Best Overall Model
Aurora LightPad Mini
Lux Output: 10,000 Lux @ 25 inches | Size and Weight: 5.25 x 7.5 x 0.5 Inches and 0.56 lbs
Whoever said big things come in small packages could well have been talking about this SAD light.
Do not be fooled by it’s small and lightweight stature. This light packs a punch. In fact nothing else comes close to outputting as much light as the Aurora LightPad Mini by Alaskan Northern Lights.
The company clearly backs the quality of the light as is comes with a class leading 7 year warranty for your peace of mind.
LEDs provide the light which should outlast your need for this light.
Although expensive and lacking additional features, this light is ideal if you travel, have serious SAD symptoms or prefer your SAD light to be positioned further away from you when in use.
Best Bang for your buck
Circadian Optics Lumos 2.0
Lux Output: 10,000 Lux @ 8 inches | Size and Weight: 5.25 x 7.5 x 0.5 Inches and 0.56 lbs
When you get this in your hand you will at first wonder how it works. With a magical twist or two you will have transformed the white rectangular piece of plastic into an extremely pose able Light therapy device.
Circadian Optics have arguably the best looking SAD therapy lamps on the market today and we are a big fan of this design.
Great for travel or just to show off to your friends, this unique design is stylish and allows you to angle the light downwards if needed.
It is let down by very average lux output and lack of additonal features.
If you don’t mind either having the lamp very close to your eyes or sitting under it for extended periods then this provides great value in a stylish package.
Analysis and Test Results
Look & Design
A SAD light is a medical device designed to treat the symptoms of Seasonal affective disorder. That said, we really don’t want a light that screams “I am a medical device” We want something with a modern aesthetic that doesn’t feel out of place in our home or office and not like it belongs in a hospital.
There is more to the look and design of the light than just it’s appearance. We also looked at how easy the device is to set up and then to use. We don’t want to spend hours putting pieces of a lamp together. Ideally, we want it to work straight out of the box. Just plug it in and turn it on.
Some lamps in this test require no setup however others require either fitting bulbs or screwing a shade into the stand or base.
The final criteria in our look & design category are the size, weight and portability of the lamps. Depending on your potential use of the lamp, you may be looking for something that just stays in one place.
Alternatively, you may be looking for something with a minimal footprint. We certainly prefer the latter as a smaller footprint usually mean greater portability and the ability to use the lamp in a wider variety of places. In our opinion, something lightweight and smaller is better. Especially if you have limited mobility yourself or would struggle to move larger objects.
With that being said, here is how our test lights scored in the Look & Design category
The majority of the lights in this test have an excellent look and design. The standouts were the Circadian Optics Lumos 2.0, the Alaska Northern Lights Aurora Lightpad Mini, and the Circadian Optics Lumine. The Philips HF3418/60, the Circadian Optics Lampu and the Verilux happyLight Liberty 5K all deserve honourable mentions. We consider any score above 7 to be a great looking and well-designed lamp.
But what contributes to the look & design rankings?
Aesthetically, three of the lamps scored top marks. We have seen an evolution of SAD lights over the years. Originally they were designed to be strictly medical devices with not much attention paid to how they would look in your home or office.
New manufacturers tend to focus more on the aesthetic than the outright medical performance. Circadian Optics are a relatively new manufacturer and as such, they are focusing on modern, sleek looking designs. Circadian Optics certainly make great looking lamps with all three of their models we tested, the Lumine, Lumos 2.0 and the Lampu all attaining top marks.
Another top scorer was the Aurora LightPad Mini made by Alaska Northern Lights. this lamp looks similar to an iPad. It has a similarly sleek, flat look to it.
The only Phillips in a test, the HF3418/60 scored top marks also. This is no surprise is Phillips is a world leader in health and beauty products and we are not surprised to see that product development department again making a great looking product.
Of course, aesthetics are a subjective opinion. People like a different look and design. While we have our preference to how something should look, we have tried to compare these models against each other rather than against our own opinions.
Size & Portability
Size and portability is a new consideration in the SAD light Market. Long gone are the days where a bulky, ugly device would be taking up all the room on your desk. Or an ugly floor lamp design would be looming over. Nowadays, the lights that are small and portable can pack just as much punch as their larger counterparts.
