Beer + Sunshine = Hot Water
June 8, 2007 | by Sirius

A Chinese farmer has made his own solar-powered water heater out of beer bottles and hosepipes.

“I invented this for my mother. I wanted her to shower comfortably,” says Ma Yanjun, of Qiqiao village, Shaanxi province.

Ma’s invention features 66 beer bottles attached to a board. The bottles are connected to each other so that water flows through them.

Sunlight heats the water as is passes slowly through the bottles before flowing into the bathroom as hot water, reports China Economy Network.

Ma says it provides enough hot water for all three members of his family to have a shower every day.

And more than 10 families in the village have already followed suit and installed their own versions of Ma’s invention.

  • Any chance on getting the plan for this?

    • i bet they get ice showers in the winter, and who wants a hot shower in the summer?

      Anyway, im a freelance reporter in beijing. email me at my name at gmail and if you have a real serious good use for those plans, i might be able to track them down.


    • jeroboambramblejam

      Well, the first step is to get off the 12 step program; Step two is fall off the wagon; Step three – call in the beer wagon. The crucial consideration is the high pressure common in modern water supply lines. If the inventor relied on a gravity fed supply, that would greatly simplify the bottle stopper plumbing required. For our 40 to 70 PSI water pressure systems, serious stoppers and tubing will be required.

    • Wow this is genius. What’s this Einstien gonna think of next? “Wind mill” or maybe a “wheel”

      • The guy didn’t INVENT this, people. It’s been around for a long time. well-known by millions (but apparently not everybody). What he did was adapt the materials at hand to make the idea into a reality, ALL BY HIMSELF, as far as we know. That’s a lot more than most of us do, with a lot more material to work with. I have a lot of respect for that. There are probably lots of things many of us could do along these lines. I think it’s really neat that somebody just went out and made things significantly better, in a way that doesn’t trash the environment.

      • have you ever built one? no? then shut the fuck up. and learn how to spell Einstein, genius.

        • when will some people understand the difference between applauding someone for accomplishment and agreement.
          it’s that fact that he, who has little or no education made the effort versus those who insult his lack of originality didn’t do anything when they knew it all along.

        • Your assumption that he has little or no education is both misguided and ignorant. Is it because he’s a farmer or because he’s Chinese?

      • Why are you pillocks criticising the alleged temperature of china’s winters and the word “invention”? can’t you see that this is a cheap and clever way for poor people to get hot water? instead of bitching about it, you should be writing to aid organisations urging them to roll this out in other poor areas of the world.

  • Directed to Eisenhower:

    Im sure you were raised in a more privileged environment than this Chinese farmer. Very smart using bottles linked up for continuous flow.

  • ingenious! nice work…

  • wonderful idea

    and if it really works some guys in the western world could really learn from him

  • Ma did it for his ma…

  • u must consider the level of education and money that these people have. it may be 3rd grade to you, but to them it is something useful and something that will save them money.

    • An assumption that everyone in China is a grade school dropout, from someone who can’t spell “you.” Beautiful.

  • Can or “Sirius” (the poster), get the plans for this?

    • We have been looking and sending some emails but have had very little luck. I would be willing to bet there are not any actual plans for this but who knows.

      It we find them we will follow up for sure.


  • Plans? How could you even think that there are plans? Trial and error is probably all this man used and you can do the same.

  • Plans: water hose into bottle one. out of bottle one into bottle two. out of bottle two into bottle three. out of bottle three…. out of bottle 66 into house. He’s just replacing a water heater with 66 bottles. And I bet that brown bottles would work better as they’d absorb more heat from the sun.
    The water only flows between bottles as you request hot water from the tap or shower. Nothing new, really.

  • It’s easy. You just flow the water from the bottom of each column to the top, and use a small hose to connect it to the column to the right of it.

    The top of each bottle fits into the bottom of the one above it, using a rubber grommet. I’m not sure what this guy used.

    10 bottles high, by 40 bottles wide by 12 ounces = 37.5 gallons of warm water.

    Another thing you could do is use this water as the inlet to your water heater, so it would heat 80 degree water instead of 50 degree – save money and get a longer shower in the process.

    Think of how pretty an aerial shot of a house would look covered in green bottles!

  • So, I guess only one of you has ever seen old Warner Brothers cartoons? That’s where the “what a maroon” comes from. Straight from the bunny’s mouth.

    Damn kids.
    Get off my lawn.

