Solar outdoor shower

By Ray Ford

How one cottager eased the load on the family’s electric water heater

Solar shower

Photo by Peter Coles

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Nature lovers would be wise to drive quietly down the driveway of Peter Coles’ quaint Lake Rosseau retreat, for the stealthy observer just might spy a sudsy specimen of Putterus nudus enthusiastically washing itself in the late afternoon sun.

“You’d get an eyeful from the driveway,” concurs Coles, laughing about his solar-heated outdoor shower, made from an old water tank, “but that doesn’t bother me!”

Propped up on a sand- and gravel-bedded platform, the outdoor shower is part of Coles’ power-saving initiative and helps ease the load on the family’s electric water heater.

Having experimented with an outdoor shower at his original family cottage, Coles pursued the idea in earnest after buying his own property. He sourced a used water tank from a local plumbing supply store and, after plugging a few holes to make it sound and welding on copper pipe for the taps and showerhead, he painted the exterior black, hoping the colour would help harness the natural heat of the summer sun. The tank is filled from the bottom by the cottage garden hose that, at the turn of a tap, provides water pressure to the showerhead once the vessel is filled to the top.

“It takes a few hours to heat up the water,” says Coles, “but it gets drawn from the top of the tank, where it’s warmest. On a sunny day, it’s usually anywhere from 85 to 90 degrees.”

Coles’ tank holds enough warm water for 10–12 quick rinse-offs, though it hasn’t really been pushed to the limit. “It doesn’t hold much interest for my wife and daughters,” chuckles Coles. “I really need to put up some walls around it.”

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Ray Ford