Showering With the Sun

Maggie using the solar showerWill and I spent a pleasant hour in the hammock a few weeks ago talking about project ideas for the house.  He’s been especially focused on energy savings and was very excited about the idea of building a solar shower.  I have many fond memories of outdoor solar showers but the ones I have used in the past involve solar water panels, plumbing, welding, privacy screens, and several other features that would challenge my handywoman skills.  Ever practical, Will suggested that rather than plunging into a new construction project, we should pick up a simple camp shower and try it out so we could go ahead and turn off our hot water heater.

We picked up a solar shower kit at a local box store for $25 that consists of a curtain with a zipper, a solar water bag with a shower nozzle, and a support structure to hang it all from.  We hung the support structure and curtain from one of the big sugar maples in our backyard, filled up the water bag, and I took the first shower.  It was not a great experience.  The shower bag came with a long tube leading to a shower nozzle, which in theory gives you the flexibility to spray in many different directions.  In actuality, you have to keep the tube stretched out and sloping down to get decent water flow, which means crouching down and risking mooning the neighbors.  We had also neglected to stake down the curtain, so it was blowing around a bit and decreasing my feeling of privacy even further.

Solar Shower BagAfter that first shower, I cut the tube into a short piece so now I can stand under it comfortably (Will has to duck a little).  We put a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet under the shower so it doesn’t get too muddy.  It’s still a bit of a pain to fill, heat, and hang the bag but it’s doable.  Actually, the biggest challenge is keeping the water comfortable instead of scalding hot.  The solar shower heats up too well some days and we have to add cold water.

We’re going to try it out a little longer but I think it’s been successful enough that we will try building Solar Shower 2.0, perhaps using the directions from the Carbon-Free Home book.  They suggest building a platform of some sort and putting a small (10-gallon) black barrel up on it with a shower spigot sticking out.  Ideally, it should be designed so you can fill it from the ground using a garden hose (or rain barrel) so you don’t have to haul it up and down.  Sounds good to me!  Maybe we can build some actual walls around it too….

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jae said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 9:31 am

    Hi! Found your great blog via a friend of mine (Adam P). I have a quick question for you on the solar shower. Do you have any health concerns regarding storing/heating water in plastic and then showering with it? I’m thinking about chemicals from the plastic leaching into the water and then being absorbed through the skin. I understand that the exposure is likely to be minimal compared to, say, drinking water that was microwaved in a plastic bottle with BPA in it. Still, just curious if this issue is on anyone’s radar.

    Your blog is very inspiring! Keep it up!

  2. 2

    Emily said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

    Wonder if you could rig the stand up in the shower stall indoors? Heat the water outside, bring it in and hang it up…or would that just be too much trouble?

  3. 3

    Maggie said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 9:38 pm

    Jae –
    BPA is definitely a concern but honestly I have chosen not to worry too much about plastics for now because I’d like to focus my energy on other green issues. We do try to avoid leaving water in the solar shower for too long because it gets grossly plasticky….

    Emily –
    5 gallons of water is pretty heavy so we haven’t yet figured out a good way to rig it up indoors. I have done it a couple of times with the bag half full and hanging it off our shower door but I’m still a bit nervous about pulling something out of the wall… Good idea, though.

  4. 4

    pickle said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 3:51 am

    amazing! Me and my siblings love to take a bath outside coz it’s fun and I never think of this idea. . .wow! so affordable. . shower inside, solar shower kit outside haha I like objects that are thoughtful, modern, uncomplicated, inherently beautiful, a little odd, sustainable, artistic, humorous, thought-provoking, and functional. It totally describes solar shower kit:)

  5. 5

    Cozy Up Your Water Heater | GreenCouple.com said,

    March 15, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    […] shower.  We are leaning towards the latter, although hoping to build one nicer than the camp shower  we experimented with in 2010.  The challenge is figuring out a good design and location – […]

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