Build a Solar Food Dehydrator

With a solar food dehydrator, you can use free energy from the sun to preserve your harvest.

| August/September 2006


Drying is an excellent method of food preservation that maintains a high level of flavor and nutrients in these tomatoes.

Eben Fodor

More and more people are recognizing the importance of food quality in their daily lives. The freshest, ripest, tastiest and most nutritious food comes from our own gardens or local farmers. But because these high quality fruits and vegetables are seasonal, you have access to them for only a few weeks or months each year.

What do you plan to eat the rest of the year? Will you rely on industrial foods grown by strangers from all over the world and shipped thousands of miles? With increasing interest in healthy eating, sustainable local food supplies and self-reliance, many people are discovering the benefits of a solar food dehydrator.

Solar food drying is more than a curiosity or hobby — it’s an ideal application for solar energy. Solar radiation passes through the clear glass top of a wooden dehydrator box, then the heat trapped by the box dries the food. The dehydrator also may have an absorber plate inside, which indirectly heats your food and creates a convection current of air that enters a vent at the bottom of the dryer (see image gallery). The cool, fresh air that enters the vent heats up, circulates through the dryer, then exits through a vent at the top. As your food dries, moisture is carried away with the hot air. But do solar food dryers work well? Are they practical? Yes, but first let me put this topic in the context of creating a healthy and sustainable food supply.

Eat in Season Year-round

Food preservation is the key to extending the summer’s precious bounty of locally grown produce throughout the year. If you’re like me, you would prefer a method that’s easier and requires less energy than canning.

Freezing is commonly viewed as the most convenient preservation method, but freezers require a constant source of electricity. Your food will be vulnerable to power outages and mechanical failures, and freezer burn will limit the storage life of most foods to about six months.

Drying is an excellent method of food preservation that maintains a high level of flavor and nutrients, while providing a convenient, compact, easy-to-store supply of your favorite produce. Electric food dryers work fine, but I don’t care for the constant noise, heat and odors they add to my house. Electric dryers also take away valuable counter space for weeks on end and can attract ants and other pests. The electricity to run them costs about a dollar a load. The convenience of electricity does not compare to the satisfaction of drying food with free solar energy.

12/5/2014 2:53:18 AM

Truly said..!! Solar food dehydrators are the best and ideal way to utilise solar energy along with the keeping the food healthy. However, for those like me who are lazy to utilize solar energy by keeping the food out in sun one of my friends suggested me that are the preeminent dehydrators in market which are available at compatible rate on

10/17/2014 9:39:48 AM ----- ----- -----

5/18/2014 2:59:07 PM

I have been a subscriber for DECADES but became so frustrated because of trouble finding this article I almost canceled my subscription. Latest magazine said there were free plans for the "solar food dehydrator" at Guess what, it comes back NOT FOUND. Then you want me to sign in so I try to sign in and I have a password that is a few years old. Guess what, "account with this email not found. I DO GET YOUR EMAILS WAY TO OFTEN. I also subscribe (Long time) to Countryside and to Grit but I almost canceled ALL. Sometimes I have a short fuse I guess.

12/10/2013 8:11:10 AM

Hello folks, Can any one tell me that is their any disign we have of solar dehydrators by CMOS logic gates through which we can study its working and make it efficient. Its urgent please reply fast.

8/17/2013 11:29:37 PM

I live in Florida and think most any design would work very well most of the year only in the coldest part of the winter would i need better designs to incorporate the most use of the sun? is this true I have been planning on making one for some time now and have a lot of finished oak boards i would think would work very well? any suggestions tips? thanks for the help

8/10/2013 5:16:29 AM



here is an easy to build solar  dryer

6/13/2013 11:37:20 PM

I was wondering is there a way to adapt your diy solar dehdrator to also funtion as a solar oven? Thanking you Amora

5/27/2013 9:42:17 AM

could you send me the plans to build a solar food deydrator too please. Thx

cleo castonguay
1/17/2013 10:01:45 PM

It would be nice to see the drawing and the plans...

