Infrared Sauna Buying Guide
What to Consider When Buying an Infrared Sauna
What to Look for in an Infrared Sauna
Traditional vs Infrared Saunas
When it comes to buying a sauna, there are two main choices: traditional saunas (also known as Finnish saunas) and infrared saunas. While both offer great health benefits, there are some key differences to consider:
Traditional saunas have been around for thousands of years, providing heat and health benefits to those who use them. A traditional sauna is a wooden room often outfitted with an electric heater filled with rocks that can take 30-45 minutes to reach ideal temperatures of 170–200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once heated, users can either enjoy the sauna in a dry setting or add water to the rocks to create a steam room with humidity that makes the sauna feel hotter. Some modern traditional-style saunas only include an electric heater and a steam generator without the rocks.
While traditional saunas provide many health benefits, they can take up a larger footprint due to the heater, take longer to heat up, require shorter sauna sessions due to extreme heat, and may require more maintenance due to the addition of water.
As technology has improved, infrared saunas offer the same thermotherapy benefits as traditional saunas with the addition of infrared therapy benefits. An infrared sauna is a wood-based room that warms the body through infrared rays as opposed to extremely high temperatures or moisture. These infrared rays, which are similar to the rays our bodies give off naturally, penetrate deep into the body (approximately 1½ inches) and heat the body directly. Because the infrared rays are warming from within, these saunas typically operate between 115-130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although the temperature is lower than traditional saunas, the efficient nature of heating the body directly makes infrared saunas among the most beneficial options available. In addition, infrared saunas are more cost-effective and offer a larger range of sizes to help fit almost every lifestyle.
Sauna Build Quality
For many years, only high-quality far infrared saunas dominated the infrared sauna market. Craftsmanship, for the most part, was very high. Woods used were mahogany and cedar and quality white woods such as basswood, spruce, and aspen.
The majority of infrared heaters produced used ceramic and metal, with ceramic being the preferred type because of higher infrared efficiency and infrared output. There were rigid quality control standards for the woods, glues, and electrical safety used.
As options over the internet have expanded, low-quality overseas manufacturing spawned numerous upstart sauna companies with little to no understanding of the therapeutic benefits of infrared therapy. They were selling a wooden box with heaters, offering low cost and in turn low-quality saunas on the internet and at big box stores.
Models from these manufacturers can lack quality of materials, construction, and safety down to even the basic wiring including substandard controls and heaters. Beware of any noxious odors from toxic glues being used in the manufacturing process or smells from the wood itself. Subpar saunas can also have wood that has not been finished or sanded and is rough to the touch as you pass your hand over it.
Sauna Wood Type
Mahogany is considered by many to be among the best wood to use for saunas. Other woods commonly used are spruce, basswood, cedar and redwood.
Mahogany wood is often used for the following reasons:
- It is a harder wood that resists cracking and splitting caused by the heating up and cooling down in the sauna.
- It is naturally antifungal and antibacterial owing to the unique properties of Mahogany oil. This is especially important in the sauna where bodies, moisture, and heat combine to make the environment perfect for molds and bacteria.
- It is one of the most beautiful woods available ranging from very light honey to a deep reddish walnut shade.
- It can be easily sanded inside the sauna to remove any stains caused by perspiration.
Sauna Heater Positioning
Saunas with heaters positioned above the head are not effective as it is the infrared wavelengths coming off the heaters directly that offer the benefits in an infrared sauna.
Positioning heaters above the head wastes infrared energy that could be better used in the front of the sauna, or by the calves and sides of the body. The ideal infrared therapy directs heat at your body with the proper wavelengths so it is important it targets your front, back, and sides. Without proper heater placement, you will only receive partial benefits.
Look for heaters kept low to keep the infrared heat aimed at your body and completely surround you with infrared heat. There is no wasted energy up over your head and you will receive benefits faster through the maximum amount of infrared heat.
Infrared saunas made for home or commercial uses can be built to accommodate between 1-6 people depending on your intended usage, making them ideal for almost any situation or environment. Depending on your needs, choose the size that best fits your intended use:
- One-Person Saunas: Require the smallest space to install and are adaptable to either a business or home environment.
- Two-Person Saunas: Combine the optimal balance of size and comfort allowing extra room for individual use or the ability to use the sauna with another person.
- Three-Person Saunas: Provide additional room to stretch out and are ideal for multi-person use with infrared heat spread evenly throughout.
