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Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Oil Change and Filtering

Ever since I posted my Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Review, people have asked for more information about the freeze dryer oil change and filtering. It’s a simple process, but not something that’s required for other home food preservation methods. To show those who are curious exactly what’s involved, my sons help me put together a couple quick videos. The first one covers the freeze dryer oil change, and the second covers how to make an inexpensive oil filter.

Harvest Right Freeze Dryer pump

Note: Harvest Right now ships a filter with new freeze dryers, but from what I’ve seen in the forums, those filters have room for improvement. The TP filter combo I’m demonstrating here is widely recommended by many freeze drying enthusiasts.

Quick Review of How the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Works

During the freeze drying process, the food is frozen to well below zero. Then, a vacuum is pulled on the airtight chamber where the food is located. The pump used during the freeze drying process pulls air out of the food chamber, but it also gets some water and food bits. Right now, there’s no way to avoid this. This is why we need to change and filter the freeze dryer oil.

For a more detailed description of the freeze drying process, please see Harvest Right Freeze Dryer – Cost Analysis and Optimizing Load Size.

The freeze dryer pump with oil is the default option for new freeze dryers, but Harvest Right also sells an oilless pump. There is an additional change for the oilless pump.

The Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Oil Change

When your freeze drying cycle is done, the first priority to to package up the food for safe storage. Once that’s done and while the pump is still hot, it’s time to change the oil.

The freeze dryer oil change process is simple:

  1. Open drain valve and allow oil to drain into container of your choice. We use old yogurt containers.
  2. Tip up pump, if desired, to make sure to clear out as much oil as possible. Close drain valve.
  3. Open fill port and fill with clean oil. Use new oil or well-filtered vacuum pump oil. Fill to mid-line of sight glass at front of pump.
  4. Close fill port.

Some recommended freeze dryer vacuum pump oil brands include:

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Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Oil filter

Filtering the Freeze Dryer Oil

Because of the water in the used oil, I place the oil in the freezer for a few hours or overnight before filtering. When I’m ready to filter, I pour off the oil from the top of the container, leaving the water and sediment behind in the bottom. The container is wiped clean for the next use, and the oil drains through the filter. I pour the filtered oil into the original quart container that came with the freeze dryer, aiming for just over 600 ml, which is enough to fill the pump again.

Thinking About Buying a Freeze Dryer?

Harvest Right has three sizes of home freeze dryers – large, medium and small. These range in price from $1,795 to $3,595. They also carry Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers on their site, and a sealer that allows you to safely seal your Mylar in one step. They have a layaway plan that allows you to lock in a sale price with a minimum $250 downpayment. You can make your own payment plan and the price is locked in at the time of your deposit.


My referral link:


I’ll continue posting what we’re drying on Instagram, and sharing additional posts to address questions and show off the yumminess. If you choose to purchase a Harvest Right freeze dryer through my site, I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. (Thank you!)

Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Pump and oil

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  1. we just purchased our freeze dryer and after five or six batches the oil level is so low it does not show on the guage. There are no signe of leasing. Just trying to find out if this is normal. Nothing I have been able to find addresses this issue. Any help will be much appreciated.

    1. You may want to add just a bit of oil so you can see it in the spyglass. It’s possible that there may have been an air bubble, or oil retained in the pump, or some other shift of oil going on that lowered the level slightly after operation.

  2. Has anyone have a problem with the oil clogging up and not draining as it should? There is also a red object visible in the screen that we try to view the oil level. By jiggling the vacuum pump we manage to drain the oil and replace it with clean oil. The problem is that the red object is still there in the screen and it is difficult to get an accurate reading of the amount of oil before proceeding with a new batch. We are reluctant to try without knowing more about either the cause of the oil clogging or if there is a broken part within the vacuum pump that might be a part of the problem.

    1. We’ve never run into that. It sounds as if something has worked loose inside the pump. The oil should not get thick enough that it clogs instead of draining, so odds are there’s something blocking the flow.

  3. does your drain plug have a gasket or O ring in it? I changed my oil and I dont know what I did different but now it is leaking a bunch of oil out weather its running or not and it seems to be coming from the drain plug.

