Building a Solar Dryer

Build a solar dryer that you actually want to use, make sure that it is not too heavy and is pretty convenient to set up.

| June 2018

  • solar-dryer
    The best design will be ready to go when you are. It should be fairly light, easy to transport and have little or no setup time. And it should be compact and easy to store, either outside or in a garage or garden shed.
  • solar-dryer
    “The Solar Food Dryer” by Eben Foder, will help readers to build and use a solar dryer.
    Courtesy of New Society Publishers

  • solar-dryer
  • solar-dryer

The Solar Food Dryer by Eben Foder will teach readers a new way of cooking and baking foods using a solar dryer. Learn to build a solar dryer to fit specific needs, follow the guidelines Foder provides. Find new and exciting recipes that can be used with a solar dryer. Find this excerpt in Chapter 3, “How Big a Dryer Do I Need?”

Portability, Capacity and Size

A major consideration in the design of a solar food dryer is the convenience factor. If your dryer is not easy to use, you may find that you’re simply not using it very much. There are probably a few old, homemade solar dryers sitting in storage that aren’t getting used because they are just too big and heavy to move, or too much trouble to set up. The best design will be ready to go when you are. It should be fairly light, easy to transport and have little or no setup time. And it should be compact and easy to store, either outside or in a garage or garden shed. I leave mine outside and just put a tarp over it when I know I won’t be using it for a while. It may sound appealing to build a dryer with a huge capacity. But a bigger capacity equals bulkier size, more weight, and extra cost. Don’t overbuild your dryer or you risk ending up with an unused piece of “yard art.” Consider how much food you are likely to have on hand at one time and how much time you want to spend preparing and loading the food. The 6-pound capacity of the SunWorks SFD is plenty for most home users. Processing and loading 6 pounds of tomatoes or apples takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Twelve pounds would take twice as long. Since you can dry a new load of food every two days, consider how much food your garden will produce in two days as a measure of how much capacity you might need. If you find that you don’t have enough capacity in your dryer, having a second dryer may be the best way to go.


To produce a quality food dryer, you’ll want to select materials that will hold up well in the outdoor environment. Any wood that contacts the ground (like the dryer legs) should be rot resistant, like cedar. Treated wood should not be used in any area that has contact with food, or that may come in contact with your hands during loading and unloading of the dryer. Untreated pine, hemlock or fir wood will last for many years outdoors, as long as it’s not in contact with the ground. Exterior-grade plywood is an excellent material for making a sturdy, lightweight cabinet.

The two materials of particular interest in the solar food dryer are the glazing and the food screens.


Any clear or translucent material that transmits a high percentage of solar radiation is a candidate for solar food dryer glazing. Listed below are some of the possibilities.

Glass is one of the best solar glazing materials. A single pane of clear window glass transmits 86 to 92 percent of incident solar radiation, and filters out most of the higher frequency UV radiation. One of the best features of glass is that it’s easy to clean and does not tend to get scratched. It holds up well outdoors, does not yellow or become hazy and can last indefinitely, if not broken. It’s also readily available at most hardware stores and is about the lowest-cost material that can be used for a durable application like a dryer. On the down side, glass is brittle and can break fairly easily.

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