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Old 02-21-2018, 08:13 PM   #1
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Solar Water Shower System

Oookay! Let's talk solar showers - may we?

I'm not sure how many solar shower setups I've read about, watched videos on, or even seen in action, but it's ALOT it seems.

Of all the options I've seen; this style is one I have really just come back to time and time again over the past couple months. (Yes, sadly - I am that indecisive and I do actually read and watch about as much as I can to get good ideas and gleen from other's experience and even expertise.



A couple notes that I feel are worth discussing as to why I keep coming back to this type of setup is because:

1) I really love the idea of having the nature's sun doing the work for me. It's FREE after all! From what I've read and watched, it appears the sun does a fair job of heating the water in this type of system. No, it's not what we'd get from a full-on water heater. I do understand that and I'm not expecting a replica of the conveniences we have living in a traditional house. But, if we're intending to be in much warmer climates than we are now year-round, and if the testimonies of those who have posted reviews online is true - this seems like a great option! We intend to chase the warmer climates all throughout the year. The closer fall/winter gets, the closer we travel to warmer climates and explore thoses regions of the area.

2) This particular idea seems fairly simple to build and install/secure. It doesn't involve me having to have any special equipment to hoist up a bus (which I do not have - the hoist, not the bus silly - I have the bus). ;)

3) Water tanks under the bus seem quite cumbersome. Particularly, the installation and the fact that I'd be required to have numerous other components to make it feasible (ie, water pump, heating source, plumbing, etc).

My thought was to take the idea in this video, and expand on it related to it's size. I believe most of the ones I've seen hold approximately 5-10 gallons of water. I would like to double that by scaling it and having it secured allllll the way around the top of the bus instead of only halfway. I hope that this makes sense from a reader's standpoint. I, of course, know exactly what I mean, haha! I've drawn up a really really "stickman-like" sketch of what I'm thinking and have taken a picture of the sketch and attached it.

I have reservations and concerns, but I'm hoping that it's just because I am inexperienced and an amateur right now with all of this at this exact point in time. My main concern is that this is a bus which is already top-heavy. Now, the only things I have planned for the top of the bus is solar panels, a rooftop fan for ventilation and airflow, and then potentially this solar shower system. I've read online that every gallon of water weighs somewhere in the ballpark of 8 lbs. So I'd be looking at approximately 160 additional pounds of weight on the top of an already top-heavy vehicle (not to mention whatever nominal weight of the piping would be - which I imagine isn't too terribly much although I could very well be wrong). However, water is obviously not a solid weight and I'd imagine it'd be sloshing around up there.

Would I need to be concerned with ever losing control of the bus and it tipping over or something if the water is sloshing around and I'm going (hypothetically) down, say, a steep, curving hill or mountain-side. Being that it's not in a square tank stored under the bus; would I be able to quell and squash that fear and chalk it up to me just being ignorant not knowing the physics of it all? Would you think it'd actually be safe?

Next, I suppose, would be the health safety factor. 20 gallons is alot, but it isn't when you're using it every day. Two people taking showers either every day or every other day, plus some for washing up dishes or whatnot - obviously a minimal amount - maybe not even worth mentioning. We would NOT be drinking this water or cooking with it. We will have safe water in a 2 or 3 gallon jug for this purpose. For dishes, we'd boil the water first maybe? I assume you wouldn't want to wash dishes in this without boiling the water first.

Filling it up would no issue I assume. I have zero qualms with driving into a town and asking a local there if they'd be kind enough to let us top off our tank with water. Otherwise, I'm sure there's businesses and such that would not mind in the slightest allowing us to fill it. I may be thinking very naively, and if I am - please, tell me. You can't learn if you don't ask questions. (That's what momma always said at least.) Nevertheless, from that health safety standpoint line of thought - as long as the water is being moved and drained on a regular basis; should I worry about bacteria, or things like that that might occur or happen with "stagnant" water?

The two options I've read about online are a gravity system and then a pressurized system where you simply use a bicycle tire pump (with a proper gauge of course) to give it the safe pressure you desire. If pressurized, I'd use a specific type of piping. I can't recall off the top of my head as I write this post, but there is a specific type of pipe you'd want to use - not standard PVC piping which I've read is susceptible to 1) the sun's heat and 2) the risk of bursting or even exploding when pressurized.

I'm wondering if anyone has thoughts on this setup. Have you used it yourself? Do you know people who have? What is your feedback? What is the feedback from your friends/family who have used or are using it?

Thanks for your thoughts and feedback in advance - sincerely! Without Skoolie.net and the community involvement here - I would be lost. Thanks so much!
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:30 PM   #2
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Just brainstorming here. Why not have your main water tank down low maybe under a bench or something so most of your water weight isn't up on the roof and no need to climb to fill the roof pipes. Add a Shurflo type 12v water pump to provide water pressure to both the roof solar pipes and a kitchen faucet so no need to manually pressurize the system.

20 feet of 4" cpvc pipe would hold about 13 gallons (.65 gallons/ft). A longer length of smaller diameter pipe may give better heat transfer (I'm guessing). Full pipes won't slosh.

