A Solar Shower

A friend of mine built an outdoor shower a while back.  You can see it in the attached picture.  He put a 55-gallon drum on the top of a stand and plumbed in a shower beneath it.  If you look close, you can see the showerhead in the picture. (click on the picture and it will enlarge) The barrel is filled by a small 12-volt pump that operates off his solar power system.  The system is designed to be used for hot showers in the summer.

There is one flaw in the system, he lives quite far north and at a high elevation and the water often is not warm enough even in summer.  He has painted the tank black and surrounded it with clear glass to protect the barrel from the wind.  He now feels that it works best when he only fills the barrel ½ way, so he is thinking about trying a 30-gallon barrel to see if that heats better.

I think the system would work very well in the warmer parts of the country.  If you have any suggestions I suspect he would like them.


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8 Responses to A Solar Shower

  1. david says:

    Put a shiny sheet of metal on the back side to reflect the sun. With wings like a solar oven (kinda what it is). No shiny metal? Use leftover mylar from food storage. Or cut tops and bottoms off of aluminum cans, flatten out the can, nail to a board so the inside of the can reflects.
    Hmm, and add an insulated top or just another sheet of glass, make it like a car in the sun.
    He might want to take the temperature at sundown and then at sunrise to see how much heat is lost at night. Though it would be kind of a pain to put insulation up at night and down in the morning. Or is he filling daily? Maybe drain into interior storage tank at night to prevent heat loss?
    Definitely want to size the gallons to how many people are using. Maximize the area presented to the sun. You are absorbing energy and larger surface area will absorb more sun.

  2. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    A larger surface area as David says is the only way to absorb more energy. For 50gals I would use something no thicker than 4-6inches with a black surface underneath and you will lose the heated energy fairly quickly at night especially being uninsulated, elevated and exposed to wind.
    It’s not going to be ideal, thats why we invented better stuff, its only better than the option of extreme cold water carried in a bucket.

  3. Doug R. says:

    Maybe you could mount a Fressnel Lens on a light-weight swivel frame ,that would add at least to a fast heat up while focused . PS don’t let it shine on any wooden part of the frame or you’ll have a fire to heat your water !!

  4. james says:

    I think he could use a secondary 30 gal. steel barrel that is on the ground that could be heated by fire to the temprature desired. Then using the pump, punp the water into his shower, Alwayw keep the main barrel for water colledtion. 30 gal. on the ground would need nothing more than gravity feed to fill it from larger barrel. It also can be installed in such away so that in the summer months it can be taken off line and just the larger barrel is used. Hope this mighy be s solution for hot water in the winter.

  5. Jim says:

    Buy 100 ft. roll of black flexible PVC. Run it over to roof, flake it from level with bottom of barrel to top of barrel. Attach ends to top and bottom of barrel. The sun will heat the water in the pipe and it will have a convective current flowing through pipe with no pump necessary. Works well as long as barrel is kept full. Insulate barrel to maintain heat. Put one way flow devise on pipe to prevent reverse flow and cooling at night. Heat capture can be enhanced by placing 20 lb. felt tar paper under hose on roof and covering with clear plastic sheeting to prevent heat loss due to wind. This works. I have one that provides all my hot water. Offgrid for more than 15 years.

  6. Ahmed says:

    Hi, you may all ready know that this is a Batch Solar Water Heater by solar energy terms, I’d consider all the comments so far, emphesis on Jim’s input, If that is a plastic drum. You could change to steel. Around 15:00 hours you’ll get warm enough water if it were a rectangular steel tank and not round, cover the top with clear plastic or glass too…I would insulate the north side as it acts as a constant radiator in general.
    You may like to check out http://www.builditsolar.com for some very interesting ideas and huge amount of knowledge, and a whole lot more than my 2 cents worth .
    Regards to all

  7. da Dougurs says:

    We had a similar set up in British Columbia, Canada but we used a 100 feet of Black hose on the south side roof angle and continually slowley pumped the water through it. (about 1 gal a min.) to the barrel next to the house in the summer you had to wait until after 9pm at night to take a shower. There was No cold water.. On a hot day it was so hot a cooking thermometer said the hottest it ever got was 132 deg F.. which is as good as any gas water heater..We used that for years until we got a demand propane gas heater..

  8. Charlie says:

    Hmm, I find that making a base and turning the 55 gal drum on its side works just fine as a close loop system.

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