- Four to Five-Person Saunas: Provide additional space & allow you to remove the benches for exercises or hot yoga.
Indoor vs Outdoor Saunas
Because infrared saunas come in a variety of sizes, they can fit almost anywhere inside (or outside) your property. Depending on your space, you may have the choice between an indoor sauna and an outdoor sauna, and both have great benefits:
- Indoor Sauna: Indoor infrared saunas are becoming increasingly popular as they provide luxury and health benefits right in the comfort of your own home. No matter where you live, you can likely make an indoor sauna fit in your space. From placing one in the corner of a small apartment to having an entire room dedicated to sauna use, choosing an indoor sauna allows for a range of options for everyone (and every space) to enjoy.
- Outdoor Sauna: Outdoor saunas require an outdoor space. Choosing an outdoor sauna is perfect for those with backyards – especially if a pool is nearby for a quick dip after a sauna session. Things to take into consideration with an outdoor sauna include space, proximity to a power source, privacy, and potentially a structure to help protect the sauna exterior from natural elements.
Pre-Built vs DIY Saunas
Adding an infrared sauna to your home or business is an exciting decision, but make sure the installation process isn’t biting off more than you can chew with a new project. Installing an infrared sauna is typically done in one of three ways:
- Pre-Built: A base model infrared sauna is easy to install, but with lower customization opportunities. For those wanting a more hands-off approach to adding a sauna to their home or business, this route is ideal for high-quality results with less effort.
- DIY Infrared Sauna Kits: DIY infrared sauna kits can be modeled to fit your space perfectly and are easily installed. By using custom infrared sauna kits, you get to design many aspects and still put your building skills to work, but with less pressure.
- Ground-Up: Building an infrared sauna from the ground up requires lumber, tools, and blueprints or creating a new DIY sauna plan from scratch. While it is the most hands-on method, it does allow for high levels of customization and a sense of pride in the end.
Additional Sauna Features
Infrared therapy on its own is an incredible health tool, but you can enhance your sauna sessions even further by including additional features. When choosing which infrared sauna to buy, also consider these additional therapies to help maximize the health benefits of your sauna session:
Chromotherapy, also called color light therapy, is the process of restoring balance to the body by applying color. Color light therapy relies on the premise that each color is associated with a different bodily response, and has been reported to temporarily reduce swelling, relieve pain, decrease inflammation, accelerate open wound healing and greatly reduce overall recovery.
Learn more about Chromotherapy →
The practice of salt therapy, or halotherapy, uses microsalt to promote a range of health benefits once inhaled. Many believe that when inhaled, this salty air can help stimulate the respiratory system, reduce inflammation, fight infection, clear blockages, and reduce discomfort. A microsalt halotherapy generator can be used to crush salt into microparticles that are easily inhaled.
Learn more about Halotherapy →
Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, LED light therapy, and low-level light therapy, works by using red low-level wavelengths of light. The light from near-infrared LEDs has been shown to bring energy to cells, reduce pain, increase collagen and elastin production in skin cells, speed up the wound healing process, reduce inflammation, and provide numerous anti-aging benefits.
Learn more about Red Light Therapy →
Vibration Resonance Therapy
Vibration resonance therapy (VRT) combines the healing effects of sound and vibration to soothe all systems of the body to bring you to a deeper state of relaxation. In your sauna, the VRT modules attach to the bottom of the sauna bench and use an amplified audio signal to resonate sound waves to the surface of the sauna and stimulate the body’s natural relaxation response.
Infrared Sauna Cost
With the state-of-the-art technology in infrared saunas, you might think they might break the bank. However, infrared saunas are actually more affordable than traditional saunas. A premium infrared sauna can cost between $5,000 – $9,000, whereas a traditional sauna can cost between $6,000 – $11,000. The final cost will depend on the size, materials used (primarily the type of wood), and any additional features or accessories such as chromatherapy lights, halotherapy units, or Bluetooth speakers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Infrared Saunas
What are the Benefits of an Infrared Sauna?
Infrared heat can be a benefit to almost every lifestyle, whether you are looking to relax, recover, or help find relief. The radiant heat of infrared technology helps increase the thermal energy in joints, muscles, and tissues to temporarily stimulate the cardiovascular, immune, and lymphatic systems. Regular use of an infrared sauna can help promote health benefits such as:
- Weight loss and increased metabolism
- Temporary muscle pain relief
- Better sleep
- Reduced appearance of cellulite
- Eased joint pain and stiffness
- Stress and fatigue reduction
- Improved skin
What are the Differences Between Infrared Heaters?
