Wed. Oct 20th, 2021

I have my own medium-sized Harvest Right home freeze dryer and get a lot of satisfaction, peace of mind, and enjoyment out of preserving a wide variety of foods for my family. Owning a freeze dryer is well worth the cost for me because it allows me to freeze-dry enough foods to build and maintain our emergency food supply, make camping meals, and a wide variety of snacks.

I freeze-dry a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables from my own garden, meats, eggs, and dairy, herbs and spices, drinks, candy (skittles, gummy bears, and more), and even entire meals. As you might expect, my kids enjoy eating the various freeze-dried candies.

Is it worthwhile to purchase a freeze dryer? I will teach you everything you need to know about freeze dryers and freeze-drying so you can confidently decide if purchasing your own home freeze dryer is right for you and which freeze dryer will meet your needs.

What exactly is freeze drying?

Freeze-drying, also known as Lyophilisation or Cryodesiccation, is a method of dehydrating food by freezing it, lowering pressure with a vacuum pump, and then removing the ice through sublimation. Sublimation is the process by which a substance transitions directly from a solid to a gas without passing through the liquid state.

Freeze drying differs from traditional drying methods such as dehydration, which uses heat to evaporate water from a food item.

“Lyophilization or freeze drying is a process in which water is removed from a product after it is frozen and placed under a vacuum, allowing the ice to change directly from solid to vapor without passing through a liquid phase. The process consists of three separate, unique, and interdependent processes; freezing, primary drying (sublimation) and secondary drying (desorption)”

FDA, Food and Drug Administration

What Types of Foods Should You Freeze Dry?

  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables 
  • Meats
  • Eggs and Dairy
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Full Meals
  • Snacks and Drinks
  • Candy
  • And much more

The amazing thing is that almost anything can be freeze-dried. Fruits, vegetables, and meats taste fantastic after being freeze-dried. Tomatoes, apples, bananas, strawberries, peaches, green beans, peppers, onions, potatoes, spinach, shrimp, pork, beef, turkey, and even ice cream fall into this category.

Lasagna, rice dishes, cheese macaroni, chili, beef stew, chicken a la king, casseroles, shrimp, lobster, pulled pork, pasta sauces, or scrambled eggs are ideal for freezing. Experiment a little and try a variety of your favorite fruits, vegetables, candy, foods, and full meals. Picking meals that are already favorites in your home is a great place to start.

How long does freeze drying take?

Typically, one batch of freeze-drying takes between 20 and 40 hours to complete. Foods that are dense and high in sugar take longer to cook: fresh pineapple, for example, can take up to 45 hours. Placing food on the trays and freezing them in your freezer, on the other hand, can cut the time down by several hours. The freeze dryer has sensors that detect when the food is completely dry and alert you when the process is finished.

How Does a Freeze Dryer Work?

Home freeze dryers of today make freeze-drying a breeze. The following are the steps that explain how it works:

  • Choose the food, place it on the tray/sheet, slide the trays into the freeze dryer, and press the start button.
  • To make the freeze-drying process more efficient, I like to freeze foods on a tray in my freezer before placing them in the freeze dryer; however, this is not required.
  • The freeze dryer freezes the food to temperatures ranging from -30 to -50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Vacuum Pump: When the food is frozen, the vacuum pump automatically activates and creates a powerful vacuum around it.
  • Drying (sublimation) Phase: While the food is still frozen, the trays gradually warm, causing a process called sublimation to occur, which removes water from the food and allows it to retain its original shape, flavour, and nutrition.

How Much Does a Freeze Dryer Cost?

The price of a new home freeze dryer ranges from $2,195 to $4,890, depending on the size and type of pump (types of pumps include: oil, premier, or oil-free). Furthermore, the ongoing cost of supplies and running the freeze dryer can range between $30 and $50 per month. The freeze dryer, vacuum pump (oil-free pumps are available), vacuum pump oil, oil filter, trays, mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, impulse sealer, and freeze-drying guide are all included in the initial cost.

