Cleanliness Kills – film at 11pm

3 Nov

If you’re following along…

Here at RR, we’re up to our necks in alligators, trying to keep supplies moving to families that need them, on the East Coast.

And since we’re on a roll, helping people recover from devastation, debunking myths and saving souls… 🙂

I’m not going to “preach a sermon” today. I’m gonna hit the mailbag;


Dear Ronin,

I know that you spent a lot of time in Central America building ISBU housing. After a recent return from vacation, I’m thinking about building a “mother in law” studio apartment in my backyard, using (2) 20′ ISBUs. I’ll attach a deck to it to allow the space to extend in good weather.

We live near Las Vegas, so I don’t think there will be any shortage of sunlight, so…

I’d like to use Photovoltaic panels on the roof for power and a solar hot water heater for domestic supply – as a back-up.

That said, while I was in Costa Rica, I heard about something that the local tourists called a “suicide shower”. It doesn’t use a hot water tank or even hot water supply line.

(I was reminded of it again on the “LH” lists, a list that I know you participate in as well…)

I haven’t actually seen one but from the description, it sounds like a really easy way to put a shower anywhere you want, with little effort.

Since you hail from that area, can you shed light on this?


Brendan- I’ll house the “M-I-L” but I ain’t spending my beer money… a husband has to draw the line someplace… LOL!


Dear Tightwad,

Yeah, I mean you… Brendan! LOL!

While tis noble to plan for disaster or obstacles when contemplating that next frosty cold one…

(I’m guilty of that, as well…) 🙂

The Ronin Tip of the Day; Did you know that in Japan, they actually freeze the beer foam to help keep your beer cold?

I think maybe you need to focus on other ways of slimming down that building budget. Perhaps you can extend your usage of reclaimed materials, or strong-arm a relative in the trades to help you with the plumbing or electrical work.

First, to clarify…

I’m NOT Costa Rican, or Honduran, or even a German ex-pat…

… while I speak German fluently, I’m actually an older, bald-headed…

(HEY! Stop that! I SHAVE my head. It makes me look even more fierce, responsible and manly… 🙂)

… Caucasian (for the most parts) Jew.

My travels through Banana Republics were more “Olliewood” gyrations of my youth…


While I lurk the “LH” lists, I don’t really participate there. There are those among them that I find “brilliant and insightful” (Tony, Barry, Loren, and Gene – who is actually a well known author of  what  I often refer to as “Homesteading Bibles”), but (on the whole) the group is NOT really “ISBU friendly”.

But, as far as these “homicidal bathroom fixtures” are concerned, I know of what you speak.In many places on the planet, they manufacture and use a device that many of us refer to as a “Suicide Shower“.

Rather than provide a hot water heater to a residence or hotel room, they use a shower head that has a heating element built into it. If they somehow encapsulated the wiring, it’d probably be less frightening but for the most part, many of them look like the image I’ve provided you, except that many of them lacked things like wire nuts or electrical tape, making them that much scarier.

(For that reason, I actually started carrying a roll of electrical tape in my backpack, when cruising the hot spots in places like Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. For the record – I never encountered “suicide showers” in CR. They were probably there, I just never saw one.)

However, if you’re on holiday in Latin climes… and you’re not expecting to see one, it’s a rather disconcerting sight that makes you long for a bucket full of hot water and a washcloth instead…

You see, here in America… we’re taught growing up that electricity and water just don’t mix.

And when you encounter these fixtures in “places less traveled”, they usually look like they’ve been installed by your “idiot brother-in-law – you know the one – the one that has a half empty beer can in his hands as often as a hand tool”.

These do come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, in my trips to Asia I found them all over the place, but there, they look like big sealed units mounted to the wall. They are far less intimidating.

But, you’re referring to the ones in CR. I know that they look like something out of a late-night prison horror movie, with their wires hanging loose over your heads, directly above the water. A “Time Bomb” comes to mind…

After a hard day in the field, trying hard NOT to play the “Ugly American”…

Stop it! I heard that! I can’t help my genes.

(I blame my knuckle-dragging father. I’ll have you know that my mother was quite attractive. She looked like a tall Marilyn Monroe in combat boots. Seriously.)  

And I CAN control my behavior – okay, most of the time… so that I don’t further muddy the water where spoiled American travelers are concerned.

But I digress…

In my personal experience, when it was time to wash off the funk… (it was easy to tell when that was… women’s eyes teared up – not in a good way – and people in general kept their distance – even animals avoided you) here was the drill;

I’d grab my kit and head to the bathroom. Then, I’d check the wires to the shower head and apply electrical tape liberally when necessary.

Just so you know;

They usually have a switch on the side of the shower-head that controls the water temperature and you’ll usually find at least three settings, usually;

  1. hot!
  2. hotter!, and
  3. scalded in places that you didn’t know you even had skin.

It was always my practice to just leave the damned thing alone. First, I discovered early on that the switch didn’t work anyway and I was risking electrocution for nothing.

Second… If the last guy to use it wasn’t either;

  1. laying in the shower stall dead, or
  2. laying out in the hallway covered in a thin sheet…

I figured that they left the switch at the best setting.

Want to adjust the water temperature without touching a switch hooked up to live voltage?

