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Infrared VS Traditional Saunas

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A Brief Sauna History 

In Europe, saunas or sauna-like steam baths have been used for thousands of years to help bathers relax.

In Northern Scotland, specifically, a sauna structure was found in Orkney Island that dated back over 4,000 years. The earliest written account was recorded in the 1100s.

Travelers would often stop and visit public sweat baths in Northern Europe between global treks and adventures. Likewise, farmers would occasionally visit the steam baths to take a break from hard labor. By the 1700s, Finnish and Swedish bathhouses were the norm all around.

Originally, these steam baths were used for relaxation and cleanliness, like a modern bath or shower. As time went on, however, it became clear that wooden saunas have additional health benefits.

In addition to relaxation and social benefits, European bathhouses became near-religious status for the Finns who occupied them. In some situations, the famous bathhouses were even used for birthing practices.

By the 1800s, visitors in Scandinavia started to report saunas in everyday art and literature. Their traditional, log construction formats were a point of pride for the Finns as a natural part of relaxation.

Since this period, the popularity of saunas has continued to grow and grow over time. In the early twentieth century, the Finns moved from villages to cities and the interest in saunas also spread with the people.

During World War II, additional forms of entertainment were essentially abandoned for the war efforts, which sent people back in the saunas for cheap relaxation. These days, of course, saunas are a global phenomenon.

While steams and saunas are still associated with their Scandinavian origins, the benefits have found their way around the globe.

What Type Of Sauna Is Good For Me ? 

Essentially, there are three types of saunas : Traditional, Infrared and "hybrid" or "dual" saunas. 

Traditional Models

Traditional saunas are the most common ones. They're either heated by electricity, gas, or wood-fire. Electric heaters are probably the most used and also the easiest to set-up and maintain. Most electric versions take 30-60 minutes to heat up to 140-194 degrees F. 

The 2nd most popular type of saunas are Infrared saunas. Increasingly popular among people living in cities, these saunas are using infrared light to produce radiant heat, which is absorbed by the skin.

Infrared Models

Infrared saunas are not actually heating up the air but instead penetrates the skin to increase the body's temperature directly. Although they might not offer the same respiratory benefits as a traditional sauna, it offers a wide array of other benefits. 

One thing that makes infrared saunas appealing to some people is the fact that the heat produced is "softer" and easier to withstand then the one produced by traditional models. 

If you're the type of person who does not tolerate substantial thermal stress but need the health benefits provided by weekly sauna use, then you might wanna opt for an infrared models. 

Dual Models

The 3rd type of sauna is what we call "hybrid" or "dual" models. These models are a combination of electric and infrared heat. They can be used simultaneously or independently depending on the user's mood or goals. 

You might want to go soft for a session and then turn up the heat to the maximum on another day. There are also a few unique health benefits provided by each type of heat so using both of them at the same time gives you the full package and might turn you into a superhuman !

Traditional Saunas 

If you're the type of person who feels ravished by the scent of burning wood, the sound of water splashing on rocks letting out essential oil fragrances tickling your nostrils as sweat drips off from your face to the floor, then traditional saunas are made for you. 

From all the sauna types, to me, traditional ones are the bests. I personally adore the "nearly overwhelming" heat produced by those models as it makes me feel like i'm relaxing yet working out simultaneously. Makes me feel like a Finnish viking trying to keep himself composed while fighting for his life in the belly of a beast.

I love how the heat of traditional saunas put you to the test, how they invite you to relax, meditate and stay calm in the midst of thermal pressure and stress. I find traditional saunas offer a truly unique and empowering experience unmatched by other models.

More Scientific Studies Were Made With Traditional Saunas

One reason why Traditional Saunas are preferred by some people is that most scientific studies conducted on the effects of saunas were done using traditional models. There is a significant amount of data to back up health benefit claims for traditional saunas but fewer with infrared models. (Although the ones conducted with Infrared Models tends to go in the same direction.)

If you are to get yourself a sauna, it's always wise to direct your buying decision with empirical evidence and real scientific studies. You want to make sure that the money you invest will get you the TRUE health benefits you deserve.  

Generally speaking, traditional models are generating a superior amount of heat compared to infrared models. This means that they tend to trigger more internal processes responsible for a wide array of health benefits (cardiovascular health, hyperthermic conditioning, reduction in all-cause mortality and more...) Learn more here

The Top Choice When it Comes to Outdoor Use.

If you're looking to get yourself an outdoor sauna, unless you're living in areas where temperature nearly never drops below 5 Celsius, then you should opt for a traditional model over an infrared one. 

