There is a new contender in the sauna and steam scene, and it is taking everyone by storm.
We are talking about infrared saunas.
Infrared saunas aren't exactly new.
The first full-fledged infrared sauna became available in the United States in 1979.
If anything, in the last 40 years, there have only been tweaks to the system. These tweaks have allowed for a more comfortable and safe way to sweat.
And these tweaks in technology are what make infrared saunas a true contender for making you sweat.
Infrared saunas use the same principle as any of the other heat therapy.
Nevertheless, instead of relying on the old ways (stones and water), they use heaters to achieve the same effect.
So, traditional saunas use fire to heat the rocks. Then, water is poured over the rocks to create steam, thus heating the cabin's air.
But infrared saunas are different.
They go a step further to provide the same effect as any traditional sauna.
How Do Infrared Saunas Work?
So, how does an infrared sauna work?
Infrared saunas are modern, and thus they have more technologically advanced features.
Rather than producing humidity and steam, infrared saunas focus on the heat.
Instead of heating the air around you like traditional saunas, infrared saunas heat your body directly.
They use infrared rays to penetrate through your body and warm the core of your body.
So, yes, infrared saunas are more effective for heat therapy.
Our sun emits several visible and invisible rays.
One such invisible ray is infrared.
Infrared rays can be broadly categorized into three sections: Near Infrared, Mid Infrared, and Far-Infrared.
Let's take a closer look at these.
Near-Infrared: Most of the sun's infrared spectrum is made of near-infrared rays. As we mentioned earlier, infrared rays heat the body from inside out, and near-infrared rays play an essential role in that process.
Near-infrared rays penetrate the skin up to 5mm. Near-infrared rays have also been studied for their effects on ATP production. ATP stands for Adenosine Triphosphate and plays a vital role in cell functionality.
Some of the benefits of near-infrared rays include:
Mid-Infrared: Mid-infrared wavelength lies at the middle of the spectrum. Our body's water content can absorb mid Infrared wavelengths. It increases circulation through vasodilation (the process of your blood vessels widening), promoting blood flow, elevated heart rate, and improved metabolization.
Mid-infrared light benefits include:
Far-Infrared: Far-infrared is mostly absorbed by the water content in our body. It penetrates 0.1mmm beneath the skin and helps modify your body's protein structure.
Some of the benefits of far infrared light include:
Infrared saunas use these wavelengths to heat your body and provide multiple benefits.
Some saunas only use far infrared, some near-infrared, and some mid-infrared.
There are also full-spectrum infrared saunas in the market that use all the combinations of infrared waves.
With all three wavelengths inside a cabin, you get an elevated sauna experience. All three infrared wavelengths work in sync, amplifying each other's benefits and creating a fantastic detoxification experience for you.
History of Infrared Saunas
Now that we know how infrared saunas work, let's look at their history.
Infrared saunas came into existence after the advent of electricity in the 19th century.
Technically speaking, the idea of infrared saunas only came after the discovery of infrared waves in the 18th century.
Sir William Herschel, a British astronomer, and composer discovered infrared radiations in 1800.
For 100 years, scientists studied infrared waves and their functions.
However, nobody taught of putting infrared waves in a sauna until sauna enthusiasts, Dr. JH Kellog, came along.
Dr. Kellog dedicated his life to studying healing modalities, including regular exercise and sauna therapy.
Dr. Kellog recognized the incredible benefits of saunas and wanted to improve upon the traditional sauna experience.
In an attempt to improve sauna therapy, he invented something that he called "electric light bath."
He first displayed the cabinet at World's Fair in Chicago in 1893.
If you look at the drawings of the electric light bath, you will find many similarities to the modern infrared saunas.
Kellog used bulbs inside the cabin to generate incandescent light, which is rich in near-infrared rays.
The rays penetrated the body and raised the body temperature, creating a similar sauna experience without humidity.
However, saunas with infrared technology came into existence years later.
In the 1960s, NASA was researching far-infrared wavelengths for space programs and discovered how far infrared waves are produced.
