Infrared Sauna Buyers Guide: What To Look For When Buying A Sauna

 Investing in an infrared sauna for your home is an excellent move for your long term health.

The benefits of regular sauna use are profound and well researched (I cover them all here).

But when it comes to buying the right infrared sauna things start getting confusing.

Different heater technologies, multiple timber options, risks with toxins and off-gassing and then there is all the EMF issues.

You have no doubt seen the 'straight from China' saunas and compared them to the well known brands that sell saunas for 4-5x the price.

Are you paying extra for the 'branding'? Don't you just need to sweat inside a sauna? And why do I need infrared anyway?

I know I had all these questions many years ago when I first started looking at infrared saunas.

Fast forward to today and not only do I own multiple saunas, I have also spent far too many hours researching, testing and learning about the in's and out's of infrared saunas.

Below I share all this wisdom with you, hopefully in turn you can make an informed, educated decision when it comes to buying a infrared (IR) sauna.

I cover all aspects of IR sauna's in the article below. As a result it is rather a long article. But if you'd like to skip ahead to see my buyers guide summary checklist, simply scroll to the bottom of this article.

Here I also share with you my personal recommendation for the best IR sauna on the market today.

In the mean time, if you don't have time to read all of this and want me to email you all the key IR sauna buying tips simply enter your email below:

Otherwise are a few things you need to look for when shopping for an IR sauna. I'll be expanding on all of these topics (and much more) in the article below:

  • Wood material - make sure it is made from a natural wood (not a plywood etc) that has a history of being used in saunas.
  • EMF levels - Infrared saunas use panels that convert electricity to IR light. This means non-native electromagnetic fields (which are a stressor on the body) will be emitted. You want a sauna that emits low (or ideally no) EMF levels.
  • Glues - many cheap IR sauna companies use synthetic glues that off gas toxic odours when heated.
  • Size - obviously make sure it's the right size for your location and how many people will be using it, but don't always think bigger is better - as a bigger sauna costs more to run, and may take longer to heat up (plus it will cost more to buy)
  • Warranty, Return Policy & Support - sure a cheap sauna shipped directly from China may save you a few dollars, but what happens if something breaks or you need to return it? Buying local may be a better idea.
  • Technology used - what sort of IR heater technology is used? Is it the best technology for your health?
  • Heater sizes - do the heaters target the key areas of your body (your knees to neck) and are they located so that your body is hit with IR light from the sides, back and front (many don't have front panels, or they use small front panels etc)

Let's begin:

Infrared Sauna vs Dry Saunas and Steam Saunas: What Sauna Type Is The Best?

I have covered this topic in great detail in my article Everything You Need To Know About Infrared Saunas.

But in a nutshell here is what you need to know:

Dry Saunas

Traditional 'dry' saunas have been used for thousands of years, whereas infrared saunas are relatively new, and it's only been the last few decades where they have been marketed to home uses (this is a result of technological advancements and lower manufacturing costs).

The traditional 'dry' sauna uses high air temperatures - upwards of 80 degrees Celsius (175F) with low humidity levels (10-20%). This hot, dry environment causes the skin to sweat at high rates in an attempt to cool the body.

Due to the high heat levels in the sauna, the sauna design and build needs to use quality materials to withstand the heat. Also, given the extreme temperatures in a dry sauna, one can not stay in the sauna for extended periods.

Steam Saunas

Steam saunas also use high air temperatures (but not as high as dry saunas) but they have high humidity levels. This also creates an environment where the body will sweat profusely. 

Due to the high moisture levels in steam saunas, they need to be water tight and internally lined with waterproof materials (such as tiles). Mould and mildrew growth can be a problem and special filters should be installed to ensure the water used in the steam is free from toxins (that can be inhaled when using a steam sauna).

Infrared Sauna

Infrared saunas, often achieve temperatures around 40-60 degrees Celsius (105-140F) combined with lower humidity levels.

They use light in the infrared range (hence the name infrared saunas) to heat the the body. In turn someone inside a infrared sauna will sweat just as much (if not more) than traditional saunas, despite the air temperature being so much lower.

The benefit of this for the home user is that infrared saunas do not need special ventilation for excess heat, nor do they have any issues with moisture build (as they are also low humidity) plus these saunas are much cheaper to build (and thus buy) and finally you can stay inside an infrared sauna for a greater period of time as the air temperature levels aren't as stressful on the body as dry saunas (but you still get the amazing benefits from sweating and heat therapy).

Given these reasons, it is clear why IR saunas are becoming extremely popular with health conscious individuals and those looking for an in-home sauna at a great price.

What I Recommend: Far Infrared Saunas

 

Heater Technology And Heater Positioning

High-quality heaters need to be installed to maximize heat and IR light output.

Many different heater types exist, such as carbon and ceramic heaters. Heaters generate heat by moving electrical currents through materials. Infrared light is emitted when those materials are energized.

