How To Build A Solar Water Heater For $5

by M.D. Creekmore on December 2, 2010 · 44 comments

How To Build A Solar Water Heater 

My trailer like most travel trailers it’s size comes equipped with a small water heater and while this is efficient for most of my needs, being a tightwad I’m always looking to save resources and free alternatives. 

Box Number One Lined With Emergency Blanket

 

I only need a few gallons of hot water a day to wash dishes and take a shower so this small set-up works great for me, especially in summer when the sun is at its hottest. 

I could have chosen an elaborate solar water heating system (and expensive) but I prefer to keep things simple and cheap. 

Total cost for my batch solar water heater was under $5 since most of the components were free for the taking. All you need to make this heater are two cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, tape, an emergency space blanket, and clear plastic sheeting. 

Tools needed include a box-cutter or sharp knife and scissors. 

A batch solar water heater is nothing more than an insulated box covered with aluminum foil to reflect the suns rays back to the containers inside. The design, I use is idiot simple but you can improve the concept by building your batch container from other materials, constructing a framed glass and hinged door etc. 

What you can do is limited only to your imagination. 

The concept is simple, heat from the sun is absorbed by the water and the box, the suns rays are also reflected off the aluminum foil back to the bottles speeding up the heating process. 

The time it takes for the water to reach a desirable temperature of course depends on season, time of day and other factors. 

In July and August, I can have hot water in under an hour but on cooler or cloudy days it can take several hours for the water to become warm enough to shower with or do dishes. It’s not an exact science. 

I picked up the cardboard boxes for free at the local hardware store, both were the same size, but one will expand to accommodate the other with a little work. The box I have will hold five 2-litter plastic soda bottles but you can choose a larger or smaller box depending on your needs. 

To start, line the inside of box number one with the emergency blanket, (these can be found in the sporting goods department of most department stores) use tape to secure it to the inside the box. 

Keep in mind that box number two will be placed inside this one so it is important to leave enough flexibility when securing the emergency blanket to allow for this. 

The Finished Product - Note The 2-Liter Soda Bottles Inside and Front Cut To An Angle.

 

Next, line the inside of box number two with aluminum foil to reflect the suns rays back to the water containers inside. Now fit box number two inside of box number one. 

This may take a little cutting and slight modification. I had to cut about one inch off the front the box to make it work, but this should not be much of a problem. 

Okay, now you need to cover your box – I used clear plastic sheeting secured with tape around the edges, leaving about ten inches free at the end so I can add and remove my water containers when needed. I tuck this loose plastic underneath the boxes when in use. 

Now all you have to do is place your water containers inside the box (I used 2-litter soda bottles), but other containers can be used. Place the solar water heater facing the sun and wait for the water to heat up. 

Have ideas on how to improve this design (cheaply) I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

44 comments

Carl December 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I am wondering if there is a way to effectively transfer your warmed/Hot water to the hot water system in the trailer and you could heat it to dish water hot using less propane. I think it is important to make sure you are washing and rinsing your dishs with water hot enough to sterize. I am wondering if your solar water is that Hot. Just looking out for your safety and health MD….

M.D. Creekmore December 2, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Carl,
Safety of the water isn’t a concern – also this method works to disinfected the water if left in full sunlight for at least 6 hours while uncoved and transparent PET bottles are used. See this link – http://www.sodis.ch/methode/anwendung/index_EN

Carl December 2, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Md, Thanks for the link, But I was refering to the tempature that the Solar heated water gets to. It is high enough not only to kill pathogens in the water itself but if you use it for washing dishs is it hot enough to disinfect the dishs themselves?
Just wondering

M.D. Creekmore December 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Carl,

To guarantee killing pathogens with heat as opposed to UV light the water would have to be brought to a boil, so no this method would not guarantee the killing pathogens by heat alone. Water hot enough to guarantee the killing of pathogens would have to be hotter than what we could tolerate by the touch.

Does the water from your kitchen sink boil?

When you do dishes (unless you boil them) you are not guaranteeing the killing pathogens – warm water and soap loosens grime so germs are rinsed off and removed more easily. Antimicrobial or antibacterial soap can be used, but some experts warn that using Antimicrobial or antibacterial soap may result in more resistant strains of bacteria.

Bryce December 2, 2010 at 11:47 pm

The Sodis Method is being used now throughout Africa and India. According to the TED talks I have watched this has proven to be highly effective and without chemicals. One mans trash is now saving lives.

