The Only Infrared Sauna Buying Guide You’ll Ever Need
Holy moly is it difficult enough to find the right infrared sauna out there? With all of the claims, companies and sleezy salesmen how do you know who to trust?
In the following buying guide I will cover the most important aspects of your sauna purchase and I will start with what to look for when searching for an infrared sauna and end with why a lifetime warranty is important. We’ll cover a lot of info, so if any questions come up, please give us a call at (800) 370-0820.
What to Look for when Purchasing an Infrared Sauna
• What Kind of Company are You Purchasing from?
• What Kind of Infrared Heaters are You Getting?
• What is the Quality of the Sauna Cabin?
What Kind of Company are You Purchasing from?
• How long has the company been in business?
• What is their online reputation? Do they have complaints?
• How aggressive is their sales team? Why are they so aggressive?
• What is their warranty? Why don’t they cover their sauna for the life that you own it? Are their parts inferior?
• Will they pay for service, upkeep, and the shipment of parts to and from your house/business?
• Will they properly set your expectations? Do you trust your salesperson?
• Will they let you try out your sauna for 30 days? Do they get too many returns to stay in business?
What Kind of Infrared Heaters are You Getting?
The heater style that you purchase is the single most important part of your infrared sauna buying decision. There are only three styles of infrared sauna heaters: carbon, ceramic and carbon and ceramic.
Carbon heaters only heat up to 140°F which is not hot enough to raise your core body temperature. Ceramic heaters get up to 400°F which is way too hot to sit 2-3 inches next to. Carbon and ceramic heaters are the most effective at raising your core body temperature at 200°F while still being comfortable enough to sit next to for a 30 minute session.
See the following comparison chart and infrared absorption images of all three styles below:
- 97% Emissive
- Surface Temperature 200 F°
- Wavelength in Microns: 7.9
- Average EMF: 0.20 mG
- Most effective for raising core temperature
- Long infrared wavelength for maximum infrared absorption
- 99% Emissive
- Surface Temperature 400 F°
- Wavelength in Microns: 6.0
- Average EMF: 10 mG
- Very effective for raising core body temperature
- Shortest wavelength for poor infrared absorption
As you can see, the combination carbon and ceramic heaters have the most amount of absorbed infrared. This is because they have the most infrared emissivity combined with the longest infrared wavelength. The second most absorbed is ceramic followed by the weak output of carbon heaters.
Carbon heaters (also known as nano-carbon) are the cheapest infrared heaters to manufacture. This is why you will see them all over the internet for very low prices. However, there is a trade-off: they are riddled with very high Electromagnetic Frequency or EMF. Here is why it is so important to have a low EMF sauna.
Ceramic heaters have much lower EMF on average than carbon heaters. However, you will want to verify a pure ceramic sauna’s heaters with a 3rd party EMF test or using your own EMF/gauss meter.
Combination carbon and ceramic heaters have the lowest EMF levels that have ever been 3rd party tested. This is because they are 2 in 1 heaters with two layers of carbon and ceramic compounds. By placing two heaters directly on top of each other the EMF is cancelled by negating both the positive and negative currents right on top of each other.
Combination carbon and ceramic heaters are the most effective heaters at raising core body temperature over a 30 minute period. The carbon elements allow the heaters to produce a long wave infrared heat. This long wave far infrared heat penetrates deeper into the body and is more readily absorbed. The ceramic compound gives the heaters a very high and hot infrared output when compared to nano-carbon heaters. Because of this we can concentrate 100 percent of the infrared light right on your body.
What is the Quality of the Sauna Cabin?
One of the most overlooked aspects when searching for an infrared sauna is the quality of the wood and the weight of the sauna cabin. When you purchase a cheap infrared sauna you will immediately notice how cheap the cabinetry and bench quality are. If you’re ever at Costco or Home Depot, and you see a sauna take a seat inside. The things you notice will be a cheap feel to the bench–it will be thin and when you shift your weight on it, it will move with your body. Additionally, the wood will be very cheap and have a very odd smell to it that almost smells like it’s been treated with chemicals.
Cheap woods will range from hemlock, pine and spruce. A lot of the time the wood hasn’t been kiln dried the correct way and as a result, warps over time. Because infrared saunas are made of six wooden panels, it can destroy the sauna if only one panel warps. This is because a perfect fit is very important to keep the warm air in the sauna.
Also, if you buy a cheaper sauna the bench and backrest will be flat, like sitting up against the 90 degree angle of a wall, which is not comfortable. If you are not comfortable it will literally sit in the corner collecting dust. If you’re not going to use it, what’s the point of buying it in the first place?
What we do is different. We have a fully ergonomic bench and backrest that contours to your back and body. It feels like sitting in a very comfortable rocking chair that was created to fit the contour of your back. This is the single most important thing that I like about our saunas. The bench is also four inches thick and is reversible–so when you move, the sauna nor the bench move with you.
