Archive for the ‘Going Solar!’ Category

Solar Shower Time Again!

Solar ShowerUsing a solar shower in March might not be a big deal if you live in Arkansas or Florida, but it is a very big deal in northern Wisconsin! Yes, last night I took my first solar shower as our temps got up in the low 60′s. The water was lukewarm. Not cold, but not overly warm either. But still, in March? Usually, we are still shoveling snow this time of year, and many years all of our snow is not gone until early May!

The solar shower that I redesigned a bit last summer works fantastic! The tightly sealing glass top allows the water to heat up very quickly. In fact, in the 85+ degree sunny days the water is too hot – I must either put in some cold water or wait until after sundown to take a shower. Another thing I could do on those hot days is rig up some sort of shading device to partially shade out the sun on the very hot days. That might be a good project for next summer!

For plans on how to build this shower, see Free Solar Shower Plans.

The New Improved Solar Shower!

This new solar shower has the following new features:

  • Solid walls don’t blow around in high wind conditions
  • Sturdier base
  • Door that closes and locks
  • Glass top that opens on hinge with pully
  • No tools needed to change bags
  • Water heats up better
  • It is lighted for after dark use!
  • Now the water will actually stay warm even to the next morning, if it was hot and sunny the day before. And the shower itself will be somewhat heated from the water above. So you can take a shower on a 50 degree night and it is not too cold inside the solar shower unit. Go to Free Solar Heated Shower Plans for directions on how to build this.

    Solar Car!

    Is this a car or a spaceship? Actually, it is a car . . . and completely powered by the sun!

    This solar car, designed and built by Marcelo da Luz, will go 0-50 in 6 seconds and has a top speed of 75 mph. Marcelo drove this car a record 13,000 miles, including travel up to the Arctic Circle in low light conditions. This solar car can even go 130 miles at night if its batteries are fully charged. Very nice!

    And yes, his car has been mistaken as a highway-bound UFO many times. da Luz states that he has been pulled over by highway patrolmen about 15 times and in one case he was reported to law enforcement as a “UFO driving down the highway”.

    Stimulus Plan Equals Energy Rebates

    Save 30% on Energy ImprovementsAccording to this Washington Post Article, homeowners who add energy-efficient appliances like heating systems, AC systems, or windows can get a tax credit for 30 percent of the costs, up to a total of $1,500.

    Solar Shower Update – 10/04/08

    Used the solar shower today as the kids were monopolizing the shower. It was in the high 50′s today and when I took a shower at 4PM it was about 52 degrees. But it was sunny. The water was luke-warm – not too cold but not too warm. It was OK. But this shower had to warm up from some pretty cold temps – it was down in the high 20′s last night!

    I have one more improvement that I thought of to try: I am going to put foil face sheathing over the pink dense insulating foam so that the sunlight will reflect down. I believe that with this improvement, my shower could be usable until early November, when things freeze up solid around here. Will do this improvement as soon as possible and post again.

    For next summer, I am thinking of making this shower look a bit nicer with a wood slat face and some glass panels made of glass from the pile of old windows I have.  It really is nice to have this extra shower – and it saves a little on our hot water bill as well.

    The New 3-Season Improved Solar Shower!

    In order to extend the number of days in the year for which my homemade solar shower can be used, I added some insulation to allow the water to heat up on even 50 degree or cooler sunny days.
    Improved Solar Shower
    The insulation consists of the following:

    • Two inch dense foam along the back side of the heating chamber so heat will not be drawn away by the metal building. In the photo above, this is the pink foam at the back under the plastic.
    • An extra sheet of clear plastic spaced approximately 2" above the bottom sheet. If you notice in the photo, 2×2 wood spacers have been added. This 2" air space will provide insulation on the top and sides.

    In addition, I doubled up the black plastic bag so the inside bag would be shielded from the sun. In my first attempt, the top of the black bag became extremely brittle after several months. The bottom of the bag I used in my first attempt was not compromised however.  With this setup, I anticipate that I can get a full year of use before the bags need to be replaced.

    I look forward to giving this new shower a try on a cold day! Today, it was raining, so I don’t think the water will be too warm. The 100 yard commute will certainly prove to be refreshing if the outside temps are under 50 degrees. So far, the coldest temperature I have used this shower was about 49 degrees – but in that case the daytime highs were in the low 70′s.  With this new setup, I anticipate that the shower will be usable on far colder, but sunny, days.

    I will post again after trying this out on a cold fall day.

    Solar Shower Attacked!

    Something seems to have attacked my solar shower? Squirrel perhaps, or maybe a bird? I noticed water dripping from the frame and upon closer inspection, the top clear plastic was ripped in two, and the black bag was ripped up at the top! Some squirrel decided to have a drink of lukewarm plastic flavored water? Or maybe a bird?

    At any rate, the black plastic bag is in need of replacement anyway. It is very brittle from the sun beating on it and tears apart almost like paper. The 55 gallon trash bag has been in place for a little over two months now. I will replace with two bags rather than one so perhaps the inner one will last a bit longer, provided there are no attacks. With this replacement, I will also add some insulation to help this shower function even in colder weather.  I will place 2" foam along the back and an additional clear plastic cover. Hopefully, the water will heat up even in temps below 60, provided it is sunny. I will post again when this is completed.

    Recycle List For My Solar Shower

    The reason I was able to build my solar shower for under $25 is that I used a lot of recycled materials from around the house. I used old boards that I salvaged off an old deck that needed replacing, boards from previous projects, a discarded handle from a trouble light for a towel rack. I even used part of an old tackle box as a plastic soap and shampoo rack. Watch the video below to see all the places where I used recycled materials.

    Garden Hose Solar Shower

    Shower Head Garden Hose Shower Frame Garden Shower Full ViewIf you have hundreds of feet of garden hose like we do, you know that the water gets very warm in the hose, and can run warm or even hot for 5-10 minutes. So why not take advantage of this free hot water?

    I did just that by constructing a frame from four 34" scrap 2×2′s, screwed together at the corners. Then, I drilled 3/8" vertical holes in each corner and run cord or clothes line through, tying at the top and knotting at the bottom to the correct lengths. The cord is then attached at the top to a hose clamp secured on a hose. The hose is then connected to valve and then a shower head I picked up for about $2. You then drape the hose over a tree branch. For privacy you can attach a tarp on the inside of the shower as shown.

    For a more functional DIY solar shower that I built for about $25, check out my 20 Gallon Solar Shower Plans for a shower that works even in cooler (sunny) weather and retains its heat after the sun goes down.

    Solar Shower – Warm Water at 10:30PM!

    Solar Shower It was a bit late last night when I got around to taking a shower before bed, but I thought I would see if the solar shower still had warm water. At 10:30PM I took a battery powered camping lantern with me and set it outside the shower. This provided more than enough light, although I would like to rig up a permanent light for after dark in the future.

    The water was still warm! So the 20 gallon reservoir holds the heat for a while. It was fairly warm during the day (84), but not extremely hot.

    I have plans for improving this shower: Add another layer of plastic over the top to form an insulating barrier as well as adding 2" foam insulation to the back side against the wall – this would insulate the water and help it maintain heat even better. I will post again when I do these updates. Hoping to use this shower into October, even here in cold northern Wisconsin.

    Go to Free Solar Shower Plans to see how you can build a shower like this for around $25!