Dennis December 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Dark colored bottles will help adsorb heat better, a shot of spray paint should work. Any dark color, with flat black being best. The risk is small, paint a couple at first and compare

Lint Picker December 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Yes, I agree. I’ve painted my 2-liter soda bottles this way and have scrapped all the other stuff that MD uses in his solar hot water heater. I like to keep things as simple as possible, and it doesn’t get much simpler than this. The bottles are free and the paint is cheap. They are also very portable and anybody over the age of 5 can carry one or more at a time to where the hot water would be needed.

I use these bottles when desert camping – boondocking. The water heats quickly in the desert sun and the ability to take a shower with them is a great way to end a day. The length of that shower is only limited by the number of bottles I took with me from home and the amount of water I have available.

M.D. Creekmore December 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Dennis,

I’ve tried painting the containers black and the water did not seem to heat up as fast. I think painting the bottom half black while leaving the other half (the side facing the sun) clear would work best but I have not tested this yet.

Lint Picker (Northern California) December 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Right, paint only one side of the bottle, leaving the unpainted side directed at the sun. In a pinch, black duct tape can work in lieu of black paint.

M.D. Creekmore December 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Lint Picker,

This is the reason I like this concept – there are many different ways to set this up using nothing more than stuff you can probably find around the house now and after a crash. It is cheap, easy and it works – if the sun is shining of course.

Jack December 2, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Find an old fashioned TV satellite dish someone wants removed from their yard. Coat the inside of the dish with glue and cover with aluminum foil. Use large canning jars, paint them flat black, and fill with water. Orient the dish to the sun, put the water filled jars in the bottom of the dish, and cover the dish opening with clear plastic or glass. This device will also double as solar cooker.

charlie (NC) December 4, 2010 at 8:06 am

Jack, at most building supply stores you can find rolls of aluminum foil tape that is used to seal Heat and AC ducts.
It makes quick work of turning a satellite dish into a solar reflector and it’s a little tougher than foil. Probably not as cheap to do though.

A tank out of an old hot water heater (or other suitable tank) painted black and placed in the sun makes a great water heater.
It obviously works better in the summer but if you put it inside an enclosure that is insulated on the bottom, north side and east and west ends and covered with glass or clear plastic on the top and south face it will give you hot water year round unless you have a period of extreme cold and no sunlight. That seldom happens here in my area. I don’t have one made up but at some point I will build one. I’ve seen them used by others.

Also, you can put some heat in your house by building a shallow box mabye 3′ wide by 4′ long by 4 to 6″ deep. Cover the top with glass or clear plastic and paint the inside of the box black.
Construct it so that there is a small opening at the end of the box between the end wall and the glass top. Then cut a small (maybe 1″ wide slit in the bottom all the way across at the other end. Then you will need some sort of L shaped duct, wood is fine, comming out from the slit in the bottom.

If you can invision what I’ve described (hopefully), the box is then hung so that the L shaped duct fits into the bottom of a window opening and the box hangs down on the face of the house on a south facing and sunny wall. The window is raised a couple of inches and then closed down on the L shaped duct and the rest of the opening sealed off to make everything air tight.
The sun will heat the black bottom surface of the box (it’s better if you use metal or some other thermal mass for the bottom) and the air will flow up through the opening at the end of the glass, heat up as it passes the thermal mass and flow through the window opening into your house. I saw this in Mother Earth News or some such publication years ago (maybe popular science) and never built one but I’m certain it will work with a little tinkering. I’m thinking someone could figure out a way to make a thermostatic damper, maybe a bi-metal type, that would open when the air in the box got hot and close at night when it cooled off.

OhioPrepper December 4, 2010 at 9:48 am

Now this brings back memories. It was Mother Earth News (in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s) and I actually built several of them. At the time I wasn’t much of a carpenter, but in direct sunlight it did produce a fair amount of heat. Picture an insulated box, with a glass top sitting at a 45 degree angle out the bottom of your window. Technically it didn’t require any thermostatic damper because when the sun went away and it cooled down, the heavier cold air would simply stay trapped in the box. That worked reasonably well, but on really cold nights there was some cold air flow out of it, although this could have been my poor construction techniques due to my then lack of carpentry skills. I fixed it simply enough with a strip of Styrofoam or cardboard that I stuffed into the hole. The main thing was remembering to remove it in the morning. It worked well enough, and with more modern materials could be a cheap to build free heat supplement.

