When you’re thinking about food storage, freeze dryers invariably come up. They’re touted as the most amazing food storage option ever. But why are they so expensive? And are they worth the price?
Freeze dryers can cost several thousand dollars or more as they must reliably and accurately freeze (to -80 degrees Fahrenheit) and heat foods, using a strong vacuum to remove 95%+ of the water content. Due to parts, labor, and overhead costs, these units reasonably cost $1,060 or more.
Ready to see what a freeze dryer costs – and why that is? Keep reading for full cost analysis on prices.
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Or if you want to skip to the end result so you can get to shopping already, then here’s my recommendation: Harvest Right freeze dryers are the best price and value – and they aren’t prohibitively expensive. In fact, they’re probably less expensive than trying to build a similar type of unit yourself.
How Much Do Freeze Dryers Cost?
Freeze dryers use lyophilization (freeze-drying) to cycle through sublimation and drying in order to create your end product of lightweight, easy-to-store food that’s been sucked dry of all moisture.
I spent hours searching for various freeze-dryer models to create this comparison chart for prices. The hardest part of finding accurate prices is a simple fact that most freeze-dryers are for commercial, scientific, or commercial use. And so most of them won’t list prices on their websites – they want you to call and talk to the salesman.
Once you do contact them, the prices are insanely high – five digits ($10,000) or more. Thankfully, though, there are a few less-crazy-expensive options now becoming available – even within the commercial, scientific, and pharmaceutical options. However, these models aren’t nearly as large as the you-have-to-call-for-pricing options.
But for home use? That’s okay. Most of us don’t need giant-sized freeze dryers.
|Freeze Dryer Model||Size (Capacity)||Price Range|
|Ajanta Lyophilizer (freeze dryer)||3.25 L (0.92 gallons)||$7,400+|
|Labconco 700201000 Benchtop Freeze Dryer||2.5 L (0.66 gallons)||$7,100+|
|Labconco 700201050 Benchtop Freeze Dryer||2.5 L (0.66 gallons)||$8000+|
|Labconco 7759032 Freeze Dry System||12 L (3.17 gallons)||$38,000+|
|Harvest Right Small Home Freeze Dryer||4-7 pounds of fresh food per batch||$1,995-$3,490|
|Harvest Right Medium Home Freeze Dryer||7-10 pounds of fresh food per batch||$2,895-$4,390|
|Harvest Right Large Home Freeze Dryer||12-16 pounds of fresh food per batch||$3,095-$5,090|
|Harvest Right Scientific Freeze Dryers||1-4 gallons of material per batch||$7,499-$10,500|
|Harvest Right Pharmaceutical Freeze Dryers||3.75-10.25 square feet of tray space||$3,095-$4,595|
|Harvest Right Commercial Freeze Dryers||50-500 pounds of food||Call for a quote|
In any case, I used to think that Harvest Right freeze dryers were expensive as well as awesome and totally worth it. Despite the cost, I’ve thought our freeze dryer was worth the price tag. After all of this comparing, though, now I know that they are really trying to make freeze dryers available for a good price – so us regular folks can buy them – but we’ll talk about that more later.
After spending hours researching freeze dryers, they’re just expensive in general. Some are prohibitively expensive – others are just kinda expensive – but totally a manageable price if you can save up for them.
Why Are Freeze Dryers So Expensive?
In trying to figure out why freeze dryers are so expensive, I sat down and researched common prices for the various components, based on my own freeze dryer (the medium Harvest Right model).
Here are common price ranges for the various parts to make a quality, commercial-grade, at-home freeze-dryer.
|Freeze Dryer Components||Price Range|
|Vacuum pump oil-based (with oil filter, oil, etc)||$150-$1000+|
|Vacuum pump, oil-free||$210-$600+|
|Freeze dryer casing – stainless steel |
(estimates based on wall-mounted cabinets)
|Miscellaneous parts (screws, hardware)||$40+|
|Labor (design, manufacture, assembly, etc)||variable|
|Software (to control the temperature, vacuum, et al.)||variable|
Now, keep in mind that that’s the pricing for just the parts – and that my price estimate for the casing is based on stainless steel cabinets. For an actual freeze-dryer, you’re going to need a casing that’s able to make, keep, and maintain a complete seal.
In other words, a generic cabinet won’t cut it – you’re probably going to need a custom cabinet – or to do some massive retrofitting on that cabinet.
So the lower estimate of building a commercial-grade, at-home freeze dryer may only be $1,060, but because of the cabinet thing, I think that’s lower than it would be in reality. Especially since you’re going to also need multiple condensers. This pricing also doesn’t include the cost of time and/or labor to design, manufacture, assemble, and market the freeze dryer.
