Two years ago I decided I wanted to be able to harness the suns energy to create hot water. As a proof of concept and usefulness I decided to make an outdoor shower. After spending a day outside working in the pasture mowing ect being able to just run into a shower without going inside covered in dirt is a great thing not to mention when one of our dogs are covered in mud or sprayed by a skunk is awesome. So I started looking up plans for solar water heaters and found all different kinds of plans.
I started to think about what we had laying around that I could use for an insulated box and with a sad turn of events our refrigerator of over 20+ years died on us. I saw this as a great resource and a possible new life. I took the doors off and cut out the divider that goes between the freezer and the refrigerator. I measured the inside of the refrigerator and guessed after looking around that a standard 5o gallon water heater tank would fit inside of it. After that I posted an add on craigslist looking for a dead hot water heater that didn’t leak. I received probably 20 emails from people that were looking to haul their heaters to the dump but didn’t want to have to pay for it. I ended up picking one up and brought it home and stripped the outside insulation off, the one that I picked up had foam insulation on it and if I had to do it all over I might of looked for one with fiberglass insulation instead because removing the foam was kind of a chore.
I fit the water tank inside the refrigerator with a couple pieces of wood that I cut to help support it and covered the entire inside of the fridge with reflective insulation to help point the sun light at the tank. Next I painted the water tank flat black to help it absorb as much radiant heat as I could get from the sun. I installed the tank, cut a couple holes in the top for the plumbing and installed a drain valve off the bottom of the tank so I could drain it in the winter time. Then I mounted the refrigerator at a 45 degree angle on the southern side of the house and ran plumbing to it. Currently its just hooked up to a good quality garden hose so I can disconnect it all in winter. Finally I added a sheet of glass that I purchased from a local vendor for $35
I ended up covering it with some cedar fencing to make it more aesthetic than having a refrigerator in your back yard and added some privacy and a bit of a wind break on those windy days. I will vouch on a sunny day this thing will hold hot enough water to take a shower at 2 am. During the hot part of the summer I have to add cold water to it because it can almost burn you. I dug a hole for the drain in the middle and burried a 3 ft pipe with holes in it and gravel around it for a drain. Here is some pics from the finished product, I wasn’t blogging back then so I didn’t take any pictures during the creation of it but here ya go, I hope you get the idea.