-Treehouse#1 - Solar Power
Treehouse Solar Power

Having electricity up in a tree is not a neccessity. Unless of course you are wanting to listen to music in the top of said tree, and be able to have lights, such as I was. It is a really simple setup. The system goes in this order:
solar panel > fuse > battery > fuse > all the 12v accessories.

The original solar panel I was going to purchase, was huge, and put out a lot of power. At the time I was thinking the more, the better. But it wasn't really that cheap, or should I say, I didn't really want to spend that much at the time. So I decided to start smaller, which equaled spending less. And if it didn't end up outputing enough power I could always upgrade. I saw an ad in the paper for a 12 volt 1.75 watt solar panel, at Harbor Freight Tools, so this is what I went with.
So far it is doing really well, far better than I had hoped. On a sunny day it can power the radio setup all by itself, and quickly recharges the battery.

The battery is just your basic lead-acid battery, 7.5aH, 12 volts. Nothing special about it. For those that don't know; the 7.5aH means, 7.5 Ampere-Hour, which basically means it has enough power to discharge one amp an hour for 7.5 hours. Their are many different sizes of battery available, you will need to get one that best suites your situation. Here is a good website on how to choose a battery.

The radio and speakers were both purchased at a decent price from a thrift store.
The first thing I did was open up the radio and explore the inner workings. I was looking for the speaker output, and possibly a place to add a line-in for an MP3 player. The speaker output was easy, since the boombox's speakers were already going there. So I just soldered off the original connections, and replaced it with the new speakers. Finding a place to connect a line-in was a little more difficult. What I decided to do was take out the tape player portion, and splice into the original wires with a 1/4" stereo (like on headphones) plug. A good example of this process can be found here. This means the orignal switch now toggles, FM, AM, and Tape, which is now MP3 player input.
The radio runs off of both AC or DC power. All I had to do was run a positive and negative from the fuses, and plug into where the radio got its power when in DC (battery) mode.

Dramatic Effects

There are many many many different designs and styles of outdoor lighting to choose from. If you know what it is you want it can make the decision process a bit easier. I knew I was looking for a cheap set of 12v spot lights, possibly with an adjustable beam. I explored the world wide web in search of the perfect light, but ended up finding what I needed just down the road at Home Depot. The lights are made by Intermatic Malibu, they were sold individually packaged. The lights are 4 watt adjustable flood-spotlights. Using a formula, I figured that I safely could run 3 lights for at least 7 hours at night before draining the battery.

The lights are on a dark activated relay, which means once the environment around the sensor reaches a certain darkness, the lights come on. It is the same concept as a street light on a road. I got the schematic from an old Radioshack manual I had laying around, the internet of course has many schematics available.

One of two speakers   Lights disassembled Bulbs colored with sharpie markers
Lights on at night Dark activated relay schematic

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