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Drying Your Own Lumber with a Solar Kiln

A solar kiln is a great way to help you are your family become more self sufficient and independent. Solar kilns are used to dry lumber so it can be used for building or any other uses that require lumber. A solar wood drying kiln is an extremely efficient way of drying lumber, and they can usually be built fairly easily with materials you may already have on hand. A DIY solar kiln can create temperatures between 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the outside temperature on warm, sunny days.

Drying your wood in a solar wood kiln can be a great way to create your own lumber, and they are actually more efficient than a standard wood drying kiln or drying your lumber out in the open air. It is very rare to find air dried lumber with a moisture content below twenty percent which can lead to your lumber warping and cracking before you are able to use it. A solar drying kiln can allow you to create lumber with a moisture content between six and ten percent which is almost unheard of.

Designing and Building Your Own Solar Wood Drying Kiln

Below you will also find out how to calculate the most important aspects of your kiln. The ideas below are merely meant as a starting point for building your own solar drying kiln. You can take these ideas and customize them to fit any size kiln. We will simply touch upon the basics that must be included for a solar kiln to function properly.

  • Determining the Pitch of your Roof

The most important aspect of your DIY kiln will be the roof and the solar collector. The roof needs to be at the correct angle to allow as much sunlight into your kiln as possible. To determine the pitch of your roof, you first need to know your latitude as this will affect the angle of the sun. If you live in the middle of the US, the average angle should be between 30 and 40 degrees. 

However, if you are planning on using your kiln during the winter months then you will need to add another ten degrees to the pitch of your roof. So if you latitude is 35 degrees, you will want to have a pith of 45 degrees if you want your kiln to function during the winter. 

solar kilnThe roof should be constructed of a material such as glass or plastic that will allow sunlight, and more importantly heat, into your building. The roof should be very similar to that of a solar greenhouse

Another very important thing is that the pitch of your roof should face south to allow the most sunlight inside. This means that the north wall of your structure should be much taller than the south side so the pitch of the roof is facing the correct direction.

  • Solar Collector

The roof is essentially your solar collector as it allows heat into the building while preventing it from escaping. Your building needs to be extremely well constructed and insulated to prevent heat from escaping. The inside of the building should be painted with a sealant to make it completely airtight. 

It is then recommended that you paint the walls and floor of your kiln with black paint. Painting the inside of the kiln black will ensure that the heat that is allowed into your kiln through the roof is then absorbed by the walls and contained inside the building.

  • Temperature and Humidity Levels

A solar drying kiln may be very similar to a solar greenhouse, except there is one main fundamental difference. Humidity levels inside a greenhouse are often extremely high, which is very beneficial to the plants that are located inside the greenhouse. However, when you are seeking to dry out lumber, humidity inside your box can start to become quite an issue. 

solar kilnIn fact, the reason that solar drying kiln is better than drying lumber outdoors is that the humidity levels in most places is too high to sufficiently dry lumber thoroughly which is why the lumber is moved into a drying kiln in the first place. 

In order to regulate the humidity level in your structure, it is necessary to have a gauge which will read the humidity level inside your building. 

You will also want to have a remote read thermometer installed inside the kiln so you can monitor the internal temperature of the kiln as well. Different types of lumber require different drying times and different temperatures. 

Drying your lumber to quickly can cause the boards to warp or crack, so you will need to be able to control your temperature. This can be accomplished by adding vents at the top of the north wall. 

These can be as simple as holes that you can cover with plywood when necessary, or you may want to consider installing cheap solar powered fans to circulate the heat more thoroughly through your kiln. 

  • Size Matters

To determine the size of your kiln, you will need to know how many boards you want to dry at a time. A general rule of thumb is that you need one square foot of collector (glazed roofing) for each ten feet of 1 inch thick board that you wish to dry. 

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