The greater the heat buildup, the more you'll sweat inside a sauna. Low-quality heaters will thus counter the entire purpose of why you're buying a sauna in the first place, and are often under-powered. 

Carbon heaters are commonly used for far infrared light (which is the most common wavelength of light used in IR saunas - we'll cover this topic in more detail later in this article).

A high end 'Nano-Carbon' heater panel used in the SunStream Sauna

What's This About 'Nano-Carbon' Heaters?

Nano-carbon heater panels are a more advanced form of panel used. They are designed in a way that the nnEMF output is very low (lower than standard carbon heaters), the panels also emit a wider field of heat - providing greater body coverage of infrared light, and in the case of the nano-carbon heaters used in the SunStream saunas, the panels are free of any toxic VOC's (the manufacturing process of carbon panels does involve various chemicals that can offgas).
For more on Nano-Carbon heaters read 'My Article On SunStream Low EMF Nano-Carbon heaters'

Ceramic heaters and halogen tube heaters are also found in IR saunas. These heaters can emit more shorter wave light (near-infrared) but there are lots of issues with near-infrared light in a sauna (again, I will cover this later).

Some people use incandescent heat bulbs as a heat source, and companies such as SaunaSpace have built products around this heating method. But the downside with using incandescent bulbs is that they throw off a lot of other wavelengths that are not beneficial to the body, they can be expensive to run, and they put out a lot of heat (heating the air more than the body). 

A generic infrared heat lamp

This high heat means you have to remain a safe distance from the light bulb to avoid burning (you can sit within an inch of a carbon heater and not be burnt, this is not possible with a incandescent heat lamp). And because these bulbs are rather bulky, it creates problems with sauna design and size (carbon and ceramic heaters and very thin panels that can be installed on the wall).

 

 

Heater Positioning

Of much greater importance than the technology used in a IR sauna heater is the sizing and positioning of the heaters. 

Positioning determines how much IR heat is actually aimed at your body.

Sue you may find a sauna that emit higher IR energy on a per area basis, but if this heat is not directed to the body, or is blocked by heater covers (covered in the next section) you are wasting money and time.

A quality IR sauna will position their heaters in a way that the maximum amount of light is focused on the most beneficial parts of the body. In this case - the core of the body.

While this criterion may seem common sense-it's not. Some low-quality infrared sauna producers have placed infrared heaters above the head level, falsely assuming that heating the air is the only mechanisms by which infrared saunas have a therapeutic effect.

This is a big mistake and it shows that no serious thought has gone into the sauna design.

Remember that infrared penetrates into your body, and panels that are placed above your head will thus not affect your body through that mechanism. The benefits of infrared require the light to hit the body, not simply heat the air.

Some inferior IR sauna companies will place heaters high in a sauna to generate more heat, which sometimes compensates for lower power output of carbon panels.

In the clip below you can see two 300 watt panels of different sizes and the heat output from each panel. The smaller panel - that only comes up to shoulder height when sitting in the sauna - has a higher infrared light output due to the smaller size. 

Meaning more IR light is going to where it should be - into the body. And less is heating the air.

Super Efficient Infrared Sauna Design - Source SunStream Saunas

 
You'll want heaters that mostly focus emissions on your  body and torso, and surround you by at least 270 degrees. If only your back or the front of your body is heated, the results will be sub-par.

Likewise if the panels are focusing on your extremities or head you will not reap the maximum effects of infrared heat.

Heating your head with lots of infrared heat, moreover, may also be suboptimal for your experience. While your head should not cool down - as is the case in portable sauna designs - it should not be overheated either - this can actually reduce the time you spend in the sauna. 

The top Sauna has heater panels above shoulder height - which leads to an overheated head and wasted energy. The lower sauna has a more efficient panel setup. Both panels use floor heaters and lower leg heaters which is ideal. However neither sauna setup shows a front facing heater panel, meaning the front of the body is not exposed to IR light which is not great.

Ideally a IR sauna will have heater panels on all walls (including the front door) at shoulder height and below. Even better, a sauna should have panels on the floor (shining light onto the bottom of your feet) and at the base of the chair (shining on to the back of your legs).

 

Heater Covers

Another thing to look at when buying a infrared sauna is what (if anything) covers the heater source.

Many IR sauna panels have cloth or even metal covers on the sauna heaters. Ideally this should be avoided. Why?

  1. These cloth covers are often made out of synthetic materials - glues and fibres that may off-gas when exposed to heat.
  2. The covers are going to block some of the infrared light from the panels (remember the focus of a IR sauna is to maximise IR light on the body, not heat the air).
  3. Covers that are permanently fixed to the panel can cause issues with cleaning. This is a big issue for floor heaters that get covered in sweat.

Some companies use a fine mesh cover over their heater panels. This mesh is made out of metal and is used to block EMF electric fields. 

A better designed sauna will be engineered in a way that doesn't emit such fields in the first place, and thus does not require a mesh cover (which is going to absorb some of the IR rays).

