Saunas are a common fixture in many fitness centers, spas and other health-related facilities across the United States. In fact, saunas have even found their way into many personal homes through professional installs or the use of a sauna-building kit. When choosing what type of sauna you want to use, your options have expanded from just a traditional sauna, to having the additional option of the infrared sauna. Each type of sauna comes with its own differences.
One of the main differences between a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna is the heat involved while inside the unit. Traditional dry saunas use temperatures as high as 185 to 195 degrees F, which can overwhelm those who are more sensitive to the heat. Infrared saunas use a much milder temperature environment of between 120 to 150 degrees F. However, because the heat of infrared saunas travels much deeper into the body, they are able to cause a more vigorous sweat at lower temperature, states Dr. Richard Beever in the July 2009 issue of "Canadian Family Physician."
When comparing an infrared sauna to a traditional steam sauna, it's important to look at humidity. A steam sauna is going to have a lower temperature than a traditional dry sauna, but it is also going to employ large amounts of heated steam, which creates a humid experience. Infrared saunas do not use steam and rely fully on the heat from the infrared heaters for overall effects.
Another difference between a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna is the amount of power required to operate each unit. Traditional saunas require more overall power to run, with a typical sauna taking up 6 kw of power in comparison to the typical 1.6 kw needed for the infrared sauna. This means that a traditional sauna is almost three times as expensive to run as an infrared sauna. This can make a difference, depending on how often you use the unit.
A traditional dry sauna uses a stove to heat the air. As the temperature of the air increases around you, the temperature of your body increases as well due to absorption by heat convection. This causes your body to start the cooling process by transporting blood closer to the surface of the skin and opening pores through sweating. Infrared saunas also heat the surrounding air but to a lesser degree. Instead, infrared saunas use infrared heaters to emit a specific wavelength of infrared light. Your skin absorbs this wavelength, causing your body's temperature to rise. This elicits the same effects as a traditional sauna with less overall heat needed.