Food Dehydrator Solar DIY

How to make your own Food Dehydrator using Solar Energy (the power of the sun)

Why build a Solar Food Dehydrator?

We built this solar food dryer because all of our harvests seem to come at the same time and we needed a way to perserve our food and seeds for later use. We must dry out seeds from our best fruits and vegetables to save for the next planting and it is hard to do that in our humid rain forest environment. But, we have the benefit of being close to the equator, 10 degrees above it to be exact, so the suns heat is very strong here. We had tried other types of dryers but the jungle mice, birds and bugs always seemed to find a way to eat everything we put in them. The door on this dryer is heavy enough to keep out the more crafty thieves and has just enough of a seal to keep out the bugs, while screened in vents help to promote air-flow.

Solar Food Dryer

Materials List:

Main Compartment

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.

Solar Food Dryer

Solar Dryer Construction

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.

Solar Food Dryer

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.

Solar food Dryer Upright

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.

Solar Food Dryer Vents

Paint the inside of the box black.

Solar Food Dryer Painting

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.

Clear Plastic Top of Dryer

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.

Legs Solar Food Dryer

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 attched to the chain and the box so that the angle can be changed if the box is sitting on un-even ground.

Solar Food Dryer Legs

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.

Screen Racks

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. The wife says to test tomatoes first and then you have sun dried tomatoes to add to your pasta.

Go to our DIY Outdoor Wood Oven


29 comments on “Food Dehydrator Solar DIY”

  1. Gianela Reply

    Hi I just found your post and I love it, I want to make it soon. I got a question about the drying racks… are they have to be made of metal screen or can work with black (tight and secure) raschel screen? (the plastic one). Thanks

    • Kimberly Beck Reply


      I use the metal screens because the squares are bigger. The plastic or fiberglass screens have very small openings and it’s easy for material to block it. There is less air flowing through if much of the screen gete blocked.

  2. Madelyn Barnes Reply

    Thanks for this great idea! I built a passive solar dehydrator out of an old wood chest and glass-front cabinet door. I still need to make racks though. I was wondering, how do you guys clean your wood/metal mesh screen racks between uses? Have you guys had any problems with rust forming after cleaning them? Thanks! -Madelyn

  3. Pabitra Reply

    Excellant guys! I want try this. If corrugated plastic is not available can we use just the plastic?

      • Pabitra Reply

        Thanks for the reply.So now if i have to use only the clear plastic for cover on top then i don’t need foam and wooden screws right? can i directly pin the plastic on wooden frame? or some other way?

  4. Pingback: 2 DIY Solar Dehydrators for Home Food Preservation | Off Grid World

  5. Colleen Reply

    What a great design! Does this dryer also work with fruits and vegetables?

  6. PhillipTMorley Reply

    Congratulations …. an excellent design + user friendly step by step methodology ……. what is the internal temperature range ideally to dry your produce? LovenLightnBlessings to you, PhillipTMorley

  7. Marianne Reply

    Great design! I had given up on passive solar designs as I live in a humid, buggy area, too. This has been added to my list of projects.

  8. nate Reply

    Nicely done Barry, hoping to see you guys in the next couple of months. Your site is my life-line! Always picks me up on these frigid overcast NY winter days.

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Nate – You had better come and see us. Any idea what month you will be visiting? Will it just be you and Eli or the whole family?
      We look forward to it.

  9. Casey Reply

    Excellent, easy to follow article. I wonder if a black piece of metal roofing would do as well (perhaps at a different orientation) as the clear roofing? I would think that would avoid any damaging effects from the sunlight. Thanks for the tips!

  10. Art Sulenski Reply

    That is well constructed. Here in the temperate tropics and saving seeds it becomes very necessary to have a good way to dry them. At 3,800 feet we have a small wood stove that we use to chase the chill in the mornings. It is in a small room we call the sunroom as its outside wall is mostly glass keeping our seeds in there a few days does the drying then they are placed in the freezer till needed. You have done well.

  11. carolyn tait Reply

    very cool! how about the solar oven – still planning to build one?

  12. Pingback: Making Raw Chocolate 10 Easy Steps|10 Degrees Above in Costa Rica

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