Infrared vs Traditional Saunas


Traditional saunas provide a high heat, low humidity environment. Temperatures range between 80° C to 90°C (185° F to 195° F). Water can be splashed over the heater rocks to create a blast of hyper steam and intensify the feeling of heat. For those who enjoy this experience, there is nothing in the world quite like it.

Infrared saunas provide a milder environment than the traditional saunas. Infrared rays primarily heat the body directly and the air secondarily. For those who enjoy the "heat bath" experience, but cannot take or do not enjoy traditional saunas, infrared is an excellent alternative.

It is important to keep in mind that the experience is not the same. Many people who have experienced and enjoyed traditional saunas inquire about infrared saunas thinking it will be the same. Infrared saunas provide a very enjoyable experience, but are different from a traditional sauna. If you know and love traditional saunas, you should research additional information beyond the claims of infrared vendors.

Below are some of the oft made claims, explained in more detail:

Claim: Infrared saunas heat up in less than 10 minutes. Traditional saunas require 45-90 minutes

Infrared saunas heat to between 120°F to 150°F while Traditional saunas to 195°F. Infrareds heat up in about 10-20 minutes. A traditional sauna, sized properly, will heat a sauna in 20-35 minutes. However, heating up an infrared only provides for that "toasty" feeling. To perspire, you must be exposed to the infrared rays. It generally takes 12-20 minutes of exposure to begin sweating.

Claim: Traditional saunas are expensive to operate

Electrical costs are a direct reflection of heater size and operating time. The average electrical cost is 7 cents per kW hour. A 1.6 kW infrared sauna will cost 5-10 cents per use. A 6 kW traditional sauna will cost 40-50 cents. Most people use their sauna once or twice per week. So while it is true that traditional costs more, in either case costs are measured in pennies, not dollars.

Claim: Infrared saunas assemble in minutes, while traditional saunas take days and require special installation

Infrared saunas come primarily as pre-fabricated panels that snap or screw together. While they are relatively simple to assemble, it is more realistic to assume 1-2 hours for assembly. Traditional saunas are most popularly purchased as do-it yourself kits, which take a few days to install. There are also pre-fab traditional saunas that are built in essentially the same way as infrareds i.e. panels that are simply screwed together. And they too can be assembled in a couple of hours.

Claim: Traditional saunas require special electrical work. Infrared's plug into any outlet

Traditional do require a dedicated breaker. While some smaller infrared saunas can plug into any outlet, many mid-size to larger ones require a dedicated 15 or 20 amp plug - which must also be installed by an electrician.

Claim: Traditional saunas require a lot of maintenance

There is absolutely no difference in the amount of maintenance required. Even a heavily used home sauna requires once or twice a week of maintenance on average. The only maintenance required is to wipe down the walls and benches periodically with a mild solution of water and dish detergent.

Claim: Infrared sauna heat is dry and gentle, where traditional saunas are harsh and claustrophobic

This is really a matter of "to each his own". It is true that traditional saunas are a harsher environment. For many that is the essence of a sauna - extreme heat with blasts of humidity from splashing the rocks. For those sauna purists, there is nothing else. However, for those who seek the benefits of heat therapy, but do not enjoy traditional saunas, infrared's offer a practical and enjoyable alternative.