Easy peasy…

Increase the water pressure THROUGH the heating element by turning up the water pressure.  More water means less heat.


The odds are better than even that if you try to adjust it WHILE you shower, you’re gonna get zapped.

(Better yet, let your wife or significant other shower first. If they adjust the shower without screaming out in terror, it’s probably okay for you to try it.)  

Water set, I just put on my RUBBER flipflops (Mom didn’t raise no dummy, in spite of the inherited genetics) and got in to “de-stink”. Whilst accomplishing this almost Olympian feat, I made it a point NOT to dwell on the fact that there were unbridled live electrical wires dangling within inches of the water stream.

Okay, I’m lying. The ability to ignore the wires by trying to force yourself to think about something else besides your own untimely death (and the family jokes it will then fuel for generations) does indeed make you think about those live wires even more.

On the side of the shower head it gets even more treacherous. There’s a built in pressure blow off valve with several holes in it, designed to vent the water out toward the floor (and thus away from the wires) IF the shower-head should clog up due to either sediment in the water, mineral build-up or “fixture failure”.

It’s good to have safety features, right?

Wrong-a-mundo, you silly misguided rube, you…

This valve will invariably pop off randomly while you shower, scaring the bejeezus out of you… and usually it’ll happen for no good reason.

Of course, when this occurs you’ll undoubtedly “pop off” too, but it will probably be your bladder or your bowels… Oy.

Once you either (a) get clean or (b) achieve the required level of sheer terror or (c) soil yourself by emptying your bowels… whilst attempting to get clean, mind you…

… you’ll exit the shower, right?


Look at the shower door and more specifically, the handle.

Wanna bet it’s METAL? Wanna bet it’s not grounded?

Nothing else in that bathroom is grounded, so why should that shower stall be? Where do you think you are, the Ritz? Hmmm?

In fact, that metal in the stall frame is probably the only metal in the shower, except for the shower knobs. That shower-head is probably mounted at the end of inexpensive PVC pipe…

Fat chance grounding THAT… eh?

Use your shoulder to bump the shower door open. Aim for the glass or plastic. Otherwise…


And you’ll get a “fro” that will make Angela Davis jealous!

(Don’t get the reference? Google “Angela Davis”.)

Step out of the shower and dry yer butt off. Once you’re  dry, use a second dry towel or a dry  washcloth to reach in and turn off the water. Don’t bump the door or the shower framing. If you do, you’re probably gonna get a mild zap. Trust me on this.

People wonder where the “five minute shower” came from.

It wasn’t your momma screaming about power or water bills, or even the hot water supply.

You guessed it… it was probably…


At least that what I’m betting.

All that said,

Still want to install a “suicide shower”?

I didn’t think so.

Might I suggest that you simply tuck a solar hot water tank up into your attic or crawl space and then run your domestic water supply thru a series of homemade solar hot water panels into it?

PDFs are available all over the ‘Net demonstrating how you can DIY it. It’s really a pretty inexpensive proposition. You can even use gravity to feed your shower and you’ll avoid killing your house-guests or (gasp!) In-Laws needlessly.

If in fact it is your GOAL to “off the relatives” – food poisoning is much easier and much less “suspicious” when dealing with the local authorities.

Just lean over and in a low voice repeat the following;

“You see, Officer, don’t tell anyone, but I’ve been avoiding my wife’s meatloaf for years… the dog won’t even eat it…”  

He’ll understand completely.

Stay tuned.


And for the record, I’m shutting off the phones and turning off the computer.

You see, it’s my birthday and frankly, I’m a mean old b@st@rd.  I’m pretty sure that I ain’t got many of them left. I’m going to spend it with my family – in blissful isolation.

So, don’t be offended it I don’t answer your emails or phone calls, huh?

One Response to “Cleanliness Kills – film at 11pm”

  1. Tex Arcana November 3, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Damn, RR, you posted a good’un! Now, where to start…

    Eh, I’ll start with Tightwad: Dude, standard Tex disclaimer applies: “please hire a LICENSED electrician! We don’t want you getting killed and never reading the RR newsletter again!”

    I know you’d like to off the MIL, but there are better ways; and if a guest ends up in there, you could kill them too, and I’ll bet the neighbors don’t want to see smouldering piles of burnt flash littering the yard, any more than you do.

    As much as the “individualist” crowd likes to disdain them, there’s a damn good reason for electrical codes: ELECTRICITY CAN KILL. The codes are there to protect humans from doing something stupidly dangerous. And those “suicide showers” are just that: STUPIDLY DANGEROUS.

    Be smart, Boudreaux: follow RR’s advice.


    Your, turn, RR:

    Electrical tape is fine, but it’s not waterproof. It’s damn good to always have a roll on hand, but there is something else you need to start carrying: either 3M Temflex tape (the rubber self-sealing tape), or a bottle of Liquid Electrical Tape, or both.

    And don’t pooh-pooh the Liquid Tape: it’s damn good stuff. Totally waterproof, flexible, sunlight-resistant, and removable if necessary. A real winner.

    So head down to your local home improvement store (preferably the place with the blue sign and guys in red vests ;-)) NOW and get some, it’ll be in the rough electrical department with the tapes and zip-ties. Tightwad might wanna follow suit.

    Any questions? Please direct them to the nice lady at the email handler counter.

    Thank you!

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