We only use the highest quality wood–Western Red Canadian Cedar wood and Nordic Spruce (which is hypoallergenic). We do not treat our woods with anything and are always 100 percent VOC free (volatile organic compounds). We kiln dry our wood down to six percent water content to prevent any warping or cracking. If there is every any warping, there is no need to worry. You are fully covered under our full lifetime warranty. We are the only infrared sauna company to cover every part of your sauna (including the wood) for the life that you own it.
As in all things in life, you really do get what you pay for.
How to Spot a Cheap Infrared Sauna
There is a dead giveaway of a cheap infrared sauna—tall carbon infrared panels that go up above your head almost to the ceiling.
Carbon panels are very cheap to manufacture and they don’t heat the body well. The surface temperature maxes out at 150 degrees °F, which will not raise the core body temperature enough to create a sweat. For this reason, companies are forced to increase their surface area size almost to the ceiling. This is actually counterproductive in an infrared sauna setting because the infrared heat is actually invisible light (which travels in a straight line).
It makes no sense to shine this light into the air above your head as a huge percentage of the infrared energy is wasted going into thin air.
Heating the air is not the object of infrared therapy, heating your body is.
The concept of carbon panels is nice, but it just doesn’t work for an infrared sauna. Companies essentially admit this by their heater size! Think about it, if their infrared heaters were strong enough, wouldn’t they want to point 100 percent of the light towards your body? Because of this, they’re actually admitting that their panels are too weak to do what an infrared sauna is supposed to do: make you sweat! Take a look at our heater size:
One hundred percent of our infrared light energy is pointed at your body—exactly how it should be.
Cheap saunas will also have cheap wood and cheap, flat benches and backrests.
This wood will range from aspen, hemlock and pine. Oftentimes, the wood has not been dried properly and it warps over time. Because an infrared sauna is composed of six fitting wooden panels, it can ruin the sauna if one panel warps. The wooden bench is also a good indicator of a cheap sauna. When I move in the sauna, I don’t want to feel the bench to move with me. This is usually what happens in a cheap sauna—they’re extremely flimsy.
Don’t overlook comfort in an infrared sauna; the bench plays the most important role in comfort.
Take a look at the photo above of our bench and backrest. Do you see how it contours and curves to meet the body? Owning two of these saunas myself, they are extremely comfortable. If you purchase a cheap sauna the bench and backrest will be flat (see the first picture in this post). This actually feels like you’re sitting up against a wall, which is not comfortable at all. What I tell people is that if you’re not comfortable in your sauna you won’t use it. If you’re not going to use your sauna, what’s the point?
If a sauna company is pushing an oxygen ionizer it’s usually a good indicator that you are dealing with a cheap sauna company that uses cheap carbon heaters. Specifically, what an air ionizer is trying to do is to kill the bacteria in the air to remove the toxins from the sauna. When you use ceramic in your infrared heaters it actually acts as a natural air ionizer as it will produce the negative ions required to kill bacteria the same way an oxygen ionizer does. When you are not using the sauna, simply keep the vent in the roof and the door of the sauna open to allow for air to circulate. Keep a steady rotation of towels moving through the sauna and wash them regularly and you won’t have any problems with bacteria.
How Do SaunaCloud Infrared Saunas Differ from Other Companies?
If you’ve been doing your research for a while now you have come across a ton of different infrared sauna companies all saying they’re the best. Here’s why you should choose SaunaCloud.
SaunaCloud Uses the Best Infrared Sauna Heaters on the Market with the Best Temperature: 200 F°
The single most important component of an infrared sauna is its heater and how hot it gets. No amount of branding, accessories, benches and wood can replace the quality of the infrared heater. SaunaCloud is the only company that uses a medical grade, clinically-backed True Wave II™ combination carbon and ceramic infrared heaters.
Every other infrared sauna uses either carbon fiber or ceramic compound heaters. Both styles have great features–carbon heaters are great for having a lower surface temperature which is closer to the body’s own infrared output of 9.4 microns. Ceramic heaters put out a higher amount of infrared at a hotter temperature. However, they both lack what the other has–ceramic gets too hot is has too low of a micron level (6.0). Carbon is too weak to produce an increase in core body temperature.
In order to attain all of the great health benefits associated with infrared saunas you need to sweat very deeply and sustain that sweat for 30 minutes or more.
Cheap carbon heater’s surface temperature of 140 F° will not raise your core temperature high enough to produce a sweat. Ceramic heaters get hot enough to produce a really deep sweat, but don’t produce the proper far infrared wavelength in order to be absorbed into your body for deep penetration.
Our combination carbon and ceramic True Wave II heaters offer the best of both carbon and ceramic–the high, hot infrared output of the ceramic with the long, deep penetrating waves of the carbon. Our heaters are much more effective than borderline worthless carbon heaters and they’re also much more comfortable to sit three inches away from than ceramic heaters. Remember, if you’re not comfortable in your sauna–you won’t use it.
Would you like some proof? Our heaters are the only infrared heaters that have been clinically proven to raise core body temperature at the Arcadia Cancer Clinic and to assist in weight loss at Binghamton University.