Finally, IR saunas use wooden panels or 'guards' so that you don't come into direct contact with the heater panel and potentially burn yourself.

Though these wooden guards are necessary, they still block out some IR light and often the guards have more slats than is practically needed.

You can see how the wood slats block a lot of the IR light from the heaters in the thermal image below:

  

What I Recommend: Carbon Heater Panels (preferably Nano-Carbon) with no cloth or mesh covers and minimal wood covering

 

Wavelengths Emitted: Far, Mid and Near - Why Full Spectrum May Not Be The Best

Note: For a full overview on the differences between far, mid and near infrared light I highly recommend reading my article 'Everything You Need To Know About Infrared Saunas'.

Infrared light can be split into 3 'types' - Far, Mid and Near. Infrared saunas typically emit far infrared (or FIR). This is because FIR is absorbed by the body the best creating the biggest 'sweat effect', and from a technology point of view, far infrared heater panels are the easiest and thus cheapest to make.

When you think of heat, most of this energy is coming from far infrared light. It is the far infrared that makes up bulk of the infrared spectrum.

You can see the wavelength breakdown of near, mid and far infrared in the table below:

Abbreviation Wavelength Frequency
NIR 700 nm – 1400 nm
(0.7 μm – 1.4 μm)
215 THz – 430 THz
MIR 1400 nm – 3000 nm
(1.4 μm – 3 μm)
100 THz – 215 THz
FIR 3000 nm – 1 mm
(3 μm – 1000 μm)
300 GHz – 100 THz

 

Notice how NIR ranges from 0.7um to 1.4um - a range of 0.7um. Compare this to FIR which has a range of 997um.

All of this is why most infrared saunas focus on FIR.

So what about the near and mid infrared?

These are recent additions to infrared saunas and there is a lot of controversy around their effectiveness. Especially as these extra wavelengths are sold as upgrades or at a premium cost (they are typically marketed as 'full spectrum saunas').

It is well know that Near Infrared light - especially around the 850nm wavelength - has tremendous health benefits. In fact I have written an article on the scientifically proven health benefits of NIR here - 36 Powerful Near Infrared & Red Light Benefits.

The fact that there is research showing benefits of NIR light does not necessarily mean a Infrared Sauna is suited to using NIR heater panels.

A few things to keep in mind are:

  1. The studies done on NIR light use very specific wavelengths - not a wide spectrum like would be found in a NIR sauna.
  2. The studies also look only at that particular light wavelength - even if a full spectrum sauna (with NIR light) emits some of that NIR wavelength, it is also emitting a lot of other wavelengths. 
  3. Likewise, the NIR benefits have not being studied on a body that is covered in sweat
  4. Finally the intensity (power level) of the studied NIR wavelengths are often not achieved in a Full spectrum sauna. 

NIR light is more of a 'therapeutic' light, it is only a few nano-meters off visible red light. If a sauna manufacturer had high powered NIR heaters (which would be expensive and difficult to produce) you wouldn't get the same deep tissue absorption benefits that a FIR heater provides.

This is why the studies done on NIR light use either lasers or LEDs. And it's why red light therapy panels (that typically use high powered 850nm LEDs) are becoming so popular today.

For more of an overview on the differences between NIR, MIR and FIR light in Infrared Saunas I have referenced parts the excellent work of Kevin Halsey from SunStream Saunas:

Understanding Near Infrared, Mid Infrared and Far Infrared in Sauna Application

In the marketplace there are three different categories of Infrared saunas

  • Far Infrared Saunas (FIR)

  • So called Near Infrared (NIR) Saunas

  • Full Spectrum Saunas

Far Infrared (FIR) Saunas

FIR is absorbed the water content in our skin (1- 4mm depth) and generates heat which is then drawn into deeper levels of our muscles, joints etc. Absorption is the key dynamic to generate heat in your body which, of course, is the primary purpose of a sauna.
All light when it hits an object, such as our body, is either absorbed, reflected or transmitted (passes through). FIR is highly absorbed, has a low reflection rate and a low transmission rate making it the best wavelength for the purposes of heating the human body. All carbon and ceramic based sauna heaters produce most of their energy in the FIR range.

Near Infrared (NIR) Saunas

NIR has a low absorption rate and therefore generates very little heat in our bodies. NIR has a high transmission rate and passes through our tissue where several biochemical reactions occur associated with cellular energy production and healing.

There is decades of research and 1000s of studies published on the therapeutic benefits of NIR and Red light which is known as Photobiomodualtion Therapy (PBMT) or Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) in the medical literature.

All of the PBMT research has used either lasers or LED sources of Red and NIR light emitting single frequencies of these wavelengths. 660nm for visible Red light and 850nm for invisible Near Infrared are the specific frequencies often used in the research. The research has discovered that our cells’ chromophores (light receptors) respond to a high intensity of a single frequency in the mid 600s nm and mid 800nm ranges.

