How to Choose the Best Infrared Sauna for Beginners
Investing in a high-quality infrared sauna is a wise move for your long-term health and overall wellness.
The health benefits of these saunas have been expertly researched and are well-documented. We’ve actually explored these benefits in a previous article titled, “Transform Your Health: Top 6 Infrared Sauna Benefits Explained.”
However, when it comes to selecting the right sauna for your needs, things begin to get confusing.
There are different heating elements and technologies, several wood options, multiple sauna sizes, concerns about potential toxins, among many other factors.
This can make choosing the right infrared sauna tailored for your needs overwhelming, especially if you’re a new to the world of sauna therapy.
Fortunately, we’re here to demystify the sauna selection process and offer guidance for beginners like you to confidently select the best infrared sauna for your specific needs.
As we proceed, you’ll discover:
- Essential features that make a quality infrared sauna
- Why the size of your sauna matters during selection
- The best kinds of wood for your infrared sauna
- Tips to extend the life of your infrared sauna
By keeping these simple beginner tips in mind, you’ll be far ahead in your journey of discovering the ideal infrared sauna to kickstart your wellness journey:
Step 1 - Consider Size and Capacity and Choose the Best-Fitting
It probably goes without saying, but the space you have for the incoming infrared sauna will play a huge role in your selection.
Ideally, you want a sauna that fits just right in your space while rightfully catering to your needs.
An infrared sauna that’s too big will generally cost more to run as it requires more power to heat up, consumes more electricity when in use, and needs more insulation to maintain heat efficiency.
On the other hand, is it even right to call your sauna session “relaxing” if the experience is unbearable due to the sauna’s compact space?
Always consider the following factors when determining the right sauna size for you:
- The number of users: If you plan on having multiple users in a single sauna session, go for a larger model that will accommodate everyone comfortably. For personal use, a smaller infrared sauna will work just fine.
- Available space: Small corner infrared saunas can fit perfectly in the corner of a room while other larger indoor infrared saunas will require an allocated area to house them. Choose the sauna that fits well in your available space without taking too much room.
Infrared saunas are generally available in five primary sizes depending on the number of intended users:
Single Person Infrared Saunas
Also known as 1-person infrared saunas, these saunas are designed for individual use.
They’re generally smaller in size, with standard dimensions falling within the range of 36–39" in width, 36–39" in depth, and 75–78" in height.
If you live alone and don’t plan on using your sauna with guests, then a single-person sauna such as the Golden Designs Reserve 1 Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna would make an excellent choice.
With compact interior dimensions of 35" x 34" x 71", this sauna is still spacious enough for you to comfortably sit or recline in it without occupying a large space.
It also requires the smallest amount of space to install (approximately 9 sq. feet).
2-Person Infrared Saunas
For couples, or anyone sensitive to small, enclosed spaces, a 2-person infrared sauna is an ideal choice.
It’s designed to comfortably accommodate two users and is slightly larger than a single person sauna.
A great example is the Golden Designs Reserve 1-2 Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna, which can comfortably sit two adults without them feeling cramped.
The infrared sauna has interior dimensions (WDH) of 44" x 38" x 69".
This offers you and your loved one ample space to enjoy the benefits of infrared saunas, such as relaxation and detoxification, all while enabling a comfortable seating arrangement.
3-Person Infrared Saunas
If you have a small family, perhaps one or no children, or you simply want more room as a couple, then a 3-person infrared sauna is an ideal option.
A great example is the Golden Designs Reserve 3 Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna, which features spacious interior dimensions (WDH) of 49" x 49" x 69".
4-Person Infrared Saunas
If you have a family of four or more, you’ll need a sauna size that can fit four people comfortably.
Enter the 4-person infrared saunas.
These saunas are generally designed to comfortably fit four adults and have standard dimensions falling within the range of 45–55" in width, 48–60" in depth, and 75–80" in height.
A 4-person infrared sauna such as the Golden Designs Reserve 4 Person Near Zero EMF Far Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna is a perfect choice for your growing family.
At almost 6 feet tall (5.75), you and your loved ones can get in and out easily without having to duck your head.
5+ Person Infrared Saunas
If you need more room for friends, guests, and family, then a sauna built for five or more people is an excellent choice.
These saunas have all the space you need for many people to enjoy a sauna session at once.
Besides creating a luxurious scene when installed in the home, they provide a great opportunity to interact and bond with your loved ones.
