If you have been searching for a new infrared sauna for a while now, you know it can be difficult. Everyone says the same thing: their saunas are the best, the most cost effective, the most therapeutic, etc. Assuredly, after spending an hour online searching for infrared saunas, you are sure to be more confused than enlightened. This is the main reason I created my own company, website and eBook—to give people as much honest information about the sauna industry and technology so they could make an informed decision on their own time. In this post I will address what will be important when investing in an infrared sauna as I cover the many components, features, materials, safety issues and warranty options on the market today.
Far Infrared Sauna Therapy is recognized as one of the most effective result driven tools for optimal health maintenance, disease prevention and increased immune function. This form of therapy aids in over one hundred different health conditions. From weight loss to pain relief, research abounds on the effects far infrared heat has on common diseases along with studies on more challenging health problems such as successful cancer therapy. Generally the temperature within an infrared sauna is cooler; yet, infrared heats the body from within, so the perspiration is more profuse thus highly effective. Therefore, you don’t get the hot (185 degree) air temperatures that you get in a traditional sauna. Far Infrared Saunas provide the perfect combination of comfort and gentle heat ensuring usage over a longer span of time—as a result you sweat longer and more profusely. So let’s get to it!
10 Things to Know Before You Purchase Your Infrared Sauna
1. When it comes down to it, the heater technology is the most important
There are various types of far infrared heaters—carbon, ceramic, combination carbon/ceramic and saunas that put both carbon and ceramic heaters in the same sauna. Your heaters are the heart of your sauna as all of the health benefits will come from them. Picking the incorrect heaters requires more electricity, more heating time, less efficiency and detracts from the overall comfort, safety and just plain enjoyment of your infrared sauna. In order to learn about the science behind the different kind of heaters download our free eBook entitled ‘The definitive guide to infrared saunas’ here.
From my personal experience, I have found that carbon heaters do not get hot enough to raise your core body temperature (the surface temperature of carbon heaters is only around 140 degrees). They just don’t hold enough infrared heat to raise your core temperature. For this reason, cheap sauna companies run their carbon heaters almost all the way up the interior walls to make the sauna feel hot. The problem is, heating the air to overcompensate for poor surface temperature defeats the purpose of far infrared radiant heat warming your body from the inside.
If I had to choose between only carbon or ceramic infrared heaters, I would choose ceramic and here’s why—ceramic heaters actually get hot! They will put out far more actual radiant far infrared heat than carbon heaters. The problem? They get too hot! The surface temperature of ceramic heaters get to be around 400 degrees. When your body is sitting 3-4 inches away from something that is that hot, it is very uncomfortable. Additionally, the infrared wavelength is much shorter (which means that it can’t penetrate as deep for maximum absorption).
Combination carbon/ceramic heaters:
Combination carbon and ceramic heaters are hands down the most efficient and highest quality heaters on the market today. They start with the highest quality carbon fiber then add a fine ceramic compound to add a hot infrared punch. By having both styles of infrared you get a much more comfortable (and effective) surface temperature of 200 degrees. This means it has a longer wavelength and is hot enough to raise your core temperature.
2. Heater Placement is very important
I have found there are several features in the design and engineering of a sauna that can directly affect an infrared sauna’s efficiency. For example, it is best to investigate then avoid a design with too many glass panels on the front and sides that don’t have heaters placed on the panels. Glass is fine; however, the object of a far infrared sauna is to heat your body—not the air. Therefore, you must have heaters on all sides of you for maximum efficiency.
Also, be aware of the number of heaters within the unit. The best saunas have full body coverage—even on the floor. If you are going to purchase a pure carbon sauna make sure that the heaters are pointed at your body. What happens with cheap saunas is that the companies run the heaters all the way up the wall. Meaning, a huge amount of the infrared is being pointed at the air above your head. This wastes energy and efficiency.
3. The type of wood you choose is important
Cedar is simply the best wood for constructing infrared saunas. This is because it is naturally anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. It does the best job at keeping your sauna environment completely germ free—this is very important over the span of years you will be owning and using your sauna (trust me!). Additionally, cedar is the softest wood available for infrared saunas making it able to withstand the constant heating up and cooling down of the sauna environment. Nordic spruce is also a great alternative white wood as it is hypoallergenic and your best alternative to cedar. You will need to clean nordic spruce a bit more than cedar which can be done with a damp cloth and mixture of nine parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide. This goes for all other woods used in an infrared sauna—you just have much more leniency with cedar.
4. Find out the ease of assembly
Find an infrared sauna that is easy to assemble. Trust me, there out there (I know because we sell them!) There is no reason your sauna should take hours to construct. I recommend you find a sauna that can be put together in less than an hour. Be sure to pre-determine where you want to place your sauna and take into consideration that the power cord is only so long (8 ft. for our saunas). When it arrives simply unpack the directions and take it out piece-by-piece then assemble from the floor on up. The easiest and most efficient saunas have high pressure bindings and buckles and don’t require any tools. The panels align and will simply snap together.