Some sauna companies are promoting Near Infrared for the purpose of a sauna who seem to have a poor understanding of the science of NIR. Again, NIR generates very little heat in our body. Some sauna companies are using incandescent heat lamp bulbs or quartz halogen tube heaters which produce only a small amount of NIR and have very very hot filaments.

Neither of these incandenscent devices emit their NIR at single frequency as has been done with the LEDs or lasers in all of the PBMT/LLLT medical research.

Full Spectrum Sauna (RED, NIR, MIR, FIR)

Some companies, are advertising 'full spectrum' saunas that incorporate invisible Near Infrared light and visible Red light and Mid Infrared light into their Far Infrared saunas.

Mid Infrared (MIR) is not well studied. Outside of the advertising from certain ‘full spectrum’ sauna companies we have been unable to find any information indicating particular benefits of MIR which makes up a very small portion of the light spectrum (only 1.4- 3.0 microns). Mid Infrared is likely absorbed by the water content in our skin as is Far Infrared and can add to the heating effect of the sauna.

The benefits of NIR and Red light are entirely dependent upon the proximity of the user to the light source to receive an adequate intensity of light energy.
Unfortunately, the full spectrum saunas on the market DO NOT provide adequate levels of NIR in close enough proximity to the user's body to deliver therapeutic levels of the light.

As mentioned, some sauna companies are recommending the use of common Near Infrared heat lamps (Home Depot etc) for NIR therapy purposes. These heat lamps are extremely hot and it is impossible to place your skin close enough to the bulbs to receive therapeutic levels of NIR.

The same is true of the quartz halogen tube heaters used in some full spectrum saunas. Both of these devices emit over a wide range of frequencies covering visible light, Near, Mid, and Far Infrared. They do not emit a high level of Red or NIR energy at a single frequency as the medical research has determined to be necessary to stimulate our cells’ light receptors

LEDs, on the other hand, DO NOT emit dangerous levels of heat and can be close to or even directly on your skin to ensure that therapeutic levels of the NIR light are transmitted into our tissue.

Some full spectrum sauna designs do mount small panels of LEDs on the wall of the sauna. These designs have very limited effect as it is unlikely that the user will be able to position the desired body part close enough to the wall mounted LEDs to receive adequate light energy. 

 

Why NIR In A Sauna Is A Waste Of Time (And Potentially A Bad Idea)

Knowing this, it is clear that the 'NIR light in a Full Spectrum Sauna' is a marketing gimmick.

The NIR - especially at the small ~850nm wavelength - is not going to create a sweat effect in the body, nor is the power intensity (irradiance) going to be high enough to match the scientifically proven levels. And if it does, you may have to be extremely close to the light source (i.e. a bulb or halogen tube) which may be unsafe (due to risk of burning or nnEMF levels).

Kevin explains more about this below:

Light disperses over distance and it is essentially impossible to be close enough to these lamps or tubes, due to their extremely hot surface temperatures, to receive an adequate level of NIR energy. Lasers and LEDs on the other hand are capable of producing the single frequency wavelengths for therapy and can be comfortably positioned close enough to the body, even pressed right into our skin, to ensure the delivery of therapeutic levels of light energy.

Using Near Infrared in a Far Infrared sauna may help one save some time by combining these 2 different therapies together however it is not the ideal situation for administering light therapy. Near Infrared will transmit through our tissue best when we are at normal temperature rather than when we are heated up in the sauna and when our skin is not covered in a layer sweat.

Therefore a “Near Infrared Sauna” is a contradiction of terms. The primary function of a sauna is to generate heat in your body to raise your core temperature, boost your immune system and induce a heavy sweat. Near Infrared generates very little heat in your body as it passes through our tissue and does not serve the hyperthermic purpose of sauna.

Also I recommend checking out this conversation between Dr Mercola and Wendy Myers (From 12:30mins through to 20mins). 

In the interview Mercola states that incandescent heat bulbs emit 90% FIR & the small amount of NIR that is emitted you can't actually absorb. This is because of the sheer heat that is being emitted.

Wendy talks about the fact that if you want a therapeutic dose of NIR then you need an LED device like the PlatinumLED BioMax or the Evolve Light Therapy NIR Device.

The Dangers of NIR From Non-LED Sources:

Not only are NIR panels in a sauna a waste of time, they could in fact be dangerous to the skin and body.

I highly recommend reading the following three articles for more on this topic:

I have pasted a key summary from one of these articles below:

Apart from the direct danger of contact with the hot emitter itself, high-intensity shortwave infrared radiation (NIR) may cause thermal burns if the skin receives too much exposure for too long or the heater unit is positioned too close to the target. These ageing effects are known from Bakers arms and faces of glass blowers (Cho et al 2009). Eye damage can occur over a long period of time so goggles or time limits are recommended (Voke 1999). Near IR is responsible for photoaging of the skin (Schroeder et al. 2008), where IR-A exposure induces similar biological effects to UV light (Schroeder et al 2009). Therefore if possible, IRB and IR-C should be used as alternatives which don’t have these harmful effects.

