How much does it cost to use a food dehydrator?

A common misconception is that it is expensive, electricity-wise, to run a food dehydrator. This is not true, even though dehydrators use electricity to run their heating system and fans for longer periods of time, sometimes up to twelve and eighteen hours.

Food dehydrators are used to dry various foods by removing the water within the food. The water content of foods is very high, typically 80-95% for various fruits and vegetables and 50-75% for various meats. To minimize dehydration time, best dehydration practices to follow include cutting food into strips 1/4-inch or less and distributing food evenly on unit trays to maximize the amount of food surface area exposed to unit heat and airflow.

However, even following the best dehydration practices, a food drying process can take several hours. One temptation is to try to speed up the drying time by increasing the dehydration temperature. This is not recommended and may result in hardened food; that is, food that is dry and hard on the outside but moist and with water on the inside. Hardened foods will spoil due to microbial growth.

So how much does it cost to run typical dehydrators? Costs obviously depend on the state and local area you live in, however within the US on average running a 750 watt unit for one hour would cost around 8 cents. The cost per state, per hour, for the same 750-watt unit ranges from about 5 cents in the lower end of North Dakota to nearly 22 cents in Hawaii.

A typical dehydrator can run for twelve hours. As an example, assuming a dehydrator user lives in the state of California, a food dehydrator calculator can be used to estimate the electricity costs required to run a 750-watt food drying appliance for, say, 12 hours straight. In this case the cost of electricity would be around $1.21. In fact, most food drying units turn on and off during the drying cycle, so that would be a maximum cost of electricity.

If the same user in California bought about 3.7 pounds of apples at $1.29 per pound and dried them during that 12-hour period, the user would have about 1 pound of dried apples and the cost of dried apples would be $4.77. The total operating cost of a pound of homemade dried apples would be about $5.98. This homemade cost compares favorably with a well-known national brand of dried apples that was recently selling at a major supermarket chain for $2.79 for a 5-ounce bag or a cost per pound of $8.93. Savings for homemade dried apples, made with a dehydrator, compared to store-bought: about $3.00.

Dehydrate your own dried fruits, dried vegetables, and jerky at home using your food dehydrator. You will continually save money compared to store bought dried fruit and jerky and gain a return on the cost of the food drying appliance. Plus, you can control the ingredients that go into the meal (most store-bought dried fruit and jerky contain excess sugars and salts) and make a great-tasting meal.

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