How to make a Compost Hot Water Shower

Building a compost hot water shower is easy if you understand a few basic rules in compost pile design, pyrolysis and little permaculture know-how. The benefit of this system is that you get free hot water that will last for 6 to 8 weeks for free plus two cubic meters of compost at the end of that period.

Geoff Lawton in his Permaculture Soils DVD goes into a lot more detail than we have time here, but in a nutshell here’s what you need.

  • A gravity fed stream of water that you can access through a pipe that has some pressure.
  • A compost heap around 2 cubic meters square.
  • 150 metres of 19mm irrigation pipe tightly coiled that you bury deep inside your compost heap.
  • A conventional shower attached to the compost coil outlet.
  • Some soap

Geoff Lawton with Compost Heap

“As soon as we get the compost made, we add moisture to it.” says Geoff Lawton, “We get heat within one day. Within two or three days we’ve got constant hot water for six to eight weeks.”
But how hot does it really get and how long can you take a shower for?
“It’s so hot that you have to add cold water to your shower to cool it down a little bit.” says Geoff. The compost shower system was used by Geoff students at Zaytuna farm. Each shower will run hot water for about 5 minutes and then the water will start to run cold. The recharge time before the next shower is hot enough usually takes about 5 minutes. With such a sort time to recharge between taking a hot shower, free hot water sounds like a good idea.

Geoff Lawton leans down and starts lifting the canvas flap covering the compost heap. “What a great system.” he says digging into the pile and pulling out a heap of rich black compost. “At the end of the day you get free hot water and plenty of black fertilizer!”

Jean Pain with compost heap and coiled water pipes

“Frenchman Jean Pain wrote the book ‘Another Kind of Garden’ and he made heaps that were ten meters across in compost size, he also centrally heated his house for six months of the year and grew enough food on 10 meters of compost to feed the whole family for one year.” says Geoff Lawton.

“What a great system. It’s physics and biology in partnership together working as a unified system.”