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How to Build a Light Box for SAD

By Jamie Simpson ; Updated August 14, 2017

Building your own light box for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) treatments can help you get through the cold and dreary winter months. Daily treatments with your homemade light box can improve your mood and sleep patterns, production of natural vitamin D, and save significant funds on prescription drugs and professional light therapy treatments.

  1. Paint or spray the inside of your plywood box with flat, white house paint (low VOC). Allow to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

  2. Drill holes or use your hole saw to accommodate the new round electrical fixture boxes. You will drill two rows of four holes each.

  3. From the inside of the box, insert the fixture boxes through the holes. Secure with the provided screws.

  4. Feed the 14/2 ROMEX® from one electrical box to another, allowing plenty of wire inside the boxes so you can wire in the lamps. This procedure is just like running the wiring for ceiling fixtures in a new house, so follow established safety protocols for wire stripping lengths.

  5. Wire the eight sockets in sequence according to safety protocols. Secure the sockets to the work boxes using the screws provided. Finish the wiring by installing the power cord.

  6. Screw in the light bulbs.

  7. Plug in the light box and turn it on.

  8. Tip

    It is important to use non-UV, full-spectrum light bulbs for this project. You may get an effect from regular fluorescent light bulbs, but the full spectrum (sunlight) bulbs will work better.

    Use the light box for 30 minutes every day, preferably in the morning.

    There are two recommendations for light box placement: either sit directly in front of the box (one foot away) or elevate the box and allow the light to shine down on your face from an angle above your head.

    Use the simplest sockets you can find and the best full-spectrum, non-UV light bulbs available.


    Ensure there is no other device drawing power from the circuit. This light box will cause a significant power draw and may blow the breaker if it overloads the recommended breaker size.

    Don’t sit closer than one foot to the light box, to reduce potential damage to your eyes.

    You must use common sense and judge whether your electrical wiring skills are sufficient to safely perform the task.

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