Build A Solar Dehydrator

[Erik Knutzen] and [Kelly Coyne], authors of The Urban Homestead, are really into all things green and sustainable. In their blog, Homegrown Evolution, they discuss building their own solar dehydrator using plans from the February/March 1997 issue of Home Power Magazine. The dehydrator is designed by Appalachian State University’s Appropriate Technology Program. If interested, you can check out or buy other solar dehydrator designs. This seems like a great, cheap alternative to buying an expensive electric dehydrator, and you get some great advantages, like low-cost dehydrating, solar energy, and beef jerky whenever you want it. Plus, the authors point out, for most of these designs, if you remove the top box and you stick it next to a window, you’ve got a solar heater. It’s now a dual-purpose device.

18 thoughts on “Build A Solar Dehydrator

  1. It’s not really green unless you also cultivate whatever it is you’re dehydrating. Otherwise you’re just wasting massive amounts of energy having something refrigerated and rushed to you fresh that could have been dehydrated on site.

  2. @n256 .. they left the sides shiny to get more energy when sun is low. the middle section does not look dark enough. they coud have used black paint, or some dark borwn CuO based that is thermo-selective.

  3. inspid.melon, it’s people like you that will stop people from doing things that are better for the environment. Sure, it would be much better if you were raising your own cattle to make beef jerky from, but come on, how many of us have that kind of resource.. oh and a slaughterhouse on site. Come on. This is a step in the right direction. One step at a time, we can’t go 100% green overnight.

  4. Just to clarify (the picture isn’t very good), there is a black metal screen hanging in the box which collects the heat. Remember that for a dehydrator you don’t want too much heat or you will cook the food. It has worked well for several years now with home harvested tomatoes and figs. It’s a mystery to me why the issues of Home Power Magazine with these plans have disappeared off their website, but most city libraries should have back issues of this magazine (at least the Los Angeles library does). You can also build a cardboard version with plans off the build it solar website.

  5. I don’t know what we can tell ya bobob. :( You request “dont have to be exact,just some GENERAL stuff”, but the article contained plenty of information, to lead you where you could learn how to build a solar food dehydrator.

  6. @heem:

    What is the group of “people like me” who stop people from “doing things better for the environment”?

    If you want to help the environment you need to actually help the environment and not treat it as some kind of religion where everything done in your backyard is holy and everything done by a industry is of utmost evil.

    If you pay for fresh fruit to dehydrate then you’re paying for it to be refrigerated the whole way, possibly for expedited shipping (many berries go bad fast even with refrigeration), and for sending all that extra water weight. Whereas, if you simply buy dehydrated fruit in the first place, it can be sent at a grossly reduced weight and volume without refrigeration. Which means less wasted energy and less pollution.

    The point is that you have to use this correctly–for homegrown or local products. Otherwise you are *increasing* pollution and *wasting* energy. What is it, exactly, that you have against me making that observation? If your side of this argument is that everyone needs to remain ignorant of the exceptions so as not to interrupt others’ fairy tales, well, I don’t think I’m the one who is going to end up hindering progress.

  7. insipid:

    Why beat up this idea? It’s a good one. What part of it didn’t you like ? Maybe the fact that it wasn’t yours. If your going to be an extremeist, then be a real one. The fact that you are using a computer tells me that you are contributing to the problem by just having electricity. Not to mention a mass produced piece of plastic electronics equipment. I have lived where public utilities and industry don’t exist. I don’t think you are up to the task. Why do all liberals have to beat up on every decent idea that comes along ?

  8. While a good idea, the design is non original. Mother Earth News contained many solar designs back in the late 70’s, early 80’s before they were bought out by the big city guys. All the original issues have been released on CD-roms if anyone wants the original plans for all kinds of hackable ideas. The design as shown (with some tweaks) could be used as a solar collector to help heat ones home.

  9. It’s good to spread the word about how simple alternative technology can be, whether you grow your own produce or not (I do and right now I could use a dehydrator!) On a detail, I understand the purpose of having the dark mesh suspended in the foil lined collector to help heat the air. I suspect that if the sides and bottom were painted black, and preferably metal, so long as there is insulation around it the effect would be the same. Some might say, gray screen is less resource than insulation. Mebbe – but more trouble. Suggest isocyanurate with the silver foil, got to resist a good bit of heat.

  10. Insipid melon is right though. If you have fresh fruit rushed to you only to dehydrate you are wasting resources. Its not elitist, it makes sense. Maybe a farmers market type deal would better suffice isntead of the grocers if you cant grow it yourself.

  11. @original-green,
    I’m glad I’m not the only one that recognized the design. In fact, it looks EXACTLY like the one that Mother Earth demonstrated at the Eco-Village near Hendersonville, NC. As for the tweaks, MENS also had plans for a solar hot air heater designed to be installed in a window to use convectively heat air for the home.

  12. I like this and yes I saw this back in 75 in N Mexico when Solar was hot there. Actually it was the collector part.

    What I would like to know is how can I modify it so I can keep the temp below 105F.



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