When you’re looking at buying a freeze dryer, the upfront cost is usually the most daunting part. After all, they aren’t cheap. Even so, how much does a freeze dryer cost? And what other costs are associated with it?
Freeze dryer units cost between $1,995 and $38,000+, depending on the model and use. The most popular, at-home freeze-dryers cost between $1,995 and $5,090, depending on size and style, and include a starter kit of accessories. Other costs include power, additional accessories, storage, and food.
Ready to see more about how much freeze dryers cost – both upfront and over several months and years? Keep reading – and I’ll show you exactly how much it costs. Here are 28 examples and factors to know when pricing out a freeze dryer.
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How Much a Freeze Dryer Costs to Buy
Buying a freeze dryer upfront is the biggest expense. And the costs range from just under $2,000 to more than $38,000. The disparity is due to size, use, and brand. Here’s a table listing common brands, costs, size, and a few other notes.
|Brand and Model||Cost||Notes and Considerations|
|Ajanta Lyophilizer||$7,400+||Holds 3.25 L (0.92 gallons)|
|Harvest Right – Small||$1,995-$3,690||Holds 4-7 pounds of fresh food per batch|
|Harvest Right – Medium||$2,695-$4,390||Holds 7-10 pounds of fresh food per batch|
|Harvest Right – Large||$3,095-$5,090||Holds 12-16 pounds of fresh food per batch|
|Harvest Right – Scientific||$7,499-$10,500||Holds 1-4 gallons of materials per batch|
|Harvest Right – Pharmaceutical||$3,095-$4,595||Has 3.75-10.25 square feet of tray space|
|Labconco 700201000 Benchtop Freeze Dryer||$7,100+||Holds 2.5 L (2/3 gallons) of materials|
|Labconco 700201050 Benchtop Freeze Dryer||$8,000+||Holds 2.5 L (2/3 gallons) of materials|
|Labconco 7759032 Freeze Dry System||$38,000+||Holds 12 L (3.17 gallons) of materials|
As you can see, pharmaceutical-grade freeze dryers are more expensive than an at-home, food-grade freeze dryer. I’m not entirely sure about the price difference. However, my research and educated guesses indicate that pharmaceutical-grade freeze dryers need to be more finely-tuned and may need to pass along some insurance-related costs to the buyers.
Comparatively speaking, the at-home, food-grade Harvest Right freeze dryers are a total bargain! And they can hold their own in the volume department. They can still process a good amount of food!
Depending on the exact model of the freeze dryer you select, that upfront fee will include various other parts. Here is some of what may (or may not) be included in each, along with some notes, although I’m not talking about what they cost just yet. We’ll discuss what these individual components cost in the next section of this article.
- Vacuum pump – oil-free pumps cost more than oil-based pumps.
- Vacuum pump oil and oil filters – these won’t be needed in an oil-free pump. However, the cheaper oil-based vacuum pump will need regular maintenance on the pump, oil changes, and oil filter changes.
- Freeze Dryer Trays – the unit usually comes with the stack for holding the trays, but you’re going to want trays to hold the food. Otherwise, you’re going to have to deep-clean the unit after each use. I highly recommend getting a second set of trays.
- Sealing Equipment (impulse or continuous bag sealer) – you’ll need a sealer to close Mylar bags properly. If you’re storing freeze-dried foods in glass jars, you’ll need an appropriate sealer for that.
- Sealing Accessories (Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, glass jars) – Harvest Right includes a starter set of Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers with each purchase. Glass jars almost always have to be bought separately, no matter the brand.
Part of what I love about the Harvest Right brand is that they include everything you need to get started – including the above items. Oh, and they let you choose which kind of pump you want. That way, you’ve got exactly what you need to get started freeze-drying – and it’s some of the best prices on the market.