And that’s just for the hardware. If you don’t want to babysit the thing, you’re also going to need to write your own software to monitor it for you. Now, if you can write software, then it’s probably not a big deal. You could probably write your own program. But if you aren’t a programmer? Then writing your own software is going to be a huge project – and you’re going to need to learn a whole lot about Arduinos, raspberry pis, and other electrical things that I only recently learned about myself.
In other words, it looks like Harvest Right is actually doing a pretty good job at making and selling freeze dryers to us everyday folks for a very reasonable price.
Now… could you build your own freeze dryer for less than this? Definitely. And we’ll talk about that later on in the article.
The 3 Best Freeze Dryers on the Market
Based on the information I’ve found so far, including evaluating publicly available reviews and my own experiences with freeze drying, I’ve concluded that the 3 best freeze dryers on the market are all from Harvest Right – and they’re the 3 basic sizes they offer to the general public for home use.
As far as which one will be right for you? That’s going to depend on your specific needs, available space, budget, and other considerations – like what kind of plug you’ve got for your freeze dryer.
Here are the stats, breakdowns, and information on each of those three models.
|Harvest Right Small||Harvest Right Medium||Harvest Right Large|
|Standard Price (oil pump with pump oil and a filter)||$1995||$3,195||$3,995|
|Price with Oil-free Pump||$3,490||$4,690||$5,490|
|The capacity of Fresh Food||4-7 pounds||7-10 pounds||12-16 pounds|
|The capacity of Freeze-Dried Food||1-1.5 gallons||1.5-2.5 gallons||2-3.5 gallons|
|Dimensions||16.5″ W x 18.5″ D x 25″ H||18″ W x 21.25″ D x 28.5″ H||20.25″ W x 23.75″ D x 30.75″ H|
|Power Supply||110-volt outlet||110-volt outlet||110-volt outlet (NEMA 5-20). A dedicated 20 amp circuit is required.|
|Unit Weight||61 pounds||112 pounds||161 pounds|
|Pump Weight||35 pounds||35 pounds||35 pounds|
|Shipping weight||139 pounds||212 pounds||253 pounds|
|Warranty||3-year limited warranty||3-year limited warranty||3-year limited warranty|
|Included Accessories||3 Stainless steel trays, freezer guide, 50 mylar bags, 50 oxygen absorbers, impulse sealer||4 Stainless steel trays, freezer guide, 50 mylar bags, 50 oxygen absorbers, impulse sealer||5 Stainless steel trays, freezer guide, 50 mylar bags, 50 oxygen absorbers, impulse sealer|
Mentioning the type of outlet you’ve got is important because the large model does require a dedicated 20 amp circuit. If you aren’t sure what kind of plug you’ve got, it’s best to assume it’s a general 110-volt outlet and that it may not have a dedicated 20 amp circuit. In other words, you’d be better off if you stick with the small or medium freeze dryers.
Harvest Right also made the best three because it does offer some extras that other freeze dryer companies don’t – because the other companies don’t sell as many units to the public. The most amazing one is a layaway style financing option.
Harvest Right offers a layaway style financing option if you need it. Here’s how that works.
- Pay the $250 (minimum) down payment to lock in your sale price.
- Pay what you want, when you can.
- When you reach the designated threshold for your freeze dryer, it will be shipped to you.
- Small Freeze Dryer: $1,400
- Medium Freeze Dryer: $1,500
- Large Freeze Dryer: $2,000
- Pay the remainder of the full amount owed within 12 months for 0% interest financing.
- Some restrictions apply – and please refer to Harvest Right to make sure these conditions haven’t changed since this post was published.
When we bought our freeze dryer, we used the layaway option. At that time, we had to finish paying the sale price (that we’d locked in) before it would be shipped to us, though.
Can You Make Your Own Freeze Dryer?
Yes, you can make your own freeze dryer. You could follow the parts suggestions from earlier in this post (that are based on a Harvest Right medium-sized freeze-dryer) or you could build your own on a much smaller level. However, that parts list didn’t come with a design for one important reason: I’m not an engineer – I’m a nurse and a backyard homesteading mom!
Because I’m not an engineer, I know better than to try and design my own freeze dryer. However, because I’m a fan of being thorough, I did turn to those who have made their own freeze dryers.
Here are some YouTube videos that show making your own freeze dryers. These videos didn’t mention the specific cost to build their own freeze dryers – not that I could catch, anyway. But I imagine it’s still several hundred dollars – not including the cost of any tools or equipment. And some of the equipment used looks expensive – and like it takes some training to be able to use safely.
