I own my own medium-sized Harvest Right home freeze dryer and feel immense satisfaction, peace of mind, and enjoyment from being able to preserve a wide variety of foods for my family. For me, freeze-drying enough foods to build and maintain our emergency food supply, make camping meals, and a wide variety of snacks makes owning a freeze dryer well worth the cost. I freeze-dry a wide range of foods including fruits and vegetables from my home garden, meats, eggs and dairy, herbs and spices, drinks, candy (skittles, gummy bears, and more), and even full meals. As you can imagine, my kids love eating the different candies that we freeze dry.
Is buying a freeze dryer worth it? I will help you learn all that you need to know about freeze dryers and freeze-drying so that you can confidently know if buying your own home freeze dryer is right for you and which freeze dryer will fit your needs.
What is Freeze Drying?
Freeze drying, also known as Lyophilisation or Cryodesiccation, is the process of dehydrating food through low temperatures and involves freezing the food, lowering pressure by using a vacuum pump, and then removing the ice through sublimation. Sublimation is the transition of a substance directly from a solid to a gas, without passing through the liquid state.
Freeze drying is different from conventional methods of drying 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
How Does a Freeze Dryer Work?
Today’s home freeze dryers make freeze-drying very simple. The way that it works can be summed up in the below steps:
- Select the food items, place them on the tray/sheet, slide the trays into the freeze dryer, and press start.
- I like to freeze foods on the tray in my freezer before placing them in the freeze dryer to make the freeze-drying process more efficient, however, it is not required to do so.
- Freezing phase: the freeze dryer freezes the food to between -30 degrees and -50 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Vacuum Pump: Once frozen, the vacuum pump automatically turns on and creates a powerful vacuum around the food.
- Drying (sublimation) Phase: The trays gradually warm while the food is still frozen causing a process called sublimation to occur which removes water from the food and allows it to keep its original shape, flavor, and nutrition
How long does freeze drying take?
Typically, the amount of time that it takes to freeze-dry one batch is between 20 to 40 hours. Very dense foods and foods high in sugar take longer: fresh pineapple for example can take over 45 hours. However, placing food on the trays and freezing them in your freezer can cut the time down by several hours. The freeze dryer is equipped with sensors that sense when the food is completely dry and alert you when the process is complete.
How Much Does a Freeze Dryer Cost?
A new home freeze dryer cost ranges from $2,195 – $4,890 depending on the size and type of pump (types of pumps include: oil, premier, or oil-free). Additionally, the ongoing cost of supplies and running the freeze dryer can cost as much as $30 – $50 a month. The original cost includes the freeze dryer, vacuum pump (oil-free pumps are available), vacuum pump oil, oil filter, trays, mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, impulse sealer, and guide to freeze-drying.
See the below table for detailed cost breakdown:
|Size||Cost (standard oil pump)||Cost (Industrial grade oil pump)||Cost (Oil-free Pump)||Batch Size||Dimensions|
|Small||$2,195||$2,690||$3,690||4-7 pounds per batch||16.5″ W x 18.5″ D x 25″ H|
Weighs 61 pounds
|Medium||$2,695||$3,190||$4,190||7-10 pounds per batch||18″ W x 21.25″ D x 28.5″ H|
Weighs 112 pounds
|Large||$3,395||$3,890||$4,890||12-16 pounds per batch||20.25″ W x 23.75″ D x 30.75″ H|
Weighs 138 pounds
I own the standard oil pump and it works great but can be annoying having to deal with changing or filtering the oil. My brother owns the oil-free pump so he doesn’t have to deal with changing the oil. If your budget permits, buying the oil-free pump can be worth the extra cost in convenience.
Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryers
If you are looking for the best home freeze dryers then Harvest Right is the industry leader. Their home freeze dryers come in the following three sizes which should meet the needs of most people. They also carry commercial use freeze dryers for food, pharmaceuticals, and research labs. Below is the information about the three home freeze dryers.
I own the medium-sized Harvest Right Freeze Dryer (with the oil pump) and have freezer dried over a thousand pounds of various foods. It works great for our family of four! Check out the 3 available Home Freeze Dryers on Harvest Right’s Website to see which one fits your circumstances the best!
