Will 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.
After 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….