    1. I haven’t run into that problem. You could try tightening the valve seating into the unit, or draining the oil, removing the valve, and checking the contact points where it seats in the unit.

  4. My dial that shows oil level on pump is showing nothing… have not run 20 batches yet so haven’t changed oil yet. Can I just add oil.. please let me know asap

  5. I’ve had my freeze dryer for 1 month, and am filtering the oil, using the Brita, and toilet paper roll. This works great, but when do you change out the toilet paper?

    1. I usually swap it out when the toilet paper starts to look pretty bad. You could also swap based on filtering slowing down, and be sure to swap if the oil isn’t coming out as clean as it should.

  6. Thank you so much for blogging on the filtering process. We have had our Freeze dryer now for about 3-4 years. We have run a lot of batches through and love the results. The Berries and Bananas we have processed are so tasty dry, family members ask for some as gifts!

    I had build my own version of the oil Filter with some plastic containers and the WIX hydrolic fluid filter and it works great when the filter is new… but it only survives a couple batches before I have to replace it. Engine filters are are not cheap when you need to replace it so often.

    I am heading out to a thrift store because your version is so much more sustainable! even in Covid times, I can get enough toilet paper to keep this going where I have to hunt for stock on oil filters that can cost $19-26 Canadian.
    the video result of clear oil is the clincher 😀
    thank you and God Bless!

    1. You’re welcome, Roy. We tried the Wix filter option early on, but between the cost, having the filter clog up quickly, and the mess factor, we didn’t stick with it long. Since we made the video for this, my eldest built a small slide out platform attached to the underside of the counter top, which makes draining even easier. One roll of tp lasts quite a long time, and it’s cheap.

  7. Have you ever tried to feed freeze dried food to a five year old? Not many people have the money to buy a freeze drying unit now a days. what’s smart is if a group of people buy one as a group then they work as a group. plus share what they freeze dry.

    1. We’ve had people of all ages sample foods that we freeze dried during our annual open house. The biggest challenge we run into with the little ones is that they want to eat the whole container, especially with freeze dried fruits.

      If you can find a group of people to work with that you trust to share equitably, so much the better, as in most cases a single family won’t keep the unit constantly in use.

      I know people who have very tight budgets, but still go on vacations, or buy a 4 wheeler, or have the latest phone or clothing or accessories. We don’t do any of that, we choose to do this. Harvest Right also offers layaway plans.

      1. I cut cheese into cubes and freeze dry them down. The kids eat them like candy and my elderly in-law eats them as well.

  8. I am having trouble with the ‘unable to create vacuum’ message. I changed the oil. And was told that the pump needed to be cleaned after 20 batches. But I can’t find any information on how to open the pump and clean it out. I have the newest model of pump,
    The one in your picture. Any information or video to show me how to do this would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Have you checked your door gasket and all your other connections? These are usually the fail points if you can’t pull a vacuum.

      I can’t find a video of cleaning the new HR pump, but the process should be similar to cleaning the JB, as shown in the video below:

  9. Laurie, your homemade vacuum pump oil filter is genius. I have had a HarvestRight freeze dryer for about a month and the oil changing process has been the one inconvenient factor. Your video on how to make an oil filter is super-helpful. I will continue to follow you and watch your videos. Thanks for yours sage advice!

  10. I disliked changing the oil in the vacuum pump so much that I “upgraded” to the pricey oil-less scroller vacuum pump. After a few batches, I got the “unable to achieve vacuum” error message, and after a few tries to restart the process, brought out the old “oil burner” to save the day, and it worked great. I love your filter solution, and found a Britta filter pitcher at the local Salvation Army for $2.99, and a roll of “Warsaw Pact” quality TP at the Dollar store for–well, a Dollar.” It’s filtering fine and I’m thankful for the tip.

    The old pump was a lifesaver, as the new one failed on the Friday night before the Labor Day Weekend, and I had a complicated batch in process. When I talked the problem over with HR Tech Support, it was suggested that I run the scroller pump for two hours disconnected from the FD unit. I did so, and that apparently cured the problem. The new pump also trips a 20A Arc-Fault breaker once in a while; the oil version does not.

    If I’d known about the clever Brita oil filter solution, knowing about the issues and price of the scroller pump, I’m not so sure I’d have upgraded!