It is no coincidence that the most aesthetically pleasing lights are ranked highly in the size and portability rankings. The Alaska Northern Lights Aurora LightPad Mini, the Circadian Optics Lumos 2.0, and the Circadian Optics Lumine all scored top marks. Other top scorers include the VeriLux HappyLight Liberty 5K and the Sphere Gadget Technologies Lightphoria.
All of these would be well suited to pack in your suitcase or weekend bag should you need to take them with you on your travels or a business trip.
Setup & Ease of use
All of the lamps come with a different setup process. Obviously, we prefer that you open the Box, plug-in, and switch them on. Some of the lamps require a bit more setup than that. The Carex Day-Light sky and the Northern Light Flamingo require you to screw the stand together but it should be noted this is a simple process with just one screw to be attached.
Build quality is important things to consider before making your SAD light a purchase. Not only are you looking for a light that stands up to daily rigors, you are looking for a lights that will not break if an accident happens and that is made of long lasting and good looking materials.
The clear winners here are made by Alaska Northern Lights, Northern Lights technology, and Carex. The North Star 10,000 and the flamingo, are both top scorers in this category with the Day-light, the Day-light Sky and the Aurora LightPad Mini all scoring a very respectable 9 out of 10.
The Aura Daylight, the Verilux Happylight Liberty 10K, the Verilux Happylight Liberty 5K and the Circadian Optics lampu are all well-constructed but are let down by their minimal warranties. The Lampu is also let down by its ridiculously large wall plug which will sit over two sockets in your wall outlet.
What makes a good material? For us there are two things. Firstly the material must be solid.
Metal is the preference here but we do not mark down solid plastic construction as in many cases plastic is preferable, especially if you are looking to make something lightweight. If plastic is used it must be solid.
Secondly, we look at the finish of the material. Plastics come in many different variations. We want plastic to not be too flexible and it must have a high quality finish and color. Metal must be well machined with no sharp edges and preferably treated or painted to prevent any rusting.
The majority of the lights in this test score highly for material used with the exceptions being the Sphere Gadget Technologies Lightphoria which we think has a rather cheap plastic feel to it. We also didn’t like the the pure Bliss energy lamps, the HL12CW Happy Energy Health Light and the Northern Light Technologies TRAVelite.
Sturdiness was a tough factor for us to judge. Short of us dropping the lights repeatedly on the floor it was hard to see how well they would stand up to accidental drops or knocks.
We wanted to see whether or not the lamp was prone to falling over if it was gently knocked. For example, when the Lumos 2.0 is extended to its highest setting, it is prone to falling over if knocked. While you are unlikely to knock a lamp over, it is possible if being used at your desk or other area where there will be lots of movement.
Also, how does the lamp feel? Does it feel solid when you pick it up or does it feel like it is fragile and will break easily?
The results of these tests were mixed with around half the lamps feeling very sturdy to the touch and with no movement when knocked and the remaining half either having problems with feeling ‘cheap’ or being prone to wobble or fall over if knocked.
Strangely there didn’t seem to be any correlation between the quality of the materials used and the sturdiness of the lamp.
Build quality is not just about the materials. We place a heavy emphasis on the warranty that comes with your light. The last thing that you want to happen is your expensive SAD light breaking just after the warranty has expired leaving you with a costly bill to repair or replace it.
We love a long warranty. If a company provides a warranty of a good length then it shows confidence in their products. It also gives you peace of mind.
There were clear winners here with both Alaska Northern lights and Northern Light Technologies both offering an outstanding 7 year warranty for each of their products.
Carex and PureBliss each offer an excellent 5 year warranty, with NatureBright and Beurer a good 3 year warranty.
It should be noted that most of these warranties, regardless of length are limited to faults and defects in workmanship. This excludes the bulbs in the majority of cases.
The Aura® Day Light Therapy Lamp allows you to replace the bulb within its 2 year warranty if it breaks.
Because bulbs will need changing if you use your light regularly we tend to recommend lights that use LED’s. They often carry up to a 50,000 useful lifespan. More than enough to last you the life of the lamp. We go into more detail about this in the performance section below.
Performance is what treating medical conditions is all about. It doesn’t matter what you are treating, you want the most effective power to treat your condition.
We saw a start difference between the best and worst performers here with a very obvious trend of just average performance.
