The hot shower is a marvel of modern technology. There is nothing like a hot shower after a cold hard day of work.
The good news is that DIY hot water is not nearly as tough as you might think. In fact, you can even recruit the sun to help heat your water.
I took the liberty of explaining the best way to turn these DIY solar water heaters into showers, too, since that is likely to be your number one priority when using them.
Greenhouse Solar Water Heater
The greenhouse is usually on the top of every homesteader’s wish list. It is a means of growing through the cold weather seasons.
I have employed greenhouses effectively and unsuccessfully, too.
There are brands that are very helpful and some that are downright terrible.
If you have a sturdy greenhouse or you plan on building one, then you could create a greenhouse solar water heater by catching the sun’s heat in the very same way you do using your greenhouse.
- Begin by noting the part of the greenhouse that gets the most direct sunlight throughout the day.
There is likely a portion of the roof or even a side of the greenhouse, or both, that gets the majority of the direct sunlight. This is much like planning a garden because you are going to use this section of the green house to warm your water.
- Next, you can start building your hot water pipes. Many DIYers use a thick black hose for this, and I think it is one of the best ways to do it.
You can also use black iron pipe that will heat up really well or you can use PVC that you spray paint black. Obviously, we want the black pipe or hose to attract the direct sunlight.
- These pipes will heat up first and then the water inside will heat up, too. The more pipe you can run the water through the more time it will have to heat up. So smaller pipe covering more of the surface area that gets sun is going to work best.
- Finally, you can build a simple wooden enclosure off the back of the greenhouse and run the hot water pipe to a spigot or shower head of your choosing.
This will give you the ability to stand under the heated water and take that hot shower even if you are living off grid.
Black Barrel Solar Water Heater
Another very simplistic type of solar water heater is the use of black barrel to both catch and hold water. If you can’t find a black barrel, then it is time to break out the black spray paint again. Once you set this thing up properly you are going to be able to turn the water on and stand underneath for a warm 55 gallon shower.
- The first step is to assure the barrel is outfitted with a screen on the top, an overflow and a spigot. The barrel should be prepped and ready for use as the first step.
If you want to use a standard spigot that is fine, or you can add some threaded pipe and affix whatever fixture you would like.
- Next, we have to build a platform that the barrel can sit on. This barrel has to be above your head. So, where you choose to install this thing is very important.
If you build a platform and attach this barrel to a tree, then your platform and attachment has to be very secure and stable. You do not want a 55 gallon barrel of water falling on you.
- You could also place this large barrel on a deck or build a small, raised deck for this purpose. This is a nice stable design, and it would be easy to build a small shower enclosure off of that. The key is to use gravity to deliver the hot water.
- No matter where you decide to affix the black barrel, just make sure that you have it in a place that gets lots of direct sunlight. That is what is going to heat the bucket and in turn the water inside.
Solar Water Heater Panel
This concept plays off the greenhouse idea a bit but instead of needing a greenhouse as a prerequisite, you are creating simple panels that will collect the sun’s rays and the solar heat.
These panels can be linked together, and the water can be sourced from rain barrels already on the home.
- Start by creating a frame for your solar water heater panels. These can be simple lumber and plywood just to create an open frame that you can snake black hose into back and forth.
You might even consider spray painting the frames black inside to pull even more sunlight towards the black hoses.
- Once you have snaked your hose through the frames and secured them in place you will want to drill a hole large enough to snake the intake hose out of and the outflow on the other side.
This way you can chain these frames together. Make a few so you can run the water through a nice length of hose and give it time to warm up.
- After that, you can cover each frame with a thick clear plastic of your choosing. The clearer the better but with the black hose inside you will get plenty of heat and sunlight inside to warm your water.
- Finally, attach the first panel to the outflow of your rain barrel, chain the rest of the panels together and then on the last panel attach a fixture to the outflow.
If you can build the shower below this section, then it will be much easier to use that way. However, if you are just pulling hot water from this system, it can be left on the ground in the sun.
What I like most about these three designs is that none are too complex.
Each one of these can be created for minimal expense and if you watch the local marketplaces and yard sales you could likely get it all done for under even less than you think.
Placement of your system is going to make all the difference. You need lots of sun and you should set the water heater up in a way that gravity is working for you. Otherwise, you might have to add a pump to your system to make it effective.
This article first appeared on Ask A Prepper.
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