Scott S January 19, 2011 at 9:53 am

A Satillite dish wont work with sunlight or any other light for that matter. The parabola is based on the wave length of the frequency involved. Since RF and the visual spectrum are at far different areas of the spectrum from each other the sunlight will never come close to a focus, and you have just wasted your time and resources. Instead, take a box and aluminum foil and line 5 sides of the box. If you are in the farther north regions of the US ( or similar latitude or opposing southern regions) take out one side of the box leaving 3 sides and the bottom covered. then carefully make a GLASS top and side if needed to cover the openings to trap the heat. A wood box is preferable, spray adhesive and heavy duty foil, glued on the dull side. Glass has thermal properties that plastics do not and will cause a faster rise in heat and heat retention, wood also acts as as an insulator where cardboard and plastics are too thin except for strofoam which is too fragile. The same principle applies to make a solar oven except you should use black automotive exhaust paint or better, actual black oven repair enamel available through service parts ceters, on a sheetmetal lining. Allow it to bake itself for a week in the sun (or in a real oven, following instructions on the can) to cure the paint before using. Reflective surfaces do not get hot enough to cook food as the heat isnt generated in the food, it is the air around the food that must heat up, where as with water it is the sunlight cutting through the water that heats up

Joshua December 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I’ve heard that using opaque plastic will heat the water better. In greenhouses they don’t use clear because the opaque plastic will trap the heat in side. I don’t know if it is true or not, but thought I would mention it.

Scott S January 19, 2011 at 10:13 am

Opaque glass is used in green houses because young plants can not tolerate the harsh effects of direct sunlight, the opague glass still gives full light without the risk of burning the plants. in nature young plants grow ,starting in shade of mature plants, becoming stronger until the root structure and plant body is strong enough to handle full sun. When cultivated by man, this doesnt happen, and the “survival of the fittest” aspect is removed, which is why irrigation is extremely imortant until the plant matures as the water, evaporating through the process of the plants natural resperation cools it and protects it from the sun.

elt2jv December 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Ideas:

Paint the bottles black to increase heat absorption–you’re losing much of the available energy by through-transmission losses.

You could copy the commercial camp shower units with a heavy black bag and valved hose, combined with your solar-oven like reflector.

Increase reflector efficiency by using discarded mirrors or by putting a layer of glass or plastic panel over the aluminum foil to make a better surface. Polished metal could work, too. I’ve seen projects where people used discarded CDs.

Connect the bottles in series or series parallel using pvc fittings, then provide fill and drain ports open to the outside so you don’t have to disassemble the unit for access. You could also install a thermometer so you know when the water has reached the temperature you want.

Put the bottles on some sort of standoff to hold them at a distance from the bottom surface of the box so they can absorb energy from below as well as the sides. This is especially important if you paint the bottles black.

That’s all I can think of right now. If you were in a fixed structure that could support more weight, there are all kinds of designs I’d recommend.

M.D. Creekmore December 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm

elt2jv,

Good tips – thanks for sharing.

Paul December 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Try adding a black garbage bag (one layer) over top. Black will heat up quickly, and let infrared radiation through, and the aluminum foil and space blanket will help concentrate the rays to the object being heated.

PG

Jason December 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Growing up as a surfer and travelled a bit (’68-’95), I used things like these as a shower and they worked really well except in the dead of winter of course.

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=13848644&findingMethod=rr

gary in bama December 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm

take a can of flat black spray paint and paint the lower 2/3 of the 2 liter bottles. do it light so it can flex and wont crack it will speed the heat up and make it warmer. and is what a buck a can at the dollar general. you should also try a few smaller bottls like 1 liters and see if they heat faster

charlie (NC) December 4, 2010 at 8:11 am

Krylon makes a spray paint designed to paint plastic. It comes in Flat Black and some camo colors. I have some in my preps.
I painted a 2 liter soda bottle in a camo pattern last year as an experiment and threw it out in the yard to see how it would hold up. The bottle stayed out in the edge of the yard in some low grass/brush for several months and the paint didn’t flake or come off. As Gary said, thin layers of paint is the way to do it.

Scott S January 19, 2011 at 10:19 am

You mentioned spray paint in your preps… Just a note as an FYI. Over time Even the BEST spray cans leak their propellant, leaving a full can of unsprayable paint… you may want to add several of the manual paint sprayers that you pump to pressurise to use as a spray can to be safe.

Jean Valjean December 2, 2010 at 3:10 pm

There is a cheap alternative I use, witch even works on cold, cloudy days.
I ran a slow running, coiled up garden hose trough my compost pile.
A good compost pile, with the right bacteria, will produce a lot of heath, that’s where the steam comes from you see on cold days.
Cold water goes in, warm water comes out. It is as simple as that.

