Top critical review
Great, until the buttons stop working
on January 7, 2016
sunUp hasn't been made for several years, but I sought one out on eBay for its good features: easy to program, customizable sunrise length, high wattage, can be used as a manual dimmer, no buzzing, no flicker, and a fairly natural sunrise curve. It works with incandescent lights and with many dimmable LED lights. Though I recommend incandescent lights because they can be dimmed smoothly all the way to zero, and they will not flicker. With some LED lights, the dawn will start suddenly at 10% or higher, it may flicker at low settings, and you won't get the sunrise curve that the unit was designed to produce with incandescent lights. And an LED light will be the same color regardless of the dim setting. An incandescent light glows more orange than white at low dim settings, which really does simulate a sunrise or a sunset, and is great before bed and when I'm first waking up.
The operation and programming are fairly intuitive. In some versions, you program the start of the sunrise, and in some versions you program the end of the sunrise. You'll just have to experiment to figure out which version you have. If you adjust the dimmer up or down during a sunrise, the sunrise is halted and the new setting sticks. The unit does have its quirks: three hours after the sunrise starts, it turns off, even if you halted the sunrise. I don't find the dusk program to be useful. You can't change its duration, and there is no confirmation that the dusk button has been pressed, until you wait long enough to see it getting dimmer. If you lose power for even a moment, the device forgets all its programming. And one time the sunsets just stopped working. Power cycling and reprogramming the device fixed that.
But the big problem is that the cheap rubber buttons wear out quickly. If you use the buttons every day, they'll stop working within a year. I repaired mine by weaving thin wire strands into the rubber pads with a needle. An earlier repair attempt gluing on little pieces of aluminum foil with some Loctite Vinyl, Fabric, and Plastic Flexible Adhesive (available at Lowe's) was an utter failure: the adhesive did not stick to the rubber nor to the aluminum foil. sunUp is a fine option if you're handy and prepared to repair the unit. Everyone else should steer clear. Lighten Up! Model 308 would probably be my second choice.
If you've never used a sunrise simulator, they are more gentle than an alarm clock, but not tremendously. If you haven't gotten enough sleep, a sunrise is just as unwelcome as beeping. The benefit for me I think is that I'm less groggy in the morning when I'm woken up gradually by light. But you need a room that's almost completely dark to take advantage of a sunrise simulator. Blocking all of the light in your bedroom is the hardest part. You don't need a very bright light to wake you. I use a 150 W lamp five feet from my head, and I'm woken halfway into an hour-long sunrise.