The Sunflower focuses sunlight where you want it
By Ben Coxworth
February 28, 2012
Some people have a cool, gloomy room in their house that receives little if any direct sunlight, even though it has a window. Should you be one of those people, and you want to save electricity, perhaps a home heliostat is what you need. Heliostats are motorized mirrored devices that move to compensate for the changing angle of the Sun as it moves across the sky, reflecting its rays onto a fixed target such as a window, photovoltaic panel, or solar oven. While almost all commercially-available heliostats are aimed at industrial users, Massachusetts-based company Wikoda is now offering what it claims is the world's only heliostat designed and priced for residential use.
Called the Sunflower, Wikoda's device incorporates a microprocessor, motion servos and sun sensors, all of which are solar-powered - no power cords are required. It can reportedly be installed using regular tools and no scientific knowledge, on a fence post or other perch in a sunny patch of yard. If no suitable mounting points are available, an optional PVC stand can be purchased.
Once it's set up, it proceeds to watch the location of the Sun throughout the day, constantly adjusting to reflect the light to a user-chosen location. Its reflective surface has an area of half a square meter (5.38 sq ft), and can redirect as much as 50,000 lumens of sunlight. Besides windows, other targets suggested by the company include icy roofs or sidewalks, wet woodpiles, flower beds, or damp laundry on clotheslines.
Practical Solar, also based out of Massachusetts, was making residential heliostats for a couple of years. Recently, however, the company decided to focus solely on commercial/industrial products, due to a lack of consumer demand.
The Sunflower Home Heliostat can be purchased via Wikoda's website for US$399, with the stand going for an extra $50.