Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna

The differences between a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna

Many people are more familiar with a traditional steam sauna. After all, they've been around for centuries. But if you want to compare infrared saunas vs traditional saunas, you'll find that there are a lot more differences than similarities between the two.

 Infrared saunas are relatively new, and they are rapidly gaining in popularity among home users as well as medical professionals. But what are the differences between the two? Both offer health benefits, as well as sharing many similarities. However, when looked at side-by-side, you'll find that there are far more differences.

To begin with, an infrared sauna uses a completely different method of heating the body than a traditional sauna. A traditional sauna uses high temperatures to warm the air. The user's body is heated by the surrounding air within the sauna, warming only the surface of the skin. An infrared sauna uses invisible infrared light to warm the body directly. These light rays can penetrate and deeply warm the body's tissues to a depth of over 1 1/2 inches without the need to heat the air.

Let's compare the infrared sauna vs traditional sauna and take a closer look at some of the other differences that separate the two:

Infrared vs Traditional

Warm-up Time

Both the Traditional and Infrared saunas have a variety of factors that will impact the time it takes to warm-up the sauna. Including the temperature of the surrounding air of where the sauna is located, and the construction quality of the sauna itself.

Traditional Sauna - It's best to allow 30 to 40 minutes for warm-up.

Infrared Sauna - The temperature of the ambient air surrounding the sauna will have a big impact on the warm-up time, however, it can be as short as 15 minutes.

It's not necessary to wait until the sauna is fully heated to begin experiencing the benefits from the infrared waves. The minute the unit is turned on, the heaters begin to emit infrared energy.

Energy Usage

Neither unit will increase the household utility bills to any significant level. The infrared sauna is a little more economical to run, but neither uses a significant amount of electricity

Heater Function

Traditional Sauna - After the sauna warms up, the heaters will cycle on and off helping the rocks maintain the desired temperature. As a rule of thumb, the heaters will operate about 50% of the time after warm-up.

Since the focus of a traditional sauna is high heat, as long as the sauna maintains the proper temperature, it doesn't matter if the heater is running to take advantage of the health benefits.

Infrared Sauna - The goal of an infrared sauna is to keep the heaters on and running as much as possible. This keeps a continuous flow of infrared rays during the user's sauna session.

Traditional vs Infrared Sauna

Heat Type

Traditional Sauna - Uses an indirect means of heat. First, the air is heated, then as the air comes into contact with the skin, the user experiences a heating effect.

When the temperature of the air increases, your body temperature increases as well. When your body's temperature increases, it begins to cool itself by moving blood closer to the skin, as well as beginning to perspire.

The temperature and humidity of the sauna are controlled by adding water to the rocks.

The temperature ranges between 150 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, with the goal being to achieve a high temperature for as long as possible.

Infrared Sauna - Uses infrared radiant energy to directly warm the skin, regardless of the air temperature.

Has the ability to penetrate the body's tissues to a depth of over 1 1/2 inches.

An infrared sauna does not need to be as warm as a traditional sauna because the infrared rays are able to travel deep into the body's tissues. Resulting in triggering the body's cooling mechanism, even at lower temperatures.

Because of the lower temperatures, users will often spend more time inside the sauna, and as a result, they will experience even greater health benefits.

The temperature ranges between 120 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, with the goal being to keep the heaters running continuously. When the heaters are running, infrared energy is being emitted which allows the user to benefit from the deep penetrating infrared heat.

Traditional vs Infrared Sauna
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User Experience

Traditional Sauna - Some people find that a traditional sauna tends to be more of a social experience.

Adding water to the rocks can help moisten the nasal passages.

Essential oils can be added to the water for aromatherapy.

Because of the high heat temperatures, it is not uncommon to feel the intense heat as being very oppressive and difficult to breathe.

Infrared Sauna - Higher end infrared saunas often include additional features such as color light therapy and an audio system.

Our bodies absorb close to 93% of the infrared waves that come in contact with our skin.

Air is easier to breathe due to the lower temperature.

Far-infrared heaters create energy that is nearly identical to the wavelength that our bodies naturally emit

Over 80% of the infrared energy emitted by the heaters is available to be converted to heat within our bodies,  the remaining 20% is left to heat the air. This provides increased health benefits and a more pleasant user experience because of the lower temperatures.