As the shelves are stacked with gift ideas, I’ve been wondering whether a lightbulb might be the perfect thing for that ‘someone who has everything’ in your life.
Posh lightbulbs may not be an obvious gift on your list. But given that we spend 9 hours out of every ten indoors, and at least eight of those sitting at a desk, a task light could be a useful and even beautiful daily reminder that you care. The average desk lamp won’t be bright enough to set your beloved’s body clock but it can help with computer vision and dry eye syndrome, neck and back ache and look at bit healthier on video calls.
But what to buy? Amazon returned 89 listings, ranging from £10 to several hundred with a dazzling range of bells and whistles from dimming and colour changing to wireless charging. There are two broad options: an angle poise or lamp base plus a lightbulb that you can change. Or an integrated package with LED chips in a sealed unit with the switch et al.
Whichever route you take, here are five things to look for.
1/ Brightness. British Standard EN12464-1 suggests 500 lux on the desk- around 500 lumen. But that can feel a bit ‘glarey’, especially wearing glasses. Lots of ‘eye comfort’ marketing speak- but the only real test is to switch it on and see.
2/ Dimming. Useful. But if the target of your affections is keen on sustainability and you want to keep your gifts low-tech, simply angling the head to bounce from the wall or ceiling will do a similar job. Cheap products tend to use cheaper electronics so they’re more likely to flicker and buzz at lower power especially over time. A strobing effect on your mobile phone is not ‘scientific but a useful indicator even when it’s not visible to the human eye.
3/ Colour temperature – we look and feel different in cool and warm light. The higher the ‘k’ or kelvin, the cooler the light looks (6,500 = ‘daylight’, 2,300k = amber ‘firelight’). We tend to feel most alert in cooler light and more relaxed in a warmer glow. Around 4,000k seems to be a ‘sweet spot’ for most. So a good-quality single colour lamp may be a better use of limited funds – and cut the carbon footprint too.
4/ Colour rendering – the range of wavelengths coming out of the lightbulb determines the quality of colours you see. Aim for CRI 90 and above. If the blurb doesn’t mention it or won’t respond, move on.
5/ Sustainability – reputable manufacturers pay into a fund to cover lightbulb recycling in your local amenity centre (see). Many are also working towards the new Ecodesign directive so that components can be reused or repaired. Some have even gained the prestigious B-Corp certification for sustainability across the whole lifecycle of the product.
How dark is it really out there?
For those of us in the Northern hemisphere at least, we’re moving towards the shortest days of the year. I head to swim in the sea before dawn and it’s dark long before I make it home – toying with the idea of clearing the brambles in the allotment by torchlight.
But Just how dark is it really? Printmaker Ian Leake measured light levels outside his Swiss home for six months. And yes, it’s dark in November- but according to his readings, we’re still topping 1,000 lux at midday. That’s enough to get your body clock off the couch – Intensity of Sunlight (UV and Visible Light), Month by Month in Switzerland
Getting enough daylight – a 30-minute walk, even in the rain – will help you to be more productive during the day and sleep better tonight. Your colleagues might even follow your lead!
A SAD lamp is another gift option for those who really struggle with these darker days – but again, the choice is bewildering.
This is one of the most balanced reviews I’ve seen – worth a read if you or someone you know is feeling a touch of the winter blues – SAD lamps: do you really need one and how to buy the best
Harvard Health Publishing explains how bright light therapy can help ease SAD, major depression, and perinatal depression – Light therapy: Not just for seasonal depression?
And a bit of seasonal trivia… about Turkeys this time 😉
Turkeys can see three times further than a human with 20:20 vision, they have one of the most sophisticated retinas in the animal kingdom and can see into the UV range like those reindeer.
Here are a couple of easy-reading articles you might enjoy. Might prompt you to reconsider the menu for Christmas dinner though!