Associated Costs of Required or Related Accessories
Okay, let’s talk about what the individual accessories cost right now. These accessories are what you’ll need in order to store the food you’ve just freeze-dried.
|Accessory and Related Equipment||Cost||Notes and Considerations|
|Impulse Sealer||$120-170||The best deal for this is usually to get it when you first buy the freeze dryer. Otherwise, get it in the starter kit.|
|Continuous Bag Sealer||$300-500||This may be a good option instead of an impulse sealer if you also want to seal various other types of bags (including plastic).|
|Mason Jar Sealer||$20-$100||If you’d rather store food in Mason jars, you’ll want a Mason jar vacuum sealer. You can get one separately, or there are various attachments if you already have a vacuum sealing system.|
|Mylar Bags (per 50)||$10-30||Thicker bags (7 mm) without the plastic window will get you the longest shelf-life possible for stored food. You’ll also want a variety of sizes (like gallon and quart).|
|Mason Jars (per 24)||$10-$30||The price will depend on size (quart, pint), mouth size (regular, wide-mouth), and where you buy it. I find these are cheapest to buy at a local grocery store. Two of the best brands are Ball and Kerr.|
|Oxygen Absorbers (per 50)||$10-20||Buying in bulk is the only way to get the lower price range on this. If you buy in bulk, though, make sure that not all the absorbers are stored together – or you’ll need to re-seal them to keep them good.|
|Second Set of Stainless Steel Trays||$69+||Having a second set is a lifesaver for speeding things up by pre-freezing things. It’s a really nice perk, but not required.|
|Silicone mats||$20-50||This helps keep your trays cleaner and can be used to do extra pre-freezing sessions. Not required, but nice.|
|Vacuum pump (oil)||$295-$895||Most first-time purchases of a freeze dryer have this included. This is just listed for reference in case you decide to upgrade or replace your current pump.|
|Vacuum pump oil refill||$26.95 for a 2-pack||Vacuum pump oil isn’t cheap. You have to get the right kind or the pump will seize up and fail.|
|Vacuum pump oil filters||$24.95||Changing oil filters regularly is a must. The oil needs to be filtered after each use or it gets filthy.|
|Vacuum pump (oil-free)||$1,695||Go oil-free with this pump and skip the filters and oil changes.|
|Hoses||$7+||Sometimes hoses need to be replaced. It’s nice to know they aren’t crazy expensive.|
|Food to be freeze-dried||Varies||This cost will vary depending on if you buy, grow your own food, and/or where you shop. Shopping sales will also help keep this particular cost down.|
|Cart for Holding the Freeze Dryer||From $0-$100+||This cost will depend on if you already have a cart (or table) for using – or if you want to buy a special one. We bought a generic rolling cart – for about $65.|
If you want to find some of the best places to buy Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, Harvest Right’s prices are fair, considering that they sell the highest-quality stuff.
We used to buy our oxygen absorbers at the LDS Food Storage and Distribution centers, but they no longer sell them. Thankfully, we still have a good-sized stash of them from our last purchase.
However, I’ve heard good things about DiscountMylarBags.com from my friends for better prices on Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. Based on a preliminary search, they’re a good option at a better price than other retailers. They offer several thicknesses of Mylar, too, which is pretty cool. That way, if you want some shorter-term storage options, you could use the cheaper, thinner bags instead of the more expensive options.
You can freeze dry any food products you want – or almost any food. See my article on foods that do (and those that don’t) freeze dry for more details.
Costs of Running a Freeze Dryer (Including Energy)
Next, let’s talk about how much it costs to run a freeze dryer. Please note that your exact results will depend on which sized freeze dryer you pick, your local power costs, and how often you’re running everything.
