How to Make Your Own SAD Light Box

A woman sits under a SAD lamp.
What You'll Need
Fluorescent light bulbs
Plywood box
Power drill
Hole saw bit
Aluminum foil
Cable organizers

Light therapy is frequently recommended to people who deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This type of therapy is supposed to counteract the lack of bright light that is predominant in winter climates. Although you can find light therapy lamps and light boxes on the market, they are often expensive. Fortunately, building your own SAD light box is well within the skill set of most DIYers — and it won’t break your budget.

Step 1 - Determine Bulb Layout

The first thing you need to do is figure out where you want to place the bulbs inside of a box. The size of the box will determine how many bulbs you can fit, but you should aim for around 10 lights. To do this, measure out the circumference of one of the lamp bases to create small cutouts. Lay the cutouts on the outside bottom of the box and mark them with a pencil. Leave a little bit of space around each light to avoid overheating.

Step 2 - Drill Holes

A man sits looking depressed.

With the layout determined, you can start drilling out the holes. Using a hole saw bit, clamp down the box to a sturdy table and drill the holes with a power drill. You do not have to worry about making the holes neat because they will not be visible when the light box is finished. Double check that the lamps fit inside the hole before moving on.

Step 3 - Add Reflective Layer

For a proper SAD light box, you need a layer of reflective material on the inside of the box. You can accomplish this with a roll of aluminum foil. Simply apply the aluminum foil around all sides and bottom of the box and secure it in place with glue. Once the glue has dried, cut out the holes in the aluminum foil. As an alternative to aluminum, you could use mirrors to reflect the light.

Step 4 - Secure Lamps

A woman looks depressed.

With the inside finished, secure the lamps to the back of the box with some silicone. This will make the box look more like a light fixture. You can use any epoxy you like, just make sure it is non-shrinking. Once the glue has dried, tidy up the cables with a few organizers for better cable management. Then connect the bulbs in parallel so that you only have one power cord to plug in.

Step 5 - Inspect and Test

Once everything is complete, inspect the box for imperfections and exposed wires. If everything is in order, plug the unit in and test it for 30 minutes. The box should not get overly hot during in this time frame. For safety, it is not recommended to operate the box for an extended amount of time.

Step 6 - Finish

A woman opens a bright box.

If the test goes okay, you can start on the finishing touches. Hide the cables by attaching the top of the box on the rear. Just remember to give enough space for the main cable to get through. You can also stain the box to your liking or leave it in its original color.