larkin rakes
11/16/2011 5:04:39 PM

here in the Appalachians, we have not have had much ,but economic depressions. my people have always "sun dried' fruits and vegetables. it was very common to see the top of the front porches with apple slices, tomatoes, persimmons, etc. . Stings of beans hanging, called "leather britches". You would never hear anyone "squaling" (whining) about they didn't have the equipment to do it with. I knew several folks that would take a couple of screen doors off and lay them together to keep the bugs off till the food was dry enough. my mother-n-law would put homemade trays, or ones we would get from old refrigerators, in the window of a car (even an old one that didn't run anymore). Just put your little "scrounging" (recycling) caps on. there are several sources all around, like companies that do window replacements. You ought to see all the glass and screens they throw away every day, and most will give it to you for the asking. As mentioned before old refrig. racks, most communities have a repair company that has old frigs. that they just haul away for junk. kissmif, and good luck

cecil cooper
7/4/2011 10:40:11 PM

Are the plans available for free or not? It seems to me that if they are you could simply put a download button and if they cost then tell us what the price is.

cindy conner
5/31/2011 7:56:30 AM

I have built the solar food dryer from Eban Fodor's book The Solar Food Dryer and I'm able to dry food in humid Virginia. Every community has a library. If that book isn't there, request that they get it for you, and they will. I've written about my experiences so far with solar food dryers, including the slight changes I did, at

9/11/2009 8:08:11 AM

I've been thinking that my slow cooker would make a simple, small dehydrator somehow, since it maintains a steady 125 degrees Fahrenheit temp on the "warm" setting.

8/14/2009 11:47:29 AM

Here are more solar dehydrator plans: And I know this isn't solar, but it's from Alton Brown, so worth taking a look:

ryan _1
7/12/2008 4:04:23 PM

Like so many things nowdays the price has got to be right. This article leads you to believe that there are some plans to build the solar dehydrater , but NOT. The person who wrote this article has used up the dictionary to say what could have been said in 3 sentences. Anyone who reads Mother Earth has the basic knowledge of dehydration , and does not need to read this overworded article. You have got to be kidding about the price of knowledge of solar . You say that the ones on the net are made out of cardboard , well in these times it might just be all we can afford. I will find a solar dehydrater on the net and I will not have to buy your overrated missle to do it.

7/7/2008 4:10:53 PM

Just doing a simple google search turned up several free plans for solar food dehydrators for those of us that are um, frugal. Here area a couple links that I was able to find: Enjoy!

7/5/2008 3:25:48 PM

As with the others before me, is it possible to get a design for a solar dehydrator. I am on an incredibly tight budget right now, as alot of us are and am not able to buy the book. So if you cold send me a design, that would be terrific. Thanks much-kerina

7/2/2008 1:25:36 PM

Hello, Wondering how much nutrient loss is due to food exposure to the sun? I guess for years we have dryed our food over standard light bulbs so it shouldn't be any worse. Still, it seems like the "cardboard box" design done with wood and glass would be more efficient and a better design. For one, you could use a larger piece of glass without having to make your drying racks bigger and two, you could use a piece of glass that is already cut but may not be the exact demensions of your rack's/box. Lastly, it would be a pretty easy retrofit of an old lightbulb style box. Just build a box a couple inches deep with glass on the front and some kind of heat sink in the back with vents on top and bottom and line up the top vents with vents in the bottom of your dehydrator. This article may not have had any usefull info in it, but at least it got me thinking... Thanks, travis

12/16/2007 6:44:48 PM

I'm a peace corps volunteer in el salvador and think my community could really benefit from solar food drying. Can you email me a design?

9/9/2007 2:46:47 PM

need diagram on how to construct one. Mother Responds: The ilustrations for the dehydrator are in the Image Gallery at the top right of the article, under "Related." Also, see an earlier comment above regarding the author's web site.

7/11/2007 9:45:27 AM

Please let me know cost of plans and I will remit immediately. I would like to build this solar dryer and demonstrate it to my preparedness group. Thank you Terry Powers   Mother Responds: the illustrations for a solar dryer are in the Image Gallery, to the top right of the article, under "Related." To build this exact dryer, you will need to view the author's book.

4/13/2007 8:31:58 AM

The plans are available on the author's website:

3/28/2007 7:45:17 AM

I would also like a design for the solar food dehydrator. Will you send me one.

3/7/2007 3:39:00 PM

could send me a design thank you

3/6/2007 6:47:05 AM

I've got to build a simple dryer for a school project. Could you please send me a design urgently

3/2/2007 12:32:50 PM

I've got to build a simple dryer for a school project could you please send me a desgin urgently

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!