Far Infrared Heaters
When comparing far infrared sauna heaters you need to look at the size of the heater, the material that is producing the infrared heat, the quality of the heat, and the surface temperature of the heater.
The two most common materials used in far infrared heaters are ceramic and carbon:
- Ceramic is a very efficient, effective material when heated to produce infrared heat. Ceramic has a very high emissivity rating, meaning it produces a lot of infrared heat. The drawback to ceramic heaters is that they tend to produce a shorter infrared wavelength. Shorter infrared wavelengths are not as readily absorbed by the human body so they are less therapeutic.
- Carbon infrared heaters generally produce a longer infrared wavelength. Carbon is very light so the heaters can be bigger and can run at a lower surface temperature. These low surface temperatures produce long wave infrared heat. Longwave far infrared heat is readily absorbed by the human body and will produce more desirable wellness results. The drawback of carbon heaters is that, while they produce high-quality infrared heat, they do not produce a lot of infrared – they are weak. In technical terms, they have a lower emissivity rating as compared to ceramic heaters.
Most companies that use carbon heaters extend their heaters well up into the head region and almost to the ceiling in the sauna in an effort to try and get more heat into the sauna. They do this because of the low output of their heaters. This is wasted infrared heat as it is only heating the air over your head and not your body directly. We also believe heating the head directly is not recommended in infrared therapy.
See the far infrared heater comparison →
Full Spectrum Infrared Heaters
A full-spectrum infrared heater emits all three infrared wavelengths: near (IR-A), mid (IR-B), and far-infrared (IR-C). Some infrared saunas offer a combination of heaters to produce full-spectrum infrared heat. The sauna may have one heater that produces far infrared, one that produces mid-infrared, and one that produces near-infrared.
You will also see some infrared saunas that use low wattage (10-40 watt) LED’s to produce near-infrared. Our belief is that LED near-infrared light therapy is very effective for topical infrared treatments however, it is not suited for the sauna environment. You want to put the LEDs directly on your skin. The DPL Nuve by LED Technologies is a great example of an effective FDA-approved near-infrared handheld device. With LED near-infrared embedded in the wall of the sauna, you would have to climb up on the bench to receive effective therapy as the LEDs should be right up against the area you are treating.
By offering all three wavelengths the infrared heat will penetrate deeper past the Epidermis and Dermis into the Subcutaneous layer.
Why are Low EMF and Low ELF Levels Important?
Low EMF Infrared Saunas
Our True Wave™ far infrared heaters are the original carbon-based infrared heaters with virtually no EMF (Electromagnetic Fields). We pioneered this technology for use in infrared saunas. More and more research is being conducted into the harmful effects of EMF. That is why our R&D department spent over two years developing both patented and patent-pending methods to eliminate virtually all of the EMF from our heaters. Many of our competitors still have EMF levels 20 to 50 times higher than our True Wave™ infrared heaters. With an average EMF level of less than 1milligauss (mg), when tested directly on the heater, it is well below the CDC’s recommendation of a maximum of 3mg.
Some health effects linked with EMF are:
- Memory Loss
- Loss of Energy
- Inability to Concentrate
- Weakened Immune System
- Chronic Fatigue
Dr. Duncan, the founder, and designer of Clearlight Infrared Sauna® models, has always ensured that the therapeutic results of your sauna are our number one priority. Seeing the research and information available on the harmful effects of EMF, we felt that if there was a chance that high levels of EMF can cause health issues, we needed to find a way to bring the levels down as low as possible. We were the first company to accomplish this with our True Wave II, far infrared heaters, and True Spectrum, full-spectrum heaters.
Low ELF Infrared Saunas
ELF (extremely low frequency) is also referred to as the electric fields or dirty electricity. There are some people that are very sensitive to ELF and have various reactions including sleep disruption and agitation and there is some link to cancer as discussed in this Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bulletin
All Clearlight® infrared saunas include our ELF-canceling technology. While EMF is canceled in the heater itself, we have to go to great lengths to cancel the ELF from our saunas.
- We run the electrical wires through a metal conduit
- We twist the wires to cancel the ELF and EMF
- We protect all electronics with foil shielding
- We carbonize and ground the fishnet mesh that covers our heaters to ground and cancel the ELF
What Type of Maintenance is Required?
