What is the Healthiest Type of Sauna?
If you’re considering adding a sauna to your home, you may quickly find that there are two main types of saunas available on the market. The first, and most well known type, is the traditional sauna. The second, more modern type, is the infrared sauna. If you’re comparing the two and wondering what is the healthiest type of sauna you may come across a lot of conflicting information. Of course, manufacturers of each type will boast about the health benefits of their product, but it can be tough to prove the superiority of one over the other. Much of it really comes down to personal opinion and preference. To allow you to make your own decision, we compare traditional versus infrared saunas.
Traditional Saunas Versus Infrared Saunas – History, Heat Source and Temperature
Traditional saunas are thought to date back as far as 7000 BC in the area now known as Finland. The earliest examples were actually pits dug into the ground and also used as living quarters. Things have come a long way since then. A modern traditional sauna is typically a room made of wood in which rocks are superheated with an electric heater. In wet saunas you can pour water over the rocks to create steam and increase the humidity in the room. Dry saunas do not feature this option. The temperatures reached in a traditional sauna usually range from 65 to to 85 degrees Celsius (150 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit,) but can reach as high as 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit) or more. It takes a traditional sauna about 30 to 40 minutes to reach top temperature. As the temperature peaks, the electric heater can intermittently turn off and on while still maintaining the heat level in the sauna.
Infrared saunas are a much more modern invention. An Incandescent Light Bath was introduced at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago and became the forerunner to today’s infrared saunas. The first patent for an infrared sauna was given to a Japanese doctor in 1965. They were used for therapeutic purposes by the Japanese medical establishment for another 15 years before the idea caught on in North America. In an infrared sauna, as opposed to heating the air, light energy waves actually penetrate the body creating an inner heat. For this reason the ambient temperature in an infrared sauna is much lower – around 50 to 60 degrees Celsius (120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit – compared with a traditional sauna. There’s no option for increasing the humidity in an infrared sauna and the infrared wave generators are continually on while the sauna is in use. That said, there’s no need to wait for the sauna to heat up to receive the benefits of the infrared energy waves.
When it comes to comparing energy use between the two types of sauna, it must be understood that running a sauna of either type uses around the same amount of energy as any other large household appliance. Unless you’re running your sauna 24 hours a day, you won’t see an appreciable increase in your energy bills. That said, because infrared saunas are typically smaller – mainly to maintain a close distance to the infrared emissions – and they don’t need to heat up for a half hour or more before use, infrared saunas will generally use less energy compared to a traditional sauna.
The Social Factor
When it comes to socializing in a sauna – something that’s a very important aspect of sauna use in a country like Finland – traditional saunas may have an advantage due to their typically larger sizes. Infrared saunas are generally built for one or two people which greatly reduces the chances of larger social gatherings. It really depends on how you plan on using your sauna and whether you believe that socialization is an important part of the sauna experience.
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