The power of the sun is harnessed in many different ways: solar water heaters, photovoltaics and passive solar heating are all fairly well known. One type of solar heating that is just beginning to see an increase in popularity, however, is heating with mirrors. Simple in the extreme, using mirrors to focus and direct the sun's energy is surprisingly effective. Setting up a solar mirror system of your own can be done in only a few steps.
Things You'll Need
Find a space on your property near a side of your house with a reasonable number of windows. Make sure the space you choose sees sun through as much of the day as possible.
Mount the mirrors in the sunlit location you chose in your yard. If you are creating a static mount, position the mirrors during the peak sun period of the day so that they direct sunlight into your windows and toward the ceilings of your rooms. Ideally, use an adjustable mount that allows the mirrors to be tilted throughout the year to maximize sun exposure.
Calibrate the mirrors so that they are aimed to shine light into the house during the peak-sunlight times of the day but in a way that they don't interfere with your daily life. Watch over the course of a day or two to see when the sun shines down on the mirrors, and move from room to room to see if the sunlight is glaring during those times. If it is, consider adjusting the mirrors' angle, even if this means a loss of some light.
Insulate your windows to make sure that the heat you add to the house remains through the night. Add weatherstripping to the joints between the windows and the house to keep wind out. If you have single-paned windows, consider replacing them with double-paned windows.
Add thick, insulated curtains to the windows used for heating, both to retain the heat at night and to block the sunlight directed by the mirrors, especially during hot days.
More advanced mirror kits can be purchased to provide much greater efficiency. These arrays are equipped with photovoltaic detectors and servos that move the mirrors to track optimal sunlight. Many of these kits also provide remote controls, allowing you to direct the mirrors away from your house on hot days. Most mirror arrays are made of eight 1-foot square mirrors connected into a larger, 3-foot square with an empty space in the center. If you are on a tight budget, however, you can simply use a large mirror from a thrift store.