  • Let’s see — he has NO education, versus your third grade education. He has no resources or time (he’s a poor farmer, he’s probably 30 years old but looks twice his age because of the backbreaking labor he’s been doing since the time he could walk), but he managed to come up with something that’s easily implemented out of recycled materials … whereas the 3rd graders probably used all new materials.

    And we, a 1st world country … need PLANS?! Well, surely any 3rd grader could come up with PLANS…

    Here’s a plan: Drink a bunch of soda and soak the labels off the bottles. Connect the bottles top to bottom. (This will require cutting a hole in the bottom of the bottles.) Plastic’s easier to cut, so I’d recommend using green mountain dew bottles or similar. You’ll seal up the area around the holes using silicon or some other water-safe type of sealant… just be careful not to cut too large of a hole. You might be able to use a drill for this, just go slow. Glass would be harder to drill I think without cracking. Go VERY slow… however, glass will last a lot longer without fading, whereas bottles will fade.

    The bottles are connected in series from top to bottom, and then at the top you can see the plastic piping (fairly small diameter.. that’s important, it limits the flow) that runs to a holding tank. The holding tank will recycle itself through the solar heater, either through a pressure differential or through a pump system. Fresh water would be let into the system by opening a valve connected to the holding tank after you take a shower.

    Improvements to this gentleman’s design would be to make the background black, which would increase the efficiency… oh, and you could probably rig up a system where the bottlecap had a hole cut in it with small diameter tubing to allow the water to exit there and then all you’d have to drill in the bottle is a small diameter hole for the hose to come in instead of a big hole for the top of the bottle.

    Great use of recycled materials. I’m impressed.

    • I think glass bottles would be better as they magnify the heat from the sun (like glasshouses). I was thinking the same thing of the background maybe make it from bricks or something to absorb the heat so that it will be released at night.

      Solar hot water heating is very common in australia, but the problem is (my mum has it in her house) you get very hot water in summer when you dont really care for it, and in winter if you want to shower in the morning you need to use the electric booster.

  • Some of you need to find a sense of humor.

    Eisenhower’s comment was in reference to Bugs Bunny: “What a maroon” in lieu of ‘moron’. I really hope I’m not the only one who remembers those cartoons.

    Then there was a pun based on the reference: ‘Chocolate-covered maroons’.

    Was it really so hard to stay on track?

    If you are unable to get the joke, I suppose the only thing you’ve got left is to squabble over grammar and spelling. How sad it must be to have nothing to offer the world except troll-like behavior. I feel sorry for the mental capacity of today’s youth.

  • Wontar:

    You type faster than I. You’re right on.

  • He didn’t really invent this, it is common in china to have solar hot water heaters.

    They are usually the more expensive evacuated tube models though so that they don’t loose as much heat as this unit would from thermal transfer to the air.

    This unit could save them money in the summer if fed into their main water heater to to pre-heat the water. That’s how most units work unless you have a large enough insulated tank and enough sun.

  • A poor man makes his life a little better by using his brain and some rubbish while some very rich people deny their brains and their life by talking rubbish.

    • amen to that nobbyweb foot.

    • Ya, you are right, His invention is far far better than spreading her leg for 30 dollars / 30 minutes and making money, and taking hot shower for 30min, & pay 300 dollars electric bill….. whose money? babe?? who have money except you babe?

  • Neat idea, but what about the inevitable algae/fungus growth in the bottles? Seems like it’d be a bitch to take apart and clean regularly, and who wants to shower in warm algae-ridden waters? It makes my allergies itch just thinking about it!

    But if you could circumvent this somehow issue, it seems like a great idea!

    • If you don’t have a shower everday, maybe the one who is going to have fungus is you. If the bottles are every day emptied, why would he have any problems ? You don’t even know how are the pipes at your home, maybe they are worse

  • Black background under the bottles would produce even more heat. If everyone switched to white cars world would cool 0.0000000001 degrees.

    • “Black background under the bottles would produce even more heat.”

      No it wouldn’t, it would absorb the heat. You want a white or metallic background to reflect the heat back in to the glass.


    Dad has had black tubing lying around for years in the back of the garage, if this guy painted the bottles black they would attract the sun heaps more and work much more efficiently

    • Yes, hence brown glass BEER bottles, place in a box with reflective foil at back, cover with double glazed clear glass, insulate back and sides. When servicing lift lid and allow to cool before sticking your hand in, even on a dull day. Water input tube to the bottom of each bottle, exit from the top, first bottle at the bottom of rack, last at the top, heat rises.

