Country Lore: Outdoor Solar Shower

With the sun providing heat, you only have to provide the water for this outdoor solar shower.
By Tim Mason
June/July 2009
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Exterior and interior of the outdoor solar shower. Caution: The platform for the water tank has to be strong enough to hold it when it's filled with water. A full 50-gallon tank weighs about 400 pounds. And check the water before getting in to be sure it’s not too hot.
PHOTO: TIM MASON


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This outdoor solar shower is one of the ways I conserve energy. The sun heats the water in the black-painted tank on top for my shower each day. After showering, I refill the tank with the garden hose and the sun heats the water for the next day’s shower.

I spent about $140 on the project. The tank is an old water heater that I stripped down and painted flat black. I put an overflow vent on top to let me know when it is full, and also to prevent airlock. I added a shut-off valve just before the shower head.

I picked up the shower base at a garage sale for $5. The walls and door are two pieces of privacy fencing that I cut down to fit. The floor is made from treated lumber.

Tim Mason
Beaverton, MI 








Post a comment below.

 

waynedesign
5/7/2013 6:29:25 AM

I'd just be sure that the 400lb water tank above my head is completely & sufficiently supported or it may be your last shower.  lol  BTW, I have a simlar setup that works great just be sure to replace the pressure relief valve for a new one, safety first.


Jenn Rennekamp
3/22/2013 3:39:40 PM
gray water reserve.

Somerleigh Mercer
1/18/2013 3:21:21 PM
What do you do with the dirty water?

Genevieve Shatto
10/19/2012 3:20:26 PM
My brother is building a bathroom to take to our cabin in the mountains,he wants a portable shower in it also,we need some ideas do you have some?

z
6/23/2011 8:59:48 PM
i used something like this for 10 years in ky '85 to'95 for about 6 mo. during the summers. cost about $10. 55gal. steel drum from work (free). used drill w/wire brush to sand. painted flat black. used pipe w/hose adapter to fit small hole, large 2.5 or 3" pipe w/reducer down to 3/4 to fit large hole, short piece of 3/4 pipe. no shower head as barrel wouldn't be able to handle the pressure. mounted on roof with intake on bottom, big hole on top. ran piece of pipe over edge of roof. set a 1/2 whiskey barrel with holes drilled in end under it to stand on. the water used to get so hot i had to let it run for about 5-8 min. before i could get under it. used it even after i installed indoor plumbing and hot water in my old shack. i think i got the idea from an old rodale press book or mother earth i had on solar energy. getting stuff together to build one with a homemade collector and storage tank that i can pressurize. found this article. brings back good memories of letting it all hang out. lol. i never had a privacy screen.

Karen Joyce
5/18/2011 12:09:56 PM
This is So neat! I want a solar shower out back in the worst way! You have given me new incentive to go ahead and build one. Thank you! A lot of good information here to get me started.

George_40
8/26/2009 1:58:18 PM
I was rased in the Outer Banks of NC and we had o/showers on all the homes. I now live in Virginia and have built a o/s for the first time with solar hot water. It is AWSOME! I used the 4" black pipe as the roof over the shower and it gives me plenty of hot water. I used an out door faucetby Glacer so I can blend the cold/hot and I use a energy efficant head so the water doesnt come out so fast. My shower can last up to 1.5 hours before I am out. The shower base is 4' X 6' and the top with the pipes is 6' X 8'. I just added tile floor and a water proof light because of day light savings... After working in the sun all day it is great to get fully clean before going into the house for dinner... If I sell this house it is going with me!!!

George_40
8/26/2009 1:56:52 PM
I was rased in the Outer Banks of NC and we had o/showers on all the homes. I now live in Virginia and have built a o/s for the first time with solar hot water. It is AWSOME! I used the 4" black pipe as the roof over the shower and it gives me plenty of hot water. I used an out door faucetby Glacer so I can blend the cold/hot and I use a energy efficant head so the water doesnt come out so fast. My shower can last up to 1.5 hours before I am out. The shower base is 4' X 6' and the top with the pipes is 6' X 8'. I just added tile floor and a water proof light because of day light savings... After working in the sun all day it is great to get fully clean before going into the house for dinner... If I sell this house it is going with me!!!

