Outdoor Solar Shower: Nothing Between Me and the Sun but a Smile, Part 1

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Sun is shining, the weather is sweet / Make you want to move your dancing feet.
-Bob Marley, “Sun Is Shining”

Much outdoor work is done at Odom’s Idle Acres. In fact, projects and improvements are one of the things that make the name of the farm so paradoxical. On any given weekend there is little idleness to the acres. And in recent weeks that pace became quite frenetic as the list of projects included the normal gardens, the Lazarus Project, a wood-burning earth oven, a new flock of chickens, some restoration of a windmill, and a solar-heated outdoor shower. And it is the last on that list that brings me to this particular post.

Back in March I was perusing the Interweb looking at various earth-friendly farms when I was reminded of a small beachside house I once came across that hard several gardens, a rainwater harvesting system, a wood-burning fire pit, a cob/glass bottle patio, and an outdoor shower. And although I never used the shower I had used several before and was fully aware of the liberating feeling that comes with showering outdoors and staring up at the sun while cool water beats against your back. I quickly googled “solar heated shower” and came up with this.

It wasn’t exactly what I was thinking of but it was a great start. I began scouring for pictures. I checked all the usual suspects; GRIT, the Dervaes family, Flickr, etc. I just wasn’t seeing what I wanted. So, I took to the sketch pad. I knew that I wanted to use recycled building materials and if I couldn’t I didn’t want to exceed $100. I wanted to use the water from our well and I wanted runoff to irrigate the garden. I wanted the hot water to come not from an electric pump or propane heated tank but from the sun. After talking to a few friends and my Pop (who gets less play on this blog than he should as he is nothing short of a handy-man genius and certified country boy) I came up with the plan.

We would construct a full size outdoor shower out of ripped, salt-treated 4′ x 4′, corrugated metal, some Quickrete, a freecycled shower handle set (with mixing valve to control hot and cold water), and poly-tube to hold the water and heat it via the sun.

Before I could really sketch and ultimately build I had several things to consider.

What Were My Needs/Wants

Was my shower going to be used just by me? Would it be used by kids and if so will it be for clean-up or something more substantial? Will it have decor or be a simple retreat out of doors?

Water Drainage

The type of ground below your flooring will determine the type of drain you’ll need. Sand drains quickly, but heavy soil requires a more complex drainage system that carries the water underground.

Design For The Environment

If you live near the ocean, use fixtures that will stand up to wear from sand and salt. Otherwise, all materials need to be able to withstand rain, extreme sun, and cold winters (thus the reason I used salt-treated wood). The floor and walls should be constructed from mildew, splinter-free and rot-resistant woods or eco-friendly materials. Low-flow shower heads save water.

Outdoor Shower Decor

Determining what shower decor you’ll use is the fun part … or so Pan says! You’ll need a place for towels, a bench and places to hold eco-friendly soaps and shampoos, and anything else that will connect your showering experience with its natural environs. I anticipated being able to upcycle most of these items.

……more to come…..