Infrared vs Electric Sauna: Comparing Efficiency and Benefits

When considering the addition of a sauna to your home or gym, you may find yourself debating between an infrared sauna and an electric sauna. Both types have their own unique features and benefits that cater to different preferences and needs. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between infrared and electric saunas, allowing you to make an informed decision on which option best suits your requirements.

Infrared saunas utilize infrared light waves to directly heat the body, providing a more energy-efficient and comfortable experience for the user. On the other hand, electric saunas rely on electrically heated stones to warm the air in the room, which in turn heats the body. This traditional approach delivers a higher overall temperature and increased humidity, appealing to those who prefer a more intense sauna environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Infrared and electric saunas differ in their heating methods, with infrared saunas using light waves to directly heat the body while electric saunas heat the air.
  • Health benefits vary between the two types of saunas, with infrared saunas providing gentle, targeted heat and electric saunas offering a more intense heat and humidity experience.
  • Factors to consider when choosing a sauna include energy efficiency, cost, maintenance, and safety concerns.

Understanding Saunas

Saunas have been a popular way to relax, detoxify, and improve overall health for centuries. There are different types of saunas, and it’s essential to understand their key differences. In this section, we will discuss the two main types of saunas: infrared and electric.

Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly, instead of heating the air around you. This type of sauna is sometimes called far-infrared, due to the wave frequency of the light. Infrared saunas typically operate at lower temperatures around 120-140°F, offering a more comfortable and accessible experience for some individuals.

Meanwhile, electric saunas are a type of traditional sauna that utilizes electric heaters to warm the air, which in turn heats up the body. They can reach temperatures of up to 200°F, providing an intense heat experience.

There are benefits and drawbacks associated with both types of saunas. Infrared saunas are known for their deep tissue warmth, which can be helpful for reducing muscle soreness, joint stiffness, and promoting relaxation. Due to the lower temperatures, they might also be a better option for those who find traditional saunas to be too hot. Remember, however, that the research surrounding infrared saunas is currently limited.

In contrast, with an electric sauna, the heat is dispersed through the air, allowing for more consistent room temperature. Electric saunas are widely recognized for their ability to help relax muscles, soothe aches, relieve stress, and improve circulation. These traditional saunas have more extensive research and historical background, making them a trustworthy choice for many sauna enthusiasts.

In conclusion, one’s choice between infrared and electric sauna depends on individual preference, comfort level, and health goals. By understanding the differences between these sauna types, you can make a more informed decision and optimize your sauna experience accordingly.

Definition of Infrared Sauna

An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that utilizes infrared light as its main source of heat instead of traditional methods. The technology behind infrared saunas is based on the way the infrared waves are emitted and absorbed by the body, which provides a different experience than traditional electric or wood-burning saunas.

Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than their traditional counterparts. While traditional saunas usually heat up to 200°F, infrared saunas stay around 120-140°F. This results in a more comfortable and relaxing experience for users, as the heat is less intense.

The core principle of infrared saunas is that the infrared light waves penetrate the body, directly heating it without the need to heat the surrounding air. This form of heat is thought to provide various health benefits such as detoxification, increased calorie burn, and skin rejuvenation, although more research is needed to substantiate these claims.

Efficiency is one of the advantages infrared saunas have over traditional ones. They use less energy to produce the same amount of heat and are often less expensive to purchase and install as well. Additionally, infrared saunas may provide an increased level of comfort and ease of use for individuals who wish to incorporate a sauna into their regular self-care routine at home.

Definition of Electric Sauna

An electric sauna is a type of traditional sauna that utilizes an electric heater to warm the air and create a hot, dry environment. This is in contrast to other sauna types such as infrared or wood-burning saunas. Electric saunas typically have a temperature range of 150°F to 180°F, providing a high level of heat that can help to relax muscles and promote sweating to release toxins from the body.