Some models, such as the Golden Designs Catalonia 8 Person Ultra Low EMF Infrared Sauna, even come with removable benches, which can come in handy during group exercises or hot yoga sessions.
Step 2 - Evaluate the Sauna’s Heating System and Choose the Best One
At the heart of every infrared sauna is its heater. The heater works just like the sun, only with much less intensity, warming your body rather than the air.
Before settling on a particular infrared sauna, it’s essential to evaluate its heating system to ensure that it’s made with the safest and the highest quality material.
There are two major types of sauna heaters: ceramic and carbon, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks, as you’ll discover in the subsequent paragraphs:
Ceramic Infrared Heaters
Ceramic infrared heaters are the oldest type of infrared heaters and are more common than carbon heaters.
They’re hollow rods strategically placed around the cabin for even heating, roughly 650 mm in length with a diameter of 15 mm. Inside each rod is the heating element that’s wound around a ceramic tube.
Once the ceramic tube heats up, it emits near infrared rays which are absorbed by the skin and tissues to produce a deep sweat.
During heating, the ceramic heaters often create warmer spots directly in front of the heating panels.
This can result in cold spots further away from the heating panel, leading to uneven distribution of heat.
Choose a ceramic infrared heater if:
- You’re working with a limited budget: Ceramic heaters are more affordable and cheaper to maintain than carbon heaters. They may become brittle and crack after a while, but their tubes are affordable and easier to replace.
- You need more concentrated heat: Ceramic heaters concentrate heat on specific parts of the cabin, which can be ideal for spot treatment.
Carbon Infrared Heaters
Carbon infrared heaters use a more advanced heating technology. They’re large flat panels, with varying dimensions of 900mm by 100mm to 1000 mm by 600mm.
These panels are coated with tiny carbon particles which end up creating the infrared heat. They have a larger surface area than ceramic infrared heaters, hence more efficient in emitting heat.
"Loving every minute of it; it heats up in no time. I get a great sweaty feeling…it’s exactly what I thought it was, thank you." Laura Basile, Verified Buyer
Go for a carbon infrared heater if:
- You want even heat distribution: Carbon heaters provide better heat distribution thanks to their large, flat carbon fiber panels. These panels have a larger surface area that will release infrared heat evenly across a wide area within the sauna.
- You want a more durable option: Carbon heaters are made using advanced technology and materials that have a longer lifespan (up to 10, 000 hours) and require minimal maintenance.
The table below will help you understand the differences between a ceramic heater and carbon heater and in turn make a better choice.
|Ceramic rods or tiles
|Carbon fibers or panels
|Can be slightly uneven
|More even, gentle heat
|Heat Up time
|Slower. Can take up to 30 minutes or an hour
|Faster. Will take approximately 15 minutes to heat up the entire cabin
|Typically more affordable
|Produces a shorter wavelength, hence not as readily absorbed into the body
|Produces a longer wavelength which penetrates deeper into the skin
|Susceptible to moisture damage
|Resistant to moisture
|Size and Weight
|Quite bulkier and heavier
|More compact and lightweight
Ensuring the safety of your infrared heater is equally paramount when choosing your infrared sauna.
It’s important to confirm that the heater releases undetectable or extremely low levels of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF).
Even though the research on the long-term effects of EMF exposure is ongoing, certain studies, such as the one done by the American Cancer Society (ACS) Journals, have suggested potential links to increased cancer risk.
Moreover, high EMF levels can result in adverse health effects, including stress, anxiety, disrupted sleep patterns, and electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS).
EHS is characterized by symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, headache, and skin irritation.
To safeguard your well-being, take time to research different sauna brands and models. Look for those that offer low EMF emissions without compromising on performance.
A good manufacturer should explicitly state that the sauna contains low EMF levels on its description or name, as seen in the cases below:
- Maxxus 3 Person Full Spectrum Near Zero EMF Infrared Canadian Red Cedar Sauna
- Golden Designs Barcelona Select 1-2 Person Low EMF Far Infrared Sauna
- Dynamic Saunas Barcelona Elite 1-2 Person Ultra Low EMF FAR Infrared Sauna
If the manufacturer hasn’t provided information about the EMF levels of your chosen sauna, it’s best to confirm this aspect by checking their EMF testing reports from third-party sources before settling on it.
Learn More: The Truth About EMF and Infrared Saunas
Step 3 - Evaluate the Construction Materials and Go for the Highest Quality
Skimp on the materials of your infrared sauna, and you’ll begin to feel it after a few sauna sessions.
