Eben’s Solar Food Drying Blog — Summer 2012

What’s the Best Solar Food Dryer Design?

People who are interested in solar food drying often tend to go to the Internet and search for free plans. This makes good sense, except for one thing: any good solar food dryer is going to take time to build and it will cost $150 to $400 for the materials to build a household-sized dryer. Do you want to make this kind of investment in a dryer that may not work all that well, or doesn’t meet your needs, and ends up being rarely used?

It takes a lot of features to make a good solar food dryer that works well and is a pleasure to use. Before building a dryer with free plans from the Internet, take the time to think about the features you want. Use my checklist below to help determine which features you need to best meet your needs.

Solar Food Dryer Feature Checklist

  • Adjustable venting for control of airflow and drying temperature
  • Easy food loading, unloading, and cleaning
  • Easy to set up and put away (with little or no assembly)
  • Relatively compact and lightweight for portability and storage
  • Adequate food-drying capacity for your home garden
  • Weather-resistant enclosure to keep your food dry in the event of rain
  • Sturdy and pest proof with all vent openings screened
  • Food screens made from durable, non-stick, food-safe material
  • Designed for a long life of outdoor operation
  • Ability to add electric backup heating, if desired
  • Tested and proven with satisfied users

Implicit in these criteria is that the dryer makes efficient use of solar energy to get your food dry quickly. Some designs allow the solar-heated air to leave the dryer without even coming near the food. While almost any design will work adequately in a hot, sunny, arid climate, other climates will require an effective design.

And, of course, you will want the cost and effort to be within your budget.

If you’re getting started in solar food drying, my suggestion is not to rely on free Internet plans. For a mere $10 you can get my book, The Solar Food Dryer, which is a great reference on solar drying with descriptions of all the better designs and 25 pages of detailed plans for building the SunWorks dryer. You can also order the complete SunWorks SFD Kit and have everything you need shipped to you ready to assemble. The SunWorks SFD is designed for at least a 10-year life and meets all the criteria above.

Happy solar drying!

Copyright ©2012 by Eben Fodor

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