  • That’s so sweet. All for his mother. :)

  • Gee, plans! i’m sure we can download the .dxf-files from Ma’s ftp-server.

  • this really isn’t that genius haha, i bet in a year you’d wouldn’t want the water coming out of it to touch you.

  • that’s really amazing + high common sense. what a wonder for cheap hot water…

    Nice post, thanks

  • I don’t think this guy built this to get famous or get himself in the papers. He just wanted to make something for his family that would save some money. Kudos to him for working with what he had to make his family a bit more comfortable. The newspapers made him out to be unique and “creative” and the readers are blaming him for the attention he has received. Anyone can build this and maybe people should build it for some poor people that cannot afford hot water. I have seen plenty of down and out folks in the US that may be able to do this.

  • Ingenious indeed.

    I am frankly appalled by some of those racist/egoism comments. Have you ever built one? Shut up if you didn’t.

    I wouldn’t mind having some, especially with high electricity price.

  • don’t go criticizing this guy – first off, he’s probably lucky to have a phone, much less a cell phone, much less an internet connection, much less a college or high school education, or even tv – what you all would take for granted.

    and taking showers in developing countries isn’t exactly the easiest thing either when the water is frigid all year long, regardless of season. any of you haters ever live for any amount of time overseas – NOT IN A HOTEL or RESORT? the spigot water is freezing cold.. and plus, even in summer, lots of people in the west don’t shower with the knob turned all the way to “Cold.”

    your perspectives would change quite a bit once you take your heads out of your asses and use them to learn about how lucky you are to have modern conveniences like TRASH SERVICE or RUNNING WATER TO YOUR HOME. wake up, the world is bigger than your room.

  • Brilliant.

    Cheap, eco-friendly & his mum would probably let him & the family in the house for another 20 years.

    I’d imagine a lot of those WOW kids would start saving their beer bottles and making plans for their DIY water heater before selling them off ebay.

  • I don’t understand how the bottles are connected together. Glass
    isn’t easy to drill and I’ve never seen a plastic beer bottle.

  • Nice work, pratical and cheep, possible in low economy.
    And to use, not to talk about. My best admiration and greetings.

  • “Black background under the bottles would produce even more heat. ”

    Actually black background would absorb more heat. White or metallic background would be better to reflect heat back in to the bottles.

  • maybe i am missing something but where does the water come from? if this guy is in a rural village is he getting the water from a well nearby?

  • Perhaps boil water for tea??

  • Hi all

    Here is a follow-up I got from one of my co-workers here in China:

    Solar heating is popular in China, but is very expensive – especially for rural people who earn less than a dollar a day. For most of these people, hot water is a dream. In winter when the temperature drops below freezing, many rural people have to make do with boiling water in a pot.

    Mr. Ma knew the basics of solar heating because he had probably seen the units before and had probably also heard about it in primary school. He decided to make a cheap, easy-to-make version of a solar heater to heat his water. Basically he adopted something expensive and advanced and scaled it down to his experience and budget.

    It is all about making our lives a little easier. Many privileged people forget that many people battle each day for things they take for granted.

  • Laugh…yet he IS reducing his dependence our our oil – fair and square. Are those Heinneys? You, and not someone else, haven’t lived until you boil 3 gallons of water in a lobster pan to put in camping shower bag for home shower just so you can not fit in society anyways. Have a moist towellette day.

  • Fireworks and great walls. Chinese.

  • Remember the guy that built whole house out of empties? He could top it off with this system. I was trying to look closer at photos. looks like they have liquid in them and I can only see top row as having connections. I was wondering if bottom bottles just conduct heat up (through conduction and convection to bottom of glass? Better if the liquid went though all though…ironically if heat rises and water seeks own level then each bottle has liquid at angle and shape where liquid and heat is concentrated at point and top of bottle where it can move and cascade on up. I was just wondering how to do it cheap and efficient and of course so that the zoning board will smile? Wine bottles I guess.


  • I used to fear that the Chinese were going to supercede the United States and take over the world. After reading some of these rude comments, I find myself almost wishing that they would. If Americans had the same initiative and spirit as this Chinese farmer, we could change the world for the better. I’m saving my Guinness bottles.