Because infrared saunas provide dry heat, they require very little cleaning. The interior – including the sauna bench, floor, walls, and heater – can typically be cleaned with a simple wipe-down with a damp cloth. A light cleaning after every use can help prolong the life of your infrared sauna. Aim to do a slightly more thorough cleaning with a sauna cleaning solution every two weeks or so to maintain optimal cleanliness.
Learn more about infrared sauna care →
For larger maintenance concerns outside of normal wear and tear, additional infrared sauna service and support may be available.
What Does the Clearlight® Sauna Warranty Cover?
With our limited lifetime warranty for home use, we stand behind our saunas. This warranty covers the entire sauna: the wood cabin, heaters, controls, and even the audio system.
Almost every other infrared sauna is only covered under a 7-year warranty or less. If something goes wrong with your sauna in year 8 the manufacturer is not obligated to provide parts for saunas older than 7 years.
All Clearlight® Infrared Sauna models installed for home use are covered by our Limited Lifetime Warranty. Your sauna is warranted to be free from manufacturer defects for as long as you own it.
Be sure to ask when researching infrared saunas if the company offers a True Limited Lifetime Warranty.
If you are using your sauna in a commercial environment, we offer a complete 5-year warranty.
How Does a Clearlight® Infrared Sauna Differ from Other Saunas?
Quality of design and construction coupled with superior and innovative heating technology. We start with the highest quality woods. All saunas are built by hand to our strict 48 point Quality Control. No sauna leaves the factory without being fully tested and approved by two levels of quality control.
With the ETL and CE certification, we are bound to provide a high-quality product. We use non-toxic glues. Our saunas are hand-sanded, the handles and trim are handcrafted, the tongue and groove wood is color-matched to look beautiful and all Clearlight® Infrared Sauna models are designed to give you a lifetime of wellness and relaxation benefits
Almost every other infrared sauna company uses industrial heaters that have been adapted to be used in an infrared sauna. Not willing to settle with industrial infrared heaters, we manufacture our own patented-pending infrared sauna heaters in our factory. We manufacture our True Wave combination Carbon/Ceramic far infrared heaters and full spectrum (near, mid, far) infrared heaters.
Being innovators in the infrared sauna industry, we have always set the trends that have guided the industry:
- Our True Wave™ far infrared heaters are the only infrared heaters on the market that combine both the high output of ceramic with the long wavelength of carbon to produce a sauna session that is unmatched. Our True Wave™ full spectrum infrared heaters deliver more near-infrared, mid-infrared, and far-infrared than any other infrared sauna on the market. These heaters are designed specifically to heat the human body.
- We are the industry pioneer of low EMF carbon-based infrared heaters and offer the only low EMF full spectrum infrared sauna on the market.
- We are the first company to offer a low ELF infrared sauna. All Clearlight Premier™ Far Infrared and Clearlight Sanctuary™ Full Spectrum sauna models include our ELF canceling technology.
- We use Eco-Certified grade “A” clear Mahogany or Basswood. All of our Clearlight Sauna® models are available in both Mahogany and Basswood. Our commitment to our customers is to provide the highest quality products. Our Eco-Certified woods meet three sustainability standards as part of our green initiative.
Our years of manufacturing infrared saunas go into every Clearlight Sauna® model While our sauna cabins are of exceptional quality, with hand-sanded panels, high-quality close grain wood, and attention to detail, the therapeutic benefits are our main focus. Our R&D department is always researching and testing new components for your sauna so when you buy a Clearlight® Infrared Sauna, you are buying the highest quality, most therapeutic infrared sauna available.
The sauna was an absolute dream to put together. It took us longer for my husband and I to unpack all the pieces and carry each one around the outside of the house and into the bottom floor than it did to put it together. All I can say is that the design is absolutely ingenious.
I’m amazed that I set the temp and timer, and then I make some tea…I usually wait about 15 minutes, get in and within another 10 -15 minutes I am sweating like crazy. I’ve been staying in between 40 and 60 minutes. It is glorious. I just really want you to know how thrilled I’ve been with the sauna.
I actually have a friend who calls me “sauna girl” because – now don’t laugh- I keep saying how it’s changed my life. I used to work all day (very long hours), come home, make dinner and then sit at the computer and work for two or three more hours every single night! But now, I’m SO much more relaxed. I could go on and on – thankfully, I won’t because I can hear that sauna calling my name! Thank you again.