Relative to solar water heaters, solar air heaters have received relatively little investigation and have resulted in few commercial products. However, in the context of a humidification-dehumidification (HDH) desalination cycle, air heating accounts for advantages in cycle performance. Solar collectors can be over 40% of an air-heated HDH system’s cost; thus, design optimization is crucial. Best design practices and sensitivity to material properties for solar air heaters are investigated, and absorber solar absorptivity and glazing transmissivity are found to have the strongest effect on performance. Wind speed is also found to have an impact on performance. Additionally a well designed, and likely low cost, collector includes a double glazing and roughened absorber plates for superior heat transfer to the airstream. A collector in this configuration performs better than current collectors with an efficiency of 58% at a normalized gain of .