It is important to note that these issues are produced from the incandesent bulbs and quartz halogen tube heaters that are used for NIR - not LEDs or Lasers.

Unfortunatley these bulbs and halogen heaters are what are commonly used in 'full spectrum' infrared saunas. 

 

How To Reap The Benefits of NIR

But what if you want to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of NIR?

Simple - purchase a NIR panel that uses LEDs and emits light at high power levels at the particular wavelengths that have been scientifically validated (i.e. 850nm). 

Such a device will not emit high heat and thus is safe for use in close proximity.

I personally use a PlatinumLED BioMax red light panel that shines both 660nm Red Light and 850nm NIR light (though can you select which light is operating). Be sure to use discount code ALEX to save on these panels.

But what about the FIR light? Easy - get a quality infrared sauna that doesn't' emit any NIR light.

One other solution is to go with SunStream saunas - they sell high quality FIR saunas with no NIR, and you can also purchase a dedicated NIR LED panel that hangs from the outside of the sauna.

The idea is you do your NIR therapeutic treatment whilst the sauna is heating up, then you enter the sauna for your FIR treatment. 

What I Recommend: Don't get sucked in to the marketing hype of 'Full Spectrum' saunas and stick with a Infrared Sauna that only emits Far Infrared. (If you want the benefits of NIR then look at buying a dedicated LED panel)

 

 

Materials Used: Wood & Glues

You may initially think this section is irrelevant when it comes to buying a Infrared Sauna, but it's not. In fact it is extremely important.

Your sauna is a hot place, and the hotter objects become, the more toxins they emit into the air. Of course, the internal structures of infrared saunas become truly hot, and if they contain toxins that's exponentially more dangerous.

Some examples:

  • Flame retardants on a couch? Not that dangerous. But with heating, flame retardants off-gas and will end up in your lungs, wreaking havoc.
  • Wood in your home? Toxin free. But if you start to burn that wood, small particles called "particulate matter" are emitted into the air, which you will breathe in. Declining health (no matter how minute) is the end result.
  • Mercury fillings in your mouth? Problematic, but not nearly as dangerous as heating the mercury to remove it.

The same principle holds true for saunas. If you buy a low-quality sauna - made with cheap materials and toxic glues, you're going to pay the price for inhaling toxins.

Let's explore why toxins you inhale are also exponentially more dangerous than exposure through other means.

Let me give you another analogy:

What causes the best uptake of cannabis, 1) eating it; 2) rubbing it on your skin; 3) smoking it?

The correct answer is option 3 of course...

Many compounds can be taken up directly into the bloodstream after entering your lungs. Buying the cheapest infrared sauna out there can thus expose you to an exponential amount of toxins, because you're breathing them in.

Toxins do thus not belong in a sauna, because you're using a sauna to detoxify. 

Wood

The wood that's used to produce the sauna, such as plywood, can contain certain toxins.

One such toxin is "formaldehyde". Formaldehyde has far reaching health consequences, ranging from damage to the nervous system (and brain specifically), increasing cancer risk, lowering reproductive fitness, causing birth defects, and impairing learning and memory.

Formaldehyde is a "VOC", or "Volatile Organic Compound" - an airborne toxin. 

Some sauna companies use particle board as opposed to plywood to construct their saunas. Neither are great options, because the former option also contains formaldehyde.

Solution?

You'll want high-quality wood integrated into your sauna. Cedar, hemlock or basswood are examples of solid woods not made up of recycled sources such as plywood.

Hemlock is amazing as a sauna building material - and is the hardest material of the three, and thus most resistant to damage. Some sauna manufacturers are transitioning to using hemlock. 

Cedar often wins out in the aesthetics department though. But it is one of the most for allergens.

This from the wood database:

Western Redcedar has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, as well as runny nose, asthma-like symptoms, and nervous system effects.

Hemlock is also not great on the allergen front:

Hemlock has been reported to cause skin and respiratory irritation, as well as runny nose (Wood Database).

Basswood on the other hand has zero health reactions.

Given you will be directly exposing your skin to the wood and breathing in the smells from the timber I a high heat, enclosed space, basswood saunas may be the preferred option for allergy suffers.

 The bottom line is this: always opt for solid wood. That wood should have additional criteria though:

Many saunas also contain resins which can off gas during use. Woods should be dried to remove resins and oils before they can be properly used. 

Sauna manufacturers should thus go through a process to remove oils so that they don't off gas during sauna usage. 

Also - even if a sauna looks like it is made from a quality wood, be sure to check underneath and on top of the sauna. Some of the most popular saunas on the market use cheap particle board on the top of the sauna and in other places where you don't see it.

 

Glues

Glues that are used in the construction of a sauna are also dangerous and off gas.

You probably know that glues are used as a drug by some people, specifically through inhalation. 