We’re the Only Company to Offer a Full Lifetime Warranty and 30 Day Money Back Guarantee
If anything goes wrong with your sauna at anytime throughout the entire life that you own it, we’ll fix it free of charge and pay for the shipping of all parts and labor. The lifetime warranty covers everything: the controls, infrared heaters, wood and accessories and power supply. If your sauna needs repair, we’ll send a technician to restore your sauna on-site and pay their hourly rate.
There is no fine print and no asterisks in this guarantee. Check out our customer testimonials.
The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative have Chain-of-Custody certified our manufacturing facilities, which is the path taken by raw materials from a certified source through processing, manufacturing and distribution.
Feel confident that your sauna is sourced, built, and distributed in a sustainable manner.
Our Saunas Are Safe
From low EMF third party tests to full ETL certifications, you can rest assured that you and your family safe in our infrared saunas.
Here is a list of our current certifications:
No VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)
FSC Wood Certification
Easy, DIY Assembly
We deliver your sauna directly to your home. The process of unboxing your sauna, assembling (no tools required!) and plugging a standard home electrical outlet takes 30 minutes.
We recommend having two people for assembly. For any issues with assembly, please call: 800-370-0820
How Does My Infrared Sauna Ship?
At SaunaCloud our goal is to make your infrared sauna buying experience simple, efficient and easy. Our promise is to ensure your total satisfaction. Shipping damage claims are rare, but they do happen. In the event of shipping damage we will promptly replace or fix the damage to your satisfaction. Should you need to return an item to us, please note our Cancellation and Return Policy below:
• Visible Loss or Damage
Any external evidence of loss or damage that occurred during transit is considered visible loss or damage and should be noted on the bill of lading and signed by the carrier’s agent (driver).
• Concealed Loss or Damage
Any damage that occurred during transit that was not visible at the time of delivery is considered concealed loss or damage. Due to rough handling in transit it is possible to damage the contents of a container without damaging the container. If such a situation occurs it is important to contact Sauna Works immediately for instructions on how to handle the claim. If a claim is to be filed it is important to save the container that the damaged merchandise arrived in. You must open all received boxes and inspect products for concealed damage within 7 business days of delivery.
• Receiving Your Shipment
When receiving your shipment it is important to do the following:
1. Your shipment may consist of a number of individual boxes placed on a single pallet. The pallet will need to be separated to be unloaded. You sauna will be shipped with lift gate service with a scheduled appointment for delivery. The driver will move your sauna off of the truck.
2. Check shipment for any visible damage to containers. If the boxes are dented, crushed, scratched, punctured, or cut it is very important to mark this on the bill of lading. If there is a possibility of damage it may be necessary to open the box and mark the actual damage on the bill of lading. It is important to be specific.
3. Boxes that have been dropped may not show obvious signs of external damage. You may want to open these specific boxes before the driver leaves to ensure that the contents do not have concealed damage. The driver may refuse to allow you the time to open specific boxes – if this is the case, open the boxes as soon as possible, but not later then 7 days after the delivery, to inspect for damage.
• Refusing a Freight Shipment & Freight Carrier Fees
If the shipment is damaged and unusable, it may be necessary to refuse part or all of the order. Call our shipping department at 1-800-370-0820 before refusing any shipment.
Please note that any additional freight carrier’s fees such as re-delivery are the responsibility of the customer (unless otherwise noted on your order). Liftgate service and delivery notification are standard with all order. If additional services are requested by you and billed to SaunăCloud, all such fees shall then be re-billed to your credit card. If the freight carrier is unable to deliver the freight due to problems with contacting you or setting up delivery appointments, storage fees may be assessed by the carrier. In such case all storage fees are the responsibility of the customer and shall be billed to your credit card.
CANCELLATION AND RETURN POLICY
1. If an order is cancelled prior to shipment, payment will be fully refunded. Note that we consider your product to be “shipped” when a Bill of Lading and tracking number have been generated for a freight carrier. After products are considered shipped, cancellations are treated as returns as described below.
2. All returns require a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) from our Customer Service Department. Please call 1-800-370-0820 to obtain an RMA. No returns will be accepted or any credit granted without an RMA. To provide any credit or replacement units we must first have a chance to receive and completely inspect your return.
3. Per our “30 Day Risk-Free Return Policy” returns will be accepted within 30 business days of product receipt. Shipping charges on returns shall be the responsibility of the customer and all returned items must be returned in “new” or “like new” condition, in undamaged original manufacturer’s packaging and with all original product manuals. After the product is received, inspected and verified to be in “like new” condition, a full refund will be provided on the product purchase price minus any original shipping charges and minus a 15% restock charge. For products sold with a “Free Shipping Promotion” the actual freight cost to originally ship the product will be deducted from your refund. We do not charge any other charges or re-stocking fees for returns.
4. If you refuse an item delivered by a commercial shipping company for any reason other than damaged merchandise or a shipping error by us, the item shall be treated as a return and charges described in Section 3 above shall be applied.
5. Most products come with a manufacturer’s warranty which is located in/on their packaging or in their documentation. We do not provide any warranty over and above the manufacturer’s warranty.
