Bringing lamps to the lightless
October 15, 2012 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Potentially-nonexistent-product-filter: Is there such a thing as a light system that emulates dawn-to-dusk daylight? Something that brightens and dims relatively closely following actual sunlight?

At the office, my team is currently stuck in a windowless space with zero natural light. Yes, this is extremely terrible, and yes, we are actively working to find a new space and it's on track for early next year, but we're stuck in this space until then.

I feel like the lack of natural light is already taking a toll, both on mood and afternoon productivity, especially now that the days are short and there's no more opportunity to enjoy daylight hours after work.

We all agreed to take this temporary space and have made it as agreeable as possible -- for instance, everyone hated the bare-bulb fluorescent lights, so we got lamps instead. The walls are white, the ceiling is high, the airflow is good, the space feels open; there's just nothing resembling natural light and I feel like it's starting to throw my team off their game.

I've been looking into non-directional sunlight-simulating bulbs and lamps (I thankfully have been given a budget to buy things like that for my team), and it got me wondering if there's anything out there that simulates the actual brightening and dimming of light that happens during a natural day-cycle? I can't even figure out what to Google for. Any ideas?
posted by erst to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Flux will do this for your computer screen.
posted by Proginoskes at 9:31 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Flux is cool for computer screens, but I'm looking for ambient room-lighting.
posted by erst at 10:07 PM on October 15, 2012

There are dimmers which can be used to dim/brighten the lights. There are timers that can be used to switch on/off the lights. I am not sure if a combination exists.

It would probably be far cheaper (and not too difficult) to just get lights with a dimmer installed. Then, once every couple of hours, on your way to the water fountain or coffee room or the restrooms or whatever, you can just turn/slide the dimmer a bit. Or, if possible, get the dimmer wired to your room/cubicle.
posted by vidur at 10:17 PM on October 15, 2012

Closest out of the box I could find is something like this.

Actually though, I think this would be a pretty cool project to rig up yourself if you are somewhat technically inclined. First, get some good quality lights, this guy seems to know what he is talking about. Then, get a dimmer. Now, figure out a way to control the dimmer based on the time of day. If you are familiar with computer programming you could pull down the sunrise/sunset times from the web and use those. Then get something like this USB light dimmer, and with some dark arts magic you can hopefully sent a signal from your script to the usb controller and control the lights.

One preview: Yes, a timer or manual controlled dimmer would work too.
posted by sophist at 10:20 PM on October 15, 2012

It's kind of jokey, but you could also get a couple window pictures.
posted by sophist at 10:28 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Dawn simulators" (and dusk simulators) are a thing that exists— they bring a light gradually up over the course of half an hour or so starting at a set time. Normally they simulate dawn at a given clock time, for those of us whose sleep/wake timing is slaved to the metronomically even rhythms of modern mechanized life. But presumably you could adjust one to follow the ebb and flow of the heavenly harmonic series.
posted by hattifattener at 10:30 PM on October 15, 2012

The window pictures thing gives me an idea for something to do with some old flatscreen monitors. Windowframes + flatscreen monitors + Flux + looping video of outdoor scenes? This could be awesome.
posted by erst at 10:32 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

However, still looking for ready-made room-lighting systems if they're available. :)
posted by erst at 10:37 PM on October 15, 2012

I've seen (but couldn't find in a quick search) wall lights that look like daylight through a blind; this lamp, though, I think is even better. You could turn it on when the real sun would be shining against a window on that wall.
posted by thylacinthine at 12:01 AM on October 16, 2012

Just wanted to throw in a plug for including an actual daylight-spectrum or other SAD lamp, as part of what can get you down is deprivation of actual sunlight, not just changes in ambient lighting. Probably you'd want to make that kind of thing part of the morning section of your lighting program, as that's what helps most with winter blues, even if the dragging is in the afternoon. (There might be issues about getting people close enough to benefit in the anti-SAD way, but my spouse really enjoys my light in the bathroom even from several feet away.)
posted by acm at 6:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to throw in a plug for including an actual daylight-spectrum or other SAD lamp, as part of what can get you down is deprivation of actual sunlight, not just changes in ambient lighting.

From reading this:
it's the blue light coming in at 450 to 475 nm that basically tells your brain "it's daytime, be awake!".

A daylight-spectrum light should give you this, as will a bank of the right sort of blue LEDs. Or a bunch of mucky florescent lights, if they happen to give out light at 450 to 475.

Placement matters too; you want it in the upper part of your field of vision:
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:28 PM on October 17, 2012

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