Saturday, October 24, 2009

October Trip

We spent a long weekend at the tree house a week ago.  The goal was to finish installing the wood burning stove, as we plan on spending Christmas in the tree house.

We arrived late at night, made it up into the tree house, and noticed something was wrong.  Everything was dirtier than we expected, there were a lot of squirrel droppings around, and there was an alarming amount of splintered wood.  Unfortunately we only had a tiny flashlight, and couldn't really  figure out where the splintered wood came from, or how a squirrel could get in.  My main concern was that the trunks of the trees were crushing the tree house.

The next morning in the light of day, we could see that a large limb had landed on the roof, punching a good sized hole through the roof.  Luckily the hole was on an overhung portion of the roof, so no rain had gotten into the tree house.  The force of the impact had popped some of the siding off by a few inches, which explained how the squirrels got in.  A little bit of hammering got everything back together.

We also patched the hole in the roof, cut a new hole in the roof for the chimney, and installed the chimney box.  It took a good full day to get this all done, but it was awfully satisfying firing up the stove for the first time.  The Jotul pumps out the heat, I think we'll stay warm in December.

The large grape vine growing on the tree had come to rest in between one corner of the tree house and the nearby tree trunk.  After the initial fear that the tree house was being crushed, we decided to cut it down.  Originally we liked the look of the vine, but decided it was time for it to go.  Once the vine was down, the tree house returned to its earlier swaying state, which took some getting use to.

Southern Indiana has had a very wet fall.  The area beneath the tree house flooded several times, which completely demolished our original firewood stash.  We cut a lot more firewood, and restacked everything.  Hopefully we'll have more than enough.

The pulley system got a pretty good work out.  We used it to pull up a lot of luggage, and did a few loads of firewood as well.  We're either getting more used to using it, or the rope has lost some of its kinks, we had very few problems with the rope getting jammed in the pulleys.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I've put together a light fixture for the loft. It'll bolt into one of the rafters, and should provide enough light for reading.

I used a piece of aluminum pipe I had laying around that was just the right diameter for the bulb and base. It was a bit of a tight fit, but I eventually figured out how to cram everything in there.

With the light switched on, it draws about 200 milliamps.  The over-sized battery I have should give me close to 200 hours of continuous light!

I'm planning another fixture for the kitchen. I'll put the switch on the wall instead of in the fixture, which should simplify things.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Solar investigation

One of my original plans for the tree house was to use it as an excuse to play around with a solar photovoltaic system. I eventually questioned the usefulness of this, since the tree house doesn't get a lot of direct sun, especially in the summer.

I decided to at least give it a try. I started doing a little research, and over the last several months I've accumulated some of the necessary components.

Initially I'd like to use the system to power some lighting. Looking around on the web a bit, I found some cheap-ish 12 volt LED lights on Amazon.

I had some old lead acid batteries around from another project that where never used. Unfortunately they had sat too long, and I couldn't get them to hold a charge. I picked up a sealed led acid battery locally from Portable Power Systems. It is bigger than what I need for lighting, but will give me some room to grow the system.

For the charge controller, I went with a Genasun 4 amp unit. It is small, inexpensive (relatively speaking), and supports MPPT charging.

I haven't ordered any solar panels yet, the prices seem to be changing rapidly. Since I have a few months before the trip, I'll wait and see if they continue to drop in price.

I built a wooden enclosure to house most of wiring for the system. I intentionally went a little overboard on this, making it more complicated than necessary. I just naturally like switches, meters, and complexity in general. I had fun doing all the wiring, for whatever reason I really enjoy that task.

The control panel supports disconnecting the solar panel(s), battery, and charge controller individually. It also allows you to check the incoming voltage from the solar panels, the battery voltage, and how many amps of load the system is supporting. Fun stuff!

I'm working on some lighting fixtures for the LED bulbs. Other than the solar panels, I still need pick up some wire, and a few connectors.