With so much information on the internet, researching infrared saunas can be confusing. There are hundreds of saunas online that look very similar, have various price points, and have broad claims about health benefits. The truth is, there are many factors to consider.
Here are some key elements to consider when looking to purchase an in-home or commercial infrared sauna.
Infrared Quality and Quantity – How Much Infrared Energy Are You Actually Receiving?
Since Sunlighten holds the patents on the most effective infrared technology, the competitors’ products use an inferior heat source. Our competition asserts that their heaters are hotter, which means they are better. This information is contradictory to the science behind how infrared therapy works. To understand this false claim, we need to understand how infrared heaters work.
Sunlighten heaters work off the theory of black body emission which has a specific spectrum and intensity that depends only on the black body’s temperature. ¹ There are scientific laws (specifically Wein’s Law, Boltzman’s Law and Planck’s Law) that describe how electromagnetic radiation works when specific objects are submitted to heat. In order to reproduce the sun’s infrared light, these elements are required to reach the peak wavelengths:
- Surface temperature – To provide the peak wavelength of 9.4 microns, the surface temperature of an object must be controlled. The cooler the surface area of the heater, the more far infrared energy will be produced.
- Emissivity – This is the ability of an object to emit or absorb energy. A perfect black body has an emissivity of 1, emitting 100% of infrared energy. For infrared therapy to be therapeutic, sauna heaters must have a high emissivity level to deliver a high concentration of infrared waves, not just high temperatures.
- Total surface area – Heat will distribute itself as evenly as possible, and a larger infrared heater has more surface area than a smaller heater. Because the heat produced by a larger heater will be distributed over a larger surface area, the overall surface temperature will be lower than that of a smaller heater, such as a halogen bulb where the heat is concentrated on a smaller surface.
When a black body is subjected to heat, it emits specific wavelengths of radiation, and in this case thermal radiation. It is important to keep that wavelength under a specific temperature, ideally 130-140 degrees. This allows for optimal absorption of infrared waves. If a sauna heater goes above this temperature, it does not emit the correct wavelength to create therapeutic infrared. It creates heat, very similar to sitting outside on a hot day or in a traditional sauna, which makes the body sweat, but not a detoxifying sweat.
Carbon is one of the most emissive materials for infrared saunas. Prior to the introduction of carbon heaters, ceramic heaters were used and still are by some sauna manufacturers. There are no composite materials to suggest that it is as emissive as carbon itself. This is important because if you have a corresponding wavelength at a specific temperature, then making a less emissive material hotter is making it more inaccurate on the output of heat.
Sunlighten’s patented technology has a highly emissive coating that delivers the highest quality AND quantity of infrared heat for therapeutic results.
Our patented design and process highlight why our Solocarbon panels are the only far infrared heaters clinically shown to raise the core body temperature nearly 3° degrees for the most detoxifying sweat, lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and aid in weight loss.²
Full Spectrum Infrared vs. 3-in-1 Infrared
The infrared spectrum consists of near (NIR), mid (MIR), and far (FIR) infrared waves, each with distinct characteristics and frequency ranges. It’s impossible to deliver these three peak wavelengths at one time from a single source. That’s why in 2010, Sunlighten developed a unique technology that combines three heating elements in one sauna heater – Solocarbon 3-in-1. Since then, the market has been bombarded with an array of “full-spectrum” infrared saunas. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (and we are beyond flattered), we are trying to clear up the confusion this has caused.
Image source: Wikipedia
Wikipedia Definition of Full Spectrum:
Full-spectrum light is light that covers the electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to near-ultraviolet, or all wavelengths that are useful to plant or animal life; in particular, sunlight is considered full spectrum, even though the solar spectral distribution reaching Earth changes with time of day, latitude, and atmospheric conditions.
“Full-spectrum” is not a technical term when applied to an electrical light bulb. Rather, it implies that the product emulates some important quality of natural light.
Products marketed as “full-spectrum” may produce light throughout the entire visible spectrum, but without producing an even spectral distribution. Some may not differ substantially from lights not marketed as “full-spectrum”.
Saunas being marketed as “full spectrum” only have one or two heating elements. When you think about the infrared range, you have to wonder how a single element can emit three separate peak wavelengths.
Wikipedia’s definition of full spectrum applies to the infrared sauna market: saunas marketed as “full-spectrum” may produce light throughout the entire visible spectrum, but without reaching the peak infrared wavelength to produce the health benefit claims. Some may not differ substantially from saunas not marketed as “full-spectrum”.
Solocarbon 3-in-1 heaters combine three distinct components within a single heating panel to provide near, mid, and far infrared at their peak wavelengths.
Our patented Solocarbon heater coating produces high quality FIR heat – 99% effective in the 3-in-1 heater design. A separate layer of Kapton® polyimide, a lightweight material used in space applications, can be heated independently to much higher temperatures in order to produce MIR wavelengths. And our patented LED technology produces consistent NIR wavelengths without extreme heat or light.
Shedding Light on Near Infrared
Near infrared (NIR) light therapy is a form of photobiomodulation that uses invisible, near-infrared wavelengths between 700 and 1200nm³ (nanometers) to deliver energy to cells. Scientific research shows that when delivered at the vital wavelength of 880nm, without extreme heat or light, NIR promotes skin renewal, cell health, wound healing, and tissue growth.
