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Directions for Food Dryer made from a Refrigerator?

                            


Joined: Aug 07, 2010
Posts: 271
Hey everyone, recently discovered this forum and I'm loving it!

Suspect I'm going to be out of a paycheck for the next few months, long story... but in the meantime, I'm prepping for that big adventure.

Today I was given a tall refrigerator (shelves are missing). It has no freezer compartment, so it looks like an upright freezer. It doesn't work, the door is missing and I'm gleefully rubbing my hands together with a twinkle in my eye, thinking what a treasure I have!

So... I'd like to utilize it for a food dryer (unless anyone has any better ideas). I have a wide assortment of refridgerator shelves (the wire ones, but not sure if they are safe for food to go directly on) on hand, as well as a whole bunch of old windows. Surely someone can come up with something creative and safe? I'm enthusiastic, but not too inventive and do not use tools very well.  So, preferably something really quick, simple and effective. Not asking a lot I know. Truly if someone has a better suggestion for the Fridge, I will take it into consideration.

A bit about me, 40 acres, considered remote although it's less than an hour from a small town, limited vehicle access, no power, no water, have cell phone access... get to use the computers in the local computer center in town.

I'm going to have quite a few of these projects over the next few weeks. The last two weeks I have worked on solar ovens and now have four zeer pots for keeping my food cool during this hot weather, just need to remember to empty them before it freezes so they don't break.

Ok, back to the Food Dryer... forgot to mention it needs to be CHEAP too......

Thanks all!
                          


Joined: Jun 29, 2010
Posts: 79
Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
The only way to power a box dryer, whether made from an old refrigerator or some other material, is to run an electric heater & fan.  This is a good way to make the electric meter spin!  If you want cheap and no costs to run it, you can make a solar food dryer - see my website for info on how to do this at http://www.geopathfinder.com/9473.html .  If you want to go the really cheap route, you can use your car, or if you already have one, a greenhouse.  On the linked page, there is info on using a car about 1/2 way down the food preservation page.

As for the refrigerator, most modern ones are lined in some kind of plastic which is probably not safe to heat up over 100 degrees.  The wire shelves may be the old zinc plated ones, which are not food safe either.  No sense adding toxic stuff into the food you're trying to preserve.  We did attempt to convert a very old frig, with enameled metal interior, into a solar-powered dryer, with a glazed heating panel and a black, solar-powered chimney to draw air.  It didn't work at all if not tracked to follow the sun, and then it only worked marginally.  That's what we were attempting to use when we came up with the design that we've been using for the last 25 years.  Old refrigerators are great for storing stuff in sheds as they will keep mice out of whatever is inside.  Since they are insulated, they can also be used for a mini "root cellar" until the weather gets too cold and freezing is a possibility. 
                            


Joined: Aug 07, 2010
Posts: 271
I have no electricity, so anything requiring electricity is totally out. As every last dollar has been counted down to the penny, purchasing anything (for instance lumber) is not an option at this time.

I was so excited to get that Fridge! Wonder if I could lay it on it's back and line it with something and use it for water storage? The door has been removed and I don't have it.

I have a chest freezer I used for grain storage, the mice ate the seal around the door and managed to get inside. The freezer was in like new condition, no bumps, dents/dings/rust and the seal was totally intact when they went to work on it.

I've seen a couple of different plans for upright type dryers, like fridge's, where the air circulates through simply on the hot air rises principle.

Uhoh, didn't think about the inside of the fridge being toxic.....

as for the shelves, could they be painted with a nontoxic paint or does that just come right off? or could they simply be utilized in some other type dryer (if the fridge won't work) as supports for whatever the food rests on?

Your solar drying system is awesome. Excellent website, I'm going to take my time looking through it.

Thank you for your reply.
                          


Joined: Jun 29, 2010
Posts: 79
Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
I wouldn't trust paint on the shelves but would rather depend on separation with another material such as a cotton dish towel, parchment paper, woven bamboo, or cardboard, if not s.s. screen, which you would need to keep stuff from falling through the shelves anyway.  On these types of screen surfaces, you can dry things that don't start out too wet like herbs and greens.  To dry the "wetter" stuff like tomatoes, sweet corn, apples, you'll need to use cookie sheets to start out and transfer to the towel or paper surface after the food is somewhat dry.  The stainless steel screen is expensive but it is a lifetime investment as it won't ever wear out.  The frig shelves can be used in a car or greenhouse.  You can use either black or dark colored cloth over the food to keep off the sunlight and to help heat it or the black metal. 

Without a power source the frig definitely wouldn't work as even with a solar heater and a chimney for draft it didn't move enough warm air to remove the moisture, at least in the humid upper Midwest.  Where are you located?  Unless you're in an hot, arid locale, better to save the frig for another project.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
i am looking for a old fridge to make one of these with. i already have the solar dehydrator part( basically a box lined with black plastic tilted at an angle to create flow with the rising heat) going to hook it up to a fridge and have one giant dehydrator. was thinking of putting a heat coil in the bottom just in case the sun goes down and the food isnt quite done yet.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
                          


Joined: Jun 29, 2010
Posts: 79
Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
Hey Soil,

Please don't use plastic in a solar heater that vents onto food.  Plastics outgas toxic compounds which are not food safe and this outgassing increases when heated.  The design you're proposing is the one that failed miserably for us over 25 years ago.  If you use the simple design we've come up with, you won't need an electrical backup heater and your food will still be excluded from direct sunlight, thus preservering nutrients and flavor.  Check out the website link in my earlier post.  We've been working with this design for over 25 years.  It works very well in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and can be adapted to most any climate's conditions.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
thanks walk i had that concern, was not 100% sure. figured a fridge would be safe for food since well...its a fridge. will go back to plan A and make one out of wood. your design does not hold enough food for me given the space i have. i need to go vertical. there was a post on this forum some time back with someone who made a GREAT solar dehydrator. looks like an outhouse almost.
                          


Joined: May 10, 2010
Posts: 34
Have you thought about using the fridge for a solar water heater? In [i]Toolbox for Sustainable City Living[i]by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew, discusses how to build a solar water heater with both an old fridge and a hot water heating tank, provided the latter will fit in the fridge.[]
                            


Joined: Aug 07, 2010
Posts: 271
I will most definitely check it out! Thanks so much for the suggestion.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
          Solar food dryer is the best choice for it. That is the only thing that I can see that can really solve the problem of yours. However, this might not satisfies you a lot if you not choose well.

online
ronie dee


Joined: Mar 04, 2009
Posts: 586
Location: Cosby MO
    
    2
I dry my stinging nettles on a clothes line in the shade. Harvest stem and all and clothes pin them to the line.


Sometimes the answer is not to cross an old bridge, nor to burn it, but to build a better bridge.
 
 
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