As stated previously, traditional models are far superior for outdoor use mainly because of the amount of heat they can generate compared to infrared ones. Whether you're getting an electric or wood-fire heater, the amount of warmth produced will be sufficient to keep the inside of the room hot as hell.  Our barrel and cabin models will easily make you sweat for days even when it's blizzard cold outside.

Further Down Your Backyard

If you plan on installing your sauna a little further down your property, near the lake on a hill where electricity is not readily available, then a traditional sauna will be your best bet. In fact, your wisest choice will be a traditional sauna equipped with a wood-fire heater. 

Think About Your Needs 1st

Again, whether you prefer "dragon fire" heat or mild yet penetrating warmth, both traditional and infrared saunas will make you reap tremendous health benefits in the long run.

The choice is all yours ! You might wanna ask yourself what kind of experience you are seeking with your new sauna or what health benefits you really need... and then go from there... 

Here's a few question to ponder when shopping for a traditional sauna : 

  • What is your budget ?
  • Do you plan on using it indoor or outdoor ? 
  • What size preferences did you have in mind (how many users at once) ?
  • Will you be setting up your sauna in a small space, big space, in your backyard, near the lake ?
  • What type of wood finish or aesthetic requirement do you have ?
  • Are there any specific special features you need or would enjoy (windows, doors, extra isolation, chromotherapy, sound system) ?
  • Are you suffering from a particular condition which requires a certain type of sauna ?

Sauna construction wood


Visual Aspect Of Your Sauna

In terms of appearance, the traditional saunas will possess more of an authentic, rugged, old-school, robust kind of style while the infrared models will have a modern, sleek, classy, high-end and sophisticated look. 

The visual aspect of your sauna will depend on various factors such as whether you want to use it inside (living room, bathroom, home gym, garage) or outside (driveway, backyard, near the pool, near the lake, in the forest, on the side of the house). The wood, the type of door, lighting, whether you install windows, a chimney or not will all have an impact on the final look of your unit. 

50 Shades Of Saunas

Saunas are also coming in all kinds of sizes, shapes and forms. Some of our models are made to be installed in various areas of the inside or outside of the house.

We have models suited for corners of a room, others are perfect against a wall such as the rectangular types, we have outdoor models shaped as barrels, others as cabins and even cottages. All outdoor models are great below trees or in the open air. 

Practicality Meet Aesthetics

The shape of your sauna should also be chosen according to how you plan on using it and to how your house if configured.

Let me give you a few examples for practicality

  • Getting your outdoor sauna near a source of water such as a pool, a hose, a lake or river in order to get your body through the hot N cold cycles. Sweating for 5 min then jump in the river for 1 min and go back in repeatedly is great to train your thermoregulatory system.
  • Getting you indoor sauna in your home gym so as soon as you finish working out you get that sweat going. 
  • Getting your sauna into one particular corner because of the electrical configuration of your room. 
  • Getting your sauna on a cement pad to prevent water from leaking in. 
  • Getting your sauna in the living room to be able to watch TV at the same time.

A few ones for aesthetics

  • Getting your sauna by the garden for an authentic and organic look.  
  • Getting yourself a set of blue light to get a better visual of your sauna at night.
  • Getting Cedar wood instead of Basswood because it matches your outdoor furniture.
  • Getting a glass door instead of a full on wooden door as you prefer a modern look for your unit. 

Traditional Saunas Maintenance Tips

In terms of maintenance,

Wood burners take more time to heat up where an electric version will heat within a few minutes depending on the style or brand.

Electric saunas also require bulb replacements throughout the year. All in all, some owners prefer the old school, rustic feel of a wood-fire saunas, while other individuals prefer a modern approach.

There’s also a difference in the type of steam, so there’s room for preference, much like propane or charcoal grills.

Many people believe that a wood burning saunas creates a type of warmth money for electric bills and perhaps even an electrician, where a wood burner only costs the price of wood. But, this may depend on where the owner lives.

Wood burning sticklers want to keep their traditions of warmth. For those who prefer a traditional sense from their sauna, it's important to find the system that most matches familiarity.

After all, saunas are a lifelong commitment to health, so it's best to find the perfect match for now and the future.

Traditional Saunas VS Infrared Saunas

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas get their name from infrared heaters. These saunas emit infrared light, also known as radiant heat, which is then absorbed by the skin.

As mentioned in previous sections, the radiant waves do not need to get as hot for the same types of benefits as a traditional sauna.

Generally speaking, saunas heat the body through conduction and convection by heating the air around the body. However, infrared saunas are heating the body by penetrating through the layers of the skin to heat the inside directly.

