Living off-grid presents a variety of challenges, not the least of which is how do you keep yourself clean. You can of course just dump a pitcher of water over yourself outdoors or standing in a tub. Or use a bed bath sponge down, but nothing really beats a shower for getting off the grime and sweat your off-grid lifestyle is going to bring. And while cold showers might be “refreshing” and tolerable in the summer not many people are keen on them in the winter. So how do you get a hot shower off gird? The answers to that question can be as simple as a camp shower bag to an on-demand propane hot-water system.
The right answer for you really depends on what “off-grid” means to you personally. If you are a “purist” you may believe in using absolutely no fuel or electricity regardless of the source. Others may consider themselves “off-grid” if they are not physically hooked up to the power grid and they embrace the use of solar, wind, hydro or other forms of electricity generation. Still, others may include propane use for stoves, refrigeration, heating and hot water.
We will start with the most basic ways of getting clean and
move on to the more complex. This is not
intended to be an exhaustive list by any means, but a way to get your thinking
about what solution might best fit your situation, including your climate.
Gravity Flow Shower Systems:
The simplest form of heating hot water is to let the sun to all the work for you. Of course, this only works on warm sunny days, although in the winter or on overcast days you can manually fill any of these containers with water heated on your woodstove.
The first thing that comes to mind in this category is the camp shower. These bags come in a variety of sizes from 3 gallons up to 10 gallons. You fill with water, hang them up in the sun and depending on the amount of sun you usually have water hot enough to shower within 4-6 hours.
There are also various other containers that can be filled and heated in the sun. One such set up can be seen in this Backwoods Logic video where he uses a plastic type of jerry can to heat his water.
This works fairly well, but there isn’t a lot of water pressure which can make rinsing off difficult, especially if you have long hair.
Manually Pressurized Shower Systems:
Next we will look at a manually pressurized shower system. You can use a pump sprayer like you would find in the garden section or you can get one is labeled specifically as a camp shower.
Options range in size from 2 gallons up to 4 gallon backpack type sprayer units. No mater which size you choose you will need to manually fill the tank with the water temperature you desire. How you heat the water is up to you. In the summer you could use solar water collection and then heat water on the woodstove in the cooler months.
If you are handy you can also hookup a system using a regular shower head as shown in this YouTube video by Bush Radical. The system he shows would work just as well indoors in an off grid home, but if you wish to have it as a separate shower building then I would make sure the building was also big enough to house space for doing laundry and add a small woodstove to heat water and keep the room warm during cold weather showers.
Larger capacity tanks are available, but not in mechanically pressurized models. Five gallons and up are going to be in tanks designed to be towed behind options that run a 12v pump and if you are going to hook into a battery system you might as well go with an on-demand tankless hot water heater since the price is about the same and you will get twice the benefit.
Powered Shower Systems:
Finally, there are on-demand tankless hot water heaters that run on propane or a 12 volt systems. These types of systems are popular with builders of off-grid Tiny Homes as they do not take up a lot of space. These systems can both heat and pressurize your water but you do need to have a source of running water to use them. This can be from a garden hose if your well has a pump. Or the water flow could come from a large storage tank via gravity flow. Here is one person’s set up in their off-grid cabin.
These are just a few of the many ways you can get hot water and a shower off-grid.
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