Solar Dehydrator Project Part 1
Earlier today (June 2, 2012) a buddy of mine and I were talking on the phone about long term food preps. Its one thing to plant a garden, harvest your crops, and have something to eat when the harvest is good. But what about when the garden is not producing, in-between seasons, or during the winter time?
The conversation turned to storing food. Once you harvest your crops, then what?
Pressure cooker are a viable option. For the “long” term you are going to have to stockpile a truckload of jars and extra seals for the jars. But lets not put all of our eggs in one basket.
Part of prepping for a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation, includes expanding our knowledge. There is the theory of survivalism, and then there is survivalism as an experience.
The purpose of this solar project to gain hands on, first hand experience. Its one thing to “talk” about building a solar dehydrator, its another thing to build and use a solar dehydrator.
After talking with my wife, and getting her opinion, we decided on a few things:
1 – The dehydrator will be built out of material we have at the house. The only thing we bought for the project was some clear plastic.
The purpose of only using material we already have was 1 – to save money, 2 – to see how a dehydrator could be made from basic building materials.
2 – My wife and I bought a couple of different types of fruit to test the dehydrator on: 2 peaches, 2 apples, strawberries and bananas.
On the first test we are going to do one of each type of fruit, just to see how it goes.
Building the Solar Dehydrator
Since the rules of the project require me to use scraps from previous projects, I decided to use a section of tin about 3 feet long for the bottom of the dehydrator. I had some pieces of tin left over from the roof of the chicken coop. So a scrap section of the chicken coop roof will be used for the dehydrator bottom.
1/2 inch square hardware cloth was nailed to 2 sections of treated 1×4 3 feet long.
The hardware cloth is to supposed to support the clear plastic. The hardware cloth was shaped into an arch so the moisture could build up on the plastic, and then drain to the side.
On each end of the 1x4s a section of 3/8 plywood was secured with 2 inch long screws. The plywood held the 1x4s upright and helped the hardware cloth hold its shape.
A section of left over chicken coop tin, grill and the frame were set on a round table.
The table was set in a section of the yard where I hoped it would get as much sunlight as possible.
Sunday morning (June 3, 2012) some strawberries, cantaloupe, squash, and an apple were sliced up and put on the grill at around 9:45 am. The top of the frame was covered with 0.7 mil clear plastic. An oven probe was used to measure the temperature inside the dehydrator. The probe was laid on the grill right along side the pieces of food.
After about 30 minutes, the temp inside the enclosure was 120 degrees.
At high noon, the probe said the temp was 145 degrees. So much moisture had collected on the inside of the plastic by noon, that reading the probe was difficult.
This is where I am able to report on the “exact” temp and what was happening inside the solar dehydrator, my wife and I, my step-daughter, son-in-law and two grand kids went to the camp. I was gone for about 4 – 5 hours. During that time I have no idea what the temperature was inside the dehydrator.
The results sucked. The fruit was not dried and still had moisture in the pieces. There was no way the pieces would have stored well, so they were thrown to the chickens.
Why did the results suck? I think the plastic held too much moisture in.
For part 2 of the project, I want to cover the frame with a screen instead of plastic. Screen will let the moisture out, and keep the bugs out as well.
If you learn something, is the experiment considered a failure? I learned that I can not build a frame, put some fruit inside of it, and everything is going to work fine.