Infrared therapy isn’t even considered “sauna” by purists in the Finnish communities. Regardless, therapy from infrared saunas work within the same spectrum as infrared electromagnetic fields around the body.

Health benefits induced by weekly sauna use include appetite loss or suppression, cardiovascular system improvements and even reduction of cancer tumor according to certain specialists (Photothermal Therapy).

Since infrared saunas are using light to create heat, they’re sometimes called far-infrared saunas, where “far” implies the infrared waves falling off the light spectrum.

Like traditional saunas, infrared also mimics the effects of moderate exercise such as vigorous sweating and increased heart rate. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Several studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of chronic health problems amongst other things. Experiments on high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, headache, type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis have been conducted and  even though some evidence of benefits have been discovered, larger and more-rigorous studies are needed to confirm these results.

One of the perks of infrared saunas is it's "mild" heat, making it perfect for those who often find traditional saunas overwhelming. You can basically reap the exact same benefits from infrared saunas then from traditional one without feeling like you're in the middle of a volcano. We recommend home infrared saunas to all of our customer who prefer "mild" heat.

Many infrared manufacturers claim that 20 percent of the heat goes to heat the air around an individual, while 80 percent directly heats the body.

As traditional saunas, infrared models offer benefits such as :

  • Deeper Sleep
  • Increased Relaxation
  • Cleansing Detoxification
  • Accelerated Weight Loss
  • Faster Muscle Recovery
  • Faster Joint Pain Recovery
  • Clearer Skin
  • Improved Blood Circulation
  • More Energy/Less Fatigue

Infrared Saunas And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

One 10-person study concluded that people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) benefited from infrared saunas as an overall treatment.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, the effects of Waon Therapy (thermal therapy from infrared sauna use), saw improvements in all subjects.

Specifically, the study consisted of CFS patients in a 140 degree F sauna for 15 minutes and then another 30 minutes of rest on a bed. After weekday treatments for one month, pain levels and perceived fatigue were dramatically reduced.

Reports indicates, “Perceived fatigue significantly decreased after therapy, although no significant reductions were observed during therapy." These results are promising indeed.

In addition, negative moods, including anxiety, depression, fatigue and performance anxiety were reported to also be significantly reduced after therapy.

The only metric who saw no real changes was level of pain experienced by subjects. No patients reported any adverse effects during the therapy.

Sizes & Infrared Saunas Electrical Requirements

For individuals looking to purchase in-home or backyard infrared saunas, there are options for 1,2,3,4, or 5 individuals at once. 

Different models calls for different electrical requirements. Bigger saunas might require the help of a qualified electrician and minor modifications to the power outlet to make it function while other models can be plugged in directly the standard 120v/15 amp wall outlet without additional fuss.

Rule of thumb is the following : the bigger the sauna, the more energy the emitters need to function therefore electrical requirements varies.  

Different Electrical Requirements For Different Infrared Sauna Models

                Sanctuary 1                            Sanctuary 2



Complete with glass doors, smartphone control, bluetooth, recliner, low EMF levels, furniture grade cabinetry, and easy installation, these models are ideal for families looking to detox regularly.

Additional benefits may include the following add-ons:

Full Spectrum Heater

Add an additional 300 watt full spectrum heater to your Clearlight Sanctuary™. This heater, measuring 24”x 7”, is mounted on the interior of the door. The heater includes a wood frame with a textured mesh heater guard and plugs conveniently into a receptacle already built into your sauna.

Ergonomic Backrest

All Clearlight® models can accommodate a cedar or basswood portable backrest for added comfort and support during your sauna session. Designed by Dr. Raleigh Duncan, a Chiropractic Physician and Clearlight Sauna's Founder, this is another added level of comfort to an already amazing experience.

Vibration Resonance Therapy (VRT)

All Clearlight Sauna® models can add Vibrational Resonance Therapy (VRT). VRT combines the benefits of sound and vibration relaxing your body and mind. The VRT modules attach to the bottom of the sauna bench.

Bench Pad

For added protection a quilted cotton, latex-free, hygienic and washable bench pad measuring 22” x 17” is available. The Bench Pad provides protection to the sauna bench so you don’t have to worry about smells and bacteria in your sauna.

Bench Cushion

Add an extra layer of comfort to your sauna session with our custom made Bench Cushions. This 2” thick, waterproof and mold resistant cushion is custom made to fit the bench of your sauna.

For more tips, tricks, scientific studies, articles and goodies feel free to join our FREE Facebook group below : 

Sweat Safely !

Gabriel from Northern Saunas

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