OhioPrepper December 2, 2010 at 6:25 pm

A black garden hose (without the compost pile) laying in direct sunlight can get scalding hot. Coiled inside an appropriately insulated box instead of the bottles, could allow you to use it in line with an existing system. I’ve seen commercial solar pool heaters that were nothing more than a coiled black hose and a low flow pump to keep the water moving.

Fields December 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I agree; using black pressure rated hose instead of used drink bottles is a much better idea.
Then you could actually take a shower instead of just pouring a bottle of heated water over your head.

M.D. Creekmore December 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Fields,

The water isn’t just poured over head but that is another article. The reason I like this design is that it is so simple, cheap and quick to build and it works well.

charlie (NC) December 4, 2010 at 8:21 am

M.D. given the confines of your camper your design is great. Here is something I have thought about but haven’t tried yet. You know the garden sprayers you see at farm supply stores that are generally 12 to 20 gallon translucent plastic tanks with a small 12 V pump? I have one that has the typical hand spray wand but also has a Y valve so that a garden hose can be attached to the pressure side of the pump. You could buy one of those new and wash it throughly to make sure it is clean pump and all. Attach one of those white water hoses like you use with a camper for potable water. Place the sprayer in the sun (in winter inside an insulated box with a glass top).
Run the water hose into your shower stall. Then get one of those water hose nozzles with the head that turns to give you multiple watering patterns. Voila, instant shower. Clean the thing out once in a while using various methods including vinager, dawn dish washing detergent, baking soda water or even dilute clorine water and it should be perfectly safe. Just make sure it is marked for potable water only and that the NEW unit has never had chemicals in it.

Jean Valjean December 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

Obviously you guys have got a lot more sun than I have :-)
The reason I opted for the compost heather is that even now, with 5 inches of snow and a temperature of -10°C (14° Fahrenheit) and a full overcast , I have got warm water -or even at night-.
In preparing for the worst, you shouldn’t just rely on the sun (volcano eruption for example, can throw out enough ashes to blacken the whole sky and lower the temperature significantly for weeks).

But if your method works for you, go for it! Yours is definitely closer to the KISS principle than mine, witch is a good thing !

upstate ny December 2, 2010 at 3:44 pm

With this being the Christmas season, you might end up with boxes of a suitable size being delivered to you or relatives that could be recycled (the boxes, not the relatives). You may also be fortunate enough to find some bubble wrap in those boxes. Similar material is used as solar pool covers because the air filled bubbles act as insulators to a degree thus keep the heat loss through reradiation down. Just a thought.

muddome December 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm

You could put some insulation around the box to retain more heat. I would use papercrete (supercheap) or soilcrete (free). Papercrete hase amazing insulative value.

AJ December 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Put the whole thing inside the car, obviously where it’s going to get sun on it or just put some bottles on the dashboard.
My car gets HOT, even when it’s only in the sun for a few minutes. I’ve been thinking of testing a solar cooker on the dashboard, perhaps even just wrapping the windscreen reflector behind a black pot sitting on the dash with the sun coming through the windscreen.
As mentioned you could also paint the underside of the bottles black.

Lint Picker (Northern California) December 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Great idea!

A friend of mine hangs strips of jerky in his pickup during the summer. He says that by doing this, it keeps the bugs away and it dries faster in the sun-heated truck cab. He drapes black plastic bags under the jerky so that if the salt/pepper falls off or the meat drips, it won’t get on his truck seat. The black plastic bags also reflect the heat and thereby speed up the drying process. I have eaten some of the jerky and it’s as good as any other, but made much faster and without the use of any type of energy except for the sun’s free heat. One caution, don’t try this if the temperature inside the truck exceeds about 105 degrees F. – the point is to dry the meat, not cook it!

Kimberlady December 31, 2010 at 11:43 am

My Grandmother (and her whole generation I guess) dried apples in the back window of her car. It worked great.. no flies or other nasty bugs and it was free.

Luddite Jean December 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

I have some caps that fit on two-litre PET bottles which have a watering rose built in. I was going to use them for their intended purpose (watering hanging baskets and patio pots) but your article gave me a great idea to use them to put on bottles of water heated by your method for washing up and showering.

I got them from eBay UK, I have no idea where you can get them in the US.

AZ rookie prepper December 2, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I am amazed and awed by the ingenuity of you folks. What a great article. Thanks for the write-up M.D. and thanks for all the tips to all the contributors. I think I know what my next project is going to be.