*A note on quality
After you set up your sauna check out the feeling of the floor when you step into the sauna. It should not feel weak or move around too much. Your cabin should feel sturdy (and so should the bench). While you’re inside check out the hinges on the glass doors – they should be strong enough to support the weight of the glass. Last, look at the thickness of the walls – both inside and out. Inexpensive saunas have thin inner and outer walls. It is best to buy a sauna with solid wood or a solid wood/glass combination. Thin walls do not hold the heat efficiently plus they will not last as long due to easy damage. I hate to say it, but most cheap saunas are not sturdy and feel very cheap. In my experience, people either try to resell or trash cheap saunas within a few years. The people who come back around after an initial cheap sauna purchase end up regretting their decision.
5. Educate yourself about EMF (Electromagnetic fields)
Why be aware of EMF? It’s toxic! EMF’s are energy waves with frequencies below 300 hertz or 300 cycles per second. The EMF fields we encounter daily come from normal everyday things such as power lines, radar, microwave towers, TV, computers, cell phones, motors, fluorescent lights, microwave ovens, electric blankets, house wiring and hundreds of other common electrical devices. Levels of EMF have steadily increased over the past fifty to one hundred years (not hard to imagine). In 2002 three reputable scientists from the CPUC California Electric and Magnetic Fields Program concluded “To one degree or another, all three of the DHS scientists are inclined to believe that EMFs can cause some degree of increased risk of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and miscarriage.” They indicated that exposure to levels below 3 mG (EMF is rated in what is called milligauss or mG) are safe. Any Infrared Sauna on the market should be able to produce authentic third party testing proving low EMF below this level. If not, the risk is yours to take. Why take it?
6. Know about the power requirements of your future sauna
I am constantly asked about the electrical components in an infrared sauna. The quick answer is most of the smaller saunas out in the market today require no special or additional electrical wiring. However, the larger saunas do require a 20 amp circuit breaker (usually a $50-$100 upgrade done by an electrician). Another caution – many inexpensive infrared saunas have cheap wiring, thin gauge wires, poorly and improperly shielded wiring and flimsy EMF shielding. This level of wiring can be dangerous and present serious safety issues. Also, depending upon the size of the sauna it will only use between 1,100 and 2,990 watts. This may sound like a lot but the actual dollar amount is only around 10 cents per hour. That’s $10 – $15 a month. Depending on the wattage, you may also need a 240 volt outlet in the room you want to put your sauna.
7. Look for safety certifications and clinical studies
Be sure your new Infrared Sauna has been thoroughly tested to meet all safety and performance requirements for the USA and Canada. Look for these Certifications:
No VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)
FSC Wood Certification
Also be sure to investigate the countless medical studies on the merits of using an infrared sauna. There are too many to document here; however, depending upon the sauna you choose, that company should provide you with lists of data addressing medical studies—third party testing is the best.
8. How long has the company been in business?
This may seem like an unimportant issue—however, if you have an unforeseeable problem or a warranty issue you can certainly believe this becomes very important. When a company says they guarantee their saunas for life and if they’ve only been in business for a year alarm bells should sound. You want to find a company that has been in business for at least 3 – 5 years or more. This ensures not only that you’re purchasing a good product, but that maybe they know what they’re talking about. Maybe. Check reviews online as well!
9. Does the company in question offer a full lifetime warranty?
I recommend you always demand a lifetime warranty. Any reputable company will offer one. Be sure to read the fine print—many say they offer a full lifetime warranty but in fact it is only for seven years (or less on certain parts, like the wood). Review with your salesperson that each and every part of your new sauna will be covered for the lifetime that you own it. There should be zero hidden fees or ‘limited’ verbiage. Should your sauna require repair parts these should be shipped to you for free and the company should ensure they will cover the cost of the electrician or handyman required to fix it. Anything less means the company is hiding behind a cheap product.
10. Choose what health benefits you want from your sauna and create a personal goal schedule
I realize by now you might be overwhelmed with what I am suggesting you know about far infrared saunas. However, this is a lifetime investment in your current and future health. It is incumbent upon you to know every important detail. This also includes general knowledge about the therapy itself. Far infrared involves the use of far infrared rays to gently soothe, stimulate and detoxify the physical body as it relaxes and de-stresses the mind. It is entirely reasonable for you to expect to receive these (and many other) health benefits. However, you must set an expectation schedule that involves you consistently using your sauna. I have found that using my sauna is like going to the gym—it’s easy once you’re in the routine of using it everyday, but difficult if you break it. An infrared sauna is also not a magical device that will solve every problem you have. It is however a medically proven device to assist you on your way to health. You will need to make sure you are making good health choices while you use your sauna daily—or else it will not be even close to what it could potentially offer you.