The Roundup -

Sunshine Showers


I love the sun. I understand completely why the ancients worshipped this blazing disc. Giver of life, casting brightness to light our path, increasing one’s sense of well-being; John Denver hit the nail on the head. Sunshine on my shoulders DOES make me happy.

Given my complete appreciation of the sun, it makes sense that solar gadgets and the idea of harnessing the sun’s power intrigues me. I own a vast array of solar powered objects, from flashlights and lanterns to reading lamps and power packs that charge small items, as well as several outdoor decorations that wink and flash after dark, offering cheerful colors and reminding me that tomorrow the sun will return to warm me again.

Although our cabin has arrived, it has no power, water, or sewer capacity yet, so we are still roughing it 21st century style. I take full advantage of all my solar objects, from the lamp that lights my keyboard at night to the small clip-on reading light I use when I actually have time to sit down and enjoy a book. We have installed solar powered motion night lights, and we plan to install a few solar panels on the cabin to power small appliances and lights.

Solar powered tools have not disappointed me for the most part, but one of them has taken us some trial and error before we got it fully functional. I refer here to our expectations when it comes to solar shower kits. I have always loved the idea of taking a shower with water warmed by the sun. I remember old cowboy movies where dirty old men bathed in horse troughs with water heated by the sun’s rays. These men always seemed to totally enjoy their time immersed in solar heated water. I figured that with us roughing it, so to speak, this summer offered the perfect time to install our own solar shower.

A few months ago we purchased a five gallon solar shower kit. I eagerly awaited its arrival. The day the kit arrived, we experienced an early June snowstorm, followed by several days of cool, cloudy weather. Naturally this placed somewhat of a damper on my ability to enjoy sun-warmed water in the great outdoors.

The weather finally cleared. My husband took this opportunity to fill our new five gallon solar water bag with cool water from our spring. He had the bag three quarters full when this finely made product split at the seams, dumping the entire contents on my husband’s legs. He was not amused. Sometimes no shower feels better than an unexpected cold one.

Undaunted, we came up with a new plan. We looked around and found a 30 gallon RV poly water tank, perfect for our needs. It had inlets at the top for filling and an outlet at the bottom to attach the shower hose. My ingenious husband also installed an on-off valve on the shower hose for easy control of water flow. He painted the tank black, mounted it on a shed roof that enjoys full sunshine for most of the day, filled our new acquisition with water, and stepped back to let the sun do its job.

Of course the weather promptly went south for another week. The tank sat unused on the roof shed for yet another span of days.

Summer finally almost arrived, in a way. We experienced hot days but nights still cooled off enough that anything warmed during the day lost its heat over night. This included our shower, of course. I looked at that tank sitting patiently on the roof, and one day after work, I decided the day had warmed sufficiently that our shower ought to work to some extent.

I tried out our new shower, standing in the great outdoors with a thin stream of water coursing over my body. The water did NOT feel very warm, I forgot that this spring water would also be soft water so I didn’t need the amount of soap I had liberally doused on the washcloth, and I also recalled an elementary science lesson that both my husband and I had forgotten. A wading pool heats a lot faster than a swimming pool, ergo a ten gallon water tank would heat a lot faster than our thirty gallon one. When I mentioned this fact to my husband, he complained that when he worked in Nevada, his thirty gallon tank on top of his RV ALWAYS had hot water ready for showering. I pointed out to him that the mountains of Montana did not exactly have the same sort of climate as the 100 plus degree heat he had experienced in Nevada.

So, I took my first solar shower, but it was not the warm comforting kind of shower that I expected. Oh well, hot weather loomed on the horizon, according to the weatherman. And hot weather DID arrive. I took my second sun-warmed shower in late June, and although the water still was not particularly hot, it really felt good as the 85 degree air temperature combined with the blazing sun kept me well warmed.

Full summer finally arrived in July. The 4th of July week we experienced very hot days along with nights that didn’t cool down much, which made a perfect combination for a stubborn old lady determined to make the solar shower scheme a success. I took an outdoor shower in water warmed by the sun on July 4. It felt great, the water still wasn’t overly warm, but it worked. I emerged clean and refreshed, and that lukewarm water didn’t cost me a dime to heat. Since then, the tank has slowly emptied and the water has heated up, so I truly enjoy my outdoor bathing experience. By the time I shut off the water flow, the combination of blazing sun and light breeze dries me in under a minute.

I continue to learn how to use this shower setup. I use just a dab of body wash, I have learned to go with the flow, as if a gust of wind comes up, it blows the stream of water emerging from the shower head off to the side so I need to lean to that side as well to adequately rinse. There isn’t enough pressure coming out of the shower head to adequately rinse my hair, so I still rely on the off-site shower arrangements when I decide to wash my hair. Otherwise, I see the rest of this summer filled with outdoor showers under water heated by the sun’s rays. Just like those grizzled old cowboys in the movies, I too smile with pleasure while standing under my homemade shower. Now I am truly roughing it, 21st century style.


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