    P.S. In unsuccessfully trying to troubleshoot my “no vacuum” problem on my own, I measured the clearance between the plexiglass door and the FD unit when it was “sealed” with an “outside” micrometer and found that the gap varied greatly around the perimeter. Adjusting the two bolts on the hinge side corrected this, and the width of the gasket footprint on the plexiglass door is constant all around the perimeter.

    1. Hi Chris.

      Sorry you had some trouble with the oilless pump, but glad you got it working again, and thanks for sharing your experience with the troubleshooting.

      Eldest son rigged up a little pull out platform under the pump that makes the oil change even easier. Now we don’t have to hold the container.

      Funny story on the cheap toilet paper. I bought a pack of cheap TP for filtering the freeze dryer oil, and had it up in our bonus room, where we keep paper supplies. The regular TP was stashed nearby.

      Eldest son rarely restocks TP. but wouldn’t you know that the one time he decides to do it, he grabs the only pack of poopfinger toilet paper in the place. After getting splinters in my bottom, I explained to him the locations of the different types of TP, and my preference for using something a bit less rough on sensitive areas.

  11. I was told that I would need to maintenance my air-oil separator by putting new batting etc inside. Unfortunately I don’t know what this is or how to do it. Could you please help me with the issue.

    1. I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you are talking about. I’m not familiar with an air-oil separator on the unit.

      I’d suggest checking the owners manual or contacting Harvest Right directly via their website or Facebook page.

  12. Now another problem, six times in a row I’ve had the ‘unable to achieve vacuum ‘ notice. I’ve done all the recommendations listed but to no avail. Any recommendations? How do I eliminate possible problems?

    1. Have you double checked your door gasket? Each time I load up, I gently pull the gasket just a bit out from the body of the machine, so it sits snugly against the door with a clear, visible circle pressed against the plexiglass.

      1. Even though I always change oil after every run, I decided to change oil again and it worked. Don’t know why but at least it’s running. Thanks for trying to help


    2. I was having the same issue. Turns out the oil separator on top was saturated with oil and unable to push air out through the media.

      You can call harvest right and order spare filters, I find mine last about 3-4 months in my climate before they plug off.

  13. I FD dill pickles and the oil turned very dark. Now the window is obscured..
    what is the oil capacity of the compressor on the medium size FD.
    Is there a way to clear the window. I filter the oil every cycle am using the used oil.
    Any insights are appreciated.

    1. If I remember correctly, the new HR pumps hold around 600 ml of oil. (My sons usually do the oil change, and they are out digging drainage channels to deal with the snow melt at the moment.)

      I’ve never had my window cloud up. Try washing it with warm water and dish soap.

      I’ve used filtered oil with no problems, so I don’t know what’s going on. If you continue to have trouble, it would be best to contact Harvest Right directly.

      1. I did contact HarvestRight and they told me that this is common. I am to remove the oil cap, clean the window (inside) with a Q-tip. I was surprised to discover some rusty water there. Anyway all back together and I’m running another batch.
        I know HR can’t cover everything but ‘common’ stuff should be included. Thank you for your time.


        1. I agree. If they think it’s common, then it should be included in the manuals or on a troubleshooting page on their website. Did you happen to make the suggestion when you were in contact?

  14. Hi Laurie,

    I would like to know what that black cylinder on top of the filling port is. Is it an oil filter? My vacuum pump only has a small brass cap…
    Thanks a lot, your posts are really helpful!

  15. I just started with my new freeze dryer, but I am unsure how to tell when it is time to change out my oil, I have done the filtering etc for 3 batches, how dark should the oil be before I should not use it any more?
    Love the idea of the brita filter, I will try to find one, thanks for the videos, they are great

    1. Hi Betty. Glad you appreciate the videos.

      I’ve never thrown out any oil since I started using freeze dryer. You lose a little slowly over time to the filtering process, so you have to add fresh oil from time to time, but we go through very little oil.

  16. I just received my Harvest Right freeze dryer. THANK YOU! for the videos and information. I appreciate your sharing your knowledge and experience with me and others. The expensive equipment and the process worried me a bit, but now I feel much more confident in starting up.