Our Off The Grid Shower

The folks here at Tiny House Listings wanted me to share a little about my shower. Not just how to build it but why we use it.

We chose not to plumb our tiny house. Instead, we get all of our water from a spring on the land that we purify using a Berkey water filtration system. This works very well for us and it also means we don’t use anywhere near the amount of water that a conventional household uses.

Over the years we tried several camping shower systems. We used a pump that heated the water. We used a gravity shower bag. All of these were fine, but they weren’t exactly right for us. Then Matt went out to New Mexico to meet with some people about the project we started in South Africa last year. There he met a guy who lived on a boat and he told Matt about using a garden sprayer as a shower and Matt got inspired.

Compression garden sprayers work by using a hand pump to create air pressure in the tank which then forces the contents, usually chemicals such as weed killers, out through a hose. Because it relies on the pressure in the tank, the hose typically has an on/off switch. The guy on the boat just used the garden sprayer with its little nozzle for his showers, but Matt was certain he could improve the design. So we were off to the home improvement store to find the parts.

We started with a 2 gallon garden sprayer. Whatever you do, don’t use one that has already been used with chemicals. This seems obvious, but I want to make sure I say it.

The product we chose had a spray nozzle that could be unscrewed from the rest of the unit. So we bopped over to the bath department to see if we could find a shower attachment that would fit. Matt originally had in mind to use the type of sprayer you might have on your kitchen sink with the on off button, but we ended up with a hand held shower sprayer that based on the packaging is used to attach to your shower and wash your dog.

However, the sprayer wasn’t a perfect fit for the shower nozzle, so we wandered over to the plumbing to find a connector that would work.

Once we put it all together, we had a pressurized shower system.

To use it we fill it up with a gallon of air temperature water. Then we boil a kettle full of water which measures out to about a half-gallon. The boiling water quickly heats the rest of the water and we are left with a very comfortable shower.

So, is there anything that we would do differently?

Our shower seems to have a lot of extra hose. This is because of the original hose from the sprayer and the hose from the hand held shower nozzle. The hose is a little excessive and occasionally unwieldy. We might reconsider the kitchen sprayer idea for the next time we build one. Another change might be to paint the sprayer black so it can be used as a solar shower.

Laura is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings and she walks the walk. Her and her husband live in a 120 square foot cabin in Asheville, NC that her and her husband Matt built themselves. You can learn more about Laura and Matt at their website 120squarefeet.com.

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Category : Blog

19 Comments → “Our Off The Grid Shower”

  1. When I see things like this, I wonder why I feel the need for more elaborate “solutions”. This is a great set-up. Sure, it’s not the sort of shower you would stand up for hours, relaxing. But it does what it sets out to do.


    • Laura M. LaVoie

      Oct 12, 2012

      You have that right – it does get the job done. And, if I fill it all the way up and I can stand under it and luxuriate for a few minutes at least. Functional and simple is what we were going for.


  2. Mark

    Oct 12, 2012

    Wonderfully simple. I would love to be innovative like this when it comes to building my own tiny house.




  3. Keith Levy

    Oct 13, 2012

    I’ve been using a garden spray for a shower and to rinse dishes and as pressure water for over twenty years and funnily enough, I too use a Solo brand, it’s exactly the same as yours.
    I’ve been through two or three of them, one I painted black and left it out in the sun to heat the water…
    The unit itself is a top of the range product, it pays to buy quality, and I wouldn’t be without it. It’s by the door of my bus and is handy too for rinsing sandy feet prior to entering the bus.
    There’s nothing new under the sun is there.
    I’ll post a story about it on my blog one day soon…
    Best wishes


  4. Truss316

    Oct 13, 2012

    I had the idea of using a garden wand with an off-on tigger and a variety of spray patterns…love the pressurize idea! Thanks!


  5. MIKE

    Oct 13, 2012

    The only problem I see here is that you have to pump the handle to many times during your shower…kinda dumb if you ask me..My idea whould be to hook up a small RV 12volt water pump now you got something that really works well…and it can operate the rest of the house also.


    • Laura M. LaVoie

      Oct 17, 2012

      I think “dumb” is a strong and unnecessary word. Pumping the shower takes about two seconds and really doesn’t create any sort of hardship. If I can’t pump the shower sprayer, I have bigger problems. We bought a battery operated pump and have never used it. It seemed excessive when the solution we developed was so simple.


    • Brian Roscher

      Jan 08, 2015

      I actually am replacing my backup 12v electric shower sprayer that works with a 5 gallon bucket of hot water with a version of this sprayer that uses a 3 gallon tank. I got a quality sprayer that is not going to break anytime soon and you can take a hot shower in it for over 5 minutes easily. You have to pump it once every minute and it is easy to pump it. This is a better solution that the 12v shower for me because the 12v shower can easily disappear when you have 3 year old kids lurking around. Not so easy to make a manual sprayer shower disappear when it is attached to a 3 gallon tank.


