Buying dried fruit in Zambia often comes with a hefty price tag. Is the process of removing moisture before food begins to decompose really that hectic?
Is it that labour intensive and time consuming? Only the first time. That’s because you have to build your own dehydrator. But don’t fear cause today, I’ll show you how.
Building your solar dehydrator
You’ll need to have some carpentry skills. Or you can use this guide to brief your carpenter.
40 – 1 1/2″ Wood Screws
40 – 2 1/2″ Wood Screws
Handful of Nails
4 ‘ of Metal Screen (Food Safe Screen is Optional)
2 – Small Hinges
1 – 2′ x 3′ piece of Clear Plastic or Glass
1 – Piece Foam if you use a corrugated plastic panel
40′ of 2×2 Wood
16’ of 1/2″ x 8″ Wood, Metal, Concrete Board, Pressed Board (Choose one)
Water-based Black Paint
1 – 9′ Metal or Wooden Post
8 – Corks from Wine Bottles
1 – 4′ of 1″ Link Chain
10 – 1/4″ Bolts
Construction of Your Solar Food Dehydrator
The first step is to build 3 simple frames of the same size that stack on top of one another using your 2′ X 2′ pieces of wood and the 2 1/2″ wood screws. Make pilot holes to make sure wood frame doesn’t split.
Take 2 of those frames and install 4 spacers (8″ long), one at each corner, creating a box 1′ x 2’x 3′. Then add 4 additional spacers at top and bottom of box for a 4″ X 8″ opening that will serve as the vents.
Find a level surface and rest the box upright at a 45 degree angle. Use a level to draw horizontal lines where your first spacer/shelf supports will be. Use an angle guide to install 4 shelf supports on each side, evenly spaced and matching up with each other. This is what will eventually support the drying racks.
Cover the back and sides of your box with wood, metal or whatever other material you have to close the box in. I used a metal back and wooden sides because I had some extra scrap metal. Put screen in the vent holes on the top and bottom of the box using staples. This will promote air flow and drying and what distinguishes this solar food dryer from a solar cooker or heater.
Paint the inside of the box black.
Install clear plastic or glass on your 1 leftover frame. I found the cheapest and most durable option was clear corrugated plastic roofing material. Use some foam and screws to fasten down the clear plastic to the frame and block any large holes that any critters might enter into looking for a nice warm snack. BE CERTAIN to drill pilot holes so the plastic does not crack. If using a glass panel, you must inlay into the frame or use molding of your own devising.
Use small hinges to fasten the door frame to the top of the box.
Make legs to support your dryer
I made mine out of some metal with cork stoppers as feet so that I could sit the legs in water (bowls, cans, etc.) if I ever had ants trying to get my food.I fastened the two 16″ short legs to the front sides and two 3′ long legs to the back sides of the box using the 1/4 ” bolts so that the box sits at a 45 degree angle and captures the maximum amount of sunlight. The front legs are fastened securely in place while the back legs are attached to the chain and the box so that the angle can be changed if the box is sitting on uneven ground.
Making the Drying Racks
Measure the inside of your box (depending on the material you used for the sides this could be different for each) then rip 1 x 1 pieces out of the 2 x 2’s and make 4 small wood frames using 1 1/2″ screws that fit on your angled shelf supports. Staple screen to bottom of frames securely. Place the frames inside the box using shelf supports. My top shelf needed adjustments because it hit the back of the box. I shaved 1″ off to make it fit.
If food drips it is a good idea to line bottom of dryer with cardboard, old christmas wrapping paper, etc.Drying times are based on the types of food and length of time in sun.