Category: Season Affect Disorder

Feeling Blue? Turn On Your CFL!

Many of us start to feel a little blue this time of year – a bit down in the dumps, sluggish, tired, even a little sad. Chronic gray skies, bitter cold and a record 61 inches of wind-blown snow over four months will do that! We also have a human genetic tendency to want to sleep more, stay in more, that whole “hibernating” feeling. 

The medical term for varying degrees of the winter blues is Seasonal Affect Disorder, also known as Seasonal Depression, or SAD. 

!AD is a medical diagnosis – I don’t pretend to be a psychologist, no matter what my wife says! My degree is in electrical wiring, not brain wiring. But I’ve read and researched enough to know that one of the ways a person can help reduce the symptoms of  Seasonal Affect Disorder, is right in our Adventure Lighting warehouse. 

S-A-D? Meet C-F-L! 

So how do compact fluorescents help Season Affect Disorder? 

The breakthrough in light therapy came in 1980, when the National Institute of Mental Health showed evidence that intense light can have an impact on the release of melatonin in the brain, which affects our mood. There is much research since, supporting the use of bright white light, blue light and low intensity green light, for symptoms of SAD

In the middle of it all is the beautiful, versatile, and therapeutic compact fluorescent. 

Many so-called light therapy “boxes” are made of a set of fluorescent bulbs put inside a box with a diffusing screen. The box is then placed on a table where the person with SAD can then place their face within proximity of the light array. The treatment can last from a few minutes to several hours. The person doesn’t look directly into the light but instead goes about their business, reading, writing – as the light shines on the objects the person is looking at, the light box is doing its thing. 

The early light boxes needed “full-spectrum” bulbs producing light similar to the outdoors – regular fluorescents didn’t cut it. But with advancements in light technology, positive effects can be felt using cool-white, tri-phosphor and bi-axial lamps – all of which we stock in our Adventure Lighting warehouse.  

Light boxes specifically designed for SAD are manufactured and sold all over the internet. Considering they typically start at $350, the question then becomes, can you make your own light box? 

Yes you can! 

There are several ways to accomplish this. The simplest is to purchase a standard 4 lamp 2′ x 4′ Troffer (a Troffer is a recessed fluorescent) which is a standard office fixture stocked at Adventure Lighting. 

The light threshold for an effective light box is 10,000 lumens. To get there, you’ll have to decide what types of lights you want to use. We’d recommend a 4-light, F32T8 with an electronic ballast. It’s much more energy-efficient, and will produce 9,600 lumens per fixture. 

If you’re handy, you can also construct an actual light “box” using wood, standard CFL’s and multiple light sockets. An 18w CFL produces 1100 lumens, so you’ll need 10 to get to 10,000. 

If you think you have SAD, please see your doctor. Again, I’m not a trained therapist.

But if you’d like help in building your own light box, then email us, call us or stop in and see us. We may not know the brain, but we do know lights – and we’d love to share a few “bright” ideas that can help you have a brighter winter, starting with the incredible, versatile, energy-efficient, therapeutic, miraculous, CFL!



Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to 

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