All of these calculations are for the standard 110 volt outlet option. Both the small and medium Harvest Right freeze dryers use a standard, 110 volt outlet. We have a medium. The large uses a 220 volt outlet. Our neighbor has a large freeze dryer, though, and they’ve shared very similar results as to what we’ve found.
|Running a Freeze Dryer||Costs||Notes or Considerations|
|Energy/electricity to run a freeze dryer per day||$1-5, depending on your power costs||This is per day. A load can take between 14 hours and three days, depending on if you pre-freeze or not. At last calculation, it costs us about $2.20/day to run the freeze dryer and another $0.55 to cover the next few things.|
|Energy to seal food||Less than $1 per day||Running an impulse sealer uses very little energy. The real cost is in buying mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.|
|Energy to store food||Variable to Sunk Cost||This will depend on where you store your food. We store it in a storage room that’s cooled as naturally as possible – but augmented by how we heat/cool the house anyway. So we’re not paying any extra to store the food – it just costs space.|
|Energy to offset the freeze dryer||Variable to Sunk Cost||We keep our freeze dryer in a utility room that’s out of the way and ventilates outside. That way, it’s kept indoors and safe from the elements but doesn’t cost us anything extra.|
Like I mentioned in the table above, we calculated that it costs us about $2.20 per day to run the freeze dryer. When we added other costs (like costs associated with Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, and energy needed to seal and store the food), we found that $2.75 was our average cost per day.
We also calculated that it takes an average of 36 hours to process a load from start to defrost – if we pre-freeze. Food that’s put straight in at room temperature can take longer, depending on what’s being freeze-dried. Our most prolonged load took four days (and it was a bit of a disaster that will never be repeated – always pre-freeze food!).
In other words, each load costs about $3.85, excluding the price of food.
Maintenance Fees Associated with a Freeze Dryer
Maintenance fees for a freeze dryer are going to depend on which pump you chose, how much maintenance you’re willing to do yourself, and if you need any maintenance done by someone else.
We’ve had our medium-sized Harvest Right freeze dryer unit and oil-based vacuum pump for about four years. To date, the maintenance costs on it have been related to buying new oil, oil filters, and electricity.
Even then, we’ve found a cool way to minimize the work related to changing the oil by setting up a self-changing, automatically filtering system. Well, my husband did. Here’s what it looks like.
I know – it’s not the prettiest of options. But it only cost us about $15 in parts from Home Depot to build it, not including the recycled milk jug (more on the milk jug in a moment). But now we don’t have to change the oil after each load – the oil filters and changes itself.
Now, I know you’re probably wondering – why is the ugly, recycled milk jug over the pump’s exhaust port? The milk jug actually pre-dates the DIY system (and I’ll cover the DIY, self-cleaning oil filtration system in another article).
Oil-based vacuum pumps, when they get too hot, spray some oil out their exhaust port. It’s a known issue. Newer models probably don’t do it as badly as our older model does, but they may still do it. Even so, we don’t want pressurized oil flying all over the utility room. So my husband found an easy (albeit ugly) fix: the milk carton. When we bought our freeze dryer, an oil-based vacuum pump was the only option, so we made do.
When the milk jug accumulates enough oil, we pour it back into the filtration system. Waste not, want not, and all that.
These days, if you don’t want to mess with the oil spray, you can shell out for the oil-free vacuum pump. Or, if the extra few hundred dollars is too steep for you, too, then you can make your own, DIY oil filtration system like we did.
I’m fine with a DIY filtration system for several reasons.
- First, it was our only choice at the time. Oil-free pumps weren’t an option several years ago. If we were buying now, we’d consider oil-free (though we’d still go with oil as it’s a difference of several hundred dollars).
- A DIY contained oil filtration system was more financially responsible for our situation to do this than to invest in an oil-free vacuum pump. We ran the numbers. Several times.
- I’m okay with this system because it’s in our utility room behind closed doors, so I don’t see it.
- Finally, this self-changing oil system extends the life of our freeze-drying system (and oil-based vacuum pump). And I don’t have to do any oil changes.
So I’m okay with a DIY system. It’s really a win in my book – it’s more cost effective, uses what we have, and saves us money now and in the long run.