There is such a stark difference in performance ratings because of how highly we rate a light based on its lux output and the distance you need to be from the light to receive the claimed lux.
All is not lost for the lower performing SAD lights though. You have to ask yourself how you will be using the lamp.
We go into more detail below as we explain how we break down the performance rating.
Maximum lux output and distance for claimed lux
It has become common for manufacturers to claim a 10,000 lux output and advertise it as the main feature of their product. They do this while hoping the end user doesn’t understand the practicalities involved in treating your condition.
All bar one of the lamps we tested here can produce 10,000 lux. The difference between them is the distance that 10,000 lux is given.
The clear winners are the Alaska Northern Lights Aurora LightPad Mini and the Alaska Northern Lights North Star 10,000. Each of these lights emits 10,000 lux at a distance of 25 inches.
None of the other lights come remotely close to matching this.
What is most impressive about the LightPad Mini is that it is such a tiny unit. Especially when compared to the North Star 10,000.
The Lightphoria, the SunTouch Plus, the Day-Light, the Day-Light Sky, the TRAVelite and the Flamingo all emit the claimed 10,000 lux at 12 inches.
All other lights tested emit the claimed lux at between 7 and 8 inches.
So why is this important and why do we place such a big emphasis on this?
Quite simply, imagine sitting with a light 8 inches from your face.
It is neither practical nor comfortable to sit that close to a light source.
It is well known that for effective treatment of SAD you should receive 10,000 lux for a 30 minute period. You could also receive less lux but you would need to increase the time spent using the light.
Greater lux + Shorter distance = Short treatment times
Less lux + greater distance = longer treatment times.
If you are receiving 2,500 lux then you will spend around 2 hours using the light.
But do you have 2 hours to spend using the light?
This will depend on where you intend to use the light. It is recommended that you do not look at the light but at the activity that it is illuminating. If you intend to use it while sat at your desk at work then this won’t be a problem. However if you intend to use it while reading the morning newspaper then unless you are a very slow reader, it may be a problem.
UV ray blocking
All of the SAD lights in our test block over 99% of UV rays.
Although this is a standard feature it is important to know why blocking UV rays is important.
Studies have been carried out that show no difference in the anti depressive effect of a SAD light that contains UV rays.
Given the harmful effects of chronic exposure to UV rays it is therefore a good idea to block as many of them as possible.
There are two ways of blocking UV rays. The first is via a filter or diffuser fitted between the bulb/s and your eyes.
These are almost always built into the units.
The second is by choosing a light source that is broad spectrum.
Broad Spectrum light sources, available as both LED’s and CFL bulbs contain as many naturally produced wavelengths as possible within the visible white light spectrum. They are designed to not produce any UV rays and are therefore safe to use without a UV filter.
Full spectrum bulbs, typically CFL bulbs, aim to reduce the natural wavelengths of the sun. They contain not only the visible light spectrum but also the extras, such as UV.
Any SAD light that uses these bulbs will also have a UV filter fitted. If it doesn’t then you should stay well clear.
LEDs vs CFL bulbs
It is fair to say that LED bulbs have many advantages over CFL bulbs but this has not fully filtered through into the SAD light market.
Roughly half of the lights in our test use LED rather than CFL bulbs.
We give an extra point to those SAD lamps that use LED’s for two main reasons.
Firstly, they last longer than CFL bulbs. Depending on what source you read, LED’s can last anywhere between 20,000 and 50,000 hours while CFL lights last on average between 5,000 and 8,000 hours.
Secondly, they use less Watts and are therefore cheaper to run. They cost anywhere from 30-50% less to run than their CFL equivalents.
When we describe features, we mean anything extra that is included to make your life easier and to help you use the lamp in the most effective way.
We found that most manufacturers do not place much emphasis on the features their SAD lights provide. We found this strange as many of them could be implemented for not much cost.
There is no model on the market that offers all the features we would like to see. Manufacturers seem to have only one or two features added to their models.
We think this is part of a wider trend where manufacturers are just making basic lights to sell without actually thinking about the end user.
Below is our ranking for all 20 SAD lights that we tested
There is quite the spread of scores throughout the test group.
The clear winners in the group are those lights that have an adjustable stand that you can position to shine the light from above your eye level. This is because we weight this as an important feature.
A stand that you can adjust in multiple positions and heights, and angle the light to shine down in your eyes scores just as many points as the rest of the features combined.
