Thursday, May 19, 2011

Showering in the Sun with Free Hot Water!!

This post is to answer some questions about Andrew's homemade solar shower...
We've just started using it again this year and have been reminded how much we absolutely LOVE it. I'm always amazed at how bright and cheery my mood is when I step out into the garden after having just enjoyed a long hot shower in the sunshine. Makes you never want to shower in a dark, dank bathroom again! :)


So here she is...
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Not much to look at, I know. But well worth the effort! Our only expense in this whole project was the black hose which our friends donated (we are forever indebted Mrs. & Mr. L!! ;). 
Because you are all probably thinking what my Aunt had to ask during her last visit: "what kind of critter do you have strapped on that tank?" (lol!), allow me to explain that right now: the holding tank is temporarily and crudely insulated with a couple of matted wool fleeces to hold the heat in longer, extending the showers later into the evening. No critter, live or otherwise, just unsightly. ;)
The shed is made out of pallets (which we got for free) and is situated out in the garden where the water can be recycled back to the plants. It's a stand-alone system; you have to connect the garden hose to it in order to get pressure.
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There's 100' of black hose, sandwiched between a sheet of roofing metal and a pane of glass. Andrew used an old 30 gallon water heater as a holding tank for the hot water, and it is elevated above the solar collector (black hose). That way a thermal-siphon cycles the water through the tank, heating the whole thing in a few hours on a hot day.

We were able to take hot showers when the temps were as low as 60-65 degrees! On a hot day it only seems to take about an hour to generate enough hot water for a nice long shower. 
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From last summer w/out the wool insulation around the tank.
There's a "Y" fitting where the garden hose hooks up at the bottom of the tank. A hose runs cold water from the "Y" up to a valve that tees into the shower head. That way you can adjust the amount of cold water mixing with the hot water from the tank and control the temperature. 
 
A shower head with hot and cold water switches, a bar of soap, towel, privacy, what else do you need?
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Above you is the privacy of a wide open blue country sky, an occasional fluffy cloud and a few birds.
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You step out into a big industrious garden where you can weed and wander, allowing you hair to dry in the sun and slight breeze.
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We've found this to be one of the best money saving things yet built on our farm. Free hot water for almost no cost. When there is an abundance in the tank, we steal some for dishes and laundry as well. A few of these or a smaller family and you'd never have to turn your hot water heater on during the summer at all! Yeah!

Oh, and just case you haven't yet concluded it, I find showering in the sun to be an awesome experience that everyone has to try!! :)

And just in case some crazy person wants to build their very own, here's a pictorial description of how it works:



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29 comments:

  1. this is brilliant!! someday, my husband and I want to move outside town and buy some land and a "fixer uper". I'm pretty sure we won't be able to do half of what you guys do but this is SUCH a neat but simple idea maybe we will be able to do it! he will be just as impressed as I when I show him these pictures.

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  2. Really cool to see how this actually works. Thanks for taking the time to explain. The holding tank is a hoot.....reminds me of Chewbacka from Star Wars. This is another wonderful ingenuity that I want some day on my homestead too, which is just a figment of my imagination for now.....but maybe we will get one someday. Anyway, TANKS again for the great blog Mary!

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  3. Dear Miss Mary,
    This is a wonderful post...we would love to have this on our little farm! Thanks so much for explaining it in detail...I think that my son, Samuel, would love to create something like this! We actually have several natural springs on our land that we get our water from...so perhaps he could hook up the hose directly from the spring...no need for a pump! Again, thanks so much for sharing...I'm really thankful that I stumbled upon your family's blog!

    Blessings,
    Mrs. Laura

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  4. Awww Mar, I really wish I had been able to try the solar shower!! I guess I'll just have to do it when I come back!
    Thats a really great discription.. at first I'd had trouble understanding how it worked.. but now I get it!
    Thank you!!
    Kryzdy

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  5. What do you do when it Lightning out ; P lol!

    That'll heat up whoever's in the shower!!! hehe!

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  6. Thats it... I'm packin my bags right now & moving in with yall! I have always wanted an outside shower, I think its really cool. I think your whole way of living is really cool. I live in the country but nothing like yall! Love it :)

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  7. ps I'm gonna show this to my husband, maybe he will build me one?!?!

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  9. It looks amazing! Would it be hard to hook that into the bathroom water supply to take hot showers in the winter?

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  10. Yeah, we'd like to do something like that, but wood-heated water is really the better way to go in our MI winters. Passive solar systems need to be designed really well to perform in very cold weather, and we don't get all that much sun these days..

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  11. This is a great article and very interesting. I did not know you could shower with hot water outside for free. This could save a lot of money during the summer time. However, hot water heaters can be very useful during the winter when it is cold out. These systems are also great if you have a big family. When a lot of people are taking showers daily, hot water heaters can help preserve hot water.

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  13. I'm always amazed at how bright and cheery my mood is when I step out into the garden after having just enjoyed a long hot shower in the sunshine. Makes you never want to shower in a dark, dank bathroom again! :) bestshoweheads.reviews

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  14. Great Post! I think I want to do something similar. Can you explain how the Y fitting has cold water go into the tank and up to the top? I can't really see how you are doing this by the photo + diagram. Again awesome post!

    Thanks
    Josh

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    Replies
    1. Hi Josh! Not really sure what the confusion is.. The arriving cold water splits and goes into the bottom of the tank to pressurize the hot water at the top, and the cold also goes directly to the top for mixing with the hot.

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  15. Hi brilliant idea. Do you need a PRV on the tank or will the pressure ever get that high?

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  16. Also, I forgot to add, which way is your collector facing? Is there a way for it to track the sun? I was thinking a simple approach like a DPDT relay and a 12 or 24 volt panel, when the sun moved the one relay would drop out and another one drop in to turn a motor etc to reposition the panel, then once the panel is in the line of sight of the sun, it would drop the motor contacts until the sun moved again.

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    1. It's fixed in a south-facing direction... Very low-tech, but surprisingly effective. The water is often uncomfortably hot without some cold mixed in, but we've never seen a need for a prv.

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    2. Id like to make it someday. Your saying the thermosiphoning also pressurizes the tank? I see your tapping off from the top of the tank; the rising hot water is enough pressure to push water through the shower outlet? I take it that the tap at the top of the tank is a dip tube, so that when the water level goes down, your still able to feed water and not air out the outlet? If so, how far down is the dip tube?

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    3. ...or the incoming cold water from the garden hose keeps the tank topped off, even during use? Seems the collector wouldnt be fast enough to keep the water hot if thats the case; how long does it take to exhaust the hotwater during one shower use? I mean is it enough for a 15 min shower, for example?

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    4. also, for the grey water, is it ok to dump it or do we have to filter it beforehand? I guess it would work great for watering your garden

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    5. So the weight of the water in the tank pushes down on the cold tap of the coil, also helping with circulation? I still dont see how your getting the tank to pressurize; is it due to the expansion of the hot water? Also the cold supply, it would seem the backfeed of the water from the tank would prevent it from resupplying the tank

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