6. Custom orders, private label or non-standard sauna models are non-refundable.
What Kind of Wood is Best?
When I first became involved in the infrared sauna industry, I assumed the wood that makes up the panels of the cabin and the bench was purely aesthetic. When I’d read sauna specs and see the section on wood, I assumed that people picked different types of wood based mostly on their home decorating scheme. I mean, these saunas are serious pieces of furniture, large boxes of elegant wood that go in the corner of a workout room, or on a deck overlooking a wooded backyard. But, the more I learned about them, the more I discovered that the type of wood used in a sauna is important because every material in a sauna has the potential to affect a user’s health.
And that’s not the only reason wood matters. The type of wood used makes a difference in how well the sauna will age, how well it will stand up to repeated use, and whether your sauna will be comfortable enough that you’ll want to continue using it over time.
Why Wood Matters Within Infrared Saunas
Let’s examine, in depth, the biggest factors to consider when choosing a type of wood for your sauna:
● Wood toxicity: This is one of the biggest concerns users have when I talk with them about choosing wood for a custom sauna. The majority of potential sauna users come to me because they are interested in detoxifying their bodies. With that in mind, they definitely don’t want wood that will introduce new toxins into their environment while they’re using the sauna. Toxicity of building material is a concern for any health facility, and infrared saunas are no exception. There is a very simple solution to this problem. Choose a high quality wood like a Western Red Cedar that is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial, which does not allow for fungus or other allergens to grow. High-quality sauna manufacturers will also specially dry the wood they use in order to burn away oils, resins, and other allergens that may emerge when a sauna is repeatedly heated and cooled during use.
● Wood weight: This is a concern for some folks, especially those who are having their sauna delivered over long distances to their homes. Of course, a purchase as significant as a sauna should be made well, durable, and built to last, but harder wood isn’t necessarily better. Softer wood won’t crack as easily, and it insulates better. Also, wood that is too hard is heavy, and will present logistical problems when it comes time to have it installed in your home. At the same time, the wood panels in infrared saunas can also warp over time if the wood is not dense enough. The solution to this is to find a wood for your sauna with a density per cubic foot that is on the low side, but not too low. These numbers are typically measured in pounds. In my opinion anything over 30 lb/ft 3 will prove to be unnecessarily heavy, but anything lower than 18 lb/ft 3 may not hold up to the rigors of use. The neighborhood you want is between 20 and 25 lb/ft 3 .
● Resistance to decay: Warping due to flimsy wood is one serious concern, general decay is another. Wood used in saunas is susceptible to the same problem as any other wood over time: steady decay. While there isn’t a metric or numerical system to measure which woods stand up best to decay, there are a few woods that are well known for holding up well over time. The best solution for your sauna is to pick a wood that’s naturally decay resistant, and then have any wood you choose treated with a wood preservative to enhance that resistance.
● Appearance: This one is pretty much self evident. In my opinion, infrared saunas can look beautiful when you weave them into the decorating scheme in your home or your backyard. This may not be as technical a consideration as other factors, but it’s still worth considering. Just take into account the area in which you plan to install your sauna, and ensure that the wood you choose is an aesthetic fit.
● Crushing strength: Crushing strength, which is sometimes known as compression strength, is a measurement of how much weight wood can handle before becoming crushed or broken. Whereas density speaks more to weight, this property speaks more to durability. Your sauna is a haven, a place you can relax and enjoy the many health benefits provided by the process, and that means not having to worry about accidentally cracking the slats of wood in your sauna. Of course, construction and design make a difference too when it comes to durability (that’s why you don’t want a cheap infrared sauna), but the strength of the actual wood is just as important. I’d recommend against less sturdy woods such as spruce, aspen, and pine.
Types of Wood
While there are too many different types of wood to discuss in depth here, here are some of the kinds of wood that are most commonly used to make saunas:
Western Red Canadian Cedar: Western red cedar has the ideal density for this kind of application, in my opinion, coming in at a spry 23 pounds per cubic foot. It’s also a great thermal insulator due to this relatively low density and to its high proportion of air space. It has high durability, and cedar is also naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial, which prevents the growth of fungus or other allergens. Even though infrared saunas are dry (unlike traditional steam saunas), which reduces the likelihood of fungal and bacterial growth, antiseptic qualities are still desirable traits since a sauna is a place where you go to sweat profusely, releasing moisture and bacteria. Cedar is also highly resistant to warping, denting, and cracking, even given the broad fluctuation of temperatures in saunas. For these reasons, and because of its hardiness in wet conditions and its natural ability to repel insects, cedar has been the defacto choice of those who build traditional steam saunas for hundreds of years. These last two qualities also make red cedar perfectly suited for infrared saunas that are going to be kept outdoors.
Basswood: One of the major benefits of basswood is that it is free of harmful toxins and allergens that could bother users; when treated properly it is considered hypoallergenic. Basswood also boasts an excellent strength to weight ratio, and a density that is about 25 pounds per cubic foot.
