Simple, Cheap, Powerful DIY Solar Shower
Materials needed for this project →
*NOTE: all of these pieces are based on the diameter pipe I went with as well as my method of mounting the pipe etc.
- PVC cement
- Teflon tape
- Metal clamp rings
- Flat black spray paint (x2)
- Main PVC pipe.
- 3x3x2 (or whatever diameter you need to fit with your main PVC pipe) Y pieces (x2)
- 3-inch plugs and screw-on cap (x2)
- 2-inch plug and screw-on cap
- 2-inch to 1-inch plug and adapter
- Full bore ball valve spigot (example)
- Metal adapter (example)
- 4ft hose
- Spray nozzle
I’m here for ya.
Seriously! Reach out on Instagram or YouTube with questions.
If reading bores you, watch the video.
Decide where you want your shower and how large of a shower you want.
I have a Flatline Van Co low pro rack on top of my Mid roof 148WB Transit 150. This influenced the size of my shower (a 3” diameter x 10’ pipe) and the placement of the shower.
As you can see, The pipe is well-hidden running alongside the passenger side of the van the full length of the rack. It turned out that a 10’ pipe fit perfectly!
I went with a 3” diameter pipe because it fit perfectly underneath the rungs running width-wise across the top of my van between each side of the rack. I liked the idea of planting the shower below the profile of the van rather than protruding (both for wind noise and also overall low-profile look).
Get yourself to Home Depot (or Lowes)!
For both this project and the kitchen plumbing project, I spent between 1–2 hours in Home Depot or Lowes just messing around with all the various pieces in the plumbing isle until I had assembled the various pieces to make the shower do what it is supposed to do (take water in, maintain water, dispense water).
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the lovely aproned-angels.
Here is a rundown of all the main PVC pieces you will need:
Main PVC pipe (10’x3”)
Two 3x3x2” (or whatever diameter you need to fit with your main PVC pipe) Y pieces (one for each end)
Two 3-inch plugs and screw-on cap (one for each end)
One 2-inch plug and screw-on cap (this is for water INTAKE — where you will insert your hose when filling)
One 2-inch to 1-inch plug and adapter (for your spout to connect into). I don’t remember the exact dimensions for this because the way we figured out this piece was simply taking pieces off the shelf and fitting them until we had a plug reducer to fit into the 2-inch part of our second Y connector that had a female threaded hole the same size as the water spigot we’d be using for dispensing the water.
For the spigot, we initially went with a regular garden hose spigot which restricts the amount of flow (not what you want with already limited water pressure), we then went back and got a “full bore ball valve” spigot which did NOT restrict water flow. This greatly increased water pressure. This is the piece you will have to fit into your reducer plug on the part of the shower that will DISPENSE the water. (here is an example).
Depending on what type of full bore ball valve spigot you get, you will likely have to get a metal adapter either between the PVC shower and the spigot and/or between the spigot and the hose attachment. Sometimes you have to get creative with all the female/male connection points to make things work (example here).
Again, some of these things will have to be worked out in the store fitting different pieces together to see what you have to work with.
The process is simple once you’ve spent the required time in the plumbing isle fitting all the tiny pieces together until you have something seamless end to end.
We started by assembling the INTAKE end of the shower. We took the 3” cap and plug, coated the male part of the connection with PVC cement and then used our body weight to press the male and female parts together as tightly as we could.
NOTE: PVC cement dries pretty fast so once you start coating a connection point, move quickly.
We then connected the 2” plug and cap to the remaining hole on the y-connector for water INTAKE.
We waited to attach this end piece for water intake until the 10’ pipe was up on the roof due to the tight space we were working within.
NOTE: I would apply Teflon tape to the threads on the screw-in-caps that you do not intend to remove often (e.g. the large end caps on both ends) to help seal each end.
Moving on to the water DISPENSING part of the shower, we attached the 3” plug and cap to the remaining y-connector the same we did in the rear.
Then we attached the 2” adapter/reducer piece that would fit inside the 2” hole in the y-connector and create a place to screw in a spigot and then that whole piece (water DISPENSING) to the main PVC pipe.
NOTE: I had to go back and add in that metal adapter I listed above which inserted into the reducer here and then screwed into the female full bore ball valve spigot.
The male threaded parts of the metal adapter were covered in teflon tape to seal the connection.
Spray paint the whole dang thing.
It is not strictly necessary to spray paint your shower but first of all, black looks cooler than white (obviously the more important factor here), and secondly, a black solar shower puts the solar into the name as it will heat up faster and to a greater degree than a white shower would (due to science).
We used flat black spray paint to put on 4 coats.
There is a right and wrong way to spray paint…but I tried both and honestly no one will die if you have poor spray painting form. So, spray away my free-spraying friend.
Wear a mask though. You want to remember your childhood, don’t you?
Mount the shower!
After the spray paint has had a while to dry (check the back of the can for dry time), slide that bad boy up onto your roof and attach the last piece (in our case, we had to wait until the end to attach the water INTAKE piece since the space where the 3” diameter pipe fits is too small to fit the y-connector through).
NOTE: When attaching your final piece (water INTAKE) make sure you have all your angles set to your preference. I wanted the intake portion to be vertical so that inserting a hose for filling would be easy and water would not be spilling out until the pipe was 100% full. In the dispensing portion, I wanted the spigot where i would attach my hose at a slight angle to avoid the rear barn door when closing.
We then used the appropriately sized metal clamp rings to wrap around the diameter of the pipe and around the metal crossbar on the rack. We positioned the shower where we wanted it and then tightened each of those clamp rings as hard as we could without breaking them since this 10-foot water missile flying off the top of my van while driving 75mph on an American highway is not why I got into van life…
We attached clamp rings at every rung possible (totaling 4).
Test that bad boy!
Fill her up any way you desire (a hose is easier but a bucket will do). Find a secluded spot to strip down, attach your 4ft hose to the full bore spigot sticking off the end of your brand new solar shower, attach the nozzle to that hose, open up the full bore spigot and let ‘er rip!
NOTE: If you can park with the front of your van higher than the rear, your water pressure will greatly increase. I straight up pulled up a steep bank and had amazing water pressure for this cheap, simple, homemade, unpressurized solar shower!
With the steep bank (or any hill, really, that raises the front of the van above the rear), the 4ft water hose (adding even more vertical space for water pressure), and the nozzle to control the flow, you will have very satisfying water pressure for your middle of nowhere rinses and showers after hiking, swimming, biking, and surfing.
Overall, I am so incredibly pleased with the water pressure, low cost, and ease of assembly (apart from the plumbing isle games) for this solar shower!
I originally thought I would regret not pressurizing the shower but now I have no regrets.
I look forward to being able to suds up with some soap and spray off in very public places with many a weirded out camper watching me clean myself in full view (while in briefs!! Of course) of curious eyes.