Dehydration is a method of food preservation that inhibits the growth of microorganisms by removing water from the food, allowing perishable foods to be stored for an extended period of time.
Drying food has several advantages over other preservation methods. For one, dried foods usually take up much less space than canned foods or foods bound for the freezer. Also, drying is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest methods of preparing food for storage.
There are several ways to dehydrate foods, the most common being electric food dryers that come with stackable trays. While these are handy, why not save the electricity by taking advantage of the sun to dry food for free?
DIY solar dehydrators for drying food
If you do a search for DIY solar food dehydrators, you’ll see that there are many, many different options out there, from large, refrigerator-sized versions to small, pizza-box-sized food dryers. You’ll even find people drying food in trays on the dashboard of their car in hot weather.
If you’re looking for a mid-sized, standalone solar food dehydrator you can build yourself, the projects below are just for you. We’ve found two DIY solar dehydrators that are not huge, but spacious enough to dry plenty of food. Both versions include full sets of detailed plans and materials lists.
This first DIY solar food dehydrator was made entirely out of reclaimed materials: scrap plywood, 2x4s from an old ladder, a house window, and other items that would otherwise have been thrown away. It has heat-absorbent material on the shelves and screened vents for airflow.
You can find the plans and materials list for this food dryer on Instructables.
The second dehydrator project is from Home Depot’s garden project ideas. It’s larger than the first one but is a fairly simple setup that most DIYers should be able to tackle pretty easily. The materials list and step-by-step instructions can be found here.
Since the time of this writing, we found another DIY solar powered food dehydrator with free plans that you can see here. All of these DIY dehydrators will dry much more food at once than the traditional, electric countertop dehydrators, and after the cost of materials, you will have a way to dry food for free year after year! If you use as many reclaimed materials as possible, your initial cost could involve nothing more than your time.