Solar Food Dehydrator Plans
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Solar Food Dehydrator Plans

Using a solar food dehydrator is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables. There are DIY plans online for building several kinds of solar food dehydrators, from small and simple to large-scale models that require some carpentry skills.

One easy, economical way to preserve vegetables and fruit is drying. Food dehydrators remove most of the water content from food so it doesn’t decompose or get moldy. Electric food dehydrators are easy to use and can be fairly cheap, but it can be even more economical—and ecologically friendly—to use a plan and make your own solar food dehydrator. DIY plans for building solar food dehydrators have been available since the 1970s, and currently there are many plans on the Internet.

Finding the Right DIY Solar Dehydrator Plan

An online search for solar food dehydrator plans brings up a range of ideas and models, from the simplest food dehydrator made from two cardboard boxes to a 16-foot-long solar drying tunnel. Which plan is the best? That depends on several factors:

  • How much food do you plan on drying?
  • Are you handy with a hammer, saw, and other tools?
  • How much are you willing to spend on materials?
  • What are the climate conditions in your area—humid and cloudy, or hot and dry?

Keep these questions in mind as you look at the plans listed below. You may want to begin by experimenting with the J.R. Whipple cardboard dehydrator and then construct something more permanent and efficient. Once you understand any of the plans listed below, you can modify the size and use any materials (bought or scavenged at the dump), as long as these materials are safe.

Solar Food Dehydrator Basics

A solar food dehydrator works by continuously circulating warm, dry air around sliced fruit or vegetables, causing the liquid content to evaporate. You don’t want to cook your food, but, rather, slowly and steadily dry it out. Therefore, all good solar dehydrator plans must include:

  • Steady inflow of air
  • Accessing sunlight to heat the air
  • Trays that allow air circulation around food
  • Ventilation so moisture can escape

The goal is to dry your fruits or vegetables within 1 to 3 days; herbs may dry more quickly. Food that takes longer to dry may end up getting moldy. Make sure that your solar dehydrator is insect-proof by using screens at all vents and openings. Do not use chemically treated lumber or black paint that might release noxious fumes into the drying container. Food should be laid out to dry on a “food-safe” surface, such as stainless steel or a polypropylene screen.

Solar Dehydrator Plans—Simple to Serious

J.R. Whipple solar dryer:

This is a plan for a basic solar food dehydrator made from two cardboard boxes, some tape, some clear plastic wrap, and a black plastic bag. The same plan can be constructed from wood, glass, and mesh screening.


This site gives clear instructions for building a large, flat solar food dehydrator (the model is 12 feet by 4 feet). Corrugated steel roofing material underneath the drying trays gives additional air circulation that supposedly makes this model useful in more humid climates. There is a lot of useful information about the process of preserving food by drying and a clear materials list.

Solar drying tunnel:

This site offers an extremely detailed plan for building a solar dehydrator with a retractable plastic covering that can be tilted to maximize sun exposure.

Maine Solar Primer:

This plan shows a design for a large scale solar dehydrator, with vents that can be adjusted differently for drying herbs or fruits and vegetables. Familiarity with reading construction plans is necessary and materials needed include plywood, black metal plate, glass, and insulation.


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