Frequently Asked Questions

Will the Sunflower work at MY home?

 Where can I put the Sunflower?

The Sunflower needs ONE thing to work: sunlight! Put simply, the ideal place to put the Sunflower is in a patch of yard that receives direct sunlight for most of the day AND is in view of your target.

If this seems too simple for you, then follow the steps indicated here: Where Do I Put the Sunflower?

 Can I place the Sunflower so that it is facing North?

The Sunflower may work to reflect light to a south-facing window, but performance wouldn’t be ideal, perhaps not even worthwhile. In the wintertime, with the sun much lower in the sky, the Sunflower probably won’t produce any results at all.

If you’re looking to light up a room, another option may be to use the Sunflower to direct light onto a stationary mirror (a curved mirror would actually spread the light over a larger area). This mirror could directly face the south facing window and there may be a better spot you could put the Sunflower in so that it could reach the stationary mirror and get the most sunlight possible to redirect.

If you could place the Sunflower on the roof so that it is facing South and still has a line of sight to the mirror on the ground, that would be the ideal situation. Because the more directly south the Sunflower is facing, the longer it can track the sun and redirect it throughout the day — which means more sunlight shining into your room!

Will the Sunflower work to reflect light into a south facing window?  Is there an optimal angle and/or height for south facing applications?

The Sunflower may work to reflect light to a south facing window, performance probably will not be ideal or even worth it.
In the wintertime, with the sun much lower in the sky, the Sunflower probably won’t produce any results at all.  Based on the location of the sun with respect to Nevada, if you put the Sunflower…
- East of the window, the best performance you could get would be redirected light from about 230PM to sunset
- West of the window, the best you could experience would be from sunrise until about 9AM (so this would probably not be a useful situation).
In the summertime, If you put the Sunflower…
- East of the window you would probably expect to get redirected sunlight from about 1PM until sunset.
- West of the window, expect redirected sunlight from sunrise until about 10 or 11AM
If you’re looking to light up a room, another option may be to use the Sunflower to direct light onto a stationary mirror (a curved mirror would actually spread the light over a larger area).  This mirror could directly face the south facing window and there may be a better spot you could put the Sunflower in so that it could reach the stationary mirror and get the most sunlight possible to redirect.

Can I use the Sunflower with skylights?

Yes. If you are mounting the Sunflower on your roof to guide sunlight down through a skylight, the Sunflower will need to be set at its Low Angle Elevation setting. If you are purchasing a Sunflower to be used in this situation, please include this in the purchasing note so we can change the elevation setting for you. It is possible for you to change the elevation setting yourself, but this requires getting into the controller, which is much easier for us to do than it is for you, though still do-able!

If you are worried about how to mount the Sunflower onto your roof, we suggest consulting a Satellite dish installer. The Sunflower is roughly the same size and weight of a satellite dish and so similar mounting options should be appropriate. Someone with this kind of experience will know how to keep your roof and the Sunflower safe and secure.

Will the Sunflower work in the southern hemisphere?

Yes!

Is the portable stand necessary?

No, the stand isn’t necessary. We are actually happy to supply you with the details of our stand so you could make one yourself (if you’re particularly handy or know someone that is — it just involves drilling some holes in metal piping and cutting up some wood). The benefit of a stand is you can move the Sunflower around if you ever want to. Alternatively, you could also use a stake that sticks into the ground (a 1 5/8″ OZ Post) combined with a 1 5/8″ fence post.

Unfortunately, Home Depot doesn’t sell OZ Posts individually, but here’s a website that sells them individually — and this is the correct size: http://www.signetfence.com/GB-700-p/oz-gb-700-l.htm

Here, also, is a link to a 5.5 foot 1 5/8″ fence post sold at Home Depot. Our stand comes at about 3 feet high, but this 5.5′ tall post combined with the OZ Post should work well too. http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-100322522/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=fence+post&storeId=10051#.UKpqoLRQRUQ

Can the sunflower focus the light on to the same spot all year round?

The Sunflower can redirect light to the same spot all year round.  We say redirect instead of focus because the Sunflower relays 95% of the sun’s light and spectrum to a chosen location, but it does not focus or concentrate light (this would be a fire hazard).
Please keep in mind, though, that the Sunflower is solar powered.  So if there is no sun, then the Sunflower will not be redirecting any light.  (However, if there is no sun, there is also no sunlight to redirect so it shouldn’t matter in that case).
For the best performance, we suggest placing the Sunflower so that it is facing south, southeast, southwest, east, or west and within 30′ of its target.

