, we are creative in our transportation options.  We have yet to find a really good reason to have a truck or SUV.  A small car meets our needs; and when it doesn't, we use our bicycles and legs or borrow a truck.  (The benefits to living in the city.)

(Jon putting together the shelf supports.)

(The dehydrator almost finished...)

(Dehydrator finished!)

(Back door and heat vent open.)

(Close-up view of the inside.)

(If you click on the picture, it will enlarge.  The thermometer has a reading of 130 degrees which is quite warm considering there were some clouds in the sky and the outside temperature was only 75 degrees.  It only took 2 hours to reach this temperature.  In the picture, you can see the back vent completely open to help regulate the temperature inside the dehydrator.) 

(Attaching the screen to the frame.  The screen is food-grade safe.  I would recommend spending the extra money for these because you don't want plastic chemicals like BPA in your food.)

(Our first test was drying herbs.  In these two pictures, Oregano is drying.)

(This is a close-up of the metal clasps we used to secure the window and weatherstripping to the dehydrator frame.  These clasps were found in our "junk drawer" in the garage.  I think they were used to hang curtains?)


jenn merfee-t July 18, 2011 at 4:37 PM  

What an awesome home creation! I'd love to have one of these to dry fruits and other edibles. I love your use of refurbishing your existing materials to put this together. Now I am looking around my house to see how I can use materials in different ways, like my crib mattress frame as a trellis. I can't wait to hear more about your edible adventures with this dehydrator.

Jeff Trapani June 24, 2014 at 6:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Trapani June 24, 2014 at 6:01 PM  

How did this work for you? I was looking for updates, but I don't see many updates for those who made this model. I am planning to build this type myself.

Holly June 28, 2014 at 11:47 AM  

Hi Jeff,

The dehydrator works great! We use it every season. If we made another one, we would add another tray but we don't know if this would disrupt the drying process.


Manfred Taege September 7, 2017 at 3:10 AM  

Hallo Jeff,
With ionterest I have read your article about making the solar dryer. I'm just making a youtube Video about Solar dryer construction (Nigerian type with several vertical layers)for South Sudan. I have been working there as lecturer in fisheries.
Do you allow me to use one of your photos for just 2 seconds in my video when I explain the different types of Dryers?
Thank you very much for reply
Manfred Taege

Holly September 7, 2017 at 5:54 AM  


Yes, that is fine with me. Good luck!


Linda November 10, 2017 at 7:39 AM  


Are you still using a solar dehydrator? Did you try electric dehydrator anytime? If yes then which one you prefer and why?

Holly November 10, 2017 at 7:47 AM  

Hi Linda!

Yes, we are still using the solar dehydrator. For best results, we fill it as soon as the sun is up and when there are clear skies. Some days these two requirements aren't possible so we use the electric. One BIG negative with the electric dehydrator besides the obvious electricity use is the amount of heat it puts in the house. In the fall when drying apples, the additional heat can be nice, but in the middle of summer when it's humid, the added heat is wasted because the dehydrator stays outside.


About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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