Achieving Wellness: Exploring Infrared vs Traditional Sauna Health Benefits

Golden Designs Drammen 3 Person Traditional Outdoor Sauna GDI-8203-01

Long ago in Finland, people discovered the benefits of sweating to promote good health and longevity. And they did it without wearing themselves out by running tens of miles or lifting weights.

It was through a brilliant discovery— using steam to raise the body’s temperature and encourage sweating.

Sauna sessions involved sitting in an enclosed room and pouring cold water over hot rocks. Apart from feeling relaxed, the therapeutic heat from the steam provided several health benefits that modern science still supports.

Regular steam therapy leads to better physical health and mental well-being. Detoxing through sweating, a boost in heart health, and improved emotional regulation are but a few of the wellness aspects that you can experience from sauna sessions.

In recent years, a new form of body heating therapy has emerged that uses infrared energy instead of steam to warm up the body. Even though this is a relatively new technology, it’s shown to have the same benefits as regular steam saunas.

You might have questions about how these two types compare and how they affect overall wellness. Today, we’ll explore the amazing world of saunas, and as we do so you’ll discover:

  • Specific detox benefits of both infrared and traditional saunas
  • Different models of infrared and traditional saunas for home use
  • What to consider when selecting sauna equipment for your home

Let’s look deeper at these two categories and how they can help you experience a greater level of well-being.

Type 1: Infrared Saunas

Maxxus 2 Person Low EMF FAR Infrared Sauna MX-K206-01

Infrared saunas have grown in popularity in recent years and continue to receive numerous positive reviews. But do they have significant advantages over the traditional saunas?

Infrared saunas use heat waves produced by carbon heaters to warm the steam room instead of the air. These waves are completely safe for the human body and cause no negative health effects.

Unlike traditional saunas that typically get up to 190° F, infrared saunas heat up to only 145° F. This lower temperature emitted makes the infrared variety comfortable for people with low heat tolerance.

If the thought of being a crab panting in a steaming pot has put you off from using traditional saunas, this new technology is here to save the day.

By using infrared light directly onto the muscles, the heat from infrared saunas penetrates the body deeply. This heat produces the same benefits as steam saunas, such as pain relief, but at lower temperatures. Win-win.

Also, since the air in the sauna room isn’t heated, this type of sauna provides more comfort for those who find it difficult to breathe in humid conditions.

Now that we’ve understood the workings of infrared saunas, here are some models to consider when you’re planning to upgrade your home.

1 - Golden Designs Reserve 1-2 Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna, GDI-8020-02

The Golden Designs Reserve 1-2 person sauna unit works best for small homes because its compact dimensions allow it to be installed in smaller spaces. Despite its small dimensions, it provides enough room for two people at the same time.

Best for: Homes with limited space for installing a sauna unit. It measures 44" x 38" x 69" on the inside, allowing two people to sit comfortably without invading each other’s personal space.

Rating: 9.5/10

Have you been longing to experience relaxation in a sauna but you look at your house and think, “A sauna unit will never fit in here?” Then the Golden Designs Reserve 1-2 person unit is perfect for you.

It provides the perfect balance of limited space usage and roominess on the inside, so you and your special person can enjoy some romantic time and unwind at the end of a hectic day or week.

Golden Designs Reserve 1-2 Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna, GDI-8020-02


  • Space - This unit from the Golden Designs Reserve series is compact enough to fit in a small area (48" x 42" x 75" exterior dimensions), but provides enough room for two people to enjoy a sauna session (44" x 38" x 69" interior dimensions).
  • Chromotherapy lighting system - This sauna comes with an amazing color light therapy system which helps you to tailor the mood of your sauna to your desired vibe. Chromotherapy also rejuvenates your mind and body and relieves stress.
  • Radio - Who said sauna sessions have to be dull? As the heat relaxes your muscles, the inbuilt Blaupunkt FM Radio belts out your favorite soothing tunes either by Bluetooth or MP3 auxiliary connection for the ultimate unwinding experience.
  • Himalayan salt bar - When you’re in this sauna, it’s not just the infrared therapy that helps you achieve wellness. The Himalayan salt bar softens your skin and extracts impurities from your pores, giving you a fantastic glow over time.
  • EMF Heat Emitters - Three Carbon PureTech Near Zero EMF (electromagnetic field) heat emitters provide the heat in this unit and allow you to enjoy the healing benefits of a sauna.
  • Infrared Heat Emitters - Three Full Spectrum Near Infrared Red heat emitters provide infrared energy that deeply penetrates your tissues for pain relief and reducing inflammation.