In 1965, a Japanese doctor received the first patent for a far infrared sauna.
For the next 14 years, doctors in Japan used far infrared saunas extensively to heal their patients and provide additional health benefits.
In 1979, far infrared saunas were finally released for public use.
In the last 40 years, infrared saunas have seen a lot of modifications and have finally come to become the most effective saunas in the market.
Infrared Saunas vs. Traditional Saunas
When it comes to infrared saunas vs. traditional saunas, the difference lies in the technology and not the effects.
Both infrared and traditional saunas provide you with the same effect, i.e., profuse sweating, increased heart rate, and vasodilation.
To better understand the difference between the two, let's focus on various elements of a sauna:
As mentioned earlier, traditional saunas use fire to heat rocks. The rocks are then poured with water to create steam. This entire process kickstarts your body's natural cooling process, thus making you sweat.
Infrared saunas do not heat the air around you. Infrared penetrates your body and warm up the core of your body directly. When your body gets warm, it starts sweating.
One of the most important differences between infrared saunas and traditional saunas is the way each uses heat.
Traditional saunas are usually higher in humidity due to the amount of steam in the cabin. Steam is advocated to help capitalize on the benefits of heat therapy.
In traditional saunas, temperatures can get as high as 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
Infrared saunas are cooler because they heat the body instead of the air. Usually, infrared saunas run at a temperature between 120 degrees to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Traditional saunas have higher levels of humidity compared to infrared saunas.
Since traditional saunas have to heat water to boiling point, they require more power than infrared saunas.
Infrared saunas only use power to run the heaters, making them much more efficient at energy requirements.
Another major difference between traditional and infrared saunas is the time each needs to heat up your sauna enclosure.
To begin with, you can expect anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes time for a traditional sauna to be warm enough for you to start your sauna session. Meaning, you can't step into your sauna room and start the session before this time.
You see, in a traditional sauna, desirable temperatures are created by warming up sauna rocks. As such, the time needed to heat your sauna will depend on the type of sauna rocks, apart from other factors like the quality of sauna insulation.
On the other hand, an infrared sauna doesn't take more than 10 to 15 minutes to create optimum heat in the sauna enclosure.
Also, unlike the traditional saunas, you need not wait for the sauna room to get warm before you can begin your session. The fact that infrared saunas directly heat your body means you can rather get in no sooner than the sauna heaters indicate the right temperature.
When it comes to an infrared vs. steam sauna conversation, it's important to understand the differences both have in terms of installation.
So let's have a look at how the two saunas differ installation-wise:
Traditional saunas call for professional installation
Traditional saunas are a complex lot to build. And even though prefabricated versions of these saunas are available, they're still not simple to install.
From proper drainage and ventilation systems to error-free electrical and plumbing systems, there's a lot you've to figure out.
So the best way you can ensure the right installation is by hiring a sauna professional. And the cost of installation labor is sure to increase the total cost of the sauna.
Thus, it isn't surprising that installing a traditional sauna turns out to be way more expensive than its infrared counterparts.
Infrared saunas offer DIY-friendly installation
Unlike traditional sauna models, installing an infrared sauna is easy. So much so that you can complete a DIY infrared sauna installation within a few hours.
Sounds awesome, doesn't it?
Most infrared saunas on the market are prefabricated and portable units, meaning you need not build one from scratch.
And notwithstanding the size of the infrared sauna, you can assemble one in your home effortlessly; all you'll need are some sauna parts and a person to assist you.
Cost of sauna
The cost of traditional steam vs. infrared sauna isn't the same. In fact, when it comes to buying a traditional steam sauna, you can expect to pay almost double that of an infrared sauna.
Let's see how exactly the sauna prices differ:
Wondering why the difference in price?
To begin with, traditional saunas need a lot more components than infrared, along with a precise installation by a seasoned sauna expert. And that means there are limitations to prefabricating these saunas in a factory since an element of custom on-site building is always involved.
But that's not the case with infrared saunas, as the only main component they have are the infrared heaters.