Lisa_74
8/13/2009 4:39:29 PM
I actually also found it hard to believe that something that large would heat up enough to provide a warm shower. I have been in 3 or 4 different solar showers, all set up differently, and have had incredibly invigorating (i.e. cold) showers- not for the faint of heart. All were in states in the northern half of the US. I have seen solar hot water heaters that were set up sort of like a radiator, with a small water line (so the water is in a small diameter space) that curves around and around inside a glass box , and I can understand that heating up quite well, but you'd need a storage tank to keep the heated water in so it wouldn't then lose heat. The solar showers that I have been in that used a dark painted barrel to heat water in never got very warm. My guess is that where you live is a determining factor in how large a container you can use to hold the water that you are heating.

Marvin Watts
8/13/2009 1:26:42 PM
Chris I hate to ask but I can't help but wonder if you work for big oil 'n gas or if you are just a 'rubbish' head who never believes anything simple could possibly work just because you haven't tried it? It CAN be done! It DOES work! And it DOESN'T take a week to heat up! A tank of this size painted with flat black paint and oriented so that it gets direct sun will heat up relatively quickly on a sunny day provided it isn't an insulated "rock" or "glass" lined tank. Enclosing it in a south-oriened glass-faced box lined with shiny mylar or foil increses the speed of this effect even more. Heat is trapped in the box by the green house effect and adds radiant heat and that combined with the directly absorbed solar gain and the light reflected off the mylar/foil on the black tank makes the effect even faster. Add insulation to the box (not the tank) and the effect grows. This is how solar water panels work! This tank by default of the volume of water may take longer to heat up than an equal sized tank with a pump fed solar water heating panel but a few hours not a week is more than sufficient to produce water for a nice hot shower even without the box. A broad thin tank with the broad side facing the sun will work even better than a round tank but they both work. When I was a kid on the farm I filled an old tractor sized inner tube with cold water one afternoon (why? Don't know! Why do kids do anything?) and went into the house for about half an hour and when I came back and sat on that tube I can tell you I got right back up lickity split but not before getting a pretty good burn on my legs from the scalding hot water inside it.

Doug Smith
8/13/2009 12:23:30 PM
Almost forgot a lot of water heaters are glass or stone lined, and they will not convey heat very well. They will however hold the heat longer. Perhaps use a smaller heater to heat the water and store it in a larger tank?

Doug Smith
8/13/2009 12:18:35 PM
Solar hot water heating can work efficiently or it can work like snot. The setup displayed here must be in a hot climate otherwise Chris is right it will take forever to heat up and will not work in the winter. I you were to install a box with glass on the sun facing side and sealed it tight (more insulation the better), then you might even get it to work in the winter (who would want to take a shower outside in the winter?). Another way to heat the water for a shower is to heat each batch in your wood stove in the winter. I have constructed a solar water heater that consists of 100' of black water pipe inside a box covered with glass and painted black inside. Right now the pump I am using is way overkill, so I am going to make some more boxes so I can heat my pool water.

Shawn_15
8/13/2009 4:43:12 AM
Chris, have you ever got in your car after sitting in the sun for a few hours, I measured my van it was 132 degrees here in northern ny. it would not take long to heat a tank like that, and I am actually helping to design a system for use in africa to provide heat to dry bricks using solar hot water. This is not rubbish, the tank will heat quite well.

Kemal
8/13/2009 3:12:53 AM
It takes several hours for the sun to heat the tank even in mid summer. After that, the water usually gets too hot to use directly. It's a must to have a cold water line coming in and use a standart bathroom faucet to mix the water to the right temperature. I have such a set up that works just fine during the summer.

Ron Clark
8/12/2009 1:26:21 PM
Obviously "chris" doesn't live here in Florida. At our house you would need to hook the cold water into the system to temper the water to an acceptable degree. Often when we leave the hose lying out in the sun it is almost too hot to handle until the cold water has passed through.

chris_55
7/2/2009 12:22:42 PM
rubbish article on solar shower- it wold take all week to heat a big tank like that one.








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