Dehydrators typically make a noticeable sound when they’re running, so knowing whether or not your dehydrator is on and doing something is easy enough. Simply listen for the sound. However, just because your dehydrator is on and making noise doesn’t necessarily mean it’s working properly.
The best way to know if your dehydrator is working correctly is to test the internal temperature of the dehydrator before adding any food to it. Do this by placing a thermometer inside the machine, selecting a temperature, and checking the thermometer reading about 10 to 15 minutes later.
In this article, I’ll talk to you more in-depth about testing your dehydrator. I’ll also give you some troubleshooting tips to check for in case your unit isn’t working.
Testing the Temperature of Your Dehydrator
If your dehydrator is on and making noise, then it’s technically working.
However, to know if it’s working correctly, you need to check the temperature. Doing this isn’t difficult; there are three steps:
- Make sure your dehydrator is plugged in and turned on but empty of food.
- Set the temperature of your dehydrator, and place the thermometer inside.
- Give your dehydrator about 10 to 15 minutes to warm up, then check the thermometer.
At the 15-minute mark, your machine should be at the set temperature. However, the temperature may fluctuate by about ten degrees higher or lower over time, which is normal.
Is Your Dehydrator Working? Alternate Testing Method
Testing your dehydrator with a thermometer is the most accurate way to ensure it’s working correctly and reaching the proper temperatures. However, there is one other way to test it. Throw some food in there, choose your heat setting, and see if it dehydrates!
This method takes longer and won’t give you as accurate a read on the temperature, but at least you’ll have delicious, dehydrated goodies to enjoy at the end of the process.
Selecting the Right Thermometer
There are two main types of dehydrators: vertical airflow and horizontal airflow. The first two and a half minutes of this video gives you a great explanation of the difference between the two:
The type of machine you have will determine which type of thermometer you should use in it.
Probe thermometers, such as the ThermoPro TP-16, work best in vertical dehydrators. The unit is heat resistant and comes with a timer that can count down or up to 99 hours and 59 minutes. Plus, the magnetic back lets you attach the thermometer to any metal surface, including your fridge.
On the other hand, hanging oven thermometers like the Rubbermaid Instant Read Thermometer are better for horizontal dehydrators. This thermometer is excellent for traditional ovens, grills, and other cooking appliances. Plus, it handles extreme temperatures ranging from 60°F to 580°F (30°C to 200°C).
How Hot Should Your Dehydrator Get?
Because most foods dry out at temperatures between 130°F – 155°F (54°C – 68°C), most dehydrators can reach temperatures of at least 160°F (71°C). If your dehydrator doesn’t go up to temperatures that high, you may need to repair it.
When Should You Test Your Dehydrator’s Temperature?
Hopefully, you now know how to test your food dehydrator, and you should even have some idea of how to troubleshoot if yours isn’t working exactly right. But why would you want to check your dehydrator in the first place?
Well, there are a few reasons.
First and foremost, you might need to check it if you suspect there’s a problem. For example, if your food isn’t cooking or is cooking too slowly, you may need to pull out the thermometer and test the temperature.
If you don’t suspect any problems, you should still check your dehydrator’s temperature at least once every six months or so.
That’ll help you keep on top of any issues that might arise and give you time to contact the manufacturer, hopefully, while the product is still under warranty. Additionally, checking every six months or so should cut down on the risk of fire due to a faulty machine.
According to Dehydrator Blog, other reasons for testing a dehydrator include:
- Buying a secondhand dehydrator offline, at a thrift store, or from a garage sale.
- Testing a dehydrator that’s been in storage for a long time.
- Smelling odd odors or hearing strange noises coming from the machine.
- Assessing the temperature on an old unit that doesn’t have a temperature display.
Whatever the reason, the process is simple and shouldn’t take you longer than 20 minutes to half an hour.
Should Your Dehydrator Be Hot To the Touch?
It’s only natural that something reaching temperatures of 160°F (71°C) will be a little hot, even on the outside. If you touch your dehydrator and feel the heat coming off the sides, that’s okay. You may also be able to feel warm air blowing out of the unit.