LEDs vs. Halogen Bulbs
Like most products on the market, all are not created equally. Let’s use juice as a simple example. If you compare a pasteurized juice to a cold-pressed juice, they may look very similar but the nutritional value will differ. A cold pressed juice is not exacted with heat so the nutrients are protected and you can benefit from the full nutritional value of raw fruits and vegetables. A pasteurized juice, however, is processed with high temperatures to kill off bacteria which kills important nutrients along with it. Once fillers and preservatives are added, the nutritional value diminishes significantly.
Similarly, the therapeutic value of NIR light will vary greatly by the source. LEDs deliver pure NIR at a singular wavelength. Halogen bulbs emit a broad spectrum of light across the full visible spectrum. The therapeutic NIR range is between 810-880nm which allows for optimal penetration of light for the targeted cells or tissue. Wavelengths greater than 900nm do not penetrate as deeply and are absorbed by water reducing the reach to cells within the dermis layer of skin.³
With a halogen bulb, only a small percentage will be within the NIR spectrum. LEDs are effective because they can trigger a natural photo-biochemical reaction (similar to how plants use chlorophyll to convert sunlight into plant tissue)
Some sauna manufacturers avoid important data points like infrared wavelength and boast about heater wattage. While high wattage may sound like an advantage, it definitely is not. To get an NIR output in the most therapeutic range, you must get the proper wattage density to the heating element. When a sauna company boasts about having 25x the power with 500 watts per heater, you are getting a lot of heat with no value. The energy is not focused on the micron output and therefore provides no therapeutic value.
In an interview with Dr. Michael Hamblin, professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, he explains that higher NIR wavelengths (900-1200nm) do not penetrate the body as well. In the emission chart above, 10% of the heat emitted from the sauna heater is effective for NIR. So 500W is really 50W of NIR. That 50W is emitting 1.2 microns (zero are in the optimal NIR range of 810-880nm). 50W of nothing is …nothing.
Distance to the Light Source
Your proximity to the NIR light source is important to for your body to absorb the energy. The power density decreases as you move further from the light source. To achieve the maximum physiological affects you should be within 1-2 inches from the light. The small percent of NIR emitted from a halogen heater will have little to no effect because it is physically unbearable to get that close.
In order to make NIR safe for saunas, Sunlighten used NASA research to develop an LED array that provides NIR at a singular wavelength with minimal variability and virtually undetectable heat and light. Our LEDs are strategically placed to give you optimal exposure to NIR therapy. LED does not emit heat and makes it very comfortable and enjoyable to sit and receive therapeutic NIR.
100% Non-Toxic Materials
Every element of a Sunlighten sauna is designed with quality and safety in mind. We don’t believe in shortcuts, which is why our saunas are made with 100% premium wood throughout the entire cabin – no hidden plywood is used.
Not only are our Solocarbon heaters proven 95-99% efficient at producing infrared in the peak range, they contain a proprietary blend of FDA-approved materials and are heat-sealed to withstand temperatures above and beyond the operating temperature to ensure no unhealthy gases are released during heating. To ensure that all our materials are safe and non-toxic,Sunlighten has invested in extensive third-party testing.
Even the wood we use has been carefully selected to ensure it is non-toxic and sustainably sourced. Sunlighten saunas are made in eucalyptus, cedar or hypoallergenic basswood.
Hemlock, spruce and pine are inexpensive woods that have been used mostly in framework. Many of our competitors use these woods in their saunas. These are low cost options for sauna manufactures due to knots in the wood, inconsistent color and thinner wood planks. These woods are more likely to warp and bow in extreme temperature fluctuations, which would occur in an infrared sauna diminishing the longevity of the product.
As the direct manufacturer, Sunlighten adheres to the utmost safety standards. Our electrical certification ensures that your sauna has been tested to meet safety and performance standards.
Many consumers do not even think about or look to see if a product displays a safety agency mark. Without a safety agency listing, there is no proof that a product passes electrical safety standards. When people prepare to purchase a large item such as a refrigerator or washer and dryer, they typically check all the safety features to ensure that all safety standards have been met, a sauna is no different.
Enjoy vs. Endure your sauna sessions
The sauna session is meant to be enjoyed, to relax and to decompress from the world. It should not be endured, trying to make through a full session.
Many people ask if Sunlighten saunas are hot enough because they do not feel the harsh heat experienced in traditional saunas. The answer is yes as optimal temperatures for infrared saunas are between 100-130 degrees. A therapeutic sauna experience is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.
Again, our competitors say that hotter is better because they cannot offer our patented technology. And if the sauna goes beyond the parameters of what is considered to be optimal infrared, then they are just creating heat.
The same heat that people endure on a hot day or in a traditional steam sauna. But that heat is not agitating the cells at a molecular level to release toxins and activate the body’s natural healing response.
At Sunlighten, we believe higher quality is better. Our saunas do not need to run as hot as other companies because of our patented heater design that is based on science.
We are able to create therapeutic levels without the intense and possibly dangerous heat levels. Our customers are able to enjoy an entire sauna session without overheating and with the knowledge that the time spent in their Sunlighten sauna is adding value to their daily lives.