Outside Shower

I used my new outside shower for the first time yesterday at 8pm.  Water was the perfect temperature and the hot water lasted for the whole shower!  I’ve been wanting an outdoor shower since I moved in.  The first hurdle was deciding where it should go.

I picked this corner of the backyard:  shower1shower2


The first step was to sink a post and put up the screen a friend gave me. (Thanks Geo!)


Of course I had to clear out all that stuff that was lying around.


Then I installed the Homewerks Shower Kit.I got it on Amazon for under $50.  Very nice, heavy duty chrome finish.

showerheadThen came the difficult part of planning the plumbing.  I have been satisfied in the past with using a black hose as a “solar hot water heater” so I thought I would use some design that was similar.  I know from experience that hoses will “explode” if kept under pressure in the Phoenix heat (even hoses that are “guaranteed” to handle pressure) so I was thinking about a PVC pipe design.

The first thing I learned was that PVC is actually not rated to withstand temperatures above 100 degrees.  (So why do they even sell it in Phoenix?).  What I needed was something called CPVC that is more expensive and is typically used for interior hot water plumbing.  It is an alternative to copper.

I got lucky.  Ten foot sections of 1 inch CPVC usually sell for about $12 each – I found them on clearance at Lowes for less than 50 cents each.  I bought the last bunch of 1 inch CPVC in the county.  All the fittings I had to special order as well.

The design was simple.  I teed off the main PVC line with 1/2 CPVC.  I took that up to the utility room roof and used elbows to a create a looped line of 1 inch CPVC. I estimated that the loop system holds about 2 gallons of water.  Not much, but in the summer there is no such thing as cold water in Phoenix anyway.  I figured if I used the shower when the sun is hitting the piping the water will be scalding hot.  Two gallons of scalding water is more than adequate for a shower once mixed with the “cold” water.


The finished plumbing looks like this:

I added a second output valve on the bottom in case I want to connect the system to a hose or sink.shower7


Hot Water

I moved to Phoenix on June 18th in 2011.  For the first week or two the temperatures were hot but it still was cooling down into the 70’s or 80’s at night.  Then it really heated up.  Night time lows were in the 90’s!  I was looking for ways to keep cool and conserve energy when my attention turned to the hot water heater.

The hot water heater was in a centrally located closet at the condo I was living in.  This would be a good thing in the winter, but in the summer the last thing I wanted was a “heater” running in the middle of the house.  Besides, in Phoenix, in the summer, it is impossible to get cold water out of the tap anyway.  That solidified my decision – I turned it off and it remained off until things cooled down in the fall.

That year I would occasionally turn it back on to wash the dishes or to take a bath.  I liked the water really hot for those activities. The “warm” tap water was fine for showers and the occasional hand washing.  And, in the summer, I’m more apt to shower to cool off than soak in a hot tub of water.

When I moved into my own place I continued the same routine.  As soon as it warmed up the hot water was turned off.  I found that I could take the water from my 100 foot black garden hose for dish washing.  In fact it was often too hot from that source and I’d have to dilute it with cooler water.  This simple solar hot water heater eliminated even more of my use of the standard unit.

Solar Hot Water Heater

My solar hot water heater at work in the sun.

When fall came, I decided to leave the hot water heater off most of the time.  The hose for hot water worked fine in the winter as well.  As for showers and baths it only took a half hour to bring the hot water tank up to temperature and so I would just flip the circuit when I was about to bath.

Occasionally I mention to people that I turn off the hot water in summer, but I have yet to find a like minded person.  It seems like such a logical thing to do.  I am quite surprised that no one else does it. I’d be curious to hear from you.  Do you turn off your hot water?  Do you have simple ideas for conserving energy around water heating?  If you don’t turn off your hot water – why not?

I was talking with one of my regular clients on Saturday night at the Hawaiian Experience Spa when I learned that he uses a traditional solar hot water system.  I was pleased to find a comrade in conservation.  The best news he shared was that he too turns his hot water heater off!

He’s much more sophisticated than I am.  He says for $40 you can get a 220 Volt timer for the system.  He figured the timer paid itself off in a matter of months.  His water heater goes on at 4:30 am for a half hour.  Just long enough to heat the water so he can take his morning shower.  Sweet! eh?