In recent years the interest in living off the grid has grown. While many people express interest, few people actually take the big step of living off grid. Perhaps one of the reasons is that so few people know how to take care of life’s basic necessities while living off grid. One of the biggest necessities is of course staying clean. Consequently, the focus of this post is off grid shower options and how to stay clean.
I’ve lived off the grid for the last 20 years. Admittedly my initial attempts at staying clean were not very successful. But during that time, I experimented with various options for an off grid shower. Therefore, in this post, I go through all of those options and explain from personal experience the pros and cons of each method.
Off Grid Shower Option #1
A simple gravity fed off grid shower is by far the easiest and less expensive option. Besides, all you need is a container of water in an elevated position. A bucket is a very inexpensive option. However, a small water tank is a better choice because it holds a larger volume of water. Simply attach a standard garden hose adaptor to the tank. Cut a short section of garden hose and attach a nozzle. Additionally, use a nozzle that twists on and off. This provides hands free showers.
For years I had a 5 gallon tank up in the loft of my first cabin. I attached a short piece of garden hose as described above. Afterwards I ran that hose through the floor. I heated water on the stove and transferred it to the tank using a 5 gallon bucket. I stood in a galvanized tub surrounded by a shower curtain hung from the ceiling. This set up was of course on the first floor. When finished, I took the tub outside and dumped the gray water.
Pros: easy set up, no moving parts, very inexpensive, can be used as a portable shower if using a bucket system, easy to use indoors, very efficient use of water
Cons: If using a tank in a fixed position, you will have to haul water up to the tank with a bucket or pump it into the tank. Water must be heated prior to placing in the tank. No water pressure
Off Grid Shower Option #2
A solar heated shower is also a very inexpensive option. Numerous companies sell these and they are easily purchased online. There is no set up involved. Fill it with water and place it in the sun.
Pros: inexpensive, no set up involved, requires no energy other than the sun, can be used indoors, makes a great portable shower
Cons: When full, this shower system can be heavy and difficult to hang. Typically have to be used in warm weather, not a good outdoor option in the winter, difficult to clean the bag if it grows mildew, no water pressure
Off Grid Shower Option #3
A small pressurized tank makes a great option for a portable shower. I have seen some people get creative and use a weed sprayer tank. However, be sure to buy it brand new and label it for water only. These tanks typically hold 1 1/2 gallons and they have to be fitted with a different nozzle in order to get decent water flow.
The other option is to purchase the Zodi Extreme or a similar product. The Zodi Extreme is a stainless steel tank equipped with a hand pump to create pressure. The tank is filled with water and then heated. It has a built in thermometer. There is a shower hose attachment and an on/off value that helps to control water flow. (This is my Zodi warming up on my wood stove.)
Personally, I’ve found it easier to heat water in a large pot on my propane or wood stove so I can get just the right temperature. I then use a funnel to put the water in the Zodi tank.
Pros: great portable shower option, tank can be placed directly on the heat source, relatively inexpensive, good water pressure, hands free shower operation, very efficient water usage
Cons: You typically only get good water pressure for about 2 minutes. Therefore, you have to keep pumping to regain pressure.
Off Grid Shower Option #4
A battery powered shower is a fantastic invention. There are numerous brand names that work equally as well so take your pick. They all come with a small submersible water pump, a battery pack, and a shower head. The pump is simply placed in the water source of your choice. Turn on the power and you have an instant shower.
The great advantage of this off grid shower system is its versatility. Any available water source is suitable. For example, a 5 gallon bucket. I keep a 5 gallon metal container full of water on my wood stove in the winter. Consequently, I always have hot water. I simply take the pot off the stove and set it outside the shower stall. Then I drop in the water pump and I’m ready to go. The water pump is powered by rechargeable batteries.
If purchasing this type of shower, I recommend purchasing a unit with a battery pack that uses standard batteries, such a D cells. It is much easier to completely replace the batteries if needed.
Pros: easily portable, efficient water use, provides great water pressure, very versatile, can be used numerous times before needing to recharge the batteries.
Cons: has moving parts that can break, needs batteries, some brand names have a built in battery that cannot be changed out if it were to malfunction.
Off Grid Shower Option #5
As far as I am concerned, a tankless instant hot water heater is the Cadillac version of an off grid shower. These water heaters have sensors that pick up the flow of water. The sensor then triggers a striker mechanism which in turn lights a burner. In one to two minutes, you have hot water.
Personally, I have the Eccotemp brand. The sticker mechanism runs off of D-cell batteries. The burner is propane. My water supply is an under ground cistern. In order to produce water pressure, I installed a water pump which is connected to a battery bank. (charged by the solar array) Then I wired an on/off switch inside the cabin. Consequently, it is convenient to turn on the pump and have instant water pressure.
Pros: great water pressure, economically priced, easy to install
Cons: Must have a pressurized water supply, more expensive to install due to the water pump, not very portable, must be placed outside due to fumes created by the propane burner, easily freezes in the winter if outside
There are many possible options for an off grid shower system and many products on the market to satisfy whatever you need. However, all of these possibilities distill down to the 5 categories listed above. I have tried all of them. In fact, I have a couple of different systems available to me depending on the time of year. In the end, no matter what system you choose, it is very easy to get a great shower regardless of living off the grid.
Other posts of interestOff Grid Water Systems