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Kate McRae
Post     Subject: Solar Dehydrator Movie and Build Plans!

So, I just built my first solar dehydrator in August. It's loosely modeled after the ACT-one you guys built a few years ago, and now I've also made a smaller, demo-model for some classes I am teaching on the theme of building for the apocalypse. I plan on building a few more this winter, and gifting them for the holidays and such, but want to improve my design as I go.

A few questions that invariably (a)rise like hot air, is why do I have the sun trap (or heat collector) box coming in the top and the false wall outlet at the bottom, rather than the more common model of having the heat collector come in at the bottom and have the outlet at the top? The way I figure, what I'm really creating is a wind tunnel by using the zeroth law of thermodynamics (forget the abc of it, hot air follows cold is the takeaway).
With the air intake at the top, I can make a longer heat collector box, so the temperature can increase as compared to a shorter one that goes into the drying chamber, which makes for warmer air --> bigger difference in temperature --> the air moves faster through the drying chamber.

I've constricted the gap between the heat collector box and the drying chamber, so the air will move faster once it goes through the drying racks, same as wind or water speeds up through any narrow passage. The gap is as wide as the trays holding the produce, but is only about an inch tall, while the box is more than the double.

Also, hot air holds more humidity than colder air, so I assume that as the air stream loses temperature, while flowing down the chamber, water will precipitate out and theoretically pool at the bottom of the drying chamber, or if the temperature is still high enough, humidity will escape with the rest of the air through the fake wall.

Basically, what is the benefit of having the hot air intake at the top and the outlet of colder air at the bottom? It seems intuitively right, but I feel I don't have enough arguments to convince others while discussing the design choices I've made.

As I understand it, it is the wind tunnel effect, or the air streaming through the drying racks, that dehydrates the food and not a high temperature in there, which would cook the food rather than drying it.  Thus, I've made a slanted roof on top of my dehydrator to protect it from and rain, and from the sun heating up the inside of the drying chamber. Still, I notice that the produce on the top trays dries a lot faster than on the lower trays. Is this due to higher temperatures at the top, or that the air slows down as it works its way to the bottom and out through the chimney / false wall?

Lastly, someone suggested having rocks at the bottom of the dehydrator to make the bottom of the drying chamber warmer, and thus the drying more even throughout the chamber. Has anyone tried this? I've tried to make my dehydrators as light as possible, so this doesn't necessarily appeal to me, but I am willing to try it if it might improve the design and shorten drying times.

Your educated guesses or empirically formulated hypotheses are most welcome, and the sooner the better! Thanks!
Ashley Cottonwood
Post     Subject: Solar Dehydrator Movie and Build Plans!

New special bundle available!

Solar Dehydrator Plans + Solar Dehydrator Movie

A combo package for Davin Hoyt's beautiful and functional solar dehydrator plans and Paul's Solar Dehydrator Movie! This bundle includes both the Missoula model and the Wheaton ATC1 model (a $40 value) plus the 1hour 21min movie on solar dehydrators.

Solar Dehydrator Plans

Solar Dehydrator Plans: Missoula1 model & WheatonATC1 model!
Authored by Davin Hoyt
Format: PDF file
Pages: 8 total (4+4)
Print size: 48"x36"
Price: 25 USD

This HD video is 1 hour and 21 minutes long and includes discussion over the general design that was decided on, and then some of the problems that were experienced during the build. This movie complements the solar dehydrator plans included in this package