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Infrared Saunas: the Basics



Now that winter is upon us some of us look to spend more time indoors. The thought of a nice relaxing sauna on a cold winter day is appealing. Infrared saunas are becoming very popular for in-home enjoyment. What are they? How do they differ from regular saunas? What are the pros and cons? What features are available? What is the cost involved? This article will provide some practical answers to those questions.

What is an infrared sauna?

Traditional saunas use steam, fire or electric heaters to heat the air inside the wooden sauna. The hot air eventually heats up the human body from the outside in. Typically a traditional sauna has an air temperature of about 180 degrees.

An infrared sauna uses electrically powered, infrared heating elements (usually carbon or ceramic) to create infrared waves, (light), which is absorbed by the skin and is experienced as radiant heat. Infrared saunas use the science of light to create radiant heat from the inside of the human body out. By using shorter wavelengths in a way that mirrors natural sunlight the light penetrates the body deeply to raise the body’s core temperature faster. The infrared sauna has lower ambient (air) heat than traditional saunas and is more comfortable (usually 140 degrees or less).  Infrared saunas normally come with control panels that allow regulating the heat level and can be installed inside and/or outside the sauna.


Studies have shown to varying degrees of certainty the following benefits of infrared saunas:

  • Detoxification:  because the infrared heat penetrates deeper than the warmed air it is more efficient in allowing the user to sweat more at lower, more comfortable temperatures.
  • Stress and fatigue reduction
  • Reduction of muscle aches, arthritis and joint pain relief
  • Increased metabolism
  • Immune system support
  • Help with various skin conditions
  • Heart health
  • Reduction of cellulite
  • Reducing symptoms of fibromyalgia.
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Promotes longer life
  • No serious side effects as long as users adhere to the recommended session time and don’t use when sick or having been drinking alcohol.


  • Not recommended for pregnant women
  • Does not mix well with alcohol
  • Does not mix with certain medications

Things to consider when buying an infrared sauna for your home:

    • Capacity: how many people will be using the sauna? Two to four are most common, Some models seat six. How frequently and for how long will you be using your sauna. Will you be having people over to use it?
    • Where to put it: bedroom, bathroom, family room, any other room including basement or garage with an electric power source. Do not need water!
    • Dimensions are normally very small: 1-2 person IR saunas are typically 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep by over 6 feet tall.  3-4 person  IR saunas are typically roughly 6 feet wide by 3.5 feet deep by over 6 feet tall. Note: outside dimensions are slightly higher. You can buy a corner unit or a regular square or rectangular sized unit
    • Power: How many watts are created ( 1500-2000+).  The cost of running the infrared sauna is relatively small. Most people who use their IR sauna an hour a day use less than $20 a month of electricity.
    • Type of heater? Size of heater panels?  Carbon? Ceramic? How many heat panels? (As few as 3 as many as 9), how are they distributed around the room? Back, side, calf, front? Do they provide uniform infrared radiation distribution throughout the room?
    • EMF; (Electro Magnetic Force)  the lower the better (under 3 is considered safe).  Some are Near Zero.
    • Safety certifications:, ETL (North American Safety Certification).  Intertek, the organization that provides the ETL mark, is one of the world’s largest testing, inspection, and certification endowment institutions. CE. All products sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) must be accompanied by the mark of CE. Even if products are manufactured elsewhere they must be CE compliant to meet EEA standards.


    • Chromotherapy: color therapy is used to restore balance to the body with the use of color.
    • Oxygen Ionizer: removes allergens by pushing them to the floor thus  allowing the air    inside to be fresh and pure. 
    • Integrated sound system: radio, CD player, Aux inputs, built in bluetooth, MP3 auxiliary
    • Interior lighting
    • Backrests
    • Towel hooks
    • Magazine racks
    • Benches: one or two benches? how deep?
    • Floor heater
    • Controls: LED control panels: inside and outside?

Heat up time: how long does it take to heat up? Typically 15 minutes?

Type of wood?

    • Canadian Hemlock (retains heat, has a rustic look, resists scratching, durable, very little upkeep, fresh forest scent
    • Canadian Red Cedar

Glass window or door to see outside? Tinted for privacy?

Delivery: Is the sauna delivered to curbside? Is there white glove assembly service?

Assembly: (tongue in groove), straight forward, pieces clasp together. If you assemble it yourself is it a two person job? Should you assemble in the room its targeted to go in?

Warranty: wood structure, heating and electronics, radio?

Reviews: go online to see if there are any tester reviews for the model you are interested in.

Cost: Budget over $1,000 for a 1-2 person sauna  to $4,000 for a 3-4 person sauna.


Infrared saunas are becoming very popular within the wellness community. They can easily be added to nearly any room in your home at a cost of several thousand dollars. They take a minimal amount of electricity. They have many health benefits and feature options and they are relatively easy to assemble. They normally come with warranties on the structure, heating elements and electronics. They are becoming a popular addition to many homes… maybe yours? Enjoy!