This first video will require that you have some specialty equipment – and some machining skills.
This next freeze dryer looks like it won’t require as many fancy tools. And, it’ll work – but I’m not sure how well it’ll hold up in the long-term or with multiple uses.
So you can totally make your own freeze dryer – but the main issues will be in regards to reliability over time, wear with repeated use, and your own skills with tools and building things.
Again, you’ll also want to consider writing your own program to manage things for you. And that’s a whole other project!
Would I ever try making my own freeze dryer? No. We don’t have machining skills (or equipment) – and so I lack the confidence to build a freeze dryer. My husband could probably do it – but he’d want to make a safer-looking, longer-lasting homemade one than these experimental examples from the YouTube videos.
When we sat down to run the numbers to buy equipment, tools, and parts to make a homemade freeze dryer? That took us right back to our parts and estimated costs list from earlier in this article.
Once we also factored in time, stress levels, and our already-lengthy-to-do list, the choice to make our own freeze dryer seemed like trying to reinvent the wheel. It would have cost us more time, money, and effort than buying a Harvest Right freeze dryer. We decided that buying a freeze dryer was the smarter choice for us.
Are Freeze Dryers Worth it?
Having a freeze dryer – and knowing if it’s worth it – is a highly personal decision. In our experience? It’s been a great investment and totally worth it. We have had a medium-sized Harvest Right home freeze dryer for several years now – and we’ve loved trying all the fun goodies. Okay, most of them. Freeze-dried bread was a total fail in our book.
Before we purchased it, we considered getting a large model. We had several places in mind for keeping our freeze dryer – and none of them had a 20 amp dedicated circuit. And because our electrical box was full, running a new wire for a dedicated circuit wasn’t an option – at least not without a significant, additional cost.
As such, that did limit us to the medium model being the biggest one we could get. We were briefly tempted by the small model’s smaller price, but when we compared potential freeze-dried food output and the sunk costs of electrical use and equipment prices, we decided that the medium was a better option for us.
Since then, we’ve been freeze-drying various foods on a pretty regular basis. Our freeze-drying does slow down (or even stop) during the winter – when there aren’t as many fresh foods to process and store. That’s when we’re dipping into our food storage – because reconstituted, rehydrated freeze-dried foods are still packed with flavor and nutrition.
We’ve tried freeze-drying lots of foods, including:
- Homegrown fruits and vegetables from our garden
- Produce that we got on sale from the grocery store (mushrooms are one of my favorites to buy when they’re marked way down – then I freeze-dry them for later!)
- Skittles (a delicious favorite of everyone in our family)
- Bread (one of our less-successful experiments because we reconstituted it wrong!)
- Rice (there’s a steep learning curve with rice, so be warned!)
- Ready-made meals for camping
- Ice cream sandwiches (cut them into bites before freeze-drying – then they’re quite delicious!)
- Eggs (fresh and storebought, scrambled raw, and separated egg whites and yolks)
- Ground beef (cooked and raw)
- Chicken (cooked and sliced)
- And more!
We have plans for freeze-drying even more things – we’ve experimented freeze-drying a few meals, but we want to try even more. We figure they’ll be especially handy for backpacking and camping with the kids. Or, we can just leave them in our food storage for if and when we need them.
Once they’re in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, they’re good for at least a handful of years – or up to 25, depending on what’s in the bag.
Has the freeze dryer been worth it for us?
For us, having a freeze dryer has been worth it. So many times, when making dinner, I’ll realize that I’m out of an ingredient I thought I had… but I’ll have it down in the food storage because we’d freeze-dried some earlier. This happens so often with mushrooms, in particular!
Freeze-dried mushrooms crush into a powder so well – that I can add them to many more dishes than I could have if I’d tried pureeing them. My family doesn’t like the texture of mushrooms – but they do like the flavor!
In other words, a freeze dryer has been worth it to us because it’s meant:
- having available (and usable) food storage that tastes like it’s fresh
- not having to worry if I can’t make it to the grocery store
- being prepared for everyday food problems
- preparedness for that zombie apocalypse
- being prepared for fun camping excursions
- fun new snacks and treats for the kids to experience and love
- and general peace of mind
But that’s why it’s been worth it to us – you’ll have to weigh the pros, cons, and pricing to decide if it will be worth it to you. But being prepared for anything – I know it’s appealing. And that is worth it to me.
So if you’d like to shop for Harvest Right freeze dryers, click this link to go to their website. Just be sure to freeze-dry some skittles and sliced grapes – they’re two of my favorites.