An informative dialog between Hank and Louis from a.s.d.s.:

Wed, 11 Dec 1996 07:46:36  Thread 24 of 29 Lines 153  
Re: Hank's questions about cheap experiments             SunBox at AOL 

Hank wrote:
> Have you any thoughts about the ways I and others have 
> suggested people do quick cheap tests, to see if bright light 
> helps them?

The one thing I'm really pretty emphatic about is this:
It strikes me as a particularly bad idea to use incandescent
bulbs (and yes, I do consider halogen bulbs to be an incandescent
technology) for light therapy.
There are certain activities I (personally) consider to be very
risky.  People do them in the name of improving health or quality
of living, but I just can't get beyond the idea that there are
generally better options.  Among these "risky" behaviors are
taking steroids, taking hormones, and using cortisone except
under the very close, attentive, knowledgeable supervision of a
health professional.

If you pay attention to sports, you run across reports of
athletes getting cortisone shots to avoid surgical repairs to
damaged body parts.  That strikes me as a really bad choice.

Steroids are useful for treating asthma, as far as I know, but
the impression I get is that for the most part they cause more
harm than good.

Yes, I did say that I consider taking hormones to be risky. And
yes, I do lump melatonin right in there with testosterone and
estrogen. I simply can not get past the idea that if you
intentionally put hormones into your body, you are risking really
fouling up your system.

So maybe all of that makes me a conservative on health issues
(although I make no effort to eat health food...I'm an
unapologetic carnivore, I eat sugar (and avoid artificial
sweeteners like the plague), I make no effort to reduce salt
intake, I don't watch my fat or cholesterol or even caloric short, I eat when I'm hungry, I eat what I like the
taste of, and I simply trust that my natural metabolism is going
to continue to treat me as well as it has so far).

Anyway, being a "health-risk conservative", I consider my eyes to
be a very valuable asset and I wouldn't want to do anything to
risk damaging them. I trust those warnings that if you stare at
the sun, you're risking burning your retinas (which, as far as I
know, is irreparable). It seems to logically follow that looking
at the intense point source of an incandescent light can do just
the same sort of damage. NOT WORTH IT!!!
So yeah, of course we have a corporate interest in selling light
boxes.  But I understand that not everybody has the money to
spend on one of our boxes (note: we don't advertise it a lot, but
we are willing to work out no-interest payment plans). Given that
people are going to build their own boxes, I'd really prefer that
they use fluorescent tubes instead of incandescent bulbs. And I
don't care whether they buy expensive full-spectrum tubes from us
or cheap cool-white tubes from their local hardware store.

For doing experimentation, the important thing is this: Nobody's
found exposure to light levels less than 2,500 lux to be helpful
for treating S.A.D. (Note: I'm not talking about dawn simulation
here. Dawn simulation is primarily for making waking easier,
although there are reports that dawn simulation can be just as
effective (or nearly so) as "standard" light therapy for treating
S.A.D. (lots of anecdotal reports, but I don't know of any
scientific studies to support them).)

Even at 2,500 lux, it typically takes at least 2 hours per day to
get a response. At 5,000 lux, it's typically about 1 hour, and at
10,000 lux, it's typically about 15-30 minutes.

Average room lighting is under 500 lux, so it does require BRIGHT
light.  If you're not getting a commercial light box (where we
tell you that you're able to get 10,000 lux at x inches), and if
you don't have an incident light meter, then you're really not
likely to have any certainty about how much light you're getting.
Just saying, "Wow! That's bright! It must be 10,000 lux." is a
pretty unreliable way to tell.

So, if Hank says: I built this setup, using these parts,
attaching them like so, and I measured 10,000 lux at
such-and-such distance, then presumably anybody can buy the same
parts, follow Hank's specifications, and get 10,000 lux at the
same distance. That seems infinitely more reliable than the "wow
that's bright" method.

But I don't know of any mathematical formula for calculating the
lux output at a given distance if you know the lumen rating of
your bulbs and if you use a certain number of them spaced a given
distance apart. It really requires somebody building it and
taking measurements.
As far as UV output is concerned, the suggestion of going to an
optometrist seems a pretty good one (and one I never would have
thought of). I'd say it's probably better to bring a sample of
your diffusing material to the optometrist than to bring your
whole apparatus. It should be easy enough for him/her to check
the transmissive qualities of the diffuser, and it saves you from
lugging the whole thing back and forth.

Otherwise, a pretty good way of getting a mental grasp of your
box's UV emissions should be to contact the manufacturers
directly. Our fully assembled light boxes have been tested by an
independent lab and found to not emit UV. But if you're building
your own, call whoever makes the diffusing material you're using.
Ask about the UV transmissiveness of the material. Call the tube
manufacturer and ask about the UV emissions of the tubes.

They might not be able to tell you anything, but then again they

> And especially this time of year, as depression can be real 
> befuddling, I don't recommend people experiment with anything 
> risky by playing with halogens, or wiring their own homebuilt 
> boxes --- depression's too nasty about making us miss danger in
> trying to feel better, seems to me.


A word of warning: If you're in bad psychological shape from
S.A.D. (inattentive, easily discouraged, etc.,...), it's not a
good time to be fooling around with electricity. That's
especially true if you don't really have a good grasp on how to
safely wire things so that you're not going to shock
(electrocute) yourself or cause a fire. If you're not confident
that you can do it yourself, it's a much better idea to get a
handy friend to do the work for you than to try to tackle the
project yourself.
Finally, if you want to try a light box before deciding to buy
one, and if you don't want to have to pay for a couple of weeks
of usage, ask your doctor if he/she happens to have a light box
available to lend to patients. If not, request that he/she
contacts us to find out about getting one. We at The SunBox
Company are of the opinion that it's to your advantage (as a
S.A.D. sufferer) AND to our advantage (as a company) for you to
have access to a light box through your health professional, just
to find out whether light therapy can help you.

If you spend 6 hours a day in front of a home made light box,
getting only 1,500 lux without noticing any improvement, you'll
reach the (probably wrong) conclusion that light therapy just
doesn't work for you. That doesn't do you any good.

However, if you spend 30 minutes a day with 10,000 lux exposure
for two weeks and notice a great improvement, then you know that
light therapy works for you. You then have the option of either
buying a light box or building your own. At least at that point
you'll have hope. You'll know what the solution is, and from
there it's just a matter of acquiring the means.
That sure took a while. Sorry about the wordiness. I hope it's

-Louis at The SunBox Company