- Cost: $2,195 – $3,690
- Batch Size: 4-7 pounds
- Dimensions: 16.5″ W x 18.5″ D x 25″ H
- Weight: 61 lbs
- Cost: $2,695 – $4,190
- Batch Size: 7-10 pounds
- Dimensions: 18″ W x 21.25″ D x 28.5″ H
- Weight: 112 lbs
- Cost: $3,395 – $4,890
- Batch Size: 12-16 pounds
- Dimensions: 20.25″ W x 23.75″ D x 30.75″ H
- Weight: 138 lbs
Check out Harvest Right’s website to see which home freeze dryer is right for you.
Freeze Dryer Tray Sizes
It is important to note that each of the Harvest Right home freeze dryers has different tray sizes. See each tray size below.
|Freeze Dryer Size||Number of Trays||Tray Width||Tray Length||Tray Hight|
|Small||3||7.75 inches||14 inches||0.75 inches|
|Medium||4||7.5 inches||18 inches||0.75 inches|
|Large||5||9 inches||20.5 inches||0.75 inches|
Ongoing Costs of Owning a Freeze Dryer Include
Supplies (Mylar Bags and Vacuum Pump Oil)
The cost for 60 mylar 1-gallon bags with 60 300 cc oxidizer packets is $29.99 on Amazon (June 2021). The oxidizer packets are one-time use, although the mylar bags could possibly be cut down and reused.
The cost of vacuum pump oil starts at $10 a gallon on Amazon, although that oil can be filtered and reused.
*Pro Tip – to save money on vacuum pump oil I will drain the oil after every batch that I run in the freeze dryer and use paper coffee filters to filter the oil and then reuse the same oil in the vacuum pump.
How Much Does it Cost to Run a Freeze Dryer?
After breaking down my electric bill and the bill of other family members that have their own freeze dryers I found that electricity costs for me, my parents, and my brother to run our own freeze dryers have consistently been between $10 – $20 dollars a month on average (roughly $1 – $3 a batch). We all live in different states in the Midwest and see similar electricity bills.
Other reports on electricity costs have varied. One person who lives on the East Coast reported that her electricity bill increased $20 – $30 a month during her heavy usage time.
*Pro Tip – Placing food on the trays and freezing it before running a cycle in the freeze dryer is often better because it allows the freeze-drying process to be more efficient, saving time and electricity that is consumed at a higher rate by the freeze dryer.
Is Buying a Freeze Dryer Worth it?
Buying a freeze dryer is worth the cost for anyone who wants to preserve a wide variety of shelf-stable foods especially in large quantities and to be able to store those foods long-term in airtight mylar bags or containers outside of a fridge or freezer. Freeze-drying preserves flavor, freshness, and retains 97% of its nutritional value for up to 25 years therefore well worth the cost if used regularly.
A home freeze dryer IS worth it for you if:
- You’re interested in preserving your own food
- You want to have a reserve food supply that you can use that still tastes good (similar to when it was fresh)
- You want to preserve food that keeps about 97% of it’s original nutritional value
- You have the available funds to invest in food storage, backpacking meals, snacks, and more
- You have space to store freeze dried food in your pantry, closets, cold storage, garage, or other aresa
- You want to have shelf stable food that can last up to 25 years
- You want to store leftover meals for longer
A home freeze Dryer may NOT be worth it for you if:
- You don’t plan on using it regularly
- You don’t have any room to store extra food
- You don’t have enough room to store the freeze dryer
- You don’t have access to fresh produce and other foods
- You have to go into debt to buy one
Check out Harvest Right’s website to see which home freeze dryer is right for you.
However, there are several things to consider when deciding if buying your own home freeze dryer is right for you. I personally love owning our own freeze dryer but understand that it may not be reasonable or right for everyone to own one. In every case, it is smart to have a supply of freeze-dried foods because it is easy to pack, eat on the run, rehydrate and use in cooking, and store for up to 25 years if stored properly.
If you are unsure about buying your own freeze dryer, try buying packages of freeze-dried food from a food storage company. Check out our article and list of the best foods for long-term storage that includes freeze-dried items. Also, use our free food storage calculator to determine how much food you should store to feed yourself and your family.
Questions to ask yourself to determine if buying a freeze dryer is worth it for you
Is the cost of a freeze dryer within your budget? Cost ranges from $2,195 – $4,890 depending on the size and type of pump.
