How I built an artificial sun in my room


I’ve always worked better (read: more willpower to focus on hard problems) in libraries and offices compared to at home. It seems worthwhile to investigate what constitutes a good working environment, so that I can skip the commute and sip on better coffee while working from home.

One significant difference between offices/libraries and my room (other than the social aspect of being around hard working people) is that the former is always better lit. In comparison, my room is dark and doesn’t receive much direct sunlight.

So, motivated by the reasons above and inspired by some blog posts, I set out to build a lumenator for my room.

What are watts, lumens, and lux, and how much of each do I need?

Indirect sunlight is typically 10k-25k lux, a brightly lit office is around 500 lux, and a living room is around 50 lux. People typically use 30-40k lumens worth of light bulbs, and try to get as close to indirect daylight as possible.

With cost and my lack of electrical experience in mind, I decided to start off with 25000 lumens. With the lights 85cm from my face,

\begin{aligned} \text{Illuminance} = \frac{\text{Luminous flux}}{\text{Area}} = \frac{25000}{4 \pi (0.85) ^2} \approx 2734.26 \text{ lux} \end{aligned}

Parts and cost

I tried to find affordable and ready-made (i.e. Ikea) lamps with 3-5 bulbs, where I could just replace the stock bulbs with brighter ones. But the ones at Ikea either only supported one E27 socket (meaning I had to buy lots of lamps) or three GU10/E14 sockets (which don’t support very bright bulbs.) So, I set out to build a lumenator from scratch.

I aimed to maximize lumens-per-dollar, while still using high quality parts that would last. Also, having no electrical experience, I bought a few meters of extra wire and an extra socket, and it paid off (wire cutting takes practice and patience).

Total: $173.1



In conclusion, for $173, my room is much brighter — an increase of illuminance from 120 to 3000 lux, as measured with a light meter app on my phone. But after 1 week, I don’t feel an increase in willpower or focus. Perhaps lighting isn’t the bottleneck for my productivity, and the answer lies elsewhere.

Even though the intervention didn’t work, I feel obligated to share this negative result. If you give this a shot, let me know how it turned out!