Infrared Saunas vs Traditional - Is One Better?

Infrared Sauna vs Traditional

Saunas have been used for centuries to promote relaxation and health. However, modern technology has introduced a variety of sauna types, with infrared and traditional saunas being the most popular.

So, which one is better? Let’s dive into the details and compare these two types based on heating methods, affordability, accessibility, health benefits, and longevity.

Main Differences Between Traditional Saunas and Infrared

The main differences between a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna lie in their heating methods and user experience. Traditional saunas heat the air to high temperatures, typically using electric or wood-burning heaters, which then warms your body through the surrounding hot air and steam.

Infrared saunas, however, use infrared light to directly penetrate and heat your body, operating at lower temperatures and creating a milder, more tolerable heat. This fundamental distinction impacts factors like installation, cost, health benefits, and overall comfort during use. We go into more detail below.

Different Heating Methods

A traditional sauna heats the air to create a hot, steamy environment, while a modern infrared sauna uses light to warm the body directly at lower temperatures. This difference affects the user experience and the type of heat therapy provided.

Traditional Saunas

  • Use electric or wood-burning heaters to heat the air to high temperatures (usually between 150-190°F).
  • The high temperature creates a humid environment when water is poured over heated rocks, producing steam.

Infrared Saunas

  • Use infrared heaters to emit light, which is absorbed directly by the skin, heating the body without significantly warming the surrounding air.
  • Operate at lower temperatures (usually between 120-150°F), making the heat more tolerable for longer sessions.

Which is More Affordable?

Infrared saunas are generally more cost-effective, both in initial purchase and ongoing energy use, compared to traditional saunas, which require more substantial investments and maintenance.

Traditional Saunas

  • Generally more expensive to purchase and install due to the need for robust heating systems and proper ventilation.
  • Higher operational costs because they consume more energy to heat the entire room.

Infrared Saunas

  • Typically more affordable to buy and install, as they require less complex infrastructure.
  • Lower operating costs since they use less electricity and heat up faster.


Infrared saunas offer greater flexibility in terms of installation and space requirements, making them more accessible for home use compared to traditional saunas, which need more planning and space.

Traditional Saunas

  • Require a dedicated space, proper ventilation, and often professional installation.
  • More common in commercial settings like gyms and spas, but home versions are available for those with sufficient space and budget.
Infrared Saunas
  • Easier to install and can fit in smaller spaces, such as a bathroom or a corner of a bedroom.
  • Portable options are available, making them accessible to more people.

Traditional vs Infrared Sauna Health Benefits

Both sauna types offer significant health benefits, but infrared saunas may provide deeper tissue penetration and are more suitable for extended sessions, while traditional saunas are excellent for cardiovascular benefits and intense heat therapy.

Traditional Saunas
  • Promote relaxation and detoxification through sweating.
  • Improve cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate and circulation.
  • Provide muscle relaxation and pain relief due to the high heat and steam.
Infrared Saunas
  • Penetrate deeper into the skin, potentially providing more effective detoxification.
  • Can help with pain relief, muscle recovery, and reducing inflammation.
  • Offer a gentler heat, making them suitable for longer sessions and for people who may not tolerate high heat well.

Longevity and Durability: Do Infrared or Traditional Saunas Last Longer?

Traditional saunas are designed to withstand extreme conditions and may require more maintenance, while infrared saunas, though durable, might need occasional part replacements and are less affected by humidity.

Traditional Saunas
  • Built to last with sturdy materials like cedar or hemlock, which withstand high heat and humidity.
  • Regular maintenance is required to ensure the heater and ventilation system remain in good working order.
Infrared Saunas
  • Generally have a long lifespan but may require occasional replacement of infrared bulbs or panels.
  • Less prone to issues related to humidity, which can extend their durability.


Both infrared and traditional saunas offer unique sauna benefits and can enhance your wellness routine. Traditional saunas provide a classic, intense heat experience that is great for relaxation and cardiovascular health. Infrared saunas, on the other hand, offer a more accessible and potentially deeper form of therapy, making them ideal for pain relief and detoxification.

Ultimately, the best sauna for you depends on your personal preferences, budget, and health goals. Whether you prefer the steamy heat of a traditional sauna or the gentle warmth of an infrared sauna, both can be excellent additions to your wellness regimen.


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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