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request for advice about lightboxes - helen-louise
baratron
baratron
request for advice about lightboxes
After a couple of months of feeling blah which hasn't improved, I recognise that the dawn simulator alarm clock I have just isn't enough to deal with my SAD this year. Lying in bed with the full light of it streaming into my eyes barely improves my functionality. I feel like I'm living in perpetual twilight, and have very little inclination to do anything.

But I have a problem with buying a lightbox. I'm very environmentally conscious. Every room in this house, bar the kitchen, is lit with low energy fluorescent bulbs because I want to consume as little electricity as possible. I really don't want to use a lightbox that's running at 200 W for an hour a day, because that's like leaving every light in the house on for an hour a day. And I'm having great trouble finding out the energy consumption of different lightboxes from seller's websites. Some of them mention a 55 W fluorescent tube, or 2 x 80 W bulbs, but others simply say things like "LED lights consume only 1/10 the power of conventional incandescent lights, yet are 10 times brighter". Great, wonderful, white LEDs are lower energy than ordinary lightbulbs - but are they lower energy than a fluorescent tube? And more to the point, are they as good for SAD?

So, uh, if anyone knows someone I can talk to about this, or a retailer that details the energy consumption of every lightbox so I can make a fair comparison, that'd be great. (I simply don't have the energy to visit individual manufacturer's websites to try to take in information :/ )

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Comments
syllopsium From: syllopsium Date: 11th December 2006 16:32 (UTC) (Link)
Personally I'd suggest you need to look at which lightbox is most effective and only then check out the manufacturers. You obviously haven't got a minor case of SAD if the dawn simulator isn't working.

It's very laudable that you're environmentally conscious, and I try to do my bit too. However, I don't extend that as far as deliberately making myself feel crap in the knowledge it'll make the planet a marginally better place.

It depends on the individual LED cluster and fluorescent tube as to which is more efficient, so it's likely to be product specific.
baratron From: baratron Date: 12th December 2006 00:00 (UTC) (Link)
I don't extend that as far as deliberately making myself feel crap in the knowledge it'll make the planet a marginally better place.

I don't deliberately make myself feel crap. But I also feel that I don't have the right to use electricity or fossil fuels unnecessarily. Our heating is on for the minimum amount of time needed to keep the room temperature above 17 degrees C. We don't put on the heating until I'm wearing three layers and am still cold.

One of these days I'm going to type up the list of everything I do to try to help the planet for people to comment on & suggest improvements. The terrifying thing is that "if everyone on the planet lived like I do", apparently we'd need 3.08 planets. And I'm a childfree carfree vegan who eats locally-produced food wherever possible, refuses plastic bags in shops, uses washable sanitary protection, takes human-powered transport wherever possible and public transport the rest of the time, and recycles everything that can be recycled. For example, I shower over a plastic bucket and then use that "grey" water to flush the toilet.

I'd feel better about profligate energy consumption if we e.g. had a wind turbine on the roof supplying 500 W a day - that would power the lights we use normally + the lightboxes + at least one of the computers. But as it is we use 100% National Grid, which is >97% fossil fuel. I believe that fossil fuel use is a privilege, not a right. And I honestly don't feel that I, as a single human being, have the right to use more than my fair share of electricity simply to make myself "feel better". If everyone on the planet lived like I do...
syllopsium From: syllopsium Date: 12th December 2006 11:14 (UTC) (Link)
Without wishing to be too contentious, if you consciously choose anything other than the best option you potentially are deliberately making yourself feel crap. TPOTO if the difference in effectiveness between two models is minimal but one is vastly more energy efficient that's different, of course.

I would be careful with the LED option, as in addition to the wavelengths being a little different the light also tends to be more directional rather than diffused and thus might not be as effective.

Are you sure you've filled in the question in the quiz correctly, as by my reckoning you should be getting closer to 1.7-2 planets, at most? In fact, probably less (I can't remember which partners you do or don't live with).

In any case, the amount of energy you save by being childfree is vastly in excess of what other people could possibly save. It does somewhat annoy me that the assumption is you live in some form of commune, house share or have 2.4 children which is simply not a viable option in most of 21st century Britain.

Personally I think the emphasis of the world quiz is worthy, but utterly unrealistic. Most people consider those who would live to that degree of frugality a tad barking. The pressure really needs to be on industry, rather than consumers.