Poplar: There are many species of poplar, and, unfortunately, most of them are soft and porous, which means they get average marks in tests for strength, resistance to decay, and durability. Poplar isn’t all that well suited for varied hot and cold conditions, either, because of its porous nature and middling strength. While it dents easily, it does score great marks for durability, coming in at 22-31 pounds per cubic foot on average.
Spruce: If you’ve ever done any model building or serious wood carving, you may know this wood, which is as inexpensive as it is low in strength. Simply put, spruce is just too soft to handle the temperature bursts that saunas subject it to. It makes great material for a picture frame, though.
Pine: Honestly, when it comes to wood choices for an infrared sauna, pine of any kind is the worst possible choice, in my opinion. This wood is low in strength, overly lightweight, and has poor decay resistance. Pine is also more likely to splinter than many of the other choices on our list, and it’s high in resin content, which is liable to irritate your eyes and sinuses during use. Stay away.
Pick the Perfect Wood for You
In order to pick the best wood for your sauna, you must know all you can about your options, specifically how each wood interacts with the sauna environment. The section above should have you well-versed by this point, enough to make an educated decision. It’s probably clear that I prefer cedar for both indoor and outdoor saunas for all the reasons I’ve listed above. In addition, I just think it’s a good looking wood, and with its red or pinkish hue, it looks sharp in any room, and especially so outdoors on a patio or deck. Nordic spruce is also another good option, with its low-odor, hypoallergenic properties.
With equipment that will affect your personal health, every component matters, from the heaters to the wood panels that make up the sides. There are many health benefits to be gained from regular use of a far infrared sauna, including weight loss, stress relief, and detoxification, but you don’t want to limit the potential of your sauna by choosing a wood that prevents it from doing its job properly.
SaunaCloud only sells sauna made from the highest quality materials– from the heaters to the wood–and built in a way that doesn’t cut corners. Over the years, I’ve done extensive research into what materials make the best infrared saunas, and I wouldn’t sell a sauna that didn’t line up with what I’ve found in my research is best. With Sauna Cloud, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting wood of the utmost quality, uniquely suited for the job it’s performing.
What Kind of Infrared Heaters are the Best?
Over the years I’ve sold thousands of infrared saunas, from my days at Sauna Works to my current position with my own company here at SaunaCloud. In that time, the technology has changed and improved, but the questions that customers ask me have, for the most part, remained the same. Those interested in infrared saunas want to know all there is about the health benefits, the science that makes them possible, and how they can get the best value for their money.
As I answer their questions, I always emphasize that nearly every question about far infrared saunas comes down to one very important component: the infrared sauna’s heater. To really learn about which infrared saunas are best and how they work you have to learn about the different types of heaters these machines use. The way I see it, the heater is kind of like the active ingredient in medicine. It’s the part that’s actually doing the work–the whole reason you’re buying a sauna in the first place.
What Is Infrared Light and How Does It Heat Your Body?
The heaters used in infrared saunas are a bit different than the ones you might use in your house, because they don’t just heat air. They actually create infrared light that penetrates your body and warms it that way. That said, when I explain how far infrared saunas work to potential users, I like to start at the most basic level: what exactly is infrared light?
In my experience, a good number of people are confused by the concept of infrared light. In short, infrared light is light that’s invisible to humans, but like visible light, it is electromagnetic energy and takes the form of waves. Also like visible light, it can be focused or reflected. Infrared light can even be harnessed and pointed at objects, which then absorb it. But don’t be scared off by this absorption idea. All types of light penetrate the objects they come into contact with, not just infrared. The difference is what happens after. With traditional light, we see the absorption and reflection manifested as color. With infrared, we instead feel heat on our skin and throughout our body.
If you’ve ever felt heat with your body, and, of course, we all have, then you’ve felt infrared light. Infrared light radiates from one object and penetrates another, thereby transferring energy to the receiving object. This energy is absorbed at the molecular level, which causes thermal motion to occur among the recipient’s particles and electrons. In the simplest terms, infrared light heats your body up by raising your internal temperature.
Here’s my all-time favorite example, the one I tell pretty much any customer who asks me how our saunas work. Imagine walking outside on a hot summer day. You pass a brick building that’s sitting in direct sunlight. Now, imagine putting your hand just a few inches away from the bricks but not touching them. You’re still feeling heat coming off the brick, right? Well, that’s infrared. The sun’s natural infrared light has heated the bricks. The heat is then released in the form of infrared light, which you experience as heat.
What Wavelength of Infrared Is Best?
Up to this point, I’ve talked about infrared energy as light (a form of energy) that is transferred to the body and creates heat. It’s time now to discuss wavelengths. Light is a form of energy that moves in waves. Waves come in different lengths, with gamma rays on the shortest end of the spectrum and broadcast waves on the far long end. The visible light waves that generate the colors we see are toward the center of the spectrum. One of the qualities that defines infrared light is that it has a wavelength that is slightly longer than the end of the visible light spectrum, just past red.