For a more detailed cost breakdown, see the table below:

SizeCost (standard oil pump)Cost (Industrial grade oil pump)Cost (Oil-free Pump)Batch SizeDimensions
Small $2,195$2,690$3,6904-7 pounds per batch16.5″ W x 18.5″ D x 25″ H
Weighs 61 pounds
Medium$2,695$3,190$4,1907-10 pounds per batch18″ W x 21.25″ D x 28.5″ H
Weighs 112 pounds
Large$3,395$3,890$4,89012-16 pounds per batch20.25″ W x 23.75″ D x 30.75″ H
Weighs 138 pounds

*The prices listed above are based on Harvest Right freeze dryers because they are the most popular brand of home freeze dryers.

I have the standard oil pump, which works well but can be inconvenient when it comes to changing or filtering the oil. My brother owns the oil-free pump, so he never has to change the oil. If your budget allows, purchasing the oil-free pump may be worth the extra cost in terms of convenience.

Best Freeze Dryer

Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryers

Harvest Right is the industry leader when it comes to the best home freeze dryers. Their home freeze dryers are available in three sizes that should meet the needs of the majority of people. They also sell freeze dryers for commercial use in the food, pharmaceutical, and research industries. The three home freeze dryers are described in detail below.

I have a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer (with the oil pump) and have freezer dried over a thousand pounds of various foods.

Check out Harvest Right’s website to see which of the three available Home Freeze Dryers best suits your needs!

Freeze Dryer Tray Sizes

It is important to note that the tray sizes of the Harvest Right home freeze dryers vary. Each tray size is listed below.

Freeze Dryer SizeNumber of TraysTray WidthTray LengthTray Hight
Small37.75 inches14 inches0.75 inches
Medium47.5 inches18 inches0.75 inches
Large59 inches20.5 inches0.75 inches

Ongoing Costs of Owning a Freeze Dryer Include

Mylar Bags

Amazon charges $29.99 for 60 mylar 1-gallon bags with 60 300 cc oxidizer packets (June 2021). The oxidizer packets are only used once, but the mylar bags can be cut down and reused.

Vacuum Pump Oil

Vacuum pump oil starts at $10 per gallon on Amazon, but it can be filtered and reused.

In order to save money on vacuum pump oil After each batch that I run through the freeze dryer, I will drain the oil and filter it through paper coffee filters before reusing it in the vacuum pump.

How Much Does it Cost to Run a Freeze Dryer?

After analyzing my electric bill and the bills of other family members who have freeze dryers, I discovered that the electricity costs for me, my parents, and my brother to run our own freeze dryers have consistently been between $10 and $20 per month (roughly $1 – $3 per batch). We all live in different Midwest states and have similar electricity bills.

Other reports on electricity costs have been inconsistent. One East Coast resident reported that her electricity bill increased by $20 to $30 per month during her peak usage period.

Placing food on the trays and freezing it before running a cycle in the freeze dryer is often preferable because it makes the freeze-drying process more efficient, saving time and electricity that the freeze dryer consumes at a higher rate.

Is Buying a Freeze Dryer Worth it?

Purchasing a freeze dryer is worthwhile for anyone who wants to preserve a wide variety of shelf-stable foods, particularly in large quantities, and store those foods long-term in airtight mylar bags or containers outside of a fridge or freezer. Freeze-drying preserves flavor, freshness, and 97 percent of nutritional value for up to 25 years, making it well worth the cost if done on a regular basis.

A home freeze dryer is worthwhile for you if and only if:

  • You want to learn how to can your own food.
  • You want to keep a reserve food supply on hand that still tastes good (similar to when it was fresh)
  • You want to preserve food that retains approximately 97% of its original nutritional value.
  • You have enough money to invest in food storage, backpacking meals, snacks, and other items.
  • You have enough space in your pantry, closets, cold storage, garage, or other areas to store freeze dried food.
  • You want food that can be stored for up to 25 years.
  • You want to keep leftover meals for a longer period of time.

If you are in the following situations, a home freeze dryer may not be worth it to you:

  • You do not intend to use it on a regular basis.
  • You don’t have enough space to keep extra food.
  • You don’t have enough space to keep the freeze dryer.
  • You don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables or other foods.
  • You’ll have to go into debt to purchase one.

