Friday, March 28, 2008
The Solar Dehydrator!
I made a solar food dehydrator so I could dry the extra food I grow. This way I will have some home grown food during the heat of summer when the heat is too overwhelming to grow much in Phoenix. The best part is that not only is it free to operate, it was nearly free to build! I based it off a plan in The Solar Food Dryer by Eben Fodor which I borrowed from the library. The materials were nearly all things I already had -- hardware, casters, glass, metal and wood. All of the wood was scrap that I had laying around the studio, the main box part is made from birch that I normally would use for paintings, but these pieces had various flaws that made them not appropriate for art.
I wanted to keep the Rachel-Dehyrator9000 plastic-free so I decided that stainless steel would be the best material for the food screens... I couldn't figure out why the book would suggest using plastic screening. After a lot of searching I finally found a warehouse that carried stainless mesh so I went down there and was escorted (after putting on a hard hat and glasses) to pick out my mesh. I found it exactly what I was looking for and then learned it would be $55 for 8 square feet! Now I know why people are choosing plastic. Lucky for me, they were kind enough to get some perforated stainless out of their scrap bins, cut it down and give it to me for free. :)
So here are my total costs to build the dehydrator:
2 hinges- $2.39
Friction hinge- $2.79
Total Cost: $9.97 plus tax.
My first use on an 80 degree day, the internal air temperature got to 160 degrees with the vent door partially opened. I've been leaving the food out from 10am until about 4pm but I think it is ready to come in after about 4 hours. I expect to be able to run 2 batches a day during the summer. Which I think may even be faster than an electric dehydrator. Hooray for self sufficiency and sticking it to The Man!
4 organic bananas: $1.16
One of the trays loaded up (2 bananas worth)
In the dehydrator
Banana chips! (after I ate a bunch) :)