Last Updated on December 31, 2020
Having an outdoor solar shower is the perfect way to get clean or simply to relax while feeling the sun on your skin.
You can use it as a supplementary shower for your guests in your holiday home or to hose off dirt and grit that has accumulated after a few hours in the garden.
A solar shower is warm and feels very natural, offering a refreshing cleanse for your body after a long day of working in the yard, rather than tramping all the dirt and mud through your house.
But what kind of shower will you prefer to have in your back garden? If you’re thinking of going conventional, then you’ll have a lot of plumbing and electricity to sort out.
However, one way to circumvent the complications that go with traditional showers is by picking out a completely different model – the solar shower.
If you don’t mind a shower that is pressurized using the force of gravity, then solar-powered showers can be the most natural and eco-friendly alternative to standard showering. You can have a sun-warmed shower that will save you plenty of money on your gas and electricity bills.
And, what’s even better is that you can build a solar shower of your very own in the back garden with little DIY knowledge or electrical and plumbing expertise. Sounds daunting, huh?
We know what you’re thinking: how long will it take to set up a solar shower unit? Where are you going to put it in your garden? What materials will you need to construct your solar shower? Is a solar shower difficult to clean?
Well, don’t worry, because we’ve compiled a quick how-to for building your very own solar shower. We’ve got a list of materials, as well as advice on where to place your new shower unit and some handy tips and tricks regarding plumbing, drainage and electrics.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your shower cap and some wood and let’s get to work!
Finding The Perfect Place
One of the main things you’ll have to think about in the early planning stages of your solar shower will be where the sun shines.
You’ll want your shower to be in direct contact with sunlight for it to heat the water adequately. There’s nothing worse than a lukewarm shower in the morning!
Usually having a shower that has ample southwesterly or southeasterly exposure to the sun will heat your water to a comfortable temperature.
You’ll next want to ascertain how close you want your shower to be to the nearest water spigot. Ideally, you’ll want it somewhere in the region of 90 feet, so you can avoid trip hazards.
You’ll also need to be wary of slicing your hose inadvertently with a lawnmower if it gets concealed in the long grass.
You’ll also need to check local permissions and statutes when it comes to building an additional shower in your backyard, as well as gaining the consent of any neighbors, although this will be more of a courtesy.
Preparing The Foundation
There is a simple way of establishing a very solid foundation for your shower unit, and that’s by setting it up on a simple cement slab or concrete decking.
However, if you don’t have these to hand, you can pick up some slabs from your local hardware store or even make a platform from gravel – although be sure to make sure it is 100% level.
You might want to use crushed rock or shale as this will also provide drainage into the grass underneath. The reason to ensure good drainage is to remove the build-up of rocks and dirt around your feet.
You’ll need to excavate your foundation so that it’s slightly wider than the shower base itself. So with a 4×4-foot shower, you’ll be wanting a 6-foot square excavated area, with 8 to 12-inches below grade to drain the excess water off.
Building The Walls And Doors
Once you have established your foundation, you’ll need to install your wall, rafter and door units.
For the walls, you can either buy privacy panels from your local hardware store or you can build your own from scratch.
If you are planning on making your own, all you’ll need is to add a 2×4 piece of cross-bracing at around 24 inches above the grade then place 1×4-inch boards lengthwise to form the walls.
The best woods to use for your walls are treated lumber, cedar or woods that are naturally rot-resistant. You should screw hinges into one of these walls to attach the door. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even integrate a panel of frosted glass into your shower.
To make rafters to secure the top of your solar shower, simply connect the 4 corners of the top of your shower with wood. Again, use rot-resistant or treated woods for this, angling them from north to south.
For the roof, you’ll need to sheet the south-facing rafter, using exterior-grade plywood for extra resistance against outer and inner moisture and, most importantly, absorption of the sun to heat your water unit.
Tiling And Grouting
Even milder temperature changes will affect the tiled walls and the grouting of your solar shower, so you’ll need a tile that has been rated low on the absorption scale to prevent freezing in cold conditions. Try to find a Class V tile that is designed for outdoor use.
If you use the mortar-grout that is traditionally used in interior showers, then you can expect them to expand and contract radically in outdoor settings, which will lead to cracking and allow moisture and rot to accumulate in the fractures.
You will need grout that will flex naturally as the temperatures of your shower climate fluctuate.
Electricity And Drainage
Try and limit the exposure that your shower has to outdoor electrical units such as extension cables.
Replace all the standards outlets you’re using with ground-fault circuit interrupted outlets to reduce the risk of electrocution.
When it comes to grading your shower base, make sure that the water drains away from your house or holiday home.