Will the freeze dryer fit in your home? Small freeze dryers dimensions are 6.5″ Wide x 18.5″ Deep x 25″ High and weigh over 60 pounds. Sizes range from about the size of a mini-fridge to almost as big as a smaller sized oven. Some people fit their small freeze dryer in the kitchen on the counter but I like to have mine in its own room, the basement, or even the garage. See the table above for dimensions of larger freeze dryers.
The expense of running a freeze dryer, does it use a lot of electricity? I live in the midwest and it costs me between $10 and $20 a month extra on our electricity bill on average. So based on how often we use the freeze dryer it cost us between $1 and $3 worth of electricity per batch.
Is a freeze dryer loud? if so how loud? A freeze dryer is loudest when the vacuum pump is running and at its peak noise level reaches 62 to 67 decibels. To put it in perspective, a typical vacuum cleaner is about 70 decibels loud so a freeze dryer is slightly less loud than a vacuum cleaner. I have a brother that owns an oil-free vacuum pump and it is slightly louder than my standard oil vacuum pump.
Can you put a freeze dryer in the garage? Yes, you can use a freeze dryer in the garage, or in an unoccupied bedroom. However, it is important to know that freeze dryers, like most machines, work best in ambient temperatures of 45 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The pump throws out heat, so it is important to put the machine in an area where there is plenty of ventilation.
Will Freeze Drying Enough Food Make it Worth the Cost?
Although 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 also adding in the cost of the freeze drier plus mylar bags and found that with at least 5 batches a month you’d be saving on average about one third the cost. See the example of freeze-dried strawberries below.
Fresh strawberries 16 ounces (1lbs) from Walmart = $2.98
Small Harvest Right Freeze Dryer (lasting 10 years) $2,195 / 120 months = $18.30 per month / 5 batches per month = $3.66 per batch
50 1 gallon mylar bags on Amazon – 17.99 / 50 bags = $0.36 per bag
Total for 16 oz freeze-dried strawberries using a home freeze dryer = $7
Compared to buying freeze dried strawberries from a food storage company
Augason Farms 6.4 oz freeze-dried strawberries on Amazon – $23
Of course, this isn’t 100% accurate because there are added costs of owning your own freeze dryer such as electricity to run it and oil for the vacuum pump but these costs can be mitigated and are fairly inconsequential. Additionally, more than 1 pound of strawberries can fit in the home freeze dryer at a time which will give you greater benefit to add to the cost of the freeze dryer. Also, you generally get more fresh foods in one purchase than you would from the company that sells freeze-dried foods.
The below table compares store-bought preparedness food to freeze-drying your own at home. These averages don’t factor in the upfront cost of the freeze dryer machine.
|Food Product||Store-bought Freeze Dried Retail Cost Average||Fresh Food Purchased at Store for Home Freeze Drying||Freeze Dryer Electricity Cost per #10 Can||Mylar Bag & Oxygen Absorber||Home 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|
Advantages of Buying a Freeze Dryer
- Preserve and store more food items – Freeze-drying works great for fruits and vegetables, but unlike other food preservation options, it also preserves meat, fish, dairy, eggs, candy, skittles, ice cream, and even fully-cooked meals. To see a more comprehensive list see my article What Foods Can and Cannot be Freeze-Dried: Complete Guide.
- Longer shelf life – Freeze-drying food can be stored at room temperature in a sealed mylar bag, jar, or food-grade bucket for up to 25 years.
- Nutritional value – Freeze-dried foods maintain 97% of their nutritional value. Other food preservation methods, such as canning and dehydrating, will use higher temperatures that degrade the nutrition of the food. See our article Is Freeze Dried Food Healthy? An Expert Weighs In.
- Simple and easy preparation
- Taste – Freeze-dried foods rehydrate more fully than dehydrated products, so the taste and texture are closer to fresh with a freeze-dried product than with a dehydrated product. This also means that you can use freeze-dried foods as ingredients in your everyday cooking and rehydrate the food with excellent results.
- Freeze drying candy including skittles, gummy bears, and much more. However, pure chocolate, honey, syrup, and jam don’t freeze-dry well.
- Save money over time – The more you freeze-dry the more you’ll save. Beneficial to those who love to backpack, hike, camp, and have an emergency food storage.
Disadvantages of Buying a Freeze Dryer
- Cost of the machine – It is expensive to get started because the freeze dryer’s entry-level price starts at over $2,000. This creates a roadblock for many who otherwise are interested in using this method to preserve food.
