By Andrew Liszewski
Here’s an interesting approach to heating your home with solar energy. Instead of using solar panels to convert the sunlight into electricity, a company called Practical Solar has created a heliostat system which basically bounces sunlight into a window or skylight, working like a scaled-down solar oven. Each heliostat can be installed with basic tools, and they’re controlled by a simple piece of PC software (up to 200 units at once) that allows the homeowner to program when and where the sunlight is aimed.
Practical Solar claims that the mirrors on one of their heliostat units are able to reflect as much light as 40 100-watt incandescent light bulbs, and about 600 watts of thermal energy, so two of them working together can provide as much heat as an average electric space heater. Of course there are a few downsides to the system. For one, the heliostats are pretty much useless if you’re looking to cool your home in the Summer, and unlike solar panels there’s no electricity that can be sold back to the local power grid. Not to mention that you probably don’t want to get caught staring into one of these, or standing in the beam for too long.