Among the food preservation techniques dehydration has to be one of the easiest, and that alone should merit it’s incorporation into your household, and the dehydrators sold by Harbor Freight offer a reasonable entry point to do just that.
I’ll say right now – these five tray units run about $20 when coupons and the frequent specials get figured in. That’s cheap. Now the current models aren’t anything fancy – just basically a 125 Watt heating element in the bottom, five plastic trays and a top. The previous model which featured a fan and a turntable type setup for the trays was about the same price, but in my experience does and equally OK job.
Now, it appears some folks have received units that overheated pretty much at startup. I’ve never had that happen but you’d probably do well to start it up for the first time during a period where you could observe it and if problems happen bring it back and swap it for another one. The other issue has to do with the durability of the trays. To be sure these trays are fragile – you have to treat them carefully or they will break. BUT, this is a $20 dehydrator. Spend five times as much and you can get the bottom of the line Excalabur… or you can build one easily enough, but even that approach is likely to run you more than $20 not factoring in your time.
I have a really big homebuild dehydrator – but it only really gets called out when we’re in prime harvest season. Otherwise one or both of my Harbor Freight dehydrators are going to be doing the work for me. During the summer that is often drying tomatoes or zucchini for fall soups and dressings. In the fall and winter more often than not they are drying apple slices we’ve peeled, sliced and frozen or making apple leather from some of the apple sauce we’ve put down. It doesn’t take much time to pay off the $20 investment when you are making dried fruit.
So if you don’t have a dehydrator or want another one consider the Harbor Freight units – they aren’t fancy, they aren’t really solid but the price factor means they possess significant value.