How to Build Your Own DIY SAD Light

Updated February 21, 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, affects between 4 per cent and 6 per cent of the U.S. population, according to Symptoms include appetite changes, low energy levels and increased anxiety and irritability levels, usually beginning at the onset of the winter months. Some sufferers of SAD benefit from light therapy, which exposes the SAD-afflicted to bright light (over 10,000 lux) for about 30 minutes every morning, replacing the light lost in wintertime.

Draw 10 holes across the back of your plywood box, matching the drawn hole's diameters to your hole saw and sockets' diameters. Using approximations is OK here; once everything is sketched out on the back of your box, you can come back in with measuring tape to make sure everything is evenly spaced. Ideally, there should be about 2 inches between each circle, and all of your circles should have equal diameters. You may also find drawing a circle template simplifies the sketching process for you.

Mount your hole saw bit onto your power drill, and then use that bit to make holes over where you just drew the circles.

Cover the inside of your box with aluminium foil. Tape the foil down on the outside sides of your box to keep it in place. Poke through the holes with your pencil to remove the foil covering up the holes. The foil will magnify your box's brightness.

Insert each of your 10 sockets into the holes you drilled. Position the sockets so their plug ends emerge from the back of the box and their bulb-less fronts poke into the inside of the box. The sockets should fit snugly.

Glue around the circles where the sockets are inserted to permanently secure them. Allow the glue to dry completely.

Screw your bulbs into each socket. Plug your sockets' ends into the power strip to test your light box.


Do not buy UV emitting daylight bulbs for your SAD light box project. Using bulbs that don't emit UV rays eliminates the need for a luminescence-reducing UV diffuser screen, which may also trap some of the bulb's heat.


Do not stare at the lit-up, unshielded light bulbs. You don't need to look at the lights for them to work; you only need be in close proximity, about 2 feet away, for about 30 minutes each morning.

Things You'll Need

  • Plywood frontless box, about 24 inches by 18 inches by 7 inches
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Power drill
  • Hole saw bit, matching in diameter to your plastic sockets
  • Aluminium foil
  • 10 plastic sockets with plug ends
  • Non-flammable epoxy glue
  • 10 fluorescent light bulbs, 23 watts each
  • 10 outlet power strip
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About the Author

Katherine Harder kicked off her writing career in 1999 in the San Antonio magazine "Xeriscapes." She's since worked many freelance gigs. Harder also ghostwrites for blogs and websites. She is the proud owner of a (surprisingly useful) Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.