SrvivlSally December 2, 2010 at 10:31 pm

What a nice little setup, M.D. I would take everything and set it up somehow just above my kitchen sink window and also make another one for my bathroom. I would attach hoses to the bottles with on/off valves, run the hoses inside the house and hang them up in a discreet but nice location, wait for the water to heat up really well and bingo…tiny bubbles for the kitchen sink and quick wash and rinse while showering. You could also use a larger plastic box with some attached hose fittings runnning out from it’s sides or use the traditional over the side gravitational syphoning process with fittings to turn the water on and off AFTER you have installed a reflective material of sorts, filled the container and covered it with a lightweight 3-mil plastic to direct the Sun’s rays back to the water and to keep from losing much condensation. I would place the bigger container up to the window level somewhere and be in business. I believe that you could use a reflector that will shine light down upon another reflector, placed at an angle, which is directed right for your water source, also at an angle, which would help to not only increase the power of the heat source but may also decrease the time it takes to heat the water itself. Something like one of those submarine or other types of gadgets that are used to see by where each interior reflector is aimed for another which gains an image. Click to insert smiley is not working, it does not seem to be linked properly or something. When the sun goes down and you want to have a little warm but not hot water to wash your hands and face by when you wake up the next morning, you could put a hinged lid on it that has a kickstand you can raise and lower into a half notch cut into the edge of the lid wherever your preferred access point is located. I live in the great Northwest and at night, even during summer, most times the temperatures drop enough that all water will be cold or very cool the next morning and until the Sun reaches it which could be well after 9 am there is no choice but to use a fuel source to do so if you want or need hot water before the the Sun can do the job. Because of this it is best to insulate the outside of the container or bring it inside and set it in the warmest location in the house up against a wall, inside a cardboard-lined wooden box or a styrofoam container until you are ready to use it. It all depends upon the temperatures that the home drops to during the night and is not always guaranteed but sometimes this method works pretty good but that is only when summer is very hot and the air does not cool down much at night. The next best place to store water for the night is inside a closed up shed or other building that remains warm throughout the nighttime hours. I would not worry too much about germs in the water when using dish soap, bar soap, powdered laundry detergent or other soaps to clean my dishes. I have washed dishes in ice cold water and soap, although the soap does not suds up as it usually does in warm water, because soap kills germs and drying them in the air is generally sufficient. If I were afraid that I could get sick I would set things by a heater or outside in the summer with bug nets over them to keep things sanitary until the Sun has disinfected everything, careful not to let the sun melt any plastic utensils. I really appreciate the Sun for it’s ability to wash my clothes, clean my dishes and disinfect things for me, taking the chore out of the chore for me. Thinking about the Sun’s capabilities reminds me of cast iron and that after you have cooked food in it, you take out all of the food and leave it on the heat for a few more minutes before wiping it clean, allowing it to cool and putting it away. I like copper pipes because they really conduct heat well and I wonder if they could be used in a setup likes yours somehow. Again, nice setup.

gary in bama December 2, 2010 at 11:21 pm

dear upstate ny i think we all should recycle and and compost from worthless relitives maybe a good starting point!!!!!

Jack December 3, 2010 at 10:24 am

You know, there are always solar panels on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) that were for pools. These are the large black panels that have the hose going through them so that the water that gets circulated gets warmed, etc. I also found on youtube and published some time ago a series where a woman took an old water heater and made a box out of a refrigerator for her home. The videos were 28 parts on youtube. http://bit.ly/fpfvBt It doesn’t look complicated, just time consuming…

Bryce December 4, 2010 at 9:46 am

These are reaally easy to build. the concept was popular from 1830 until about 1920. I am nt sure why they stoped being used in Cali and the south west. Free hot water and an easy sunday project if you have all the materials on hand. To figure out the proper angle just borrow your kids protractor, tie a string to the hole in the bottom and attach a nut or heavy washer. flip it upside down and align with the sun once an hour from morning to afternoon and get your average.

