The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Best do it yourself solar dryer design

best solar dryer design image

close up of best solar dryer design

This seems to be the best do it yourself solar dryer design out there.

You can thank the good folks of Appalachian State University for the design and testing.

We plan on building one in anticipation of our upcoming tomato harvest.

ASU has put this thing through many testing situations with documented data available as a PDF download.

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

Yes, I also have had my eye on this design. I don't think I would be able to have mine built by harvest time, but I do think I would be able to have it built by next summer. So many projects, so little time.
Comment by zimmy Sat Jul 17 20:49:26 2010
I don't think Mark's going to stick precisely to the design, so you'll get to see how our experiments pan out before you try your own.
Comment by anna Sat Jul 17 21:08:14 2010

Now that is some nice design! Simple and elegant. It should scale well too; double the width, double the capacity.

Based on the paper, I'd say you might want to experiment with the amount of racks that you stack vertically wrt the size of the solar collector. I'd say it would be good to oversize the solar collector a bit; it's easier to mask off a piece of the collector than it it is to extend it. Of course you can always vary the amount of racks used.

Instead of the sliding doors on top, why not make the roof somewhat steeper and hinge the halves on top? That way you could easily create a variable opening. Of course you'd need to think about preventing rain from entering...

I'm not sure what the value of the recirculation feature would be without a dryer. Once the air inside is saturated with moisture, it won't pick up any more.

OTOH, if you built a radiator cooled with water colder than the environment in the top of the return channel, you might get better drying [the radiator would cool the air to a lower temperature than the environment which would make the moisture in the air condensate, which you can then run off] and a higher thermal efficiency, because of the increased temperature difference between the hot and cold reservoir. Does this make sense or am I being too technical?

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Jul 18 06:35:11 2010

Good idea about oversizing the collector and then just masking off some if necessary. Drying can be tricky around here because if you don't dry fast enough, it's so humid that food molds fast.

I'm not quite sure I follow you on the radiator, though....

Comment by anna Sun Jul 18 16:38:33 2010

With a radiator cooled by water that is significantly cooler than the environment (technically, cooler than the dew point, you might be able to de-humidify the air circulating in the dryer to a point where it has a lower humidity than the outside air. Cooling the air would also make it sink faster, improving circulation.

If and how well this works depends in a lot of things;

  • air temperature in the dring cabinet
  • temperature of the cooling water.
  • size and surface area of the radiator.

Look at the humidity diagram in the dew point article. If the air at the top of the dryer is 35 °C with 90% relative humidity (find the point in the diagram where 35 °C and 90% R.H intersect), and then let that flow over a 15 °C radiator (so you're going left in the diagram), you'll see that water will start to condense on the radiator (once you hit the 100% R.H. line), and the air will come out at 15 °C and 100% R.H (follow the 100% R.H. line down untill you reach 15 °C). Now the collector will heat the air again, say to 40 °C (go right in the graph). You'll see that you end up with a R.H. between 10--20%.

The humidity is lower than you would achieve when you let in fresh air of say 25 °C at say 60% R.H.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Jul 18 17:27:47 2010
It appears that App state took the plans offline. Do you still have them?
Comment by Matt Thu Aug 21 10:59:50 2014
Matt --- Sorry the link broke! The plans are still up on the internet, but I can't seem to figure out the link for it since google doesn't show me the right URL. But if you search for " solar dryer", the pdf file should be the first result.
Comment by anna Thu Aug 21 13:08:47 2014

Thanks for the tip; got it. The new URL is

Dunno if it'll stay there forever, but it's there now, and is an excellent article. Thanks for the help.

Comment by Matt Fri Aug 22 14:55:02 2014

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.