If you're in a heated infrared sauna, and glues off gas into the air, you'll get the same effect. Of course the dosages from off gassing are lower than with drug use, but the principle is the same.

Exposure time to glues in a sauna is also a lot longer than during drug use.

Sauna constructions that use lots of individual wood parts that need to be glued together endanger your health. You'll be adding toxins during your sauna sessions instead of removing them.

Glue also contains VOCs (yet again). If you want to read more on VOC, consider my blog post on air pollution, which specifically ventures into that topic.

High quality saunas - and the one's I'll be recommending to you - use more solid construction types, such as using bolts or interlocking joins instead of glue.

  

What I Recommend: Ensure the Sauna is made exclusively from a quality timber (Basswood is the best) and doesn't have any particle board or toxic glues that can offgas when using the sauna

 

 

EMF Fields: Make Sure You're Not Sitting Inside A Microwave

Heaters and electrical cording needs to emit low to non-existent levels of non-native electromagnetic frequencies (nnEMF), also at the extremely low frequency (ELF) domain.

Heaters are main sources of electromagnetic frequencies. 

Wires towards the heaters are main sources of extremely low frequency electromagnetic frequencies, or "ELF". ELF Is more commonly known as "dirty electricity".

Wires can be shielded, for example, to lower ELF exposure. The problems is that many sauna manufacturers skip these steps to ensure low ELF exposure, in part because they're even harder to measure than regular higher-frequency electromagnetic frequencies.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has recently found that EMF exposure is linked to cancer. For decades that connection was ridiculed and/or ignored, especially by insiders of the technology industry who rely on the sales of devices such as cell phones or electrical equipment.

The story gets worse though: the studies investigating the negative health effects of such devices used intensities of 2g and 3g networks: the world is now using the much stronger 4g and 5g networks.

Bottom line: non-native (i.e. not naturally present in nature) electromagnetic frequencies are not as safe as commonly presupposed.

EMFs are expected to have far-reaching health consequences, such as nervous system issues (e.g. depression; headaches), autoimmune disease (in which the body's immune system attack the body's own cells), energy problems (e.g. chronic fatigue), accelerated aging, and more.

Lots of individual online test for both the DC and AC non-native EMF. AC currents are generally more dangerous, but generally not found in high quantities in quality infrared saunas. 

The most important consideration is that the benefits of saunas - even with some DC nnEMF exposure - far outweigh the harm done by the type of nnEMF emitted by these saunas.

Also keep in mind that most EMF claims sauna companies make are false. Even third-party testing can be misleading or dangerous. 

Third party claims can be deceptive because 1) panels are not tested under max heat; 2) fraudulent companies that use incorrect EMF testing methods, such as testing a single panel; 3) third party testing companies use poor quality EMF meters; 

The best way to determine the nnEMF levels of a sauna is to use a EMF Meter (I like the Cornet ED88T meter) and to test the heaters and wiring yourself.

I know this is not practical for most people, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter and youtube channel as I plan on doing this test myself!

Bluetooth 

Many sauna companies include inbuilt speakers that you can connect to via Bluetooth.

This is definitely a great marketing feature and I'm certain many people are attracted to this.

But if you are super serious about your health and keen to minimise all nnEMF then this is going to be another EMF exposure.

Fortunatley, sauna companies are aware that some customers want to minimise their raditation exposure when in a sauna and have thus offered ways to disable the Bluetooth.

If this is important to you, be sure to ask the company before buying a infrared sauna.

Also, ask if the speakers can still be used (using a plug in cord) if the bluetooth is disabled.

The Clearlight saunas allow you to disable the bluetooth (by pulling out a chip) but unfortunatley this disables the speaker system all together.

Sunstream Saunas allow you to disable the bluetooth and still use a hardwired cable to utilise the inbuilt speakers.

What I Recommend: Make sure you aren't getting a sauna with high EMF levels. And don't just take the companies word for it, do some research and ideally your own testing (if this isn't possible, subscribe to my youtube channel as I will be testing them myself)

  

Size, Warmup Time And Running Costs

Size

People are usually constrained by two factors when it comes to size:

  1. Space for the sauna - i.e. how much room you have to install the sauna
  2. Budget

Typically the customer will buy the biggest sauna that meets their constraints.

So if they have an unlimited budget and an entire room to install their sauna, they may go with a huge 4 or 5 seater sauna.

But bigger is not always better when it comes to saunas.

Here's why:

  • Some extra large saunas may require an electrician to ensure your home wiring can handle the large power load.
  • Large saunas use a lot more electricity (making them more expensive to run)
  • Large saunas can also take longer to heat up

Personally, the biggest factor I look at when making a sauna purchase is 'how many people will be using it'.

My wife and I rarely sauna together (in all the years I've had infrared saunas I think there has been one time we were both in it together). Instead she typically does a session, gets out and then I get in and do a session.