While infrared light waves are too long to be visible, they are the right wavelength to produce heat by transferring radiant energy to objects, which causes a reaction at the molecular level. Between 50 and 65 percent of the average adult human body is made up of water, and water molecules absorb more far infrared waves–which have a slightly longer wavelength than near or mid infrared waves–than the other types of molecules in our bodies. Water actually absorbs the highest amount of far infrared of any sort of molecule on the planet. It’s important to note here that the more infrared energy the body receives, the more infrared energy our water molecules can then absorb, and the more we absorb, the higher our core temperature soars.
When Is an Infrared Heater Producing the Right Wavelength?
So how do you know if the infrared heater in your sauna is producing infrared energy of the right wavelength to properly heat your body and give you the most health benefits? You can determine the wavelength of infrared being created by a heater if you know the surface temperature of a heater using Wien’s Law of Displacement. Here is the formula:
PEW is the wavelength of infrared light measured in microns, and the best micron wavelength to maximize absorption by the human body–the scientists tell us–is 7.90. With our formula in mind, that means the best surface temperature for your infrared heater, if you want your body to absorb as much infrared energy as possible, is 200 °F.
Another thing that you’ll want to know when you’re looking for the best infrared sauna heater is that there is a scale for all materials, called an emissivity rating, that tells us how effective a material is at emitting and absorbing energy. Materials are rated on this scale from .00 to 1.
Now let’s look at the most common types of infrared heaters, what materials they use, and what kinds of infrared energy they each produce. The effects of each of these heaters is vastly different, and that’s why it’s so important to pay attention to what kind of heater is used in the sauna you’re thinking about buying.
The Three Types of Infrared Heaters
Infrared heaters consist mainly of a certain material which is activated by an electrical current sent through it. The electricity energizes the material, causing it to radiate energy that takes the form of infrared light, which, you’ll remember from above, is invisible but felt by the body as heat.
So what material do most infrared heaters use to create that infrared radiation? The three main types of infrared heaters are: carbon, ceramic, and carbon/ceramic combos.
- Ceramic compounds are quite pliable, which means they can be molded into many different states and shapes, including pottery or bricks for buildings. When ceramic compounds are heated, their electrons start to move quickly, generating intense heat. Ceramic material is a powerful conductor of energy with an emissivity rating that is nearly a full 1.0, higher than any other material. This high rating allows ceramic materials to absorb and radiate infrared better than any other material. The main problem with a ceramic heater, however, is that it actually gets too hot. Ceramic heaters have surface temperatures between 350 and 400 °F. This is not ideal, because it leads to the air inside the sauna becoming so hot that most folks find it uncomfortable. And, as you’ll remember from our discussion of Wien’s Law, that surface temperature isn’t quite at the optimum level–200 °F–needed to create infrared waves of the perfect length for the body.
- Carbon materials were a big development in infrared saunas, because as pliable as ceramics are, carbon is even more malleable, which meant that its surface area could be spread out and expanded. This expanded surface area is effective at lowering the surface temperature from ceramic’s roughly 350 °F to about 140 or 150 °F, which is actually a bit too cool when plugged into Wien’s formula above–it doesn’t create infrared waves that are in that perfect sweet spot of length–the kind that will give you the best health benefits. The emissivity rating for carbon is also lower than ceramic, coming in at an average of .94 or .95. Simply put, carbon does not get hot enough to raise core body temperature on its own because it can’t hold as much infrared energy. Because of this, many sauna companies increase carbon panel surface area to generate more heat, which is effective at raising the air temperature in the sauna, but not as effective at emitting enough energy to really raise the core body temperature.
- Carbon/ceramic combo heaters are what I generally recommend. I lead into it after I’ve explained the benefits and drawbacks of the other two options by asking this question: what do you think would happen if you combined carbon and ceramic heaters? As you might guess (since one gets too hot at the surface and the other is too cool), that particular combo creates the most effective type of heater in the industry. By mixing carbon and ceramic, you get a more emissive heater that has a surface temperature that won’t make the air in your sauna uncomfortable. You also get a combination effect that creates the perfect wavelength for penetrating deep into tissue and driving up a body’s core temperature, causing you to sweat and giving you amazing health benefits. The emission rating of this material combination is .97, and the heater’s temperature is 200 °F, which gives us our ideal wavelength when plugged into the Wien’s Law of Displacement formula. Also, sitting near a heater with a surface temperature of 200 °F is a heck of a lot more comfortable than being near one that’s up around 400 °F.
By this point, my opinion on which heater is best is clear. All things being equal, users can get a better sweat with a ceramic heater than with a carbon one, but the incredibly high temperature is just too unpleasant to be near. Carbon heaters, on the other hand, simply don’t generate a suitably high and concentrated amount of heat, which greatly reduces the potential health benefits. And neither creates the ideal wavelength of infrared.