What about the cost of running both saunas?
In terms of running costs, an infrared sauna is more budget-friendly compared to traditional steam saunas.
Here's a running cost comparison to better understand:
The difference in running costs for both saunas comes from the different heating methods.
Infrared saunas don't warm the entire sauna room and rather directly heat your body via infrared rays, thus resulting in reduced energy consumption.
On the other hand, a traditional sauna heater needs to first heat the sauna enclosure before you can start the session. Also, it needs to maintain the temperature throughout your session. So, with more intensive use of the heater, utility bills are sure to increase.
Which of the saunas should you buy?
As you can see, both traditional and infrared saunas have different costs. And that isn't just limited to the upfront investment, as running costs are different too.
So, choosing between the two should depend on your priorities and budget.
If you're looking for a custom-made personal spa with the feel of a classic sauna, then there's no substitute for traditional steam saunas.
However, if you want to create a cost-efficient sauna space, we suggest you go for infrared saunas.
Maintaining an infrared sauna vs. steam sauna is also quite different, and for obvious reasons.
You see, the basic maintenance requirements in a sauna are meant for protection against mildew and mold.
In that sense, here's how both sauna types are different in terms of maintenance:
The traditional steam saunas, on the contrary, are humid spaces with a lot of moisture. Meaning, these spaces are prone to mold and mildew formation and thus need frequent maintenance and upkeep to ensure basic hygiene and cleanliness.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Infrared Saunas
The advantages of an infrared sauna remain the same as those of traditional saunas. However, infrared saunas are also more convenient, modern, and efficient, which gives them an edge over other types of saunas.
Like any other sauna, infrared saunas help you detoxify, relieve stress and pain, increase metabolism, improve heart health, and enhance the skin.
Regular infrared saunas sessions can also help you relax and sleep better.
While there are many benefits of using an infrared sauna, there are also a few drawbacks.
For starters, infrared saunas can be too dry for some people and cause dehydration.
Using saunas can also lower your blood pressure to the point of hypotension, making you dizzy, nauseous, fatigued, depressed, and even make you lose your consciousness.
Moreover, if you are a pregnant woman or have consumed alcohol recently, you should avoid using an infrared sauna or any other sauna.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Saunas Advantages:
Which One is Better For You?
Regardless of the sauna you use, you can reap a range of benefits that come with heat therapy.
There aren't many differences between an infrared sauna and a traditional sauna, except how they work.
We have already mentioned that infrared saunas use heaters instead of rocks and water, making them a more convenient option.
Moreover, infrared saunas heat your body directly, which is more energy efficient.
Infrared saunas are also easy to install compared to traditional saunas.
You can plug it into a socket and get sweating in no time.
A sauna can be a great addition to your house if you are looking to improve your health without partaking in rigorous exercise.
Now, the question of which sauna is right for you comes down to your preference.
So, research a little, look through your options, and then make the decision.
Infrared vs. Traditional Sauna: FAQs
Are infrared saunas safe to use?
Numerous studies conducted over the past years have shown that there are no health risks associated with an infrared sauna.
So, you can have frequent infrared sauna sessions worry-free of any potential harm or health implications.
Do you get tanned in an infrared sauna?
While extensive sunbathing can get you tanned, that's not the case with infrared saunas.
So be it a near, mid, or far infrared sauna, tanning isn't an issue in any of them.
We hope this article helped you better understand infrared saunas and how they differ from traditional saunas.
If you are looking to install a sauna or a steam room in your house, reach out to us, and we will provide you with the best sauna/steam room experience.
We have been designing and developing high-quality, customized saunas and steam rooms for our clients for 17 years.
We are the expert at steam rooms and saunas in South Florida because we have worked with celebrities, designers, and developers to modify and design highly customized and feature-full sauna solutions.
We also offer ADA compliance services to help you develop unique solutions for your sauna and steam room spaces to minimize installation challenges.
What's more? We can guide you to choose the best sauna and steam room solution for your particular needs, right from the materials to the finish.