Let’s take a look at what else we looked at as part of our features test.
Timers are not a necessity but a nice to have. Most modern timers are digital and could be incorporated into these lights with little extra cost. However most of the lights on our test choose to forgo them.
We like lamps with timers as it gives you the option to set and forget. You are not in any danger of forgetting to turn off the light or overexposing yourself which increases the risk of any potential side effects.
The Aura® Daylight, PureGuardian Energy Light, Sphere Gadget Technologies Lightphoria, NatureBright SunTouch Plus and the PureBliss Energy Lamp all contain decent timers with multiple options to choose from and a simple interface.
The Philips HF3418/60, doesn’t let you choose the length of treatment but instead displays how long the light has been switched on for using a series of LED lights, each representing a 10 minute period.
Adjustability of the stand
The adjustability of the stand was given a high weighting in our performance category. A few points were available for each model.
We looked for a stand that is height adjustable, had multiple positions available and extra points if it can be angled downwards so the light shines down into the bottom of your eye.
The stands that met all this criteria were the lumos 2.0, (although it should be noted that its height adjustability is limited) and the Carex Day-Light.
The Carex Day-Light Sky lamp, the The Lavish Home 5 Feet Sunlight floor, the Northern Light Technologies TRAVelite, and the b also scored well with just their lack of height adjustment stopping them from scoring top marks.
Another good scorer was the Verilux Happylight Liberty 10K but tilting the lamp downwards is somewhat perilous and runs the risk of falling if knocked as it sits in a stand rather than having the stand attached to it. Also, you are unable to adjust the height of the lamp.
All of the other lamps can be tilted at multiple angles thanks to their stand apart from the Cubic Tech HL12CW Happy Energy Health Light which can only be placed at one angle.
The Alaska Northern Lights North Star 10,000 on it’s own cannot be tilted or adjusted but it can be positioned either horizontally or vertically and you can buy a stand for it as an optional extra.
Different brightness settings
We gave points to those SAD light therapy lamps that offered multiple brightness settings.
Having multiple brightness settings means that you can use the SAD light for other purposes, such as a task or hobby light.
Over half of the lights tested offered multiple brightness settings and it is clear that the lights that scored higher in our tests generally had this as a feature.
This is a simple feature but one we like the option of having.
This gives you an alternative option if desk space is limited or you want the light above eye level without having a suitable area to rest it.
Approximately half the lights in our test had the ability to mount it to the wall. Usually this is via one or more holes at the back of the devices casing allowing you to rest it on wall mounted screws.
If you need to take your lamp with you when you travel or if you are from another country and looking to purchase a SAD light therapy product you will need to make sure that it will work on all Voltages.
Generally, the LED units in this test all work on 110-270 volts and 50 or 60 Hz. The CFL units generally do not. The exception to this are the lights made by Northern Light Technology which included ballasts that work at all voltages.
The reason that more companies do not include this is because the ballast that allows this to happen is more expensive.
It should be noted that none of the lamps in the test come with multiple adapters. You will need to buy an adapter plug for whatever locality you are visiting.
Value for Money
It would be easy to say that just because a lamp is cheaper it is better value for money. This is a lazy way to look at this and not at all accurate.
To find out the value for money of each lamp we first assigned a weighting of importance to each of the factors we looked at for each lamp.
We then used these to calculate the total points given to each SAD light therapy lamp and used the price available at the time of the reviews to assign a value for money rating.
As you can see from above, the lamps which we think provide value for money does not always correlate with what we consider a good SAD lamp.
Generally a cheaper lamp did in fact mean better value for money with the top scorers sacrificing performance, features and sometime Look & design benefits for their cheap prices.
The higher priced items, while offering much superior performance all finished at the bottom of our value calculation.
Another interesting point is that we would consider anything above a score of 7 to provide good value for money which the majority of the light tested achieved.
What is clear is that you can find something for every budget in the SAD light market.
The main thing you should take away from this exhaustive list is that you need to decide where you will be using the light and choose one that fits into this within your budget.
Unless you have a chronic SAD condition or need to travel with your light a lot you can generally stay away from the higher priced models and settle for one of the more budget friendly options.
Don’t forget that a more detailed review of each of the SAD lights that we have looked at today is available on our website.