Combination carbon and ceramic heaters, on the other hand, give off the right kind and the right amount of infrared energy at a more tolerable temperature that allows users to stay in their saunas longer. This is more comfortable, and, of course, allows for more useage, which is crucial when it comes to getting health benefits like detoxification. So, yes, most every question-and-answer session I’ve done about infrared saunas over the years starts with the same questions. If I’ve done my job right, it also ends with the same result: a consumer who now completely understands that ceramic/carbon infrared heaters are the best choice for his or her body.
Why is EMF Important?
I was a good student in college, but like many students I didn’t always find in-depth research thrilling. When I became interested in infrared saunas, though, I found myself doing a great deal of research on my own time about something called electromagnetic fields, or EMF, because it seemed important to know about the health risks.
There is a debate over the dangers of electromagnetic fields, which are emitted by electrical objects like infrared saunas, and I wanted to do my due diligence and review potential risks for sauna users. I learned that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) doesn’t consider EMF a proven health hazard, but I also found worrying research suggesting that it might be wise to avoid high-level exposure to EMF, not just in saunas but in our everyday lives.
What Is EMF?
My expertise is in the health and fitness side of the sauna industry, which involves a bit of science but nothing near the in-depth stuff that physicists who study and write about EMF deal with. So I sat down with a physics professor friend to get the basics. He told me that the simplest way to conceive of EMF is to think of invisible energy pulses, and to picture them radiating out from any object that has an electric current flowing inside it. Televisions, computers, microwaves, you name it: if they use electricity, they all emit electromagnetic fields.
My friend is a professor, so of course he wanted to elaborate further, and he added that electromagnetic fields can affect any object–including people–within their field. Most common electrical objects give off such low levels of EMF that they pose no risk to humans. However, larger objects with more electricity running through them, such as power lines, may present a health hazard for people who are exposed to them over long stretches of time.
One last thing: EMF is referred to by some as EMR, or electromagnetic radiation. Now, for our purposes, these are the same thing, so I’ll be referring to electromagnetic fields as EMF throughout.
EMF Around the House
As I was describing my conversation with my friend, were you dying to know exactly how strong the EMF emitted by various household objects is? I know I was. My friend, unfortunately, didn’t know off the top of his head. That meant I had to do some research of my own.
What I found was that the strength of an electromagnetic field varies massively based on the size and the strength of the item that is emitting it. Later on, I’ll talk more about how much EMF infrared saunas tend to emit, but before I do, take a look at this chart of how much EMF is emitted by common household objects. You’ll notice that how close you are to an object determines the strength of the EMF that is reaching you.
The Risks of EMF
The next step was to learn about the actual risks associated with EMF. This involved reading quite a few scientific journal articles.
Some of the most significant research conducted on exposure to EMF was reported in an article titled California EMF Risk Evaluation June 2002, which is still cited by many experts in the field today. This article drew from two significant research efforts. The first, which took place in 2001, was ELF Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer. Researchers in that study found that high average exposures to EMF could double the risk of leukemia in kids under 15. In a 2002 study, An Evaluation of the Possible Risks from Electric and Magnetic Fields from Power Lines, Internal Wiring, Electrical Occupations and Appliances, researchers found that heavy and prolonged exposure to EMF could lead to increased risk of adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, miscarriage, and, once again, childhood leukemia.
At this point you might be thinking, “But wait, don’t a lot of the appliances we use every day give off EMF?” And they do, but the keywords here are heavy and prolonged. What was discovered in both studies was that the exposure had to be heavy and prolonged. Your microwave giving off one mG of EMF while it cooks a burrito for two minutes, for example, doesn’t rank as heavy and prolonged.
However, I don’t want to discount the severity of the findings of these studies. My big takeaway was that the less EMF one could be exposed to while using an infrared sauna, the better. As I’d learned earlier though, it is impossible for infrared saunas to emit zero EMF, because they are electrical devices with wiring and currents. Fortunately, there are varieties of infrared sauna that emit barely any EMF at all.
Infrared Saunas and Safe EMF Levels
Infrared saunas are large, they surround you with electrical components, and in order to use them, you must sit inside them for a period of time. If you’ve followed to this point, you know that that can be a recipe for dangerous exposure to EMF. Thankfully though, there is infrared sauna technology that keeps EMF in the super-low range of .2 to .3 mG. To put that in perspective, the Environmental Protection Agency has previously proposed a safety standard of 3 mG, with anything below 3 mG being deemed as safe. This clear cut numerical guideline makes it easy to shop for a safe infrared sauna: simply ask the sauna salesman for the exact number. Numbers don’t lie.
You can never be too cautious, and with that in mind, I suggest that if you’re choosing an infrared sauna for your home that you think about buying a milligauss or Tri-Field EMF meter to test its EMF levels. Hopefully most salesmen out there aren’t actively lying about their saunas’ EMF levels, but I’d hate for anyone to be deceived. And an EMF meter isn’t a bad thing to have around when you’re purchasing large electronics.
Choosing a Low-EMF Sauna
The two primary materials used in infrared saunas to produce infrared rays are carbon and ceramic. These materials, when heated, produce infrared rays that raise the body’s core temperature, speed up the metabolism, and bring on all the other health benefits of saunas. Carbon heaters are a relatively new invention, and while they have some good qualities, they also generate high EMF levels–up to 80 mG, which is well over the suggested guidelines. Traditional ceramic heaters, on the other hand, have a much lower EMF than carbon heaters, but it’s still possible to go lower.
