Monday, April 23, 2012

Solar Dehydrators

Ok, most of us are using electric dehydrators.  Many of us are stocking up for an emergency. Some of us seriously believe that at some point in time the grid may break down for an extended period of time, or possibly even permanently.

Not so sure about that? It can’t possibly happen?   

Take a look at Japan right now.
They are dependent on nuclear power, but millions of people are without power and who knows how long it will be before they will get power. So far, I haven’t seen much about alternative power, or restoring power from their other power plants to the affected area.

Their nuclear generator in Fukushima is a gonner.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that something of this nature couldn’t happen here. Your area might not be served with nuclear power, but other systems already in place are not invulnerable. It’s what we don’t think of that is the danger.

That being said, let’s talk about solar dehydrators.  Until the advent of electricity, solar power was the only way to get your food dehydrated. Since the dawn of time, that’s the method used.

People either laid their produce and meats out on a blanket or large flat rock, hung them from branches in a bush or from poles suspended near a fire.

There were, however, some problems. The main one being various forms of contamination.  And of course, lack of sunlight and possible inclement weather. Without plenty of sunlight, it just won’t work.
Everyone has different requirements in a dehydrator. It will depend on your available sunlight, ambient humidity, and possibly the quality of the air where you live. Personally, if I lived in a highly polluted area, I would think twice about exposing my food to it.

Here in Wyoming, we have plenty of sunlight, so a solar unit should do well.  I must confess, in my dinky kitchen, it would be nice to free up a substantial part of my counter space by dehydrating outside when the weather is right.  But for me, I need something relatively portable and compact that a crippled old woman can manage. Additionally, there is the need to store it away when we are arse deep in snow! Another factor for me is the frequent high winds. There is almost always a strong wind here, so I would need something that won’t topple in the breeze.

 Remember, what is suitable for you may not be suitable for someone else’s needs. So think carefully if you decide to invest in making a solar dehydrator. 

So what do you need in a solar dehydrator?  Seems to me it requires several things.

  1. compact and portable so you can keep it facing the sun as the day progresses
  2. some method of concentrating the sunlight and increasing the temperature
  3. easy access to put food in and take food out
  4. thermometer
  5. painted flat black to absorb heat
  6. hot box where food is placed for drying
  7. collector – unit for collecting and absorbing heat, it creates convection to blow warm air over the food racked in hot box (see the long rectangular boxes on some of the designs)
  8. weather resistant, keeps food dry in the event of a sudden rain
  9. durable for a long life outdoors
  10. pest proof with all openings screened against vermin and insects
  11. venting to allow moist air to escape
  12. dries food quickly and on par with electric units

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