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Solar Food Dehydrator

How to build your very own solar food dehydrator from scratch.

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A solar dehydrator is a great piece of low-cost, easy-to-build, and highly effective technology. It can be used for drying anything from fruits and vegetables to herbs and leaves or seeds or anything really very fast and using nothing but sunlight. There are many different designs out there, as you will know if you’ve done a quick search online already: some very simple and small, sporting just a black frame drying chamber with a glass front, others very complex and large. After doing some research, a number of reasons convinced Charlotte and me to build our dehydrator based on the design by Dennis Scanlin: We wanted a dehydrator that did not directly expose the food to the sun as to minimize nutrient-loss. The very simple dehydrators were thus not an option. We also looked into dehydrators with solar collectors made from recycled soft drink / beer cans and had already started collecting them at a party, but then decided against it because of the sheer amount of work it is to remove all the lids and bottoms from the cans. Finally, we wanted a dehydrator design that was already planned out for us by someone who had put some thought into it. If you read Dennis Scanlin’s building plan you can tell that he definitely has.

Illustration courtesy of Dennis Scanlin.

Scanlin’s design is good, not only because it produces a fabulous solar dehydrator, but also because it minimizes the amount of materials needed to build. Most of the required wood can be cut from a single plywood (multiplex) sheet. However, his plan is written for an American audience, using feet and inches, and assuming that you have access to an American DIY store. To save you the trouble of translating this excellent plan into something that can be used outside of the US, which is what we had to do, we decided to reproduce a condensed version of Dennis Scanlin’s solar dehydrator building plan in meters and centimeters and that is more flexible with regards to what materials you use and .

Necessary Materials

For the body

  • One thick (2cm [3/4 inch]) sheet of plywood (multiplex sheet), 244cm x 122cm
  • One thin (0.6cm [1/4 inch]) piece of plywood (multiplex sheet), 61cm x 200cm
  • 1 wood brace, 57cm x 10cm x 2cm
  • 6 wood braces, 57cm x 4cm x 2cm
  • 6 wood braces, 57cm x 2cm x 2cm
  • 2 wood planks, approx. 180cm x 10cm x 2cm
  • 1 sheet of fiber-reinforced plastic, 180 x 61cm
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil 200cm x 57cm
  • High temperature black spray paint
  • Insect screening (around 1 sq. meter)

For the drying chamber

  • Screening for the trays (wire netting or something similar), approx. 6 sq. meters
  • At least 20m of thin wood, approx. 1.5cm x 1.5cm

Screws, metal fittings, etc.

  • 2 sturdy wheels (wheelbarrow wheels are excellent)
  • One 90cm long steel axle (that matches your wheels)
  • 100 x 3cm flat head screws
  • 30 x 4cm flat head screws
  • 20 x 2.5cm round head screws
  • 8 x 5cm bolts, nuts, and washers
  • 2 strong hinges
  • 2 hook and eye fasteners
  • Lots of 0.6cm staples

Necessary Tools

  • Circular saw (or handsaw, if you have the energy)
  • 2 sawhorses or benches
  • Electric drill
  • Tape measure, protractor, long straightedge, and a framing square
  • Marking pencil
  • Staple gun
  • Wrenches
  • Pliers
  • Utility knife
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4 Responses to “Solar Food Dehydrator”

  • First off I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question that
    I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing.

    I’ve had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting
    my thoughts out there. I do enjoy writing however it just seems like
    the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any suggestions or hints? Thanks!

    • Hi Finley, thank you for your comment! I usually find that when I write about something I feel very confident or knowledgeable about the words just come by themselves. If you are struggling to organise your thoughts I recommend you write a brief outline with some bullet points that give you a loose structure on what you would like to write. You can then look back at your outline whenever you loose track.


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