Brent December 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm

My wife and I bought a mobile home in ’85 and moved it to our farm(my dad’s at the time which I was to inherit)we leased from my dad with his approval. We had no power lines nor water. We did convince the coop power company to run lines to it. I used a friends 8 wheel drive farm tractor with 350 hp to pull each of their trucks through the deep sand where our house sits so they weren’t out any more than building service to easily accessible places. Fortunately the water well driller was a better driver and could get his truck where we wanted our well. After running underground service from the meter to the house and the well, we were ready to set up house or so we thought. The well produced so much sand we didn’t want to run it into the house so there we are all plumbed up and no pressurized water in the house. We ran the 68 degree water into 55 gallon drums without lids and let the sand fall out. We had a 5 gallon sun shower at the time so we used it to shower 4 people which it did very well. We found out the summer sun in west Texas would get water to some astronomical degree of heat in that sunshower. A sunshower is simply a thick plastic bag with black on one side that you arrange so that it’s lying on the bottom and heats the water through the clear top. After doing this for a while and needing more hot water for washing dishes, we discovered that taking anything black, like a garbage bag or in our case, a length of black belting on our back porch and placing any size clear container full of water to get water well above scalding. We did this for two months before finally finding out there were sand separators that would remove the sand as it was pumped so we installed one and hooked straight into the house. We learned a lot about heating water in those two or three months. I was working shift work and getting home at midnight left my water just sitting in the dark and cool wind at a low enough temperature I didn’t have to add cool water to take a shower. We have had storms that have left us without power for over two days since then so we only need water from anywhere and we still have hot water. I finally figured out I could put an old water heater inline with the one in the house and set it up inside a plastic enclosed area with the part of it facing the sun painted flat black and rarely need to turn on the inside water heater. The water from the solar water heater is 30-40 degrees warmer than the water from the electric water heater we use(120degrees). Since we have a lot of sun and not many clouds, we have found that 30 gallons of water that’s hot will last a couple days at least and sometimes longer in the hot months. I’m thinking of adding another solar water heater in line so we have virtual free hot water year round. I thought removing the insulation from the solar water heater would be the ticket but leaving the heater intact just means the water takes longer to heat and that means it stays hot longer also. With two of these heaters, I don’t think we’ll have to turn on the inside heater very often. I can imagine going virtually 8 months without needing to turn on the water heater. I have a black pick up with a black bed mat and have found that when camping or just going fishing or being someplace you’d like to have hot water but there is non, just setting 5 gallon containers of water in the bed will give you all the hot water you need. In fact, you’ll want to leave that much water out of the sun because the temperature of that water in the bed will be way above scalding so you’ll have to mix it with cool water to be able to use on your body. I have scientific thermometers but have never taken a reading of the temp of solar water in the summer. I’m guessing it’s at least 150 degrees. That will clean the dishes really well, just let them sit in the shade for a while before trying to wash them.

azyogi December 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I have an Instaset pool 8′ X 30″ holds about 900 gal I heat it by running the pump though a 100′ black garden hose. I’ve also used black 5/8 irrigation tubing just layed in coils on a shed roof. A tee at the pool end of the tube and I could divert the water from my hot tub to a shower head set above grade on the garden. Summer time the az sun can get it too hot for bathing. With valves and tees I can pull or return to either the pool or old hot water heater, using the loop for more than one purpose. Haven’t set this up at the new place yet but the top of my conex should do for laying out the tubing.

Darcy Green December 10, 2010 at 9:21 am

It’s amazing just how strong the sun is in some places. Nuclear fusion at 93 million miles it’s really staggering. Your design looks simple and effective. Insulation is important to things like this as heating only takes place when heat in exceeds heat loss. A little off topic but I’ve just installed a crude hot water system on my daughter’s place. It uses 300 metres of half inch poly pipe laid across a relatively flat roof. There’s a circulation pump and solar controller it’s relatively crude but heats 80 gallons of water to almost 45 degrees C in about an hour on a typical clear spring day. Max temperature I’ve seen so far is 70 degrees C. A commercial equivalent to this would run into $3500 whereas this thing cost me a whole $480 including a near new 2nd hand tank. Hot water is a luxury I don’t want to live without.

Brent December 31, 2010 at 1:09 pm

I’ve used two ways to solar heat water. Clear bottles lain on a black anything. You can use a plastic cover if you want to keep it hot after dark. A tank water heater painted black inside a sealed compartment with the north side being black also. You can plumb your water into this and have pressurized hot water. In most parts of Texas this will work nearly every day of the year. A large water heater will take 3 days to cool down if there’s no sun and you don’t do a lot of washing. If you install one of these before your electric or gas water heater, chances are they won’t turn on for months and this is using well water. In my part of west Texas you can get as water hotter than you can stand to use on your body out of your storage tank without doing anything else. I’ve carried a 5 gallon water jug in the back of the pickup with a black bed mat when I was hunting and had to pour it into gallon jugs to put in the shade to cool it enough to use it.

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