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default Build a Solar Food Dehydrator

Post by Adrian on 10th April 2010, 12:57 pm

I have been searching for a design for months, especially one that I can build with my limited carpentry skills.

I have come across some designs and thought that a thread/discussion would be appropriate so we can share designs/thoughts and experiences.

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default Re: Build a Solar Food Dehydrator

Post by Adrian on 10th April 2010, 1:02 pm


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Post by Mike on 10th April 2010, 2:19 pm

I'd say design of a solar food dehydrator definitely climate related.

Badger, I'd consider that design good for the basic dehydrator box itself.

When good drying weather limited I'd try to add to that basic design to speed drying during limited windows of oportunity and to increase effectiveness on marginal days. Consider adding.....

1) A "stack" instead of simply vents at the top. Even a meter or two should greatly increase the air flow.
2) A collector at the bottom. In other words, don't count on just the sun heating the limited surface area of the box. Add a "manifold" below the box (extend the box downward beow the trays say a 1/4 to 1/2 meter) and into holes in sides of this manifold insert length of balck plastic drain pipe. I've though about this some, and flexible 10 -15 cm sort perhaps easiest to manage when mowing around the device as can remove or at least bend out of the way. But four such "pipes" extending out a few meters ought to collect a fair solar energy heating the air as it flows through them, then through the box, and finally out the stack.

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Post by Adrian on 10th April 2010, 2:21 pm

I think I understand what you mean Mike - do you have any illustrations to help this bear of little brain?

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Post by Compostwoman on 10th April 2010, 6:16 pm

Ooo there was a really good design in the late, much missed Organic Gardening magazine a few years back..I will see if I can find it and post up the instructions
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Post by Wilhelm Von Rhomboid on 10th April 2010, 6:52 pm

The best ones I have seen have a reflective panel in front and rocks in the bottom to absorb the solar heat and release it again - thus increasing the efficiency.

Personally I would just get a 9 drawer Excalibur and have done with it.

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default Re: Build a Solar Food Dehydrator

Post by Mike on 10th April 2010, 7:04 pm

No, haven't drawn plans. I was figuring using one of the existing plans for the box with trays part and you already have a source for that. Modify ............

a) Extend box a small distance more above the top tray and extend another 1/4 meter of so below.

b) Cut a hole in the top say 10 cm square. Around that make a "spout" sticking up (four short lengths of say 1x4 or 1x6) well screwed to the top and sized to fit just inside -- not too snug but not loose either .......
Stack composed of four pieces of say 1x6 fastened to be a pipe, top cut off diagonally with pirce of 1x8 over for a slanted cap and of course an opening on the high side.

The idea being that the this stack easily taken off if a high wind strom expected. Saves needing guy lines.

c) The bottom having holes just the right size to insert the drain pipe you will be using. Holes not quite at the bottom because ........ I'd want to bolt to the front a length of 2x4 extendign both left and right and then to one side going back a length about half that long extending back. Keep the box from blowing over. Into these holes insert say 2-3 meter lengths of that balck plastic drain pipe -- 10 cm big enough. Just needs to be a slip fit in. Idea is just pull the pipes when you need to mow around the device.

Sun shines on black pipe heating air within. Once some has drifted up throuhg the box and into the stack the air from bast to top of stack being leighter than outside air a flow will establish.

Note -- I have seen ths sort of design with a much more elaborate "flat plate" collector box instead. Struck me as overkill, but if you have some old window sash lying around ......

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Post by WoodTrol on 12th April 2010, 9:06 pm

We have been looking at building one for several years. As you need to maintain 50degC night and day we are still looking. We can do 50 easily on a hot day but maintaining it at night - guarenteed is what bothers me.

I agree with Mike with extending the solar gain catcher definately below the food trays as the heat rises. I would also angle the glass so that it is at right angles to your mid day sun. Or be really clever and have one part pertendicular to the morning sun! :scratch:

I also agree with the idea of rocks or bricks as heat storage for the night in the base of the housing. Taking the bricks out in the morning so that the early sun warms the food not the bricks.

I don't like the idea of the stove as it will smell and taint the food.
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default Re: Build a Solar Food Dehydrator

Post by Mike on 13th April 2010, 1:07 pm

Keeping the temperature up day and night will speed the drying process but may be more than what is absolutely necessary.

I could possibly be wrong about this, but I belive the dehydrator would be effective as long as the night temperature stayed above the dewpoint temperature of the night air and would even do a bit of drying as long as the air temperature in the device was even a bit warmer than the night air (both above the dewpoint teperature). So it's not that much heat storage absolutely needed.

And could serve a dual purpose in the design. I was thinking about designs that used "legs" to stabilize the device, but a largish bas section filled with an open lattice of bricks, stacked rock, etc. would probably have enough weight at the bottom to keep the device from blowing over.

I wouldn't bother removing the bricks in the morning. The effect of the thermal mass is to shift (spread out) the heat over a longer time. Yes slower to heat up and begin drying action in the morning but continuing well into the evening -- what you lose on the curves you gain on the straighaways.

Yes angling the collector increases its efficiency but you need to think of the device as a whole. A horizontal collector might need to be bigger but its "high end" is lower to the ground where it delivers heated air to the dehydrator so the stack effect is greater. Air flow if key. You get better drying action from a large volume of air heated to just above the temeprature needed to absorb moisture from the food than from stangnent air at a much higher temperature.

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Post by Hairyloon on 18th June 2010, 12:42 am

I discovered quite by accident a very effective solar dehydrator when I found a bunch of raisins on the seat of my car. :?
Have been meaning ever since to do some experimentation.
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Post by Chilli-head on 18th June 2010, 11:20 am

Ah ! alternative uses for the automobile Build a Solar Food Dehydrator Icon_biggrin Years ago I was owner of a Ford Escort that had passed the end of its useful life as a means of transport, but the scrap price was so low that I would have to pay money to get it taken away. It occured to me that if I took out the back seat (one self tapping screw !), a growbag would fit nicely, and two or three bush tomatoes could have grown quite happily in there. The neighbours might not have liked it though ...
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