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 prepper’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.
Related: Couple Builds Greenhouse Around Home to Stay Warm and Grow Food All Year Long
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
Related: 100-Year-Old Way to Filter Rainwater in a Barrel
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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
Related: 7 Mistakes To Avoid When Harvesting Rain Water
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
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Well this doesn’t work well in northen winter months
Neither does anything else….😆
Including Electric car batteries.
Its time for recovery and rebuilding…..
The only way for this to work in northern climates is to use a sealed system with antifreeze running through the pipes and then use the pipes to heat the water stored in a water tank. It would also require some kind of pump to circulate the antifreeze through the pipes. This makes for a more expensive set up and the efficiency of water heating, I think, would not be as good but it is at least an option where temperatures get below freezing.
Well i used a wood based stove in the dead of winter and took baths outside with nothing but a sponge and a few ladys from the brothel.
When we fought in wars as a War Hero i would often think of various ways to use the Engine heaters to keep us warm.
My wife and I were bringing a boat in for service and winter storage on a cold fall day and we got delayed a couple of hours because the Coast Guard would not let us transit under a bridge because of a marathon. The heater could not be used because the generator wasn’t working so we opened up the engine compartment and let the heat from the engines warm up the cabin, noisy but it worked perfectly.
“Necessity is the Mother of Invention”
We used to be pirates and loot ships
I used an old sheet of plywood covered with black trash bags and about 150 feet of 1/2 inch black plastic tubing coiled on it. Six inch board frame around and covered with 3 old storm windows. On a sunny day the outflow will be hotter than is really comfortable. put the heater near the ground and it will thermosyphon into a raised tank to store for when you need a shower or hot water for other uses. Set up right it will provide 100 or more gallons a day.
A lot of the world lives in areas where this information is useful!
I sometimes wonder about things like this in South America or Africa and whether there’s some low technology thinking we could use.
These sorts of set up have been somewhat common (common-ish) in Australia since the 80s. One form has been to heat pool or spa water (black pipes on roof doing a cycle), or when camping, or for short term accommodation at bush shacks and holiday houses. A ‘proper, commercial’ solar system is about $5k here, plus installation (and you need to reinforce part of the roof possibly – not hard, but something people forget), so this is a good alternative when you just want a bit of hot water along the way.
I imagine this could still heat water to some extent on a cold winter’s day, if the sky was clear and sun plentiful – it’d just be keeping the water hot long enough to use it? I wonder if you put it behind old double glazing windows whether that might help?
For decades something very popular in 3rd world nations is the outhouse methane digester. In hot zones, the building is 2 stories high, with the toilet on the 2nd floor and an inlet pipe that drops to close to the bottom. Everything is heavy-duty ammonia-resistant plastic. The outlet pipe goes from the bottom to about 18 inches from the top of the effluent and out to a collection pond. The pond is often shallow and used for duckweed to feed livestock. Cooler areas the bottom part is inground but open on the side facing duckweed ponds. The outhouse itself can also be a pig sty or chicken coop. Gas goes thru a pipe to a collection bag with two shut-off nozzles. When gas is needed for cooking or light, the inlet is closed and the outlet opened. niio
This is pretty ingenious. Too bad I’m a dumb a$$. I couldn’t construct this apparatus. However i did buy a 2000 watt immersion heater that I can run off a generator.
Attach a 100 foot heavy duty garden hose to a cold water outlet. put that over the roof, and bring the free end down to attach to the water heater. A friend does that to save on gas. The water comes in scalding hot, but mizes with cooler water in the tank. niio
I know that the hot water heater has a garden hose outlet at the bottom, but where is the garden hose inlet located?
Good ideas, even great ideas. A neighbor uses a 100 foot (good quality!) garden hose. He ran it from a cold water outlet, over the roof, to the water heater. this was done to save on gas. It’s great.