According to testing done by Vitatech Electromagnetics, a third party research group, infrared saunas that have heaters made of a combination of carbon and ceramic emit the smallest amount of EMF, emitting as little as .2 mG. The reason for this is that these heaters use layers of carbon and ceramic compounds on top of each other. When arranged like this, positive and negative charges in the electromagnetic fields produced by each type of material actually cancel each other out, causing the EMF to drop to almost nothing.
In the end, the results of my extensive scientific odyssey were clear. Due to what I learned about EMF, I decided to stick entirely to infrared saunas that use only combination ceramic and carbon heaters, which cut down EMF to miniscule levels. I also encourage everyone I talk to about this to do their own tests with the equipment I mentioned earlier. I know once I’d done them myself, I began to have new peace of mind about EMF risks whenever I was using infrared saunas–and that sort of comfort is invaluable.
Do I really need 9.4 microns?
Our bodies are made up of over 70 percent water. Different molecules in your body are going to accept and absorb different infrared wavelengths. The water molecules in your body absorb a greater amount of far infrared than any other molecule in your body. Water actually absorbs the highest amount of far infrared energy on the planet, and without water’s ability to absorb far infrared, we’d be in a continuous ice age.
The greater amount of infrared energy that your body receives, the greater the amount that will be absorbed by your body’s water molecules (and the greater the temperature). The different molecular types in your body are water, protein, connective tissue, fats and carbohydrates—98.7 of these are water molecules. Our bodies are literally designed to absorb far infrared energy.
So how does this apply to a far infrared sauna?
The objective of a far infrared sauna is to absorb far infrared energy and produce a deep and sustained sweat by whole body hyperthermia. In order to hit the body with the right temperature, you must heat the body by using an optimal wavelength of light (the Peak Emissive Wavelength) that results from the thermal radiation of an object (the surface temperature). This right wavelength is far infrared.
Far infrared saunas harness the potential heating properties of carbon and ceramic compounds at the molecular level by charging their inherent particles (making the molecules move faster than they already do, creating heat). Like any other object, the molecular properties of carbon and ceramic actually change when heated, and then absorb infrared energy which is released in the form of invisible light.
When you sit close to the infrared heat coming out of a carbon or ceramic infrared heater, your body then absorbs the infrared energy, thus charging your body’s particles and raising your core body temperature. The scientific principle which proves that heat turns into invisible light is called Wien’s Law of Displacement.
5268 / ( temperature °F + 460) = the Peak Emission Wavelength (PEW) of an object (measured in microns)
The reason why far infrared is the best for the sauna environment is because:
1. Far infrared is closer in wavelength to the PEW (wavelength) of the human body
2. It’s not too hot, allowing you to still be comfortable for 30 minutes or more
(Traditional saunas are usually in the 190 °F range which doesn’t allow for prolonged sweating and relaxation.)
Let’s dive in to reason number 1 real quick:
When you put in a temperature into the above formula, what is produced is actually an inverse amount of heat to wavelength. The hotter the object’s temperature, the shorter or smaller the wavelength. The cooler the object’s temperature is, the longer the infrared wavelength. Let’s try a few temperatures.
5268 / ( 400 °F + 460) = 6.06 microns
5268 / ( 90 °F + 460) = 9.48 microns
The average skin temperature of a person is 90 °F. Because of the scientific principle of thermal radiation, we actually put out infrared in the same way that any other object emits infrared. So our Peak Emission Wavelength is 9.48 microns.
But wait, our bodies absorb infrared and put out infrared? Yes. Just like any object, when you are close enough to an object putting out infrared, your body will absorb it.
You can actually do a test right now to feel infrared: Put your hands together, but don’t make them touch—separate them about one inch apart. You will actually feel the infrared heat on the palms of your hands!
When your body absorbs infrared heat your core body temperature will rise as a result. The caveat is that the longer the infrared wave, the greater amount that your body can absorb. So, in the environment of an infrared sauna, knowing what we now know, how can we use objects to produce infrared in a small enough area to raise your core body temperature to produce a very deep sweat? Click on the button below to find out the answer to the number one question people have.
Why is a Lifetime Warranty Important?
SaunaCloud™ Infrared Saunas is the only infrared sauna company to offer a full lifetime on every part of your sauna for the life that you own it.
The warranty is valid to the original purchaser of the sauna and ends if there is a transfer of ownership. If your sauna is used commercially, your warranty is five years on all parts.
SaunaCloud™ will pay for all shipping of parts to and from the sauna owner as well as any costs incurred by a handyman or electrician for all repairs.
The full lifetime warranty applies to outdoor usage as long as the sauna is adequately covered. Therefore, no water damage will be covered under our warranty.
We have a dedicated phone line for calls/text support operating 24/7/365. We pride ourselves on providing the very best customer service in the industry.
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