A DIY Solar Shower Is Easy, Cheap and Fun!

In the summer months, no backyard is complete without a shower, so why not have a solar heated shower?  It can be anything from a simple piece of flexible water pipe to a proper shower stall with proper drainage, privacy and decking to keep feet clean whilst drying off.  

We will look at a simple diy solar shower located in your garden or backyard, possibly close to a spa or pool, both of which could share the solar water heating arrangements with the shower.

The most important consideration for an outdoor solar shower is the provision of adequate drainage.  Your local authorities might permit drainage into a simple pit or into a vegetable patch.  Others might demand a more elaborate system that drains into the main sewer or septic tank.  You will be responsible for following whatever regulations apply to your locality.  

Here are the other main criteria for the design of your outdoor solar shower:

Screening.  Do you want to be out of sight? If so you will need a simple cubicle structure, no more than 4 foot square, located away from upstairs windows (yours and your neighbors!).

Mains Water.  You will experience a small drop in water pressure if your shower is a long way from your mains supply. If you find this is the case, you can boost the shower flow by mounting an old hot water cylinder or tank above the shower.

Sun.  The solar heating system (pipe, tank or both) will need to get adequate exposure to sun for most of the day.  Enough hot water for the next shower should be available in about 15 minutes or so, but the time taken can be badly affected by shade or poor positioning from direct sunlight.

Purpose.  How do you intend to use the solar heated shower? After a swim, perhaps?  To cool off after a sunbathe?  Your shower design will depend very much on how you want to use it.

Debris.  Leaves can collect in the shower, and it is a chore to remove them every time you want to use it.  Try to cover this with a wooden lid or similar device when not in use, and placing the shower well away from trees if possible is also sensible.

An outdoor solar shower will be between 9 and 16 square feet in size for comfort, and mounted on decking about a foot above ground level, to allow the placement of a simple galvanized steel collector box under the shower to drain the soiled water away to the sewer or cesspit.

It is a good idea to build the decking out a few feet at the shower door, for easy toweling afterwards and to keep feet clean.  Pressure-treated softwood 4×4 posts can be used at each corner of the shower stall, and the side screens can be made from ply, cedar shingles or any kind of paneling that takes your fancy.  

You will find the solar heating system very easy to make. A shower head attached to a length of ½ inch flexible pipe coiled on the roof of the shower and then to the main cold water tap is often sufficient. A more formal arrangement will still involve coils of water pipe mounted in a tray above the shower and exposed to the sun. If you need more hot water you could use an old water tank or hot water cylinder in the solar heating pipe, but this would have to be higher than the shower head to give you enough pressure.

If you live in a hot climate you should consider fitting a mixer system, for blending hot and cold water together for a comfortable shower.

There is a huge variety of diy solar shower designs available and, to help you choose the right one for you, we have an excellent guide produced by solar heating experts.  There are plans, diagrams and clear, step-by-step instructions to guide you through the whole process.

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