Infrared Sauna Heater Types

Matt Justice

Whether it is for home use or a gym or spa, the best type of infrared sauna is the one that gives you maximum health benefits and does not slyly cause damage. To get that outcome, you must really know how to read the features or technical specifications of a sauna. That requires a little understanding of how a sauna works and what each of the parts does. Without further delay, let’s jump right into it.

Heat Panels

Infrared saunas are powered by the infrared radiation of the light spectrum. So the heating system is based on light. In traditional saunas, the air in the sauna is heated and that warms your body and causes you to sweat. In an infrared sauna, the lamps which use electromagnetic fields (EMF) warm your body directly.

They easily penetrate the tissue of the human body and are able to warm you up at a lesser heat range. That is why infrared saunas can operate at temperatures as low as 120 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit whereas a traditional sauna needs to be heated up from 150 degrees Fahrenheit to 180 degrees Fahrenheit for the same result.

Now, several manufacturers claim that in IR saunas only 20 percent of the heat escapes into the air. This means, most of the heat generated by the lamps or heat panels heats the body instead of getting wasted. They also say this heat goes more deeply under your skin than the warm air of a traditional sauna. This also makes the environment inside the sauna a lot more tolerable.

So how is this done? These heat panels are typically made of two materials: carbon and ceramic. So you will find IR saunas in ceramic, carbon or a mix of the two materials. But you must decide which is best for you.

Carbon Panels

These heating panels are made of thin carbon plates and have an even distribution area. This means, you don’t have to constantly adjust your body towards the panels. Instead, you can sit down and relax in the sauna (you know, the thing that you came in to do) while the well-placed panels do their job. They are made by sealing carbon ink between two fiberglass sheets and the whole thing is then sealed so that no gases are eliminated. So they don’t actually use any glues or plastics that might emit toxic gases at such high temperatures.

Carbon panels have a low surface temperature when compared to ceramic heaters which makes them safer and allows you to stay in for a lot longer than saunas made of ceramic heaters. That is why carbon fiber panels are also more energy efficient than their ceramic counterparts. While that is great, try not to stay in there for more than 20 minutes. That can lead to dehydration and nausea. If you are a beginner, you might want to take it a notch down and start with five to ten minutes till you can build the capacity for a 20-minute session. The temperature control is good for another reason. Typically, humans sweat quite well in temperatures around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. For health reasons, you might want to keep it at the limit.

Carbon heaters penetrate deeper into the tissue and give you the full health and healing benefits of an IR sauna session. They also have a low surface temperature which means you don’t have to worry about getting too close to the heating panel and injure yourself. That is not the case with ceramic heaters. Even the emission of infrared radiation, which powers the heat panels, is lower and hence safer with carbon panels.

Regular carbon panels need to be switched off for at least an hour after being used for about 90 minutes. Commercial grade carbon panels, on the other hand, are made to work for a long time, typically from eight to ten hours.

Ceramic Panels

These are hollow rods of about 650 mm in length and 15 mm in diameter. The heating element is wound in a glass tube inside the rod. The tube is heated and it emits far-infrared radiation. The tubes are located in such a way that heat is distributed well. But ceramic heaters don’t do as well as carbon heaters. That is because ceramic heaters create hotspots of warmth. This means there will be areas in your sauna, further away from the panels, that will turn into cold spots. That does not work as well.

Unlike carbon heaters, ceramic panels do not have a long life expectancy since they are older technology. It also takes them longer to reach optimal usability. So you will end up having to keep them on for a while before you hit the sweet spot. It also means they will get brittle and crack over a period of time.

They are easier and cheaper to replace compared to carbon panels. But you must hope not to get there.

Carbon/Ceramic Mix

Most manufacturers who go down this path claim that they have brought the best of both worlds together for you. And that makes sense too, right? Some claim that tests have shown that a blend has decreased emissivity because of ceramic’s high surface temperature.

Our Recommendation

So if you have to pick one, and you usually do, you should go with carbon to reap the full scale of health benefits. And if you get it right, infrared or traditional saunas, you will be able to get better sleep, you will be relaxed, you will get relief for sore muscles.

Apart from that, those who have arthritis have said to get relief from joint pains. Sauna sessions are said to give you clearer and tighter skin. In fact, it is said to have given relief to some who suffer from psoriasis. But if you have atopic dermatitis, your condition may worsen. Saunas also improve blood circulation in the body and help those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. Stepping into the sauna regularly is also said to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular incidents.

But make sure you are sober, hydrated and have consulted your physician before doing this. The advice is particularly applicable to pregnant women and those with prior health conditions. If that is not applicable to you, good luck and enjoy it!

About Matt Justice

Read Matt Justice sauna reviews, health story, and more here on - You can find the recommended sauna detox binders here on Amazon.

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