Bonus: Golden Designs’ revolutionary technology extensively reduces the amount of EMF given off during the heating process (hence near zero), ensuring maximum safety during your infrared wellness sessions.

For homes that are tight on space, the Golden Designs Reserve 1-2 person sauna unit is a great fit. No need to worry about compromising on comfort, either, as it’s big enough to accommodate two people simultaneously.


  • Size - Larger families who desire to have quality time in a sauna will find this unit rather cramped.


With its specially designed heat emitters, light therapy system, radio function, and soothing Himalayan salt bar, this sauna unit delivers all the benefits of infrared saunas in a cozy space for two.

Even though it doesn’t serve larger groups well, it’s an ideal solution for those seeking intimate sessions with their significant other.

If you’d like a home sauna with enough room for two but doesn’t take up too much space, then definitely check out the Golden Designs Reserve 1-2 person sauna.

2 - Golden Designs Reserve 3-Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna, GDI-8030-02

For those needing a bit more space, the Golden Designs Reserve 3-Person sauna is an excellent option to consider. However, a larger unit means more energy usage and a higher electric bill.

Best for: Families needing a sauna unit big enough for group sessions.

Rating: 8.5/10

Fun Fact: A family that saunas together stays together.

If you’ve been looking for a sauna that provides sufficient room for family bonding time, the three-person unit from the Golden Designs Reserve series is the answer.

Measuring 57" x 37" x 69" on the inside, you’ll have all the space you need to hang out with your family and enjoy a relaxing session.

Golden Designs Reserve 3-Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna, GDI-8030-02


  • Space - For families that enjoy doing sauna sessions together, this unit comes in handy. At 57" x 37" x 69" interior dimensions, there’s more than enough space for three people to not only sit but also move around as well.
  • Himalayan salt bar - Get ready to experience relaxation not only on the inside but also your skin. Himalayan salt cleanses your skin and boosts circulation, giving it a renewed look.
  • Chromotherapy lighting system - Your sauna sessions will be made even more relaxing thanks to this colored light therapy system. The special LED lighting feature allows you to illuminate your sauna room with spectacular hues that are soothing to the mind and body.
  • Radio - As the heat emitters do their thing, the Nakamichi FM Radio with Bluetooth and MP3 auxiliary connection comes through to provide entertainment and make your session even more enjoyable.
  • EMF Heat Emitters - Golden Designs’ Near Zero technology allows you and your loved ones to enjoy the ultimate natural thermal experience in a safe environment by reducing EMF released during heating. This model features three heat emitters.
  • Infrared Heat Emitters - This unit comes with five Full Spectrum Near Infrared Red heat emitters that supply enough infrared energy to cover the large space and provide relief to your muscles.


  • Energy usage- Being a larger unit, this sauna is quite power hungry. It needs more power to heat the bigger space, leading to more electricity consumption.
  • Price - Expect to fork out more dollars for this hefty unit due to its large size.


Golden Designs Reserve 3 Person sauna is our #2 recommendation for infrared saunas because it caters to families looking to enjoy some sauna bonding time.

As much as it’s pricier than the one person unit, the larger room it provides makes up for the cost.

To learn more about the Golden Designs Reserve 3 Person sauna, click on the button below

Type 2: Traditional Saunas

Being surrounded by soothing steam in an enclosed room is what comes to mind when most people think about saunas.

