Solar Swing-Set (PV Playhouse)

Picture of Solar Swing-Set (PV Playhouse)

This project is a Solar-Powered Swing-Set. No, the solar does not make the swing run. Rather, this project re-uses a child's playset as a ground-mount to support a solar panel.

For some time, I've been playing with solar, and wanted to get more solar power in my life. (See Solar-Powered PowerWheels as an example project.) I already built my own electric car and electric motorcycle and would love to charge those from solar, instead of from the grid.

However, I actually have rather poor solar access at my house. My narrow lot-line runs north and south, as does my home's roof. I have a detached garage, but it's behind a huge evergreen tree most of the day. The only reasonable place for a solar panel is behind the house and next to the garage, but it would have to be at least six feet up in the air to maximize solar access.

While my yard has many trees, it has very few that are any good to hang a swing from. I hung up my bucket-swing on the one branch that I had, but it was far from ideal. A children's playset, complete with a place for swings and a slide would be ideal, but that would also go best EXACTLY WHERE I WOULD WANT TO MOUNT MY SOLAR PANEL.

So, an idea was born. Combine a backyard fort and swingset with renewable energy to create a Solar Swing-Set and Photovoltaic Playhouse!

Lets take a look at tools, materials, and budget, and then dive in to building the SOLAR SWING-SET!
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wikkit10 months ago
It's an interesting project, the sort of thing I find interesting to do, and a well written Instructable. But let's be totally honest about the cost.

Let's assume that the playhouse was worth $200, which is reasonable, and leave it out of the budget. You then spent $362 on the project. Electricity in Wisconsin is charged at $0.12061 per kilowatt hour, so that money could have bought almost exactly 3000 kilowatt hours of energy.

A half battery charge is 1.32 kilowatt hours. So for the project to break even you would need to charge the motorcycle 2,273 times. That's riding it every night of every summer for 25 years.

This is why people don't usually do standalone, single appliance solar power. The duty cycle almost never matches up, and even with the losses of converting it to AC, being able to use all of the power that the solar cells are putting out is the only way for it to approach cost effectiveness.

You will be known as "that awesome guy always running around on an electric motorcycle" after the zombie apocalypse, though. :-)
AmyLuthien wikkit10 months ago
I wish I had this solar swing set right now, the cost aside! We're experiencing some epic bad weather where I live at the moment, and power lines are either being swept away by floods or turned off in case they get swept away. So far we still have our electricity, but if they turn it off here, the three sump pumps I've got running constantly will no longer be able to run and keep the flood waters out of my basement. Repair and clean up from that sort of a mess would be way more expensive than what has been shelled out for such a project as this.

There are always other considerations to take into account than just daily cost and investment return. ;)
RogueOne wikkit10 months ago
Comparing cost of electricity from solar to grid power misses half the point. You do NOT pay the full cost of electricity on your electric bill. If your grid power comes from a coal burning power plant where is the cost of the pollution that plant created on your electric bill? What are the human and environmental costs of mountain top removal in WV for coal? What about the neurotoxin mercury that coal plants emit and cause brain damage to the unborn and children?
bennelson (author)  wikkit10 months ago
Wikkit is absolutely right. If this was ONLY about financials, I wouldn't do it.
However, it's also about learning, having fun, sourcing energy in alternative ways, and helping reduce energy I would otherwise need to get from the grid.

On the other hand, you could also figure in that I don't need to purchase a backup generator!
maewert10 months ago
Very nice instructable! I'm thinking about similar but maybe add a small wind turbine to power a remotely-operated telescope/observatory where no power is available.

BTW, did I miss what you are doing with the energy when you are riding the bike? Maybe add a second battery so that you can power other home appliances when the power goes out ;-)

Best Wishes.
bennelson (author)  maewert10 months ago
You are thinking ahead! The next step will be to add a grid-tie inverter to make use of the solar energy when an electric vehicle is either fully charged, or NOT attached.
The C-40 charge controller features a "Dump-Load" mode which switches the output of the solar panel to another device when the batteries are full. In this case, it will be the grid-tie inverter.
That way, when the batteries are full, the grid-tie inverter will activate and help reduce the amount of energy that my house uses from the grid.
Rob31110 months ago
Very nice, and extremely well documented. I would suggest that you anchor that playhouse down, particularly with the conduit run into the house (and electronic panels). The majority of the "math" done to permit solar arrays on houses is to make sure the wind won't get under the panels and pickup the roof.
mooster10 months ago
Wouldn't this present a serious hazard to the kids? Check this:!topic/uk.d-i-y/tt0GD6BICAc
billbillt10 months ago
love this!
thecapper10 months ago
This is a really well-documented Instructable. Nice to see that people have the "energy" to do a big project and manage all the photos and video along the way. Kudos!
acuchetto10 months ago
I agree about capturing the energy of the swing, too. I'll look into it!
It would be cool if the movement of the swing generated extra power.
Tazmjm6910 months ago
Very detailed and informative! A lot of work, but worth it in the end.