Weather Resistance & Home Safety

Will the Sunflower damage vinyl siding?

Think of the Sunflower as a sun itself. Vinyl siding is made to withstand at least “one sun’s” exposure, because usually it will be exposed to our sun! So as long as your walls and furniture are only illuminated by the Sunflower, they will be safe! We would warn against using the Sunflower on TOP of direct sunlight, because that would be two-sun exposure.

Is the Sunflower a fire hazard? Will it damage my walls or furniture?

Think of the Sunflower as a sun itself. Your walls and furniture are finished (with paint, varnish, etc.) that is made to withstand at least “one sun’s” exposure, because usually they could be exposed to our sun! So as long as your walls and furniture are only illuminated by the Sunflower, they will be safe! We would warn against using the Sunflower on TOP of direct sunlight, because that would be two-sun exposure. And there is no danger of fire with the Sunflower because its mirrors are flat. A lot of time and care was taken in finding and engineering the right mirrors to make sure there would be no fire hazard.

Do I need to bring the Sunflower inside in the wintertime?”

Of course not! Wikoda has designed the Sunflower to withstand harsh weather conditions so you can reap the benefits of the sun with little maintenance required. During snowstorms the Sunflower will fall vertically when snow builds up, causing the snow to slide right off. And the center controller, which contains the computer and mechanism, is well protected by a polycarbonate dome. The mirrors are strong safety mirrors with vinyl backing to prevent an explosion of shards if any of the mirrors were to crack (but we don’t expect them to!). We want you to use the Sunflower year round, and one of its purposes is to melt dangerous icy spots on your driveway or looming ice dams on your roof. And we don’t really want you climbing up onto the roof in the winter time…

What does 50,000 lumens or 500W of energy mean to me?

On average, a 60-Watt light bulb produces 800 lumens. So lighting a room with the Sunflower is theoretically the same as lighting a room with about 62 60-Watt light bulbs.  However, the human eye cannot detect the full 95% of the sun’s spectrum that the Sunflower redirects.  The result?  An overall increase in the brightness of a room and ambient light, but you aren’t being blinded by a full on 62 light bulbs worth of light.  For more details on understanding the Sunflower’s light, see here: Understanding Redirected Sunlight

How does the Sunflower track the sun?

The Sunflower uses a sun sensor to detect the sun within its limiting shades.  It tracks the sun every 60 seconds, adjusting as necessary to maintain its reflection target.

Once the Sunflower tracks the sun, it will keep tracking the sun.  When there is shade, it will stop tracking until the sun comes out.  Essentially, it will just pause in its position and wait for the sun to come back out.  If the Sunflower determines (via its computer) that it has waited too long for the sun to come back out, then it will start to look for the sun using our proprietary algorithm.  Usually the amount of “pause” time that becomes too long is about 2 hours.  So after 2 hours, if the sun hasn’t come back out, then the Sunflower will start to search for it.  When the Sunflower searches, it will turn to the general direction of the sun and then scan the sky vertically for the sun.

Who’s bought the Sunflower?

We’ve had customers from all over the world. Some of our top selling countries are Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, and New Zealand.  Visit “Our Customers” page to see more!

Can I purchase the solar tracker separately?

If you’re interested in utilizing the Sunflower’s sun tracker, you might be interested in purchasing our next product, the PV Tracker.  The PV Tracker is more efficient than the Sunflower if you’re just looking for a solar tracker, because it only follows the sun, whereas the Sunflower follows the sun and redirects its light.

Is Wikoda looking for distributors and resellers for the Sunflower?

Yes! Please contact sales@wikoda.com for more information.

Seasonal

Do I have to bring the Sunflower inside during the winter?

No.  Wikoda has designed the Sunflower to withstand harsh weather conditions so you can reap the benefits of the sun with little maintenance required. During snowstorms the Sunflower will fall vertically when snow builds up, causing the snow to slide right off. And the center controller, which contains the computer and mechanism, is well protected by a polycarbonate dome. The mirrors are strong safety mirrors with vinyl backing to prevent an explosion of shards if any of the mirrors were to crack (but we don’t expect them to!).

