Free, Green, Solar Dehydrator




Why Dry: Preserve fresh fruit/vegetables/meat/fish/prepared food that is surplus to current needs,  and increase calorie density (reduce weight for transporting, backpacking, camping).
Why Solar/Green: Reduce carbon footprint
Why Free: Costco Kirkland Disney animal cracker container too nice to discard.  
Other leftovers used:
   - 30" of molding, mine was about 3/4" square
   - 7.5" x 18.5" piece of window screen
   - 4" diameter piece of window screen
   - glue, staples
   - (4) nuts and bolts, mine were 2"
   - scrap lumber, my pieces were 40" of 1/2"x3" and 5" of 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" recycled plastic.
Tools used:
   - hand saw, scissors, utility knife, tape measure, hand drill

Step 1: Remove Bottom

  1 - Cut out bottom of animal cracker container.

Step 2: Frame Pieces

  2 - Cut frame sides, my inside dimension was 6 5/8" square, I cut off corners so it would sit lower in the container.

Step 3: Assemble Frame

  3 - Assemble frame, gluing seemed easier than nails or screws.

Step 4: Stand

  4 - Attach container to stand. Bottom of container should be elevated to allow free entry of dry air.

Step 5: Attach Screen

  5 - Staple screen to frame. I placed some staples across frame joints to add mechanical hold to glue joints.  Screen wraps all away around so top screen supports product and bottom screen keeps insects away.

Step 6: Modify Cover

  6 - Ventilate cover with holes and screen.

Step 7: Place Frame in Container

  7 - Place screened frame in container.

Step 8: Dehydrate

  8 - Place food in screen.
  9 - Place dehydrator in sun.



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    18 Discussions


    Mira no quisiera echar a perder tu invento pero sabias ¿que con el calor el plastico bota un veneno? mejor que el frasco sea de vidrio! :D

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I don't want to spoil your invention, but did you know that when it is heated, plastic becomes toxic? It would be better if the container were made of glass.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure but maybe plastic canvas screen from a craft or hobby store would be preferable over window screen. I like this little portable dehydrator. Thanks for sharing.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable

    Combine with karalalala Granola Bars recipe !

    Could add an ant killing strip where the solar container is hung to prevent intruders

    I agree, glass seems better but might as well reuse these plastic containers as we head into the post-petroleum age!


    6 years ago on Step 8

    I think I might try this same principle with an unused aquarium I have. We have an electric dehydrator. But my wife fusses at me about electricity consumption whenever I use it. Think I'll try this and then finish off with the electric if needed.


    7 years ago on Step 2

    Hi, can I dehydrate meat, or fish using that ting? Wat abou the bacteria?

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Sounds like a great idea, I'm just concerned about using a plastic container for heating food. Maybe I can use an old glass container instead (like a pasta sauce jar)? What do you think.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    might work.
    My plastic dehydrator has open bottom and top, so it works like a chimney bringing in fresh air from bottom as air warms.
    Let me know how you progress.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi can this be done in the autumn or winter? I just found this Instuctable and it's now October. Looks fun! Cannot wait to try it! Thanks to all you smart people who share these things with we interested but not so talented folk lol.

    If you don't mind my asking, what are ants like in your area? Because I have a feeling they'd be swarming all over this here in Central Texas, and worse when we lived in Las Vegas.

    But if you live in an aggressive-ant area and they're not bothering with it, I'm interested in trying it out. I happen to have a half-full one of those Disney Costco cookie containers!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Kimberly,
    We have big ants and little ants. My dehydrator hangs from the patio roof and the ants haven't found it yet.
    Try it....lyle


    8 years ago on Step 8

    How long should this be left in the sun to thoroughly dehydrate the food?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

    It depends, where you are, what you are drying. We did some experiments 20 years ago about 80 degrees F, relative humidity 60% and it took 4 to 7 days to get our product from 50% moisture to 13%. Leaving it longer didn't reduce moisture. Shelf life increases as moisture is reduced. Lately I have been drying banana, pineapple and nectarine slices. Usually we start sampling at the end of the first day and all of the product is gone by the end of the third or fourth day.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment. Shelf life depends on moisture. So far I haven't been able to get too dry as the product has been lost to taste testing. Pineapple and banana dried one day tastes good, but it will probably take 4 or 5 days to extend shelf life to months. I'm hoping to eventually get to about 12% moisture.
    Two to 3% goal mentioned in following link is probably not possible here in Hawaii.