As a manufacturer of traditional saunas, we get a lot of inquiries about Infrared saunas, and the difference between the two types. The difference between an infrared sauna and a traditional sauna could be compared to a microwave and an oven: the primary difference lies in the heating element.
Infrared Sauna: The heating element of an infrared sauna provides a much cooler environment than a traditional gas fired sauna heater. Infrared saunas heat the body through exposure to infrared light. Since exposure is necessary to feel heat, these units need to be much smaller to be effective. Typically infrared saunas are very small only fitting one or two people. The temperature felt in these saunas hovers around 120 degrees. Exposure to the infrared waves is required for sweating, and it takes about 15-20 minutes in users will be hot enough to perspire.
Traditional Saunas: Traditional saunas have a gas or electric heater. This heater brings up the temperature of the room to 180-195 degrees, much higher than an infrared sauna unit. When you enter a traditional sauna, you enter a very hot, dry environment. Exposure to this environment causes perspiration. Because the room reaches such high temperatures these saunas can be much larger and remain effective when compared to an infrared system. Traditional sauna heaters heat a rock tray to generate heat, giving you the functionality to splash water on the rocks and create a large burst of steam, intensifying the feeling of the heat. This effect is not possible with an infrared heating element because it isn’t hot on contact.