DIY

Building a Solar Power Shower

Build this easy solar shower for the backyard to rinse off after a long day working outdoors.

article image
by AdobeStock/bonniemarie

Handy Dad in the Great Outdoors (Chronicle Books, 2012) by Todd Davis is full of fun projects for dad and the kids to get creative in the great outdoors. Davis grew up with a family who loved experiencing the outdoors, and is now passing on these fun activities to families across the world, with step-by-step instructions to make the most of your family time outside. The following excerpt is his guide to building an outdoor solar shower.

Yeah, nothing beats roughing it, except for–maybe–the stink. Days of whacking through bushes, trekking through forests, and forging up peaks are all well and good, but what to do when you come back to camp so odiferous that not even your dog wants to share your tent? When you need a little help leaving the wilderness behind, nothing beats a clean, hot, solar-powered shower, except for–maybe–getting dirty again.

Difficulty level: Car Camper (Moderate)

Materials:

• Black 5-gallon bucket (A black bucket will do the best job of absorbing the sun’s rays.)
• Black 12-inch Gamma Seal screw-on lid
• Two 3/4-inch rubber washers
• 3/4-by-11/2-inch stainless steel washer
• Teflon tape
• 3/4-inch PVC close riser (double-threaded)
• 1/2-inch poly elbow
• 3/4-inch brass nut
• 3-foot piece 1/2-inch clear poly tubing (second piece optional*)
• 1/2-inch poly adapter (second adapter optional*)
• 1/2-inch King ball valve

Tools:

• Pencil
• Tape measure
• Drill with 3/4-inch spade bit
• Pocket/utility knife
• Vise grips
• Crescent wrench

*An additional poly adapter and length of tubing can be added to the ball valve to extend the reach of your shower for washing dishes, boots, or other low-to-the-ground items, like kids.

Instructions:

1. Make a mark on the bucket that’s 1-3/4 inches from the bottom and midway between the two handle supports. If you can’t find your tape measure, lay the rubber washer down next to the bucket, set your stainless-steel washer on top of it, and mark the center of the hole.

person holding a washer up against the bottom of a black bucket with a rubber…

2. Using the 3/4-inch spade bit, slowly drill a hole through your mark.

3. Apply Teflon tape to both the PVC riser and the poly tube adapter. Looking at the threaded end of each part, apply the tape in a clockwise direction to keep the tail end of the tape from getting scrunched up as you screw the parts together.

man wrapping white teflon tape around a small threaded black pipe

4. Screw the PVC riser into the 1/2-inch poly elbow as far as possible. Use the vise grips if you need to, but don’t tighten the riser so much that you damage the plastic threads.

small black threaded pipe with teflon tape on one half screwed in to a poly…

5. Place the 3/4-inch rubber washer and the stainless steel washer over the hole on the outside of the bucket. The rubber washer should be between the bucket and the steel washer. Make sure they’re both perfectly aligned over the hole.

rubber washer sitting on top of a hole drilled in the side near the bottom…

6. Insert the threaded end of the poly elbow through the washers and screw it into the bucket. Keep going until enough threads show to support the other rubber washer and the 3/4-inch brass nut.

7. If the Teflon tape on the threads has come off, just add more. Looking good? OK–add the rubber washer and screw on the brass nut on the inside of the bucket. Use the crescent wrench to make sure it’s nice and tight

inside of a black bucket with a hole covered by a pipe with a brass…

8. Attach the 1/2-inch poly tubing onto the poly elbow, making sure it covers at least three of the ridged rings. If the tube is difficult to fit, heat the end of it a bit to make it more pliable.

clear plastic tube attached by a gray plastic plug to a black plastic bucket

9. Now let’s work on the valve. Apply Teflon tape to the adapter (clockwise when looking at the threaded end, same as before), and screw it into the valve. Use the crescent wrench to get a tight fit.

gray plastic nozzle being held next to a white plastic valve with a red handle

10. Insert the adapter end of the valve into the open end of the poly tubing as far as it will go (covering at least three rings) and check to make sure that the valve is closed. Again, heat the tubing if it’s a difficult fit.

white and red plastic valve attached to a clear plastic tube

11. Put the Gamma Seal lid onto the top of the bucket and press down firmly, all the way around the rim, to seal it. Now unscrew the center lid.

black 5-gallon bucket with a lid sitting on grass with a plastic tube leading from…

More from: Handy Dad in the Great Outdoors

Building a Biodegradable Latrine
Identify Poisonous Plants and Bugs


From Handy Dad in the Great Outdoors by Todd Davis, illustrated by Nik Schulz, photographs by Jared Cruce (Chronicle Books, 2012).

book cover with a person riding a plastic wave, a tent, and children working on…

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