If you’ve heard the buzz about infrared saunas and are thinking of purchasing one for your health, use these tips to find the best value. Cheaper is not better with sauna purchases. Save time; save hassles and ultimately save money buying the right one for your maximum benefit – the first time.
1. “Test drive” to get the comfort – and the look – you want.
Taking a sauna is the only way you’ll be able to judge whether it’s right for you. Would you buy a car without taking a test drive? Of course not. Find a local dealer who has saunas you can try out before you buy. (We have saunas for you to try at Olympic.)
Design is the most obvious reason to choose a particular sauna. But design is more than skin deep. There must be no visible external buckles. Look for furniture quality detailing including fine-grained wood throughout (not coarse grain which will peel over time). Look for custom-made molding, comfortable seating, and doors and windows that are thoughtfully designed to complement the sauna.
2. Wood choices. Which is best?
Make sure the sauna you select is constructed from smooth, hand-selected tongue-and-groove, vertical grain hemlock or western red cedar. For lasting beauty, hemlock and cedar are best.
Make sure the wood is certified from a sustainable forest, meaning that the forest is planted, harvested correctly and replanted after harvesting for the least environmental impact. The wood for cheaper models sold on the Internet comes from Burma (now called Myanmar) and is not so certified. Cutting down the rain forest to make saunas is just plain wrong.
3. Looking for optimum health benefits? Construction matters.
Tightly fitted joints and screws rather than glue construction mark a sauna that’s built to last. Cheaper saunas rely on glue to keep the joints sealed rather than detailed craftsmanship. Breathing heated glue that emits gasses in the sauna is not healthy. You want pure air in your sauna!
4. Get delivery, installation AND warranty protection!
Peace of mind is everything! You’re buying a sauna for relaxation, so why tackle the delivery, set-up and installation when you don’t have to? Select a local company that will deliver, set up and install your sauna in a few hours. You won’t regret it. You’ll save time and hassle and your sauna will be put together the right way! The company you select should be able to handle any warranty issues, too. You don’t want to have to hire an electrician to troubleshoot the wiring if something goes wrong, then send parts to a factory, wait for their return and re-install. Installation and warranty are, of course, yet another reason to avoid buying a sauna on the Internet. Be smart – buy local from a company that will be there to help you! (You’ll always find free delivery & set-up on most indoor models when you purchase from Olympic Hot Tub.)
5. Ceramic vs carbon heat panels? Carbon wins.
There are 2 different types of infrared heat emitters: ceramic and carbon. Many cheaper saunas – especially those sold on the Internet – use ceramic rods or coils in their panels. But carbon panels are far superior to ceramic. Here’s why:
Top quality carbon panels provide the softest, most enjoyable far-infrared heat available. They heat up faster and give a much broader distribution of heat so you don’t get ‘hot spots’ or ‘cold spots’ in your sauna as you do with ceramic heaters. Yet the room itself doesn’t get hot like traditional steam saunas do (provided you have enough heating panels – see point #6 below). You can also lean up against carbon panels, unlike ceramic, which can get too hot to touch. In fact, ceramic panels actually make the sauna room too hot and don’t give an optimal far-infrared penetration for the best therapy. Just because the ceramic makes the room hot doesn’t mean it’s giving you the most effective therapy.
Carbon emitters give you greater heat absorption and cover more surface area so you get a better sweat (and therefore a more effective sauna session). Look for carbon panels imported from Japan, which operate at safer and more comfortable sauna temperatures – the room will be warm, not hot. Japanese technology produces panels that emit radiant heat, which penetrates deeply and produces more sweat than ceramic panels.
Carbon-heated infrared saunas also tend to heat up faster (10 – 15 minutes) than ceramic-heated saunas (30 – 45 minutes), which can save on electricity cost. The typical carbon infrared sauna costs only 10 – 15 cents a session!
6. Don’t skimp on the number of carbon panels. The number of carbon panels and their placement is IMPORTANT.
Most Infrared saunas will have heaters on the back panel, under the seat and in front of you on either side of the door. The best models will have carbon panels on the sides of the sauna as well. The more square inches of heater coverage, the better!
Although not as important as the type of heater emitter (see point #5 above), the number of panel heaters a sauna has can influence the time it takes for a sauna to heat up as well as how much and how fast you start to sweat. Obviously, having more heaters means you sweat faster and experience more benefit.
Look for the maximum number of heat panels and the highest total square inches of heater coverage in the size unit you’re considering. Fewer panels means your sauna will take more time to heat up – which can cost you in electricity bills. It can also be a pain to have to wait 45 minutes for your sauna to heat up!
A wall-to-wall heating system ensures a complete enveloping heat with no cold spots or hot spots. Without this wall-to-wall heating system, you’ll have to turn yourself into a human pretzel, turning your body this way and that to get in front of a panel, to experience maximum sweat. Too few carbon panels in your sauna will never give you the relaxation you’re looking for.
7. Control panels – inside AND out – are a must.
Most saunas have a control panel on the outside of the unit where you can set the heat, time, turn on lights, etc. But that’s not all you should look for. It’s important to have a control panel inside the sauna so you don’t have to leave the sauna to make changes.
Then look beyond location – not all controls are created equal! Look for easy-to-use digital controls that have set temperature, actual temperature, set time and time remaining. Controls should also include light switches for internal and external lights and color light therapy system.
8. Size matters. Smaller is NOT better.
Infrared saunas range in size from 1-person up to 6-person units and price varies accordingly. Consider the space you have available in your home as well as where the sauna will be placed. A popular option is a corner unit that saves floor space yet still has a roomy interior.
Make no mistake: a 1-personal sauna is ONLY a 1-person sauna – there’s no room to move around. Do not purchase a 1-person sauna unless you live alone and don’t plan to share your sauna experience, or have the smallest of apartments. The most popular saunas are models that give you enough room to lie down on a bench for maximum relaxation. No one has ever returned to one of our stores saying they were sorry they bought a big sauna. But we have had buyers buy a 1-person and come back to exchange it for a larger one.
9. Look for inner and outer lighting and light therapy.
Most infrared saunas do come with interior lights, but it’s always important to check. Interior lights are a must if you want to read during your sauna sessions.
Some models also come with exterior lights, which can turn your sauna into a furniture showpiece that your houseguests will admire. Other saunas offer a variety of colored lights so you can use your sauna for color light therapy, which is recommended for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that’s so common in our overcast Northwest winters.
Better-made saunas include the lighting as standard. Don’t omit these lighting features that will make each sauna use pure pleasure.
10. Easily bored? Choose entertainment options.
If you don’t plan to read or meditate, what will you do in the sauna?
Answer: have entertainment at your fingertips by adding a high quality radio and DVD player at the time you purchase. Having your own entertainment center can help you enjoy a longer, more luxurious sauna session without getting bored. Playing relaxing videos or classical music on the radio will help pass the time and deepen your sense of calm and well-being. Some saunas come with TVs so you can watch your favorite program while you sweat and lose weight!
Consider these top 10 tips when choosing your infrared sauna.
Your best bet: a Finnleo Sauna from Olympic Hot Tub Company. Far infrared saunas can help you detox, lose weight, look younger, boost your immune system, invigorate your sex life and even banish cellulite. If you take your time and do your research before you buy, you’ll select a Finnleo sauna and get the most long lasting, best performing sauna for your needs.
The Good Sweat starts with a Finnleo Sauna from Olympic Hot Tub.
Author: Don Riling
Don Riling is the President of Olympic Hot Tub and has been an active member of the hot tub industry for over 20 years. As the company’s owner since 2016, he has continued Olympic’s legacy of promoting health & wellness through hot water therapy.