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20 Sep 2006

A Top of the Range Solar Shower….

ss1Earlier this summer I went to the Big Green Gathering, a rather excellent festival in Somerset celebrating sustainability in its many forms. One of the highlights for me was a fantastic solar shower. One of the ‘groundrules’ at BGG was that all the energy came from solar and wind, and that no generators were allowed onsite. One enterprising soul created a fantastic solar shower and set it up by one of the main routes through the site, under the name of Spiral Sun Solar Showers (watch out for it when it floats on the stock market in a couple of years) and had queues all day of people wanting showers. The whole thing was powered by the sunshine, and I was hugely impressed by it.

ss2The idea was very simple, coiled black pipes within a clear plastic tent heated the water as the sun shone on them, and were long enough to ensure that by the time the water made it through the pipes it was warmed. I was amazed to hear that the shower had been in use all day long without a break, and had provided hot water showers for many hundreds of people each day. Surely a fantastic example of appropriate technology!

ss3I didn’t totally figure it out… I wasn’t sure how come if no-one went in it for a while it wouldn’t take the skin off the person who then used it. I didn’t see how cold water could be added to keep it from getting scalding, but I’m sure it was something very simple. It reminded me of when I was building my house and the water we used onsite came from a tap about a quarter of a mile away, on a hot summer day it took ages to get the water cold for mixing lime mortar!

ss4It was the fact that it would just keep going that really impressed me. Also at the Big Green were wood fired saunas, sweat lodges, and various other kinds of showers. Not that solar or otherwise I managed to get any of my kids anywhere near a shower over the whole time! Ah the joy of summer festivals…. those endless soapdodging summer days…

ss5If anyone out there can explain how such a set up would have been able, in the middle of a field with no obvious thermostats or what have you to keep the temperature from getting too hot, I’d be fascinated to hear. Certainly after a few soapfree days, the plastic pyramids of Spiral Sun Solar Showers were a beacon of hope shimmering on the horizon!

Categories: Energy

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29 Nov 12:10pm

I met Dave, who invented and runs spiral sun solar showers at the european rainbow gathering in Yorkshire in summer 2006. I myself develop lotec technology and I too was very impressed by the design and efficiency of the showers. As well as a hot water supply the system also connects into a cold water supply. Hot and cold are both fed into the thermostaticly controled mixer tap that sits below the shower head. I understand that future developments include plans to pump the water by wind power generated elecricity. Bright blessings, Kith

18 Jan 6:42pm

I would love to know how to get in touch with spiral sun solar showers…as I am very interested in having them at our festival…can anyone help?

19 Jan 10:38am

Hi Jools,
I have contact information for Spiral Sun. If you post a bit more information on your festival, along with your contact details I will Email Dave so that he can get in touch with you if he wants to.

19 Jan 11:25am

Hi Kith

Cheers for this.

Workhouse Festival is a small eclectic family friendly festival with a capacity for 5,000 people (last year we sold out). It is run by a group of volunteers who have been on the festival scene for years and decided to create one themselves. This year we have booked amongst many others Transglobal Underground, The Baghdaddies, Tarantism…We are not just a music festival, far from it…there is a healing area, chill out zone, dance tent, green crafts, sauna, kids area, cabaret, comedy, acoustic venue and loads of walkabout and the bizarre. Some of our venues are powered by the wind and sun. If you go to the website or to, there is a video that gives a real feel for the event.
We really want to improve facilities from last year, which is where I reckon solar showers would fit in and I saw them at the big green and was very impressed..
Dave can either message me through the myspace site…or go on to and click on the get involved box that says “bands” and I will receive that mail.
Jooles x

David Wick
10 Feb 5:19pm

Hi Rob and Kith,
this is Dave Wick of spiral Sun Solar Showers. I’d like to thank you both for your commendations and ask if I can use your comments on my website (hopefuly up and running mon/tues next week – -.I’m now in touch with Jooles of the Workhouse festival, thanks again.
I’d also like to take this oppertunity to clarify a couple of technical points you raised. The showers are not fitted with thermostatic controls as the system is designed not to need them as follows. The design of the solar collector array is deliberately not all that efficient (as this permits other useful design features such as using robust light black plastic piping for collectors as well as not needing thermostatic control).The collector pipes inside the tent are effectivley open to the air inside the tent. This means they can never become much hotter than this surrounding air because as their tempreture increases this heat is also radiated out into the tent as well as heating the water inside the pipes. The tent itself is only moderately good at retaining this heat so it continually loses heat to the outside environment and soo keeps the whole system from overheating. This is how come if nobody uses the shower for a while they dont get scalded. The highest tempreture I’ve ever recorded for the hot water is 54*C. This is hot but not scalding. Water tempreture is adjusted to comfortable levels by a simple shower mixer control, where the hot water (from the solar collectors) is mixed with cold water in the useual way.
It may seem odd to non engineers/designers that systems would not always be made as efficient as possible but often the cost or resultant end product ( vaccume tube solar collectors @ about 98% efficiency are heavy,fragile and expensive as well as requiring sophisticated control systems) means that, depending on what the overall design is intended to achive, a less high efficiency/ high tech approach can be a better overall solution to a specific design requirement. In this case producing relatively cheap, robust solar showers that work well enough in their operational environment to satisfy the need. Kith,I would be interested to know more of what you do at lotec, please email me at with contact details if you’d like to get in touch, you too Rob if theres anything more you’d like to know.
Thanks again to both of you
Best wishes
Dave Wick

14 Feb 6:15pm

Copied to Dave with photo`s –

Hi Dave,
Thanks for making contact with Jooles re Workhouse Festival. I hoped it would be a fruitful bit of networking!

I have just taken a look at your web front page and will keep up to date with developments there. You are most welcome to use my comments on your showers in any way you wish.

As to Lotec, it is my one man very part time alternative workshop. My main current project is developing and
making woodburners. I have sold several to friends and friends of friends. I use old LPG cylinders and steel beer pressure barrels. Stove pipe is made from redundent farm irrigation pipe.

Look forward to seeing you at some point in the coming season.
Good luck and best wishes,

12 Jun 9:11pm

If you need someone in New England (Massachusetts) as an advocate, count me in! I do not do festivals but I am going to see if I can rig this idea up myself for our family needs because (1) its super nifty (2) we can no longer afford the oil we were using to heat our water (3) we like to do things ourselves ( If you were thinking of selling this I would be happy to help out. (now is the time here .. lots of us in new england use wood stoves for winter heat but oil for our hot water .. no more affordable oil = a need to find this sort of solution) We use well water which comes out of the ground VERY FREAKING COLD so I am highly motivated to find a way!