Water weighs about 8lbs/ft so you don't want a lot of it up on the roof. 13 gallons would only be 140 lbs which doesn't seem like it would be a problem.
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:37 PM   #3
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You could also install a passive solar water heater.

You would need a tank for hot water storage and a roof unit of black pipes in a surround, under glass. You don't even need a pump but could fit a small 12V pump to drive circulation.

This is a popular fiment for homes and there is no reason it wouldn't work on a bus.
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Old 02-21-2018, 10:23 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roach711 View Post
Just brainstorming here. Why not have your main water tank down low maybe under a bench or something so most of your water weight isn't up on the roof and no need to climb to fill the roof pipes. Add a Shurflo type 12v water pump to provide water pressure to both the roof solar pipes and a kitchen faucet so no need to manually pressurize the system.

20 feet of 4" cpvc pipe would hold about 13 gallons (.65 gallons/ft). A longer length of smaller diameter pipe may give better heat transfer (I'm guessing). Full pipes won't slosh.

Water weighs about 8lbs/ft so you don't want a lot of it up on the roof. 13 gallons would only be 140 lbs which doesn't seem like it would be a problem.
Water weighs 8lbs/gallon, a foot of 4" tube would weigh 5.2lbs. 13 gallons weighs 104lbs.
I've had water, that has sat in the hose in the sun, that would burn you, much hotter than my shower water.
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Old 02-22-2018, 08:32 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roach711 View Post
Just brainstorming here. Why not have your main water tank down low maybe under a bench or something so most of your water weight isn't up on the roof and no need to climb to fill the roof pipes. Add a Shurflo type 12v water pump to provide water pressure to both the roof solar pipes and a kitchen faucet so no need to manually pressurize the system.

20 feet of 4" cpvc pipe would hold about 13 gallons (.65 gallons/ft). A longer length of smaller diameter pipe may give better heat transfer (I'm guessing). Full pipes won't slosh.

Water weighs about 8lbs/ft so you don't want a lot of it up on the roof. 13 gallons would only be 140 lbs which doesn't seem like it would be a problem.

Morning roach!

So my thought process on a water pump option is two-fold:

1) Cost. Attempt to avoid putting anymore money than I have to into the electrical as possible. I believe we are somewhere in the ballpark of $5k or possibly more when you add all electrical components together (panels, batteries, wiring, lights, induction stovetop - any and everything that is electrical). Almost triple what I paid for the bus. While I do want to have electric-based equipment versus anything else due to harnessing the sun's free eco-friendly resources; I'm concerned with having to purchase even more solar panels or batteries to be able to keep up with it all.

2) Noise. I've also seen quite a few videos of people showcasing their buses and when they get to the point in the video where they turn the water on for show and tell - it seems very loud to me. I'm not with them inside their buses of course; so I'm not sure if it's just poor audio quality or what the deal is. But they do seem pretty loud.

3) Space. And I accidentally lied to you. There's a third thought. SPACE! Keep in mind we're in a short bus. As if square footage isn't already an issue for those in a full-size bus; there will be two of us in this little short bus. And while we don't actually plan to be living inside the bus for any real lengths of time other than to commute and sleep; every inch we can have available for good use is much needed. If it were just me in the bus; well that would be an entirely different conversation I'd think. I hate labels, but I am certainly more of a 'minimalist.' Always have been. My partner on the other hand - ack, not so much. Bless her for eternity for trying her best (and seemingly rather successfully thus far) in downsizing her belongings already, but she has much more 'stuff' than I would ever have.

I'm certainly not shooting down ideas and thoughts - that's for sure. I certainly value and appreciate them because it helps! Just trying to be financially cautious at this point as we haven't even lived in "Wilson" yet; and while this is all an investment (and overall in the long run I consider it all a very small one compared to the investment of a traditional fixed structure) - I just am trying to keep one eye on the financials of it all while the other is focused on the build and everything else involved in the project.

You bring up an excellent point that I have spent time thinking on and am still pondering: climbing up and down the bus on such a regular basis. I don't see anyway around that if we have this solar shower setup. I haven't seen any option to gain access to the system to fill it up. I've searched and searched. I wish I could be creative enough to come up with something 'outside the box' but I am the farthest thing from an engineer so I can only go off of what I've seen and read about. So your thought on a tank inside the bus may be one I am forced to go with in this first conversion to see how it goes.

One more quick thought - if I did go the option of the water tank hidden inside the bus - do you have a recommendation as to best location? That's going to be somewhere in the ballpark of 130-150 or so pounds lopsided just one side of the bus. Would the bus look wonky and tilted?

Shoot me some of your additional thoughts if you have any. I'd love to see them!
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Old 02-22-2018, 08:36 AM   #6
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You could also install a passive solar water heater.

You would need a tank for hot water storage and a roof unit of black pipes in a surround, under glass. You don't even need a pump but could fit a small 12V pump to drive circulation.