Given this, a 4 man sauna would be overkill for our needs. 

Laying Down Or Sitting Up? One Is Much Better Than The Other

The other thing to think about is whether you want to lay down or put your feet up whilst in the sauna. Neither of these options are possible in a 1 man sauna, typically you would be looking at a 3 man sauna if you want to lay down.

I used to tell my clients and readers that if budget and space weren't an issue, go with a 3 man sauna.

With a 3 man sauna you can lay down on your back (though your feet will have to be up on the end wall).

And if there are two of you in the sauna there is enough space so that you're not sweating all over each other.

But the downside with a 3 man sauna is typically the price is a lot higher than a 2 man, and it also has a much larger foot print and power consumption.

Finally, I know longer recommend laying down in a infrared sauna. Why? If you look at where the heaters are located in a sauna, you will notice that they are designed for the user to be sitting on the bench. 

By laying down you don't get any light on your back or buttocks. Nor do you get any light on your stomach.

Instead it is all directed to the top and side of your head (not great), the side of your stomach, and maybe your legs.

And if there is no front panels on the sauna (as is the case in a lot of saunas) then you're only getting light exposure on one side of your body.

This is why I know recommend sitting up in a infrared saunas for the best effect.

2 Man Sauna - All You Really Need?

Given this, if you plan on using the sauna yourself most of the time, a 2 man sauna is probably all you need.

Even better, it's going to be much cheaper, it will be easier to install, cheaper to run, quicker to heat up and if you ever want to move it it's not a big job.

And should a buddy turn up and you want to do a session together, then you still can get the two of you inside. 

The other thing to look for is whether the sauna comes with a foot stool (or whether you can use your own foot stool).

My SunStream 2man sauna (read my review HERE) came with a wooden stool, this allows me to put my feet up and sit across the bench giving me a more relaxed seating position whilst still getting maximum panel exposure.

 Putting my 'feet up' in the 2 man Sunstream Evolve Sauna. Read my full review HERE.

Before you rush out and get the biggest sauna you can afford, have a think about all these things, in particular how many people will be using the sauna. You may save yourself a few dollars!

What I Recommend: Don't necessarily get the biggest sauna you can afford. Get a Sauna that is going to maximise your health without blowing the budget (remember, bigger saunas cost more to run!)

 

 

 

 

Price, Shipping & Warranty

Price

Like many things in life, you get wait you pay for. Sure you may find a cheap 'direct from China' infrared sauna online. But chances are it's going to be a EMF hell hole, use horrible glues and woods, be poorly designed and the support and warranty may leave you out in the dark.

If you are serious about your health, then buy a well designed, high quality sauna from a reputable company.

I am personally a big fan of quality over quantity. I would rather buy a well built, high quality 2 man sauna than dodgy 3 man sauna for the same price.

Shipping

Most sauna companies offer a flat rate shipping or even free shipping ( I know if you mention my name - Alex Fergus - when buying a sauna from the big sauna companies, they usually throw in free shipping and other perks).

But make sure you check the shipping costs before locking in a purchase. Saunas are big, bulky items, and though they usually come in flat pack boxes, there can still be a heft freight bill if you have to pay it.

Warranty

This ties in with price. A company selling premium products will happily stand by their sauna. 

Sure a cheap sauna shipped directly from China may save you a few dollars, but what happens if something breaks or you need to return it? Buying local may be a better idea.

At a minimum make sure the company offers a 5 year warranty. Though 10 or every lifetime warranties are provided by some of the top infrared sauna companies.

What I Recommend: You get what you pay for. Don't skimp on quality to save a few dollars. Get a sauna that is going to be healthy for you and not cause problems down the road. Even if it is a slightly smaller sauna.

 

 

Other Features & Extras

The infrared market is very competitive. One way companies try and stand out from the crowd is by including 'extra features'.

These may be features such as built in stereos, ionizers, chromotherapy or even extra accessories to make your sauna experience more pleasant.

Most of these things you don't need, and often the extra value cannot be justified. But let's go through a couple of the common ones:

Light Therapy

We know that light therapy works (I cover the benefits HERE). But the LED's used in Sauna light therapy systems are too low powered to offer any health benefit.

Skip this and spend your money on a purpose built red light therapy panel instead.

Chromotherapy

I don't know enough about this to comment. But generally these are simply coloured LEDs that are included for free (they would cost very little to manufacture).

Very rarely do I use this feature, unless I want a nice warm light to help me relax as I reduce my blue light exposure. 

One concern I have with these LEDs though is that they seem to produce a lot of flicker, which is another stress on the body. 

Ionizers

I haven't explored the research on this, but some health experts I trust tell me to avoid ionizers. Do you own research before spending extra on such a feature.

Personally I brought my sauna to use as a sauna and only a sauna.

Stereos/Speaker Systems

This seems to be standard in all saunas these days. Just make sure you can still use it if you disable bluetooth.