This is also normal and means your machine is doing what it’s supposed to do.
Dehydrator Not Working – Troubleshooting Guide
If your dehydrator doesn’t seem to be working exactly as it should, there could be a few different reasons. Let’s look at some of them.
Dehydrator Isn’t Heating Up Enough
If your dehydrator is running, but the temperature isn’t reaching your desired set temp, a few different things could be happening.
Possible Culprit: Your Thermometer Is Bad
First of all, make sure the thermometer you’re using to test your dehydrator is working. Sometimes, people think their dehydrators are broken when really it’s the smaller, cheaper thermometer that’s broken instead.
Try testing something else with the thermometer, or try testing your dehydrator with a different thermometer. If you’re lucky, that’s your only problem.
Possible Culprit: Thermostat Is Broken
Occasionally, the thermostat on your dehydrator may stop working. If this happens, it can keep the dehydrator from heating properly because there’s nothing there to read and gauge the temperature. Just as your HVAC unit will stop heating or cooling if the thermostat goes out, so, too, will your food dehydrator.
The Florida Hillbilly Blog has a step-by-step guide (with pictures) on how to replace the thermostat on an Excalibur 3900. Some companies, like Excalibur, will send you replacement parts if your unit is still under warranty. Others prefer that you send over the machine and let them repair it instead.
Possible Culprit: Problem With the Thermal Fuse
If the thermal fuse in your dehydrator’s heating unit goes out, you can experience the same problems.
Just like with the thermostat, some companies will repair the thermal fuse in your unit if it’s still under warranty. Others will send you replacement parts so that you can do it yourself. This video showcases the thermal fuse replacement process:
Possible Culprit: Fan Isn’t Working Properly
There could be something jamming your fan, preventing it from moving. If you’ve recently spilled something in the unit, that could be the issue. Sometimes a thorough cleaning can remedy it.
It’s also possible that there are food pieces stuck inside the fan compartment. To check, turn off your machine and examine the fan carefully. Remove anything you see inside of it. You should also turn the machine upside down and shake it to see if anything falls out of it.
Possible Culprit: The Trays Are Over-Full
Finally, if you suspect your dehydrator isn’t getting hot enough because your food is cooking slowly, it might not be the machine at all. Instead, you may have stuffed the dehydrator too full of food.
Air must move freely around the food and the trays. If you have too much stuff crammed in and overlapping, you’re probably not getting enough airflow through the machine. Try removing some of the food and spreading it out more evenly.
If that solves your problem, then your dehydrator is likely working just fine.
Dehydrator Is Melting Trays
If your dehydrator is melting trays, it could be a problem with the thermostat, thermal fuse, or heating unit, as mentioned above. However, if you have a vertical airflow dehydrator, it could melt your trays if you aren’t rotating them often enough.
Because vertical airflow dehydrators heat from the bottom up, the bottom tray will always be the hottest. That’s why it’s essential to take out the trays and rearrange them every so often.
Most of the time, your manual will tell you how frequently you should rotate the trays at specific temperature settings.
Dehydrator Won’t Turn On
If your dehydrator doesn’t turn on at all, you may have a more significant problem that only the manufacturer can fix, if it can be fixed at all. However, don’t forget to check the obvious things first.
- Is your machine plugged into the outlet? Sometimes, things get unplugged accidentally, and sometimes, people unknowingly unplug something that’s in use. Be sure your unit is still plugged in before you assume it’s dead.
- Is your machine powered on? Again, people can bump buttons and turn knobs accidentally. If your machine won’t come on, make sure its switch is in the “on” position.
- Does your outlet work? If something is plugged in and turned on and still doesn’t work, that could mean it’s malfunctioned. However, it could also be a problem with your outlet. Check your dehydrator by plugging it into another outlet before you call the manufacturer.
If all of those troubleshooting tips fail, it may be time to call the pros. Of course, you can check your manual first and see if there are any additional things to check on your specific machine. If not, try contacting the manufacturer directly.