This is a popular fiment for homes and there is no reason it wouldn't work on a bus.

Hi Twigg!

I google'd "Passive Water Solar Heater" and this came up. Is this what you're referring to? Also, why would the black pipes up on the roof need to be incased in glass? Thanks for the thoughts and feedback! I'm interested to read more on this idea.

https://www.google.com/search?q=pass...hrome&ie=UTF-8
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Old 02-22-2018, 08:45 AM   #7
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Hi Twigg!

I google'd "Passive Water Solar Heater" and this came up. Is this what you're referring to? Also, why would the black pipes up on the roof need to be incased in glass? Thanks for the thoughts and feedback! I'm interested to read more on this idea.

https://www.google.com/search?q=pass...hrome&ie=UTF-8
There is a good article here that sets the scene, and a kabillion other sites that give pratical info:

https://energy.gov/energysaver/water...-water-heaters
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Old 02-22-2018, 12:58 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by msearslive View Post

You bring up an excellent point that I have spent time thinking on and am still pondering: climbing up and down the bus on such a regular basis. I don't see anyway around that if we have this solar shower setup. I haven't seen any option to gain access to the system to fill it up.
The water pump would fill the shower system from your main tank and pressurize it at the same time. Seventy bucks for the pump plus plumbing up to the tank and you can leave your ladder at home.

We have a 35 gallon water tank installed under our bed and there's room for a larger tank if we needed more water on our trips.

Encasing your pipes in a lexan topped insulated box traps heat around the pipes and lowers heat loss when the sun goes down.
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Old 02-22-2018, 01:55 PM   #9
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Roach:

Under the bed! What a great idea for placement of a water tank! I like this idea right off, but if you don't mind, I'd like to see if have this down. I've read both your posts a few times and now I'm trying to get a mental picture here as far as the mechanics and operation go.

So in this scenario where would the water pump be? Would it be in the same location as the water tank under the bed? If so, how would the water be forced up a pipe that runs into the solar water heating system up top? Does the water pump really have that much force behind it to push it all the way up to the tubing up top?

If I can figure out the "workings" of this - I have to say I like this idea. Twigg was kind enough to share his thoughts and a link that I spent some time reading and googling additional info on, but it seems pretty complex. Don't want to make myself seem dumb, but I'm not sure I'd be able to build a system like I was seeing online. It looked daunting.

Coincidentally, I have 3 sheets of 4x8 plexiglass in the garage that I picked up off of craigslist pretty cheap. However, it isn't actual lexan which is seems much thinner and flexible yet is supposedly be way, way more durable. I was just recently introduced to lexan. Would regular ol' plexiglass work to encase it to trap the heat it?

Do you have any links to where I could do more research and learn how to do this? I don't know the first thing whatsoever about plumbing so I'd need to learn it.

Would the piping that runs from the water tank under the bed be the type of copper piping that is in my home? That pretty thin diameter copper piping that runs up and down the walls? If so, any guesstimate as to how long I'd have to run the water pump to fill between 15-20 gallons of water (if that's how much the solar water heating system up top held)? I'm only using 15-20 gallons as an example. I don't actually know how much it would be, but I was thinking enough to provide two people a quick 5-minute shower either every day or every other day. And then enough water to do some minimal dishes in the evening or what not.

Just trying to understand how it would all work so I could learn to build it that's all.

I also am on the hunt to try to figure out how long it will take for the water to heat to decent warm temperature. Haven't found it yet, but I'm sure I will. If the water is at least warm than this means I wouldn't have to worry about this showerhead heating unit I bought off Amazon. I didn't pay attention when I bought it, and had no idea it requires 2500w until after the fact. Whoops. That seems unfeasible for me based on the panels and battery bank I currently have. (Currently have 400w of solar panels and 200Ah worth of lithium batteries. Planning on getting a 3rd - maybe 4th 200w panel and if I have to I'll buy another 100Ah lithium battery.) Otherwise, I'll have to for sure get a generator to run the heated showerhead.

How would the water pump pressurize the water way up top? Would I need a gauge or something to be able to tell what the pressure level is? I read that you have to be careful with that so nothing explodes. I believe I read 40psi is sufficient?? I think that's what I read. The specific plastic tubing I'd be using wouldn't be that plain old PVC piping as I've read that's not durable over time with the sun beating down on it. There was another acronym for whatever type I'd be using.

Thanks for any additional info or links!! Really great idea I think.
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Old 02-22-2018, 03:24 PM   #10
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Here's our water tank setup. The tank holds 35 gallons and the water pump is attached to the side of the tank support. The white PVC thing is an accumulator. Water pressure compresses the air in the cylinder so the pump works less often.

For plumbing use either PEX or reinforced vinyl tubing. I've used both in our build. The PEX is stronger and the vinyl is easier to route.

The water pump pressure is around 45 psi which any self respecting pipe will handle easily and the Shurflo 2088 pump will handle a 12' vertical lift.

Plexiglass is fine for your cover. You're just trying to keep the heat in, not keep the Taliban out.
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