  6. Allison J

    Jan 23, 2013

    I have referred back to this repeatedly. As a housing counselor, I have given it to many people. Sometimes the most simple things are brilliant. In the summer we use solar showers. This is the perfect winter shower.


  7. Tara Morrison

    Oct 07, 2013

    If you painted it black it would probably heat up faster.


  8. Joy

    Oct 10, 2013

    Great idea……….

    I have also discovered that wal mart now carries a simple botle sprayer that pumps 3x or 4x times as much in one pump. I’ve used this to wash my dishes for a year now. I also use one to spray myself down with a baking soda solution, used originally to ease pain of bug bites, but cleans you well and fast, as well.

    Another idea…..why not make a 3 gal or 5 gal container, paint it black, and enclose in a plexiglass fronted box on outside of the home. Mount it for gravity flow. If you are in a permanent location, even do a larger one, hook up to fill with rain water, and have hot water all the time. I’m not an engineer, but simple makes sense to me.


    • Steven

      Oct 10, 2013

      Great idea Joy! If you decide to build something like this, please share it with us!


  9. Jerry Fisher

    Oct 13, 2013

    It is simple solutions to everyday tasks many of us take for granted in regular houses that inspire me. This is one of those inspirations. It seems so obvious and yet it never would have occurred to me.

    Living up here in the wind-swept prairies of South Dakota, the power sometimes gets knocked out by storms (both summer & winter). Luckily the house I’m living at has gas for the stove so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep a sprayer in the closet for exactly this sort of situation should the need arise. Then I won’t have to nearly have a heart attack from the shock of chilly water zapping me when I have to take a shower!

    I can’t say enough good things about this website in general. I’ve long wanted a small home of my own and I’ll do it someday. In the meantime, I’ll keep reading stories like yours and stay inspired.


  10. nate

    Apr 16, 2014

    What if you hooked up a pressurized system like this to one of the off grid water heater showers like the Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless Water Heater and Shower, retails for like $120. Then you would have a manually pressurized, hot water heater/shower. If you hooked it to a gravity fed barrel you could rig it so that you could have as long a hot shower as you have water to put through the system. You can even run it on a 12 volt pump system, but the manual pump idea is a nice low impact idea. We are getting ready to put in a 12×24 cabin, no running water, or plumping, or electiricity. Heating it with a wood cook stove, and we are thinking of doing a shower system like this with a built in drain and tub (galvanized water trough) for our kids. We need the hot water to be more readily available because of our family size but the L5 system is perfect for an off grid cabin, we have to heat our outhouse/washroom anyway so we will have a small propane back up system in place as well as a small wood stove, because we need to keep our water from freezing in the winter. Our washroom will probably be 8×8 with 8 foot walls, maybe smaller with gravity barrels inside with rain collection hook up from our main roof system. We just wanted a bathroom that was still very convenient but off grid. Its will cost a bit more but will make all the difference. The simple pressure system with the pressure washer is nice for in the main cabin where our sink system will use something like it that takes water from our water heater on our stove.


  11. mike deaton

    Jun 17, 2014

    About to build my tiny house out of a 12×24 shed cabin….this will work perfect…thanks


  12. Brian Roscher

    Jan 08, 2015

    Loved this idea so much, I made a shower like it myself using a 3 gallon sprayer. I bought the “Smith 190217 3-Gallon Max Contractor Sprayer With Heavy Duty 18-Inch Wand” and simply used a hose clamp to attach the sprayer’s wand to the rubber hose of a shower head sprayer. It works awesome and I do not even live in a tiny house! My kids love it too.


    • Laura M. LaVoie

      Mar 17, 2015

      I am excited that this idea still has legs! Thanks for replying and letting us know.


  13. Ric Bell

    Apr 20, 2015

    COOL! I “improvised” and used the same basic set-up, except I just took off the wand and used the remaining hose without the shower hose extension. I had a ledge in my molded fiberglass shower to set the sprayer on which worked out great with the shorter hose.

    My hot water heater went out the week before Thanksgiving and I was expecting family! Didn’t want to replace my water heater with another “tank” as I was in the middle of a bathroom remodel and planning on upgrading to a tankless which required rewiring.

    I am about to install my tankless water heater in the next several weeks, but to be honest, I am a bit disappointed in that option. The simple ( and INEXPENSIVE) pump sprayer set-up worked so well that I would be happy using it as my permanent solution; however, as the caregiver to my elderly mom I need to better accommodate her limitations.

    The pressure in the sprayer was strong enough to blast the soap right off and very efficient. I usually only used one to 1 1/2 gallons.

    Last week I installed a Nature’s Head composting toilet in the back of my closet until I replace the subfloor of my bathroom. I’m hoping my mom can adapt to using it as I would like to replace my flush toilet with the Nature’s Head.

    I was actually surfing the web looking for a larger sprayer to dispense the separated urine from the Nature’s Head that I plan to dilute and use as fertilizer when I ran across your blog post. If it wasn’t for having to accommodate my mom’s limitations I would stick with our SIMPLE, INEXPENSIVE, EFFICIENT, and ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY solution.

    Great article! Thanks for sharing.


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