The durability, finish, thermal properties, and aesthetic appeal of your infrared sauna is largely influenced by the quality of the materials used to make it.
Here are three essential factors to consider when selecting an infrared sauna with exceptional build quality:
Select Premium Wood
Quality infrared saunas are made from wood that can withstand high heat. The three common wood choices for these saunas are hemlock, aspen, and cedar.
Hemlock is the most popular since it’s affordable and has an attractive light color that gives off a minimalist, Scandinavian look.
It’s a super hardy wood that’s non-toxic and non-allergenic with little to no aroma, creating a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere for your sauna sessions.
Its shrink resistance and water resistance nature also means that it can resist cracks and splits, giving your sauna a longer lifespan.
Western red cedar, also called giant cedar or pacific cedar, is another popular wood choice for infrared saunas. It offers an exceptional strength and has an attractive red color that instantly offers a relaxing feel.
Red cedar is resistant to fungus, cracks, and splits, which has made it a popular choice for outdoor infrared saunas.
Aspen is a clear wood that’s derived from trees grown at high elevations. It’s non-toxic and completely free from any aroma, resins, or natural oils that may cause discomfort when sauna-ing.
Consider Saunas With Nontoxic Finishes and Adhesives
Ensure that your selected sauna uses purely non-toxic adhesives and finishes.
Saunas operate at high temperatures, which may result in materials releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in case they contain harmful chemicals.
Opt for infrared saunas with water-based finishes or natural oils which are generally safe for both you and the environment.
Choose Tempered Glass Doors
If the infrared sauna has a glass door, ensure that the door is made from tempered glass.
Tempered glass is specially designed to withstand high temperatures, deeming it safe and durable for sauna use.
Besides, a tempered door glass is unlikely to shatter in case of accidental impacts, minimizing the risk of injury.
Indoor vs Outdoor Infrared Saunas: Which Is the Best Option?
The truth is that an infrared sauna will give you similar benefits whether it’s located inside or outside your home.
Your choice between an indoor and outdoor sauna will mostly depend on your specific sauna needs, personal preference, and available space.
The table below shows the key differences between the two to help you make an informed decision:
|Indoor Infrared Sauna
|Outdoor Infrared Sauna
|Weather conditions such as rain, cold, or snow can limit its use
|Privacy and Convenience
|Provides higher level of privacy and convenience
|May require additional privacy setup
|Protection from Elements
|Yes, protected from weather
|Subject to weather conditions like rain, cold, and extreme sun.
|Limited by indoor space
|Larger size options available
|Less exposure to outdoor elements
|Requires protection from weather
Frequently Asked Questions
Where should I place my infrared sauna?
You can place your infrared sauna anywhere inside your home or outside under a shelter on a flat surface. Just ensure that it’s not exposed to outdoor climates like rain and snow.
Some of the ideal placement locations include:
- In the garage or basement
- In a spare bedroom
- Outside in the yard
- On the rooftop
All in all, use your best judgment when determining the ideal location for your sauna. If you’re hesitant about your decision, please reach out to us and we’ll lend a helping hand.
How much does an infrared sauna cost to run monthly?
Generally, infrared saunas have low running costs. Since a session typically lasts for a maximum of 30–40 minutes, the running cost would be similar to that of a washer/dryer on a monthly basis.
What is the lifespan of an infrared sauna?
A well-maintained and high-quality infrared sauna can last anywhere from 20–30 years, or even longer.
To maximize on your infrared sauna’s lifespan, clean and inspect it regularly, use it for its intended purpose, and follow the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines.
Above all, invest in a quality infrared sauna from a reputable manufacturer like Sun Valley Saunas.
Wes McMahon, is the founder of Sun Valley Saunas and a seasoned ski town sauna enthusiast. In early 2021, Wes transitioned from being an attorney and sauna aficionado in Sun Valley, Idaho, to founding Sun Valley Saunas. His deep appreciation for the Finnish sauna tradition has helped him understand and select high-quality, hand-built saunas for customers throughout North America. Combined with his understanding of the therapeutic and communal benefits of sauna culture, he advocates for the wellness practices that saunas can bring to your overall health. Got questions? Get in touch by calling 1-855-963-5665 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Important: The information provided in our articles about saunas and related topics is intended for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your healthcare practitioner before using saunas, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are pregnant. Individual health needs vary, and what benefits one person may not be suitable for another.