Practical Solar Wants To Heat Your Home Like A Solar Oven

Practical Solar Heliostat System (Images courtesy Practical Solar)
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.

[ Practical Solar ] VIA [ Greentech Media ]

5 thoughts on “Practical Solar Wants To Heat Your Home Like A Solar Oven”

  1. best way?
    but so many drawbacks..
    * you cannot look out of the window anymore
    * to small output to make solar tracking feasable
    * costs, costs and costs again
    * distance dependant, just say focus

    may be good if you also have another indoor sun-light-distribution system installed (to get more true sunlight to your rooms)

  2. Hi Fronten,
    I work for Practical Solar. I hope this helps, but feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have any other questions.
    1. Typically, we aim the sun spot high on the window so it clears the heads of the people inside, and then diffuses off of the ceiling (it helps if the ceiling is white).
    2. Not sure what you mean here. The heliostats have a positioning accuracy of 0.1 degrees.
    3. The only other heliostat manufacturer we know of lists its similarly sized heliostats at about 10X the price of ours ($10,000/heliostat). We are certainly working to bring our prices down even further, but for the time being, our customers feel they're getting a lot for their money. For example, there's no other product on the market that can make the north side of your home feel like the south side!
    4. In terms of the distance the heliostat is away from the target (e.g. window), you can customize the size and shape of the reflected sun spot by using our mirror-focusing technique during installation. Essentially, you tilt the mirrors when you install them to either focus or defocus the sun spot as you like. It's a low tech procedure that allows you to install a heliostat say 200 feet away from the house, but still be able to fit the whole sun spot through a 3-foot diameter window (sunlight diverges 1 foot over every 100 feet, and the sun spot can't be smaller than the individual mirrors, which are 1-foot squares).

    Thanks for your interest!

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