Now, that’s the extent of maintenance we’ve had to do on our unit to this point. But, based on talking to friends with freeze dryers, reading popular posts in Facebook or forums, and Murphy’s law, it’s very reasonable to assume that there may come a time when we need to do more on our freeze dryer.
However, based on my research, most issues seem to happen either pretty quickly (while freeze dryer units are still covered and repaired under the warranty period) or after a handful of years of solid use.
As far as warranty repairs and repairing older units, most people I’ve talked to have either taken their units into Harvest Right to get the repairs made or they’re pretty handy and they do it themselves with guidance from the manufacturer.
Repair prices vary from a few dollars to several hundred dollars, depending on the issue, parts, and labor that are needed.
Is a Freeze Dryer Worth It?
I can’t tell you if a freeze dryer is worth it for your family. I can, however, give you information to help you determine that for yourself. And I can tell you that it’s been totally worth it for our family.
The biggest perks and pros for it have included the following.
- The ability to store our own favorite foods in a usable food storage.
- Being able to lessen our food waste by freeze-drying leftovers – or whatever else we want.
- The knowledge that our food storage meets our food needs and allergy restrictions.
The first and third reasons are, by far, my main sticking points. Our oldest boy has a tree nut allergy, so buying store-bought, factory-processed foods was a hassle. Now, we know that our food storage is safe for him to eat – because we don’t keep any tree nuts in the house.
My family also has some pickiness when it comes to food. Sure, we have some kids with severe texture issues – and other kids just (normally) hate broccoli. If we had to rely on store-bought options, we wouldn’t have as much flexibility in our food storage. But because we can freeze-dry and store our own food, we know it’s stuff that our children will actually eat and enjoy.
Okay, so not wasting food is also a great point in favor of the freeze-dryer, too. Although many of our food scraps now feed our chickens, it’s not as big a deal as the other two points. But when our garden is in overdrive, harvesting mode? I love being able to freeze-dry our favorite fresh produce so that we can have it throughout the year.
In any case, I definitely think that a freeze dryer is a valuable part of anyone’s food storage toolkit.
Freeze dryers aren’t cheap. They’re an initial investment of several thousand dollars, followed by continued investment in supplies, accessories, and upkeep. And don’t forget that they aren’t free to run, either!
One reason I love to pre-freeze whatever we’re about to freeze dry is to shorten the amount of time it takes my freeze dryer to run (so I’m not paying crazy high electricity bills), but also so that I can spread out when we’re freeze-drying – enough that the power bill doesn’t skyrocket.
So buying it isn’t cheap. Maintaining it and running it isn’t free. But the result can be totally worth it. If you’re thinking about getting a freeze dryer, I highly recommend getting one from Harvest Right. It’s the brand we use and love and recommend. To date, it’s the only brand of freeze dryer that’s made for at-home freeze-drying, and it’s also the only one that comes with what you need to get going.
Are There Used Freeze Dryers for Sale? Used freeze dryers do pop up for sale in some online forums, Facebook groups, and various market platforms. They seem to sell quickly and easily, even though most used freeze dryers are listed for about the same cost as new ones.
Do Freeze Dryer Companies Offer Financing? Harvest Right offers a layaway style of financing. An initial payment is required to lock in a sale price. Once a certain payment threshold is reached, then an order will be processed and shipped.
Why Are Freeze Dryers So Expensive? Are They Worth It? Freeze dryers have multiple expensive parts, require knowledgable assembly, and have a rigorous quality assurance check. Based on my research and experience, it’s worth it to buy rather than build it yourself. If you have more expertise in machining and various technical skills, you may be fine building it yourself. Read my article on why freeze dryers cost what they do (and if they’re worth it) for a full breakdown of costs on parts, skills needed, and why freeze dryers are so expensive.
Cite this article as: “How Much Does a Freeze Dryer Cost? 28 Examples and Factors.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 16 September 2020, backyardhomesteadhq.com/how-much-does-a-freeze-dryer-cost-28-examples-and-factors/.