The electric heater in these saunas is generally mounted on the floor or on a wall, often surrounded by a protective barrier of rocks. As the heater warms up, it transfers heat to the surrounding air and rocks, which then radiate heat throughout the sauna room. By adjusting the thermostat, users are able to control the temperature within the sauna, making it easy to customize the sauna experience to suit individual preferences.

Some advantages of electric saunas are their ease of use and low maintenance requirements. There is no need for a constant supply of wood or other fuel, and the electric heater requires minimal cleaning. Additionally, electric saunas can be installed indoors or outdoors, and they heat up quickly, usually reaching the desired temperature in about 15 to 30 minutes.

However, electric saunas do have some drawbacks. They can be more expensive to operate due to their reliance on electricity, and they may not provide the same authentic sauna experience as traditional wood-burning or infrared saunas. Nevertheless, electric saunas offer a convenient and efficient way for individuals to enjoy the benefits of sauna therapy without the need for a traditional wood-burning setup or the use of infrared light technology.

Working Principles: Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas are a popular alternative to traditional saunas, offering a unique experience by harnessing the power of infrared light. Unlike traditional saunas that rely on heating the air, infrared saunas directly heat the body by emitting infrared waves. This process is more energy-efficient and provides a comfortable environment for users.

Infrared saunas primarily consist of far-infrared emitters, which generate heat that can penetrate the skin more effectively than the air in traditional saunas. The light spectrum’s “far” classification indicates the location of these waves in relation to the visible light spectrum. The result is a deeper heat penetration and a more efficient method of warming the body (Mayo Clinic).

There are three types of infrared light used in saunas, differentiated by their wavelengths:

  • Near-infrared (NIR)
  • Mid-infrared (MIR)
  • Far-infrared (FIR)

Far-infrared is the most common type employed in infrared saunas, as it offers the deepest penetration and thus the most potential benefits. The other types, NIR and MIR, are believed to provide some therapeutic value, but they have not been studied as extensively as FIR in saunas.

The primary benefits of infrared saunas stem from their ability to target specific areas of the body with radiant heat, which heats the body from the inside out, rather than just warming the surrounding air. This leads to a more comfortable experience with reduced energy costs. The lower heat levels also allow users to tolerate longer sessions, contributing to increased therapeutic potential for conditions such as arthritis and muscle aches (Healthline).

In summary, infrared saunas provide a unique approach to relaxation and therapy by employing infrared light to heat the body directly. Their efficiency, comfort, and potential health benefits make them an attractive option for those seeking an alternative to traditional saunas.

Working Principles: Electric Saunas

Electric saunas are a popular choice for those who want the traditional sauna experience without the need for wood-burning. They operate by heating the air in the sauna room through electric heaters. These heaters are typically lined with rocks to retain and emit heat more efficiently.

The heat generated by the electric heaters causes the surrounding air to warm up, which in turn heats the occupants. The ideal temperature for electric saunas is usually between 160°F (71°C) and 200°F (93°C) 1. This elevated temperature induces sweating and allows for the body to receive the various health benefits associated with saunas, such as relaxation, stress relief, and detoxification.

Electric saunas are relatively easy to install and maintain, making them suitable for both private homes and public facilities. They require a power source and an adequate electrical system to function effectively. The heaters consume energy to warm up the room, and the more energy they require, the higher the running costs. However, the operating costs can be manageable for most homeowners, especially if the sauna is not in continuous use.

Some electric sauna models are equipped with digital controls that allow users to adjust the temperature, set timers, and perform other customizations. This added convenience improves the sauna experience and enables users to individualize their settings according to personal preference.

In terms of safety, electric saunas need proper ventilation to ensure that heat and moisture do not accumulate excessively. They also must conform to local building and electrical codes to avoid potential hazards.

Comparison: Infrared vs Electric Saunas

Infrared and electric saunas are popular choices for those seeking the health and relaxation benefits of sauna therapy. While both types share some advantages, there are key differences that may sway a user towards one or the other.

Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly, without heating the