Myself, I won't do anything that makes me unhappy or decidedly uncomfortable just to be slightly more environmentally friendly. I'd rather pressure industry, or push people to develop new technology whilst taking the steps I can reasonably do so.
alexmc From: alexmc Date: 11th December 2006 16:43 (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm, interesting. I see that there is one product which acts as both a lightbox and a simulator alarm clock http://www.electronichealing.co.uk/products/inspiration_lightbox.htm
which has the marketing spiel you quote above...

alexmc From: alexmc Date: 11th December 2006 17:01 (UTC) (Link)
This page suggests that tubes are 2 to 3 times as efficient as incandescent lights and LEDs are tending towards 10 times as efficient.

it is a bit vague, and doesnt mention low energy light bulbs which I dont think are the same as full sized tubes.
thekumquat From: thekumquat Date: 11th December 2006 17:09 (UTC) (Link)
I haven't heard of LEDs being used for SAD. I'd only buy from somewhere that offers VAT-free purchases, which means the item has been rated as useful for SAD:

E.g. on the Outside In website: "VAT-free Goods
Seasonal Affective Disorder is deemed to be disabling and qualifies for VAT relief. To purchase one of our light boxes or visors at the VAT-free prices, you will need to complete a Declaration Form to say that you are suffering from SAD and that the product is for your personal use. A doctor's note is not necessary and your own signature or that of a parent, guardian, doctor or trustee is acceptable. The VAT Office insists that we collect this form so, if you order by phone, we will include it with your order for you to send back as confirmation. N.B. Bodyclocks do not qualify for VAT relief."
Reputable sites will also offer a home trial of a lightbox. The above is where I got my box from - it has 3 fluorescent tubes inside and after 2 1/2 years hasn't needed replacing.

Offhand, I think LEDs are around 1/2 the wattage of fluorescents for most purposes and last 2-5 times longer, but may not produce the same amount of lux for SAD needs, so you might need loads of LEDs compared to say a headlamp. However if it makes you able to function better then I'd say it's worth it.
barakta From: barakta Date: 11th December 2006 19:53 (UTC) (Link)
I was going to say to baratron that it is likely that if the lightbox isn't using much power then it might not be as effective. No matter how clever our chemistry of lightbulbs at the end of the day energy saving stuff tends to have missing frequencies and as I understand it SAD sufferers need something as close to natural daylight as possible which will inevitably use power.

It might be that a more powerful lightbox will only be necessary for /some/ of the winter, while the existing one is fine until November or whatever.
baratron From: baratron Date: 11th December 2006 23:49 (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you about frequencies (or wavelengths). I'm not sure that I agree that you need high power to achieve the right wavelengths, though. As far as I know even so-called "full-spectrum" conventional lightbulbs are pretty poor at replicating natural sunlight. It may even be that a fluorescent tube or LED lightbox is better than a conventional bulb. There's all sorts of crap inside fluorescent tubes to change the emitted wavelengths (which is why they should always be recycled).

But I'm being blinded with psuedoscience here (pun not intentional)! Every manufacturer has their own marketing speak and the site I'm looking at doesn't seem to have a side-by-side comparison of the different models. I really want a feature grid like the things you get in mobile phone catalogues so I can narrow it down to maybe 3 or 4 models to examine in detail rather than having to plough through all the crap in all of them. Gah!

This LED lightbox features "patent-pending BLUEWAVE™ technology". The marketing blurb claims that "the specific bandwidth of light that is responsible for treating SAD and related circadian rhythm disorders ranges from 446-477 nm" (no citation given - of course, mere consumers don't need to know such things) and apparently even most full-spectrum bulbs don't replicate that. The manufacturer has found some way to tweak an LED to produce a wavelength band that isn't normally possible in artificial light, or something. There's a nice little graph given, which would be very convincing if not for the lack of units.

If I have to spend £200 on a lightbox I have to spend £200 on a lightbox, y'know? But I want to spend the £200 on one that's going to help reliably.
baratron From: baratron Date: 11th December 2006 23:35 (UTC) (Link)
The lightboxes with LEDs in do, in fact, appear to be "loads" - somewhere between 12 and 17 depending on how many of the bright spots in the picture are LEDs and how many are the reflectors.
thekumquat From: thekumquat Date: 12th December 2006 13:37 (UTC) (Link)
I imagine that each bobble has a bunch of LEDs in it, given how many you get in a traffic light or car headlamp.

That pictured one is only 5 inches across, which strikes me as very small for keeping your head in the beam, and wouldn't necessarily provide the daylight effect. Mine is about 2 foot by 15 inches, which means it shines light at me even while I move about while eating near it. On the other hand, mine has to be plugged in rather than being able to use batteries and be portable.

Have you sat near mine? You're welcome to come over and try it out.
otterylexa From: otterylexa Date: 13th December 2006 11:03 (UTC) (Link)
x_mass has an Apollo GoLite P1, which has a 6x11 array of blue LEDs. Don't know much about it.
xiphias From: xiphias Date: 11th December 2006 21:49 (UTC) (Link)
You're going to need to burn energy to have this work, unfortunately. You need to pump energy into your system -- you're getting depressed because something in your brain needs sunlight to function well. That thing needs energy, and that means that you're going to need to burn energy to get it to work.

TANSTAAFL, man, TANSTAAFL.
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