Making a Simple Off Grid Shower System

This article describes simple, inexpensive way to make a recycled rainwater, solar-heated outdoor shower.

Using materials found at a local hardware store, you first craft a rectangular rack to hold the shower head using 2x4s and 2x2s. Then screw eye hooks into the top to hang the rack wherever it’s convenient, or nail it to a tree. You can mount a low-volume shower head to the rack, which is attached to a submersible pump with a garden hose and galvanized fittings.

The painted-black 5-gallon bucket holds the rainwater and pump for the shower. If the water is too cold, move the bucket into the sunshine and let the water warm up for a while. If your rainwater-collection system includes a debris filter, the collected rainwater should be clean enough for showering. If you’re concerned about sanitation, you can add a small amount of unscented bleach to the shower water several hours before you plan to shower. When showering, use biodegradable soaps and shampoos so you don’t contaminate the environment.

You can also built a solar water heater to accompany the shower. The water heater frame is made out of plywood painted black. On top of the plywood, build a system of CPVC pipes and elbows, painted black, that warms the water.

Cover the solar heater with a sheet of plastic to enhance the sun’s effect. Use a small submersible fountain pump to circulate water through the solar heater and back to the bucket via plastic tubing. Once the water is heated and back in the bucket, move the bucket next to the shower and swap the small pump out for the larger pump with the garden hose attachment connecting it to the shower head.

Both of these systems can function with the use of a 12-volt car battery and an inverter (if the pumps are AC) to power the submersible pumps.

Larry Schwandes, who designed this, spent $118.28 on shower supplies, plus $99 on supplies for the solar water heater, not including the car battery and inverter. Your costs will likely vary, depending on what supplies you have on hand.

Tools and Materials for this Off Grid Shower System:
  • 2×4
  • 2×2
  • 17⁄16-inch eye hooks (2)
  • Shower head (1.5 gallons per minute)
  • Shower head pipe and flange
  • Submersible pump with garden hose outlet
  • Garden hose
  • 1⁄2-inch galvanized elbow
  • 1⁄2-by-1⁄2-inch galvanized nipple
  • 1⁄2-by-1-inch galvanized coupling
  • 3⁄4-by-1⁄2-inch brass garden hose adapter
  • 5⁄8-inch female hose fittings (2)
  • 5-gallon bucket with cover

Off Grid Hot Water Heater

  • 2×4 sheet of plywood
  • Black spray paint
  • 30 feet of 3⁄4-inch CPVC pipe
  • 3⁄4-inch CPVC elbows (28)
  • Metal brackets (EMT straps) (6)
  • 2×4 plastic panel
  • Fountain pump (90 gallons per hour)
  • 16 feet of 1⁄2-inch plastic tubing
  • 12-volt car battery (optional)
  • Solar inverter (optional)

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