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    Make Your Own Solar Produce Dryer

    Store-bought dried fruit and vegetables are expensive and usually contain nitrates, to which some people react unfavorably. To enjoy dried apples, peaches, tomatoes and other produce without these preservatives or the hefty price tag, prepare them yourself. You don't need an expensive dehydrator. Here's how to make a solar produce dryer that uses no supplemental power.

    Materials

    • Stapler
    • Two 1 in. x 4 in. x 8 ft. boards
    • One 1 in. x 8 in. x 8 ft. board
    • One 1 in. x 6 in. x 8 ft. board
    • Tape measure
    • Drill
    • Deck screws (1½ in., 2 in.)
    • Brad nails
    • Hole saw bit
    • Staples
    • Circular saw
    • Screen retainer strip
    • Screen or insect mesh
    • Window sash

    Instructions

    Cut the Pieces for the Dryer

    • Front and back (long sides): two pieces needed, cut to dimensions ⅞ in. x 7½ in. x 34¾ in.
    • Sides (short sides): two pieces needed, cut to dimensions ⅞ in. x 5½ in. x 27⅛ in.
    • Tall back leg: two pieces needed, cut to dimensions ⅞ in. x 3½ in. x 30 in.
    • Short front leg: two pieces needed, cut to dimensions ⅞ in. x 3½ in. x 22 in.
    • Side brace: two pieces needed, cut to dimensions ⅞ in. x 3½ in. x 24 in.
    • Insect mesh: cut to 28⅞ in. x 34¾ in.

    Assemble the dryer box by screwing the 2 in. screws through the faces of the 1 x 8 in. boards into the ends of the 1 x 6 in. boards. These boards are different heights. The longer boards are taller than the shorter side boards. This is so the window sash will fit and stay in place.

    Turn the frame over and use the staple gun to staple the insect mesh to the frame. Make sure the insect mesh is taut.

    Build the stand by attaching each 24 in. side piece to a 30 in. board in the back and a 22 in. board in the front, using the 1½ in. deck screws. Then attach the legs to the sides of the drying frame using three 1½ in. deck screws per side. The legs should be level, but the drying rack will be at a slight angle.

    Drill three 1 in. holes for airflow in the 1 x 6 in. side boards. Staple mesh behind the holes to keep insects out.

    Place the window sash on top of the frame.

    Drying Produce

    Check the solar dryer frequently to make sure that the temperature and humidity are right. The temperature should remain between 95 and 145 degrees. Check the temperature during the warmest and coolest parts of the day, and don't dry produce on cloudy, cool, damp days or sunny days right after a rain. Cool, damp weather encourages bacterial growth. Thin slices (½ in. or less) of produce will dry faster. Place the slices at least an inch apart for airflow.

    Asa Williams