This is what typical traditional saunas like the Golden Designs traditional cedar saunas offer, where the steam comes from water poured on hot rocks.

As the steam fills the room, it heats the air which then causes your body temperature to rise. Within a few minutes, you begin to sweat and in the process, toxins are released.

These saunas get much hotter than the infrared type and produce the same effect on your body as a workout session.

Traditional saunas are perfect for people with a high heat tolerance, or those who are trying to develop it.

SunRay Saunas Westlake 3-Person Luxury Traditional Sauna 300LX

If you already have a space you’re thinking of turning into a home sauna, here are some heaters to consider for your soon-to-be relaxation area.

Before we explore the 2 types of saunas you can purchase today, take a look at this video that shows how a traditional sauna in Finland works.

1 - Harvia Kip Electric Sauna Heater With Built-In Control

The Harvia Kip sauna heater is excellent for people looking to heat large sauna rooms. Due to its large stone capacity, this heater ensures optimal heat dispersion for a soothing sauna experience.

Best for: Heating large saunas up to 425 cubic feet depending on the kW capacity.

Rating: 9.7/10

Wondering how to evenly heat your spacious home sauna? Harvia has you covered with their Kip electric heater. The 8kW capacity one works well for rooms from 250-425 cubic feet, ensuring no part of your sauna has cold air pockets which could ruin your sessions.

What’s more, this heater is designed, engineered and made in Finland, the birthplace of saunas. It’s been carefully put together following the principles of how saunas should work so you can be sure that you'll get nothing but the best experience when you add it to your home.

It’s no wonder that the Kip is a favorite among Finns.

… After about a month of use, everything is great! First, the heater was very easy to purchase and arrived very, very quickly. It was as easy to install as it was to purchase (very simple wiring). I played around with the positioning of the thermostat a bit to allow the room to get to the right temperature and everything is perfect…. — Shawn, Verified Buyer

Harvia Kip Electric Sauna Heater With Built-In Control


  • Capacity - Since it's meant for larger rooms, this heater comes with a big stone capacity enough for dispersing heat optimally over more volume of air.
  • Material - The Kip electric heater combines functionality with style. Its polished stainless steel outer casing gives it a sleek, attractive look that blends well with different sauna room materials such as wood, stone, and glass.
  • Safety - There’s no risk of burns when using this heater. Its outer casing temperature stays low and safe to the touch.
    What’s more, the inbuilt time and temperature controls allow you to create the exact atmosphere you want for your sessions and eliminate the risk of unknowingly overheating your body.
  • Timer - For those days that you want your sauna ready for you to use as soon as you get home, the eight-hour delay timer function comes in handy. It allows you to set the time when the heater will start so you can get right in at a particular time.
    Also, the one-hour timer is useful for ensuring you don’t overstretch your sessions and thus avoids heat-related risks to your body from staying in too long.


  • Heating time - Being a traditional sauna heater, the Kip takes long to reach optimal temperatures. It can take anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes for your sauna room to be comfortable enough for your session.


The Kip electric heater is a fantastic product to have on your list if you’re on the hunt for a heater to serve a large sauna space. With its high heat output, you'll have no worries about cold sections in your sauna.

You’ll enjoy 100 percent steamy goodness every time.

If you want to learn more about this heater, you can do it on this detailed description page.

2 - Harvia Vega 3500 Compact Electric Sauna Heater

If you’re searching for a heater to steam up your small home sauna without taking up all the space, consider the Harvia Vega 3500. This compact device fits perfectly in rooms that don’t have much square footage of floor area to spare.

Since small rooms heat up pretty fast, it’s best to choose a device that won’t overheat your sauna. This heater provides just the right amount of steaming you need so you don’t have to worry about feeling like you’re on the surface of the sun.