Theoretically, the Sunflower can be used to melt or prevent ice dams and icy spots from building up on the roof or in the driveway.  We haven’t had enough snowfall here in Massachusetts to test this out, though.  If you would like to test the Sunflower out for use with this application, please reach out to contact@wikoda.com to learn about how you can get a discount or work out an easy return agreement.

International

Can the Sunflower be shipped to my country?

The Sunflower can be shipped anywhere in the world.  We’ve had customers in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and many more.

Currently, we use USPS (United States Postal Service) or DHL Express for international shipping.  If either of these services does not deliver to your country, then the Sunflower cannot be delivered to you.

How much will it cost to deliver the Sunflower to my country?

If you would like to use USPS Priority Mail International service either proceed through the checkout page of our website – before purchasing you will get a list of shipment options and their prices.  You can view the delivery costs there.

Alternatively, you can go to http://postcalc.usps.com

Fill in your information.  For package size select “Package”. Enter “22 lbs” for the weight of the package.  Then hit the blue “Continue >” button.  You should see the available shipping rates for USPS.

If you would like to use DHL Express for shipping, please contact us for price quotes or the rate is usually about $35-$40 more than USPS Priority Mail rates.  The difference between DHL and USPS is that DHL guarantees 2-5 day shipping and they handle the packages more carefully.  Whereas USPS can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks and it make take some time to clear customs.

How long will it take for my Sunflower to get here?

If you choose USPS Priority Mail International, they claim 6-10 day shipping, but it usually takes 2-4 weeks for the Sunflower to clear customs and be delivered.

If you choose to use DHL Express the Sunflower will arrive in 2-5 days guaranteed.

Are there resellers and distributors outside of the U.S.? Is Wikoda looking for International Distributors?

We don’t currently have any resellers outside of the United States, and we are looking for them! Please contact sales@wikoda.com if you would like to be one.

We are currently working out agreements with distributors in Spain, Portugal, Russia, and Asia.  If you would like to place an order to any of these countries, please feel free to contact us.

Does the Sunflower work in the Southern Hemisphere?

Yes!  The Sunflower can work anywhere in the world, as long as the sun reaches it.

Application

Can I mount solar panels onto the Sunflower in place of the mirrors?

No.  If you are looking for a solar tracker, please consider using our PV Tracker instead.  Or visit www.altestore.com and view their solar trackers.

Can I use the Sunflower on PV panels?

We don’t suggest using the Sunflower on PV panels. PV Panels are expensive and specifically designed to receive light from “one sun”. Adding the Sunflower’s light to your PV and solar panels might create the exposure of “two suns”, and we cannot guarantee that your panels are designed to withstand this kind of exposure.  Further, even though The Sunflower reflects about 90-95% of the sun’s light, we also cannot guarantee that it will produce an even distribution of the sun’s reflection to the whole panel all at the same time. While you might experience increased performance initially, we simply do not know if use of The Sunflower to increase sun exposure would decrease the lifetime and performance of your panels.

If you are strongly considering using the Sunflower with your pv/solar panels, please contact your solar provider and ask them if using a mirror to shine more sunlight onto your panels will be okay/how it will affect the life of your panels.

I have a small area garden but due to a nearby tree the garden gets less than optimal hours of sunlight. Can the Sunflower help in this situation?

The Sunflower is great at redirecting sunlight to shaded areas!  We’ve grown some tomatoes completely with redirected sunlight with the Sunflower ourselves.  We’ve also been successfully wintering a Meyer lemon tree over the past few years with the Sunflower too.
You can definitely redirect sunlight to gardens with mirrors or Mylar sheets, depending on the size of your garden you may want to do some research on what option would be best for you.
The Sunflower will guarantee a consistent 1/2 sq meter of sunlight to a chosen target (which, in this case, would be your garden!) whenever the sun is shining.  This differs from a stationary mirror or mylar because the reflection from a stationary reflective surface will drift as the sun drifts across the sky throughout the day.  If your garden is much larger than 1/2 sq meter of sunlight then it might take more than one Sunflower, or perhaps a system of a Sunflower directing sunlight to a curved mirror that directs sunlight to your plants.  A curved mirror will spread the sunlight over a larger area.

Is one Sunflower enough to light one room?