- Size of machine – Freeze dryers are not small machines, so it is critical to check the dimensions to make sure that it will fit well in the place that you’d like to store and run it.
- Noise level – Freeze dryers are loud (almost as loud as vacuum cleaners) so they may not work in your current living space.
- The temperature of storage and heat put off by the machine – Freeze dryers, like most machines, work best in ambient temperatures of 45 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit The pump throws out heat, so it is important to put the machine in an area where there is plenty of ventilation
- Slow process – Typical batch time is between 20 to 36 hours so it is a slow process.
How Long do Freeze Dryers Last?
My freeze drier has lasted for over 5 years with no problems and still runs as expected. Harvest Right freeze dryers come with a one-year full warranty for buys in the United States and 3-year limited warranty.
Full One-Year Warranty includes:
- Warranty Period: For one year from the original ship date.
- Harvest Right will be responsible for: Repair or, at our option, replace any part of this freeze dryer that proves to be defective in workmanship or material.
- The consumer will be responsible for: Costs of service calls. The consumer may also be responsible for replacement parts caused by consumer misuse and neglect of the product. See Normal Responsibilities of the Consumer below.
- Exclusion: The oil vacuum pump has a 6-month warranty however, Harvest Right replaced a cap with stripped threads for my parents for free after about a year of them owning their freeze dryer.
Limited 3-year warranty includes:
- Warranty Period: For the second and third years from the original ship date.
- Harvest Right will be responsible for: Repair or, at our option, replace any part of the sealed refrigeration system (compressor, condenser, evaporator, tubing) which fails because of defective workmanship or material.
- The consumer will be responsible for: Diagnostic charges for determining defects, and any costs for transportation and delivery of the appliance required because of service.
Is Freeze Drying Food Safe?
Freeze drying food is safe as long as the two sub-processes of freezing and vacuum drying are done correctly so that the freezing process is complete within 1-4 hours and the vacuum process leaves only residual moisture.
To test for appropriate moisture levels your food should be dried to a “crisp” or “breakable” texture, however, fruits and other foods that are higher in sugar may be flexible but shouldn’t be sticky.
It is also critical to employ proper food handling techniques while preparing the food before freeze-drying and storing afterward in an airtight mylar bag, jar, or food-grade container.
Does Freeze Drying Food Kill Bacteria? Freeze drying food does not kill bacteria. Freeze drying is not a food safety process so bacteria and other microorganisms can stay viable and dormant even after being freeze dried. Before freeze drying your food you will need to prepare your food by following proper cleaning and handling.
When home freeze drying raw foods the bacteria on the raw foods will remain alive, then activate upon rehydration. Food items that are cooked before eating must also be cooked before eating as freeze dried food. Examples include raw meats, raw eggs, and foods containing raw ingredients. More information on is freeze dried food healthy? An expert weighs in.
What Types of Foods Should You Freeze Dry?
- Eggs and Dairy
- Herbs and Spices
- Full Meals
- Snacks and Drinks
- And much more
To get a full list of foods that you can freeze dry and foods that don’t freeze-dry well check out our article What Foods Can and Cannot be Freeze-Dried: Complete Guide.
The amazing thing is that you can freeze-dry almost anything. Fruits, vegetables, and meats taste great when freeze dried. That includes things like tomatoes, apples, bananas, strawberries, peaches, green beans, peppers, onions, potatoes, spinach, shrimp, pork, beef, turkey, and even ice cream.
Try feeze drying meals like lasagna, rice dishes, cheese macaroni, chili, beef stew, chicken a la king, casseroles, shrimp, lobster, pulled pork, pasta sauces, or scrambled eggs are perfect for this process. Experiment a little and try a wide variety of your favorite produce, candy, foods, and full meals. A great way to start is by picking meals that are already favorites in your home.
So should you buy a home freeze dryer?
If your goal is to stock up on shelf-stable foods that store for up to 25 years for camping, backpacking, family dinners, healthy snacks, candy, storing shelf-stable produce ingredients for cooking, and more than buying a freeze dryer is worth purchasing.
It could help to purchase some existing commercially freeze dried food to taste test and get an idea of how you and your family would use freeze dried foods.
Make sure a home freeze dryer fits in your budget and that the machine will actually fit in your home.