Best for: Compact sauna rooms (70 to 175 cubic feet)

Rating: 8.5/10

Harvia Vega 3500 Compact Electric Sauna Heater


  • Size - The diminutive size of this heater makes it ideal for you if your sauna room is on the smaller side. If you choose to install it near to the floor, you’re still left with enough space to walk around unobstructed.
  • Material - The Harvia Vega 3500 is built to last with a durable stainless steel frame.
  • Flexibility - This heater can be mounted in different positions to suit your needs. You have the option of installing it higher on the sauna wall so the steam drops down, or low to ensure the benches close to the floor also get plenty of steam.


Price - The Harvia Vega 3500 is slightly more costly as compared to other models in its category.


This heater is ideal for saunas with limited space. Its flexibility of mounting positions allows you to install it where you see fit according to your specific needs.

Also coming from Finland, you’re guaranteed to get the most value for your money. It’s hard to go wrong with a sauna product from the land of a thousand lakes.

Curious to know more about this compact heater? You’ll find all the information you need by clicking the button below.


You’re probably wondering how we went about evaluating these sauna models. Well, here’s a sneak peek.

For the sauna units, we looked at the tradeoff between space and price point to see how the models compared in terms of value.

In addition, we considered the energy efficiency given the size of the unit. Both models perform well in this area.

As for the heaters, ease of mounting and the space requirements were some of the top aspects we looked at.

These factors in conjunction with the price point enabled us to assess the heaters against each other.

Why Choose Golden Designs or Harvia?

At Sun Valley Saunas, we take pride in only working with the most reliable suppliers of saunas and related accessories. Golden Designs and Harvia are two of the brands we trust and recommend to our customers.

Golden Designs has grown to become North America's largest supplier of infrared saunas. Their products receive loads of positive reviews from satisfied customers and can be found at Costco, Wayfair, and specialty retailers throughout the US and Canada.

Harvia has been well-renowned in the industry for years, making a name for itself as one of the leading manufacturers of reliable electric sauna heaters. What’s more, the efficient energy usage of their heaters is part of Harvia ’s values, which includes environmental conservation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which sauna is more energy efficient, infrared or traditional?

In general, infrared saunas are considered more energy-efficient compared to traditional saunas. This is because they work at lower temperatures and heat the body directly instead of heating the air as traditional saunas do.

They also take less time to reach operating temperature (10 to 15 minutes) unlike their traditional counterparts that need 30 to 45 minutes to warm up.

Which type of sauna is better for detoxification and pain relief?

You’ll experience detoxification and relief from muscle pains when you use either an infrared or traditional sauna. However, infrared saunas are generally favored since the heat they release deeply penetrates the muscles and promotes the elimination of toxins at a cellular level.

How long should sessions be in infrared and traditional saunas?

Infrared sauna sessions can last for 30-45 minutes. On the other hand, traditional saunas often involve multiple rounds of heat, so you can easily accumulate 45 minutes or more with breaks to cool down in between.

Pro Tip: Remember not to go more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time no matter what sauna you use to protect yourself from the risk of overheating your body.

Experience Unmatched Wellness at Home With Sun Valley Saunas

We’ve looked at both infrared and traditional saunas, and gone through their space requirements, materials, energy efficiency, and price points to see how they compare in terms of the value they provide.

While the decision to use either type of sauna is up to your personal preference, the Golden Designs Reserve 1-2 person unit gets top points for its space economy and flexibility of accommodating one person for alone time or two for an intimate session.

On the traditional sauna side, the Harvia Kip electric heater comes up top for its ability to sufficiently heat up large sauna rooms without leaving any cold air pockets.

Whichever type you prefer, you’ll find high-quality saunas and related accessories at Sun Valley Saunas. We have everything you need to experience all the relaxing, steamy awesomeness of saunas right in your home.

Ready to upgrade your wellness regimen? Browse our products today to find those that work best for your lifestyle.

Highly recommend buying from Sun Valley Saunas. High-quality products, great customer service, and easy to install. Two thumbs up. — Keline Kline, Verified Buyer

Wes McMahon

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

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.


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