StrandjaBlog - picture taken in Strandja Nature Park, Bulgaria

Shower in the sun | Douche in de zon

In the North West of Europe not many people I know of take solar showers. However, in Bulgaria it is quite common to heat your water by sunlight. Many people here have a solar water heating installation on their roofs, and there is also the oldfashioned system consisting of just a black-painted barrel on the roof. We brought a pair of camping solar showers from the Netherlands in anticipation of the beautiful Bulgarian weather. And today we tried them out. Ik ken maar weinig mensen in noord-west Europa die wel eens een zonne-douche nemen. In Bulgarije is het echter vrij gebruikelijk om je water op te warmen met zonlicht. Veel mensen hier hebben een zonne-boiler op hun dak, maar er is ook het ouderwetse systeem dat simpelweg bestaat uit een zwartgeverfd olievat op het dak. In Nederland hadden wij een paar camping zonne-douches gekocht in afwachting van het mooie Bulgaarse weer. En vandaag hebben we ze uitgeprobeerd.

solar shower with a small design flaw

We tried out our solar shower, but it has a small design flaw

Heating water with the sunWater verwarmen met de zon

Our solar showers consist of a bag made from black plastic (the type they make cheap inflatable mattresses from). You fill the bag with about 5 litres of cold water, put it in the sun and do something else while your water heats up for free. Onze zonne-douche bestaat uit een zwarte plastic zak (van hetzelfde material waar zwembandjes van gemaakt worden), waar je ongeveer 5 liter water in doet. Je zet de zak in de zon en gaat iets anders doen, terwijl je water gratis opwarmt.

We filled the solar shower bags at about 8AM and by 11AM they were already warm. By 6PM the water in the bags was very warm indeed (almost too hot). Time to try the solar shower. Om 8 uur ‘s ochtends deden we de zonne-douche helemaal vol met koud water en om 11 uur was hij al warm. Om een uur of 6 was het water echt heel warm (bijna te heet). Tijd om de zonne-douche uit te proberen.

A small design flawEen klein ontwerp fautje

The idea is to hang the bag with warm water somewhere high. It has a special handle to do this with. I had fixed a strong hook in our shower where we could hand the bag from. Unfortunately the solar shower we bought has a rather crucial design flaw: it can’t carry its own weight when filled with water. Very useful. Het idee is dat je de zak met warm water ergens hoog ophangt. Er zit een speciaal handvat aan om dit mee te doen. In de douche heb ik een sterke haak in de muur gedraaid waar we de zonne-douche aan op kunnen hangen. Helaas had ons model een kritieke fout in het ontwerp: als hij vol met water is kan hij zijn eigen gewicht niet dragen. Heel handig.

I think the Bulgarian sun must have been too strong and weakened the plastic in some way. Because the handle that the bag hangs from tore off under the weight of the water. Luckily I wasn’t standing under it yet when this happened. Ik denk dat de Bulgaarse zon te fel was en het plastic op de een of andere manier verzwakt had. Het hele handvat scheurde van de zak af toen het gewicht van het water eraan hing. Gelukkig stond ik er nog niet onder toen dit gebeurde.

An alternative approachEen andere aanpak

watering can used as a shower

The bag itself didn’t break though and the water stayed inside. So I used it to shower with a watering can in the garden instead. One bag gave plenty of water for a good shower so bag number 2 stayed where it was. And the cats enjoyed some of the remaining warmth that came off it in the evening. De zak zelf bleef trouwens wel heel. Dus ik heb het warme water gebruikt om met een gieter in de tuin te douchen. Er zat genoeg water in de zak voor een hele douche, dus de tweede zak bleef waar hij was. En de katten genoten van overgebleven warmte die er nog af kwam in de avond.

cats stay around the solar shower for some warmth

Even though the solar showers itself were a disaster, this small experiment showed clearly the potential of heating water using the sun! We are now thinking about building our own “old-fashioned” system, using materials we can easily gather around here. Watch this space! De zonne-douches die we gekocht hadden waren een ramp, maar het potentieel van het verwarmen van water met de zon was overduidelijk. We zijn nu van plan zelf een “oiuderwets” systeem in elkaar te knutselen van materialen die we hier en daar kunnen vinden. We houden je op de hoogte!


  1. Margie says:

    Hi Geoff, Hi Dave!

    I’ve been here since 2006, in the Sliven area. I’ve never seen a pack of dogs here. I’ve seen plenty of strays, but they are all quite docile. This is especially so in the villages. The only time I’ve seen “dog groups” is when there’s a female in heat and all the males follow the female everywhere.

    In Sliven there’s a vet, who has taken it upon himself to neuter all the stray dogs, unless they are very ill, in which case he euthenises them.

    I’ve heard of one case in which a woman was attacked by “wild dogs”, but have never really seen any.

    Veliko Turnovo region is also very beautiful, but longer winters and more snow.

    Geoff, I’m trying to get the picture of this litebulb thingy. Dave, I like the low tech solar water heater! I’ve actually not seen them in this area, perhaps I wasn’t looking carefully!

    Nice to see a fellow Nederlander!

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Geoff, interesting what you did with the kids. They have been very creative!! We have managed to find an old oil barrel, which we now are going to paint black and convert to a solar shower. You see this in Bulgaria very often. It is a low tech solution and works well apparently.

    About the snakes. I will have to look this one up. I have a book with all the Bulgarian reptiles and amphibians in it though. So will let you know.

    We have been here since May 2009. Still love it very much. The area is so beautiful. So much real nature it is incredible. One of the nice things are jackals which you can hear sometimes at night. They howl like wolves, but the locals have told us they are very small and harmless. There are also some wolves in the area, but very few. We have yet to see one (although we found a track!).

    I do not know about packs of dogs. If there are any I would expect them in or just outside bigger cities. We have not encountered them here. In the mountains I expect they would not be a problem either.

  3. a.batten says:

    Solar heating.
    This is probably an insult to your knowledge, but I gave this task to a bunch of schoolkids as a project. Some bought solar cells and tried to heat hthe waterelectrically. Some decided a light bulb would make a good ‘sun’. stuck black plastic tubing to bakofoil and vacume moulded a black plastic rubish sheet to the front. A (old fashioned ) 100 watt bulb in the lamp produced some very hot water flow quite quickly.
    Teaching these kids to tick the National Curriculum boxes proved more difficult!
    Horned Viper.
    These criters are found in India? Similar to Pit Viper in venom strength?
    I am interested because we are considering a move to the montains to the North of Velikio with the intention of steeing up a retreat for motorbike folk. Your account of the vipers of Bulgaria is the only one I have found that means anything to other than a pharmaceutical toxicoligist! I believe there is another poisonous snake in the Balkans, two non poisonous ones (Dice snake and one other). One blogger writes of dangerous dog packs, is there any truth in these tales?
    How long have you been in Bulgaria ?
    I have a thousand other questions but will stop now incase You have too much in nyour life to deal with these matters. Regards Geoff.

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