  • Seriously. What’s wrong with you people? You mock a Chinese farmer for making a soar-powered water heater out of bottles? I don’t think you’ve ever made a damn thing in your sickeningly privileged life. So get off your fat American asses and do something positive for once instead of criticising everyone around you.

  • Very resourceful, and a fine example of lateral thinking. What a pity we in our wasteful pride never bother to think of doing these things. It’s something a handyman can knock together in a few weekends, and if everyone did it there would be a significant reduction in carbon emissions, simply by reducing the power required to heat water from cold. We dutifully recycle our waste and delude ourselves into thinking we’ve done our bit, instead of proactively thinking of ways to do more.

    Some of the comments on here made me sick. Those who see fit to mock Mr. Ma and his efforts would do well to remember that when our civilisation collapses under its own greed and arrogance, it is those like Mr. Ma who will survive the holocaust.

  • I admire this initiative much but I would hate to hear that he and his family got infected with Legionella! Especially showering with Legionella infected water is a very hazardous
    procedure as small infected water droplets will be entering deep into the lungs. The temperature of the water should at least have reached 65°C shortly before use. If this is not possible the system should be emptied completely everyday as Legionella will develop in stagnant water.

  • “I would hate to hear that he and his family got infected with Legionella!”

    Not true. The Sun is the best disinfectant in the world. In fact, his showering system is much, much safer than the one we have in US – water with fluoride and chloryd is much more dangerous, and it is NOT ADVISABLE to take a shower in it.

    So, good job Ma!

    If only big corporations let us, we could make world a good place, all people together. But, how will evil bankers make money of of us living independently from the grid? They will rather make wars than let us be independent from them.


  • I am a Chinese and I am dealing with quality solar water heater. I am also a son of a farmer who can hardly earn more than one dollar a day.
    I know the situation better than you all, In Ma’s province, there does have winter about three months, and then the ingenous device can not work. This is the truth, but another truth is in Summer, it is pretty useful for a man who sweat in the day. He can enjoy a hot shower in the night, this is a wonderful thing.

  • This is a brilliant and cost effective idea!

  • Make 2 holes in the cap a long tube to the bottom and a short from the top Bottle to bottle laying on a black surface.

  • A do it yourself solar water heater is very difficult to do right. Professionally manufactured and installed systems can be pricey, but in the long run, they’re less expensive than electric or gas water heaters. And you have the peace of mind of a long warranty.

    Austin solar water heater

  • This guy should be working for NASA, wow gr8 discovery and utilisation of waste… Amazing..

  • i don't belive this could be done…wow . amazing guy.

  • hahaha this is really funny and weird…

  • well, there has to be some sort of catch here.
    what if its not sunny during winter? and what if you need the shower in the afternoon?
    if this mechanism addresses the above 2 questions, its worth it, else not.

    • If it's not sunny in the winter, he is no worse off than if he did not have the water heater and he's still better off having it the majority of the time.

      What does afternoon have to do with anything? It is most likely better in the afternoon as the water has had all day to warm whereas in the morning it has not been sunny as long. It is also not likely that he has the luxury of taking showers at off times. He works all day. Only in this country do we take multiple showers daily and not worry about the waste of resources. And only in this country do we fail to see that if we were to use alternate energy half the time then we are much better off than not ever using it.

  • You can also do this with black PVC piping. We had a shower that was heated this way pretty far up north in Canada. The black helps because it absorbs heat more than green and it can heat water even when it is cold outside.

  • Astonishingly enough, the guy’s idea sounds like it’s exactly the same principle that more expensive solar water heaters from corporations use.

    Now tell me again why, still, not everyone in the civilized world uses this awesome technology?

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  • What a wonderful idea and a great place to have global discussion with “neighbors” from all parts of the world. I think maybe we have some kids making fast silly comments that don’t reflect true American values. This idea is the heart and soul of what we call “American ingenuity”; we need a contest for a more global term. Wouldn’t it be great to use this little powerful idea and this little discussion board as a way to spread hot showers to everyone, get some talent to write up simple plans for those challenged by the “how-to” of it. Maybe someone could even offer ideas on insulation for the winter.

    We could change the tone of the discussion, the world, and ourselves.

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  • @nobbywebfoot 
    I use to use a coil of black poly pipe to heat water and it was very effective, though only while the sun was shining on it. It can be improved by adding a hot water storage tank which will keep the water hot for 2 or 3 days.

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