Sauna bathing is one of those wellness trends that has picked up pace over the last ten years. It is something people want to do when in a gym or a spa. That makes sense because this is one activity that is recreational, therapeutic and has several health benefits. It sounds fantastic. Over time, that love for a quick sauna session has grown and folks now want to buy one for their home. That’s actually a great idea considering it eliminates the commute to your gym or spa and when you have one at home, you can plan a quick 20-minute session without having to plan an awful lot. You don’t even have to change your clothes. In fact, you need to take some of them off.
But while that sounds lovely, if you don’t know anything about the inner workings of an infrared sauna (or even dry saunas, frankly) you will have a tough time finding one that is reliable, durable and works for your needs. And to help you precisely with that decision, we put together a buying guide of infrared saunas for home use.
Remember these words throughout. High heat and low humidity. That is the best way for an infrared sauna to function. It must be made of eco-friendly materials and have a comfortable seating space. You must also make sure you are prepared for installation day. Now, before you start window shopping, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Once you get those answers, you will have a rough idea of what you are looking for in an infrared sauna for home use.
- Do you want something small (or big, actually) indoors or do you exclusively want a big infrared sauna outdoors?
- Do you know your budget for one of these?
- How many people will use it at a time?
- Are you flexible with the size of the sauna or do you want to look up a standard size?
- Do you have a preference with respect to the finish?
- Do you want any special add-ons or features?
- Do you want something you can install yourself or are you going to call “the guy”?
Now, once you know the answer to these questions, you will know where to begin your research. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of all of these features.
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The first thing to think of is logistics. Do you want to install the sauna yourself or are you going to call an electrician? We will answer it for you. It is actually not rocket science. Putting a sauna together is very easy if you are in business with the right manufacturer. In fact, sauna makers who have the comfort of their clients as a core value are the ones who end up making a good product. So if a company is being difficult with setup and service, that is a red flag. You might even end up with bad customer service later on if there is a problem. No one wants that.
The infrared saunas that people buy for home use are typically meant to plug-in to any 15-amp outlet. But some saunas make the simplest of things difficult. Every sauna has an electric heater. Most saunas work on 110 volts which are compatible with household wiring. But some come with 240v heaters and those need extra wiring. So if you buy one of those, you will need to call an electrician for the installation so that your brand new sauna does not get fried.
The voltage of the sauna will determine the type of electric outlet you need. But you should be able to reverse engineer this for the sake of your own comfort.
Most people buy indoor saunas and install them in a bathroom because you have easy access to water there. That is because you will need a proper ventilation system. These are the most convenient type of saunas and give you the privacy you need. They also fulfill your need to have a sauna session without leaving your home. Most of them are a lot easier to install compared to an outdoor sauna.
Outdoor saunas are for those who have a backyard or a lawn. These are set up near a pool and are great if you have extra space outside the house. You will need a solid foundation and insulation, good power and water supply. This is not an option for those who live in a small studio apartment.
You need to know how many people in the house are going to be using it. You must also think about whether or not you want to do it together or individually. You will find good infrared saunas that can accommodate one to four persons at a time. Obviously, the size and price increase with each addition. This is a decision you must make simultaneously along with figuring out where in the house you will be placing the sauna. Space and size and the number of users are all interlinked details and you cannot get any of them wrong. If there is a mismatch, ask yourself if you are flexible with the size of the sauna.
This is a very important aspect of heating a sauna. Every infrared sauna has panels that emit light and in turn heat your body. These heaters are mostly made of two different materials: carbon and ceramic.
Carbon panels reach a maximum of 140 degrees in about 10 minutes. Manufacturers who use newer technology are able to deliver energy-efficient infrared saunas when compared to saunas with traditional ceramic heat panels. Their heat delivery system is also a lot more even. So you don’t have to run them for as long or at as high a temperature as the old-fashioned ceramic saunas. Their average life is anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 hours.
Ceramic panels are high-quality and generate a lot of infrared heat in about 10 minutes. They are old-school and hence more expensive than their carbon counterparts. They have a shelf-life of about 5,000 hours. Whenever a manufacturer says old-fashioned heaters, they are talking about ceramic ones. These crack and even shatter before they give up on you.
Low electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) are the best for your health. They make an infrared sauna safe for everyone who enters it. It is also preferred for those users who have health issues and are looking for some respite. Saunas usually have electric fields (EF), magnetic fields (MF) and radio frequency radiation (RF).
The electric field is the presence of voltage. This can be controlled with proper grounding and wiring. It is not a concern if you take care of the wiring.
The magnetic field is the presence of an electrical appliance actively using electrical current. This is measured in Amperes and depends on the wiring. far-IR elements have a higher amperage.
Radio frequency is registered when the likes of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other wireless appliances are at work. This is a factor because some saunas come with an entertainment station which gives you access to all of these facilities.
If you are buying wooden saunas, look for saunas that are made of non-toxic raw materials. This means they have low volatile organic compounds and do not release chemicals or toxins like formaldehyde in the form of gas into your home.
Most saunas emit either near-infrared radiation (NIR) or far-infrared radiation (FIR). Near IR light is the nearest to the visible light spectrum. Hence the name. This light penetrates the skin to about 5 mm and heats the body. Lower the spectrum, deeper the penetration of light.
NIR helps stimulate the production of collagen and improves blood circulation, repair joints and cartilage. It can improve skin and remove signs of aging. It reduces pain and inflammation.
FIR is absorbed by the water in our body and penetrates only 0.1 nm under the skin. But it can cause changes to the body’s protein structures. It helps with arrhythmia, heart problems and improves the health of blood vessels. It also helps reduce pain and stiffness in patients of rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
Wooden saunas, though big and heavy and occupy space, are actually preferred because of the quality of the built and the safety and durability that just does not come from those cheap saunas you find online.
Saunas that are made of light-colored hardwood resists stains and mildew. It does not have the aroma of other woods but is good for those who have allergies.
Saunas made of cedar are aromatic and last longer than others. They are also resistant to mildew and insects. This makes them a good choice for outdoors. But it is also expensive.
Saunas made of aspen are not very durable or resistant to decay like hemlock and cedar. This is generally used for indoor saunas and has no odor. So, this is also great for those who have allergies.
You need something that meets these criteria and will stay durable and functional without giving you trouble for a long time. The E-2H by Radiant Health is a great choice.
It is a two-person infrared sauna that is less than 16 square feet in size. It is a great fit for your master bath or workout area. It has carbon heating panels and digital controls both in and outside the sauna. It works with a 15-amp, 110v outlet. It comes with color light therapy options and a CD/AM/FM player with MP3/iPod connection. The speakers are on the ceiling.
This might just be the sauna of your dreams.