Accessories

Many companies will often sell additional 'accessories' with your sauna purchase. Whether you want these accessories depend on how you plan on using the sauna.

Please note that if you are purchasing a Sunlighten, Clearlight or Sunstream sauna, be sure to mention my name and you should get some of these accessories thrown in for free.

Alternatively, if you are good at negotiating, you may be able to get some of these accessories thrown in as part of the deal.

If there is one accessory that I do recommend buying as an optional extra, that would be the back rest. I found it to be extremely useful when using my sauna. 

Sunstream, however, include a lot of useful accessories for free as standard.

With your Sunstream sauna purchase you also get a :

  • L moveable foot bench,
  • Back rest
  • Cup Holder and aromatherapy wall unit,
  • Sun Stream towel,
  • Dry skin lymphatic brush and a sauna hat

 

What I Recommend: Most addons are marketing gimmicks, but some sauna accessories can be useful. If the Sauna company doesn't include them for free try mention my name and they may sweeten the deal!

  

Infrared Sauna Buyers Checklist

So that was a lot to take in.

If you're looking for a quick overview of what to look for when buying a infrared sauna, hopefully this summary  section will help:

  1. Infrared Sauna vs Dry & Steam Saunas - Far Infrared Saunas
  2. Heater panel types - Carbon Heater Panels (preferably Nano-Carbon) with no cloth or mesh covers and minimal wood covering
  3. Wavelengths Emitted - Don't get sucked in to the marketing hype of 'Full Spectrum' saunas and stick with a Infrared Sauna that only emits Far Infrared. (If you want the benefits of NIR then look at buying a dedicated LED panel)
  4. Materials Used - Ensure the Sauna is made exclusively from a quality timber (Basswood is the best) and doesn't have any particle board or toxic glues that can offgas when using the sauna.
  5. EMF exposure - Make sure you aren't getting a sauna with high EMF and ELF levels. And don't just take the companies word for it, do some research and ideally your own testing (if this isn't possible, subscribe to my youtube channel as I will be testing them myself)
  6. Size - Don't necessarily get the biggest sauna you can afford. Get a Sauna that is going to maximise your health without blowing the budget (remember, bigger saunas cost more to run!)
  7. Price & Warranty - You get what you pay for. Don't skimp on quality to save a few dollars. Get a sauna that is going to be healthy for you and not cause problems down the road. Even if it is a slightly smaller sauna.
  8. Other Features & Extras - Most addons are marketing gimmicks, but some sauna accessories can be useful. If the Sauna company doesn't include them for free try mention my name and they may sweeten the deal!

 

My Personal Recommendation (And What I Currently Use)

At the time of writing my infrared Sauna of choice is the SunStream Evolve 20 (the Evolve 25 is also another great option).

The SunStream Evolve 20 that I use and now recommend

I like this sauna due to it's:

  • ultra low EMF & ELF levels
  • non-toxic Basswood timber (with no particle board)
  • non-toxic glues
  • lifetime warranty
  • all the free accessories that come with the sauna (backrest, cup holder, foot bench etc)
  • ability to disable bluetooth but still use the stereo
  • no (potentially dangerous) NIR 
  • optimal heater placement (maximising core body exposure)
  • foot stool that allows me to 'put my feet up' despite being in a 2 man sauna
  • front heater panel for full body treatment
  • floor heater panel for foot treatment
  • detachable wooden slats (for easy cleaning and more FIR exposure)
  • no cloth or metal mesh covers on the heater panels
  • ability to addon the LED NIR panel to the outside of the sauna. 

5 years ago I started researching infrared saunas. I actually ended up purchasing a ClearLight Premier IS-3 sauna. 

Based on my research at the time I believed this to be the best sauna for my hard earned money.

Fast forward a few years and I stumble upon SunStream saunas (I actually found one of their articles while doing some research for my Red Light Therapy articles).

Soon I learnt that there was so much more to infrared saunas than I had currently believed and in turn I was very impressed with the Evolve IR saunas that this company had put together.

So I ended up getting one and have had no regrets. 

Clearlight vs SunStream

In fact, I still have my Clearlight 3 man sauna sitting right next to my Sunstream 2 man sauna! Which one do I use when I want to do a sauna session? You guessed it - the SunStream sauna!

I should mention that I still think the Clearlight is a good sauna, it's just that the SunStream sauna range is better.

I am also now affiliated with both of these companies. So if you decide to purchase a SunStream or a Clearlight sauna, be sure to tell them Alex Fergus sent you, and you will get a really good deal.

And for those wanting to see a review of my SunStream Evolve Infrared sauna you can read it HERE. If you want to see a head to head comparision between the two saunas I have be sure to subscribe to my newsletter and keep an eye on my Youtube channel!

Otherwise check out my 

If you are needing some personal advice on buying the best infrared sauna for your needs, be sure to sign up to my newsletter list and send me an email with any questions.

Alternatively, you can learn more about SunStream saunas through the following websites:

 

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