Yes.  Although you’ll see the Sunflower shape reflected into the room, the light spreads throughout the room – not just onto that one spot.  This is because a wall or ceiling is not a smooth surface (like a mirror), so the light bounces in every direction off of the uneven surface.

See our Sunflower vs. the Lightbulb page for more details.

Systematic Questions

1.  What happens to the tracking system if a cloud passes overhead for a few minutes?

The Sunflower will pause, hold its position, and resume tracking the sun when the cloud has finished passing by.  (If it’s only a few minutes, resumed tracking will be rather immediate as the sun’s location should be just about where it was before the cloud passed)

2. What happens to the tracking system if the sun is behind a tree top and dappled light strikes the controller tracking system?”

The Sunflower will continue to track the sun.  As long as there is some light, the Sunflower will track it.

3.  In cases like the above, does the tracker just sit there motionless or does it start searching all over the sky for the source of sunlight?

The Sunflower will sit motionless until about 2 hours have passed, if it’s still shady, then it will begin to search the sky for the sun (again via the proprietary algorithm described above).

4.  If tracker system is shaded temporarily, how long does it take to get back on “target” once sunlight is restored?

If shading is only temporary, resuming the target will be rather immediate because the Sunflower won’t be searching for the sun, it will already be facing it and still maintaining its orientation from the sun’s location and the target from before the few moments of shading that have passed.

5.  How does one program/aim the system once you have chosen an appropriate sunny location and corresponding target?  Is the mechanism based on a computer “clock drive” based on latitude, time of year, etc. or is it based on photo-sensors?  And does the tracker mechanism need an external power source?

The mechanism is based on photo-sensors and there is no external power source.  The Sunflower gets all of its power from onboard solar panels.

To program/aim/”set your target” you do this right on the Sunflower itself.  There is a target rod which you move up, down, left, and right to set your target.  I don’t know if that’s kind of abstract to understand if you don’t have the Sunflower right in front of you.  Essentially, the target rod has a line of sight and you manipulate this line of sight to stare at your target by moving the rod itself.

6.  Let’s say on Monday I aimed the reflected light from the Sunflower at a tree stump 30 feet away.  What does the Sunflower do at night?  Does it keep searching for the sun until dawn?

It does not keep searching.  The Sunflower runs completely on solar power, there’s no stored energy.  So it will stop tracking because there’s no more power.

7.  At dawn, on Tuesday, does the Sunflower have to be manually re-aimed at the target?  Or does it remember where the target was from the previous day?

You do not have to re-set the target, the Sunflower “remembers” it.  You set the target by moving the target rod, which is located on the center controller of the Sunflower itself.  You physically set the target with the target rod and then lock it into place.  This locks your target into place.

8.  Let’s say I wanted the Sunflower to reflect light on that same tree stump for a week or two.  Over that long of a duration, would I need to re-aim it at the stump?  Or will it always remember where that stump is?

Essentially answer to question 2 applies here, because you physically set the target on the heliostat itself, unless the stump or the Sunflower change location, you won’t have to reset the target :)

9.  Roughly speaking, if I aimed the Sunflower at the tree stump 30 feet away, how big is the patch of reflected light at that distance (assume we are describing a surface that is approximately perpendicular to the rays of light coming from the Sunflower)?

It would be 1/2 sq. meter of sunlight.

10.  I assume the Sunflower would not work in a windy location.  But within reasonable wind tolerances (say a breeze of 5 miles per hour) will the Sunflower be able to maintain its position without being battered around too much?  Assume the tripod is sturdy and not influenced by this breeze.

Within reasonable wind, the Sunflower will maintain its position.  To explain more extreme conditions… the Sunflower has been wind tested at 50mph, which means we know it will survive that strong of winds.  The Sunflower is built upon the concept of “bend-don’t-break”.  So if there is excessive wind, the Sunflower will move to prevent from breaking, but once the wind stops, it will resume its orientation to maintain your chosen target.

11.  I assume the Sunflower wouldn’t mind a passing rain shower or two (as far as waterproofing and electronics), right?

The Sunflower is protected from the elements!  Here in the U.S., we’ve had a lot of customers purchase them to prevent ice buildup on their roofs or in their driveways.  So the Sunflower has withstood hail and snowstorms.  To be more detailed:  all of the electronics are completely enclosed and protected by a polycarbonate dome (that’s the center you see in pictures).  So passing rain showers are no problem!