However, there are several factors to consider before deciding whether or not to purchase your own home freeze dryer. I personally enjoy having our own freeze dryer, but understand that it may not be feasible or appropriate for everyone to do so. In any case, having a supply of freeze-dried foods on hand is a good idea because they are easy to pack, eat on the go, rehydrate and use in cooking, and can be stored for up to 25 years if properly stored.

If you are unsure about purchasing your own freeze dryer, consider purchasing freeze-dried food packages from a food storage company. See our article and list of the best foods for long-term storage, which includes freeze-dried foods.

Things To Consider Before Purchasing A Freeze Dryer

Budget

Is a freeze dryer within your price range? Depending on the size and type of pump, the price ranges from $2,195 to $4,890.

Size

Is the freeze dryer going to fit in your house? Small freeze dryers measure 6.5′′ wide x 18.5′′ deep x 25′′ high and weigh more than 60 pounds. Sizes range from about the size of a mini-fridge to nearly the size of a small oven. Some people keep their small freeze dryer on the kitchen counter, but I prefer to keep mine in its own room, basement, or even garage. Dimensions of larger freeze dryers can be found in the table above.

Electricity Use

Is it expensive to run a freeze dryer? Does it consume a lot of electricity? I live in the Midwest, and it costs me between $10 and $20 extra per month on our electricity bill. So, depending on how frequently we use the freeze dryer, it costs us between $1 and $3 per batch.

Noise Levels

Is a freeze dryer audible? If so, how loud should it be? When the vacuum pump is running, the noise level of a freeze dryer reaches 62 to 67 decibels. In comparison, a typical vacuum cleaner is about 70 decibels loud, so a freeze dryer is slightly less loud than a vacuum cleaner. My brother has an oil-free vacuum pump, which is a little louder than my standard oil vacuum pump.

Where You Will Store It

Is a freeze dryer audible? If so, how loud should it be? When the vacuum pump is running, the noise level of a freeze dryer reaches 62 to 67 decibels. In comparison, a typical vacuum cleaner is about 70 decibels loud, so a freeze dryer is slightly less loud than a vacuum cleaner. My brother has an oil-free vacuum pump, which is a little louder than my standard oil vacuum pump.

How Long Do Freeze Dryers Last?

Harvest Right freeze dryers have a one-year full warranty and a three-year limited warranty for purchases in the United States.

The following items are covered by the full one-year warranty:

The warranty is valid for one year from the date of purchase.
Harvest Right will be responsible for the following: Repairing or replacing, at our discretion, any part of this freeze dryer that proves to be defective in workmanship or material.
Costs of service calls will be borne by the consumer. The consumer may also be held liable for replacement parts as a result of the product’s misuse and neglect by the consumer. See below for the Consumer’s Normal Responsibilities.
Exclusion: The oil vacuum pump has a 6-month warranty, but Harvest Right replaced a cap with stripped threads for free after my parents had their freeze dryer for about a year.

The following items are covered by a three-year limited warranty:

Warranty Period: Two and three years from the date of purchase.
Harvest Right will be responsible for: Repairing or replacing, at our discretion, any part of the sealed refrigeration system (compressor, condenser, evaporator, tubing) that fails due to defective workmanship or material.
Diagnostic fees for determining defects, as well as any costs for transportation and delivery of the appliance required for service, will be borne by the consumer.

Is Freeze Drying Food Safe?

Freeze drying food is safe as long as the two sub-processes of freezing and vacuum drying are carried out correctly so that the freezing process takes 1-4 hours and the vacuum process leaves only residual moisture.

To test for appropriate moisture levels, dry your food to a “crisp” or “breakable” texture; however, fruits and other high-sugar foods may be flexible but not sticky.

It is also critical to use proper food handling techniques when preparing the food for freeze-drying and then storing it in an airtight mylar bag, jar, or food-grade container afterward.

Is it true that freeze-drying food kills bacteria? Bacteria are not killed by freeze-drying food. Because freeze-drying is not a food safety process, bacteria and other microorganisms can remain viable and dormant even after they have been freeze dried. Before freeze-drying your food, you must first prepare it by cleaning and handling it properly.

When freeze-drying raw foods at home, the bacteria on the raw foods remain alive and will activate upon rehydration. Food items that must be cooked before consumption must also be cooked before consumption as freeze-dried food. Raw meats, raw eggs, and foods containing raw ingredients are examples.

Will Freeze Drying Enough Food Make it Worth the Cost?

Although it was difficult, I compared the cost of over 20 freeze-dried foods sold by food storage companies to the cost of buying the same non-freeze dried product from the grocery store, taking into account the cost of the freeze drier and mylar bags, and discovered that if you made at least 5 batches per month, you’d save about one-third of the cost.

The table below compares store-bought preparedness food to home freeze-drying. These averages do not account for the initial cost of the freeze dryer machine.

Food ProductStore-bought Freeze Dried Retail Cost AverageFresh Food Purchased at Store for Home Freeze DryingFreeze Dryer Electricity Cost per #10 CanMylar Bag & Oxygen AbsorberHome Freeze Dried Cost Equivalent
Beef$55 per #10 Can$11$1.20$0.80$13
Chicken$50 per #10 Can$8$1.20$0.80$10
Peaches$35 per #10 Can$4$1.20$0.80$6
Pineapple$31 per #10 Can$7$1.20$0.80$9
Raspberries$30 per #10 Can$9$1.20$0.80$11
Corn$22 per #10 Can$4$1.20$0.80$6
Green Beans$27 per #10 Can$4$1.20$0.80$6
Blueberries$42 per #10 Can$4$1.20$0.80$6
Carrots$19 per #10 Can$4$1.20$0.80$6

The prices listed above are dollar averages and are intended to provide a general price difference rather than an exact price difference.

Advantages of Buying a Freeze Dryer

  • More food items can be preserved and stored thanks to freeze-drying. Unlike other food preservation methods, it also preserves meat, fish, dairy, eggs, candy, skittles, ice cream, and even fully-cooked meals.
  • Longer shelf life – Freeze-drying food can be stored at room temperature for up to 25 years in a sealed mylar bag, jar, or food-grade bucket.
  • Nutritional value – 97 percent of the nutritional value of freeze-dried foods is retained. Other methods of food preservation, such as canning and dehydrating, use higher temperatures, which degrade the nutrition of the food.
  • Simple and straightforward preparation
  • Taste – Because freeze-dried foods rehydrate more completely than dehydrated foods, the taste and texture of a freeze-dried product are more similar to that of a dehydrated product. This also means that you can use freeze-dried foods as ingredients in your regular cooking and rehydrate them with great success.
  • Skittles, gummy bears, and other freeze-dried candy are available. Pure chocolate, honey, syrup, and jam, on the other hand, do not freeze-dry well.
  • Save money over time – The more you freeze-dry, the more money you will save. Those who enjoy backpacking, hiking, camping, and having an emergency food supply will find this useful.

Disadvantages of Buying a Freeze Dryer

  • Cost of the machine – Getting started is costly because the entry-level freeze dryer costs more than $2,000. This creates a barrier for many people who would otherwise be interested in using this method to preserve food.
  • Size of machine – Because freeze dryers are not small machines, it is critical to check the dimensions to ensure that it will fit well in the location where you intend to store and operate it.
  • Noise level – Because freeze dryers are quite loud (almost as loud as vacuum cleaners), they may not be suitable for your current living situation.
  • The storage temperature and the heat emitted by the machine – Freeze dryers, like most machines, work best in temperatures ranging from 45 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the pump generates heat, it is critical to locate the machine in an area with adequate ventilation.
  • Slow procedure – The typical batch time ranges from 20 to 36 hours, making it a slow process.

Should you buy a home freeze dryer? 

If you want to stock up on shelf-stable foods that can be stored for up to 25 years for camping, backpacking, family dinners, healthy snacks, candy, storing shelf-stable produce ingredients for cooking, and more, a freeze dryer is a good investment.

It may be useful to purchase some commercially available freeze-dried food to taste test and get an idea of how you and your family would use freeze-dried foods.

Check to see if a home freeze dryer is within your budget and if the machine will fit in your home.

By Beth

I'm Beth Nunes, the proprietor of preparing in the city. My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I couldn't bear the thought of my three small children going hungry, so I became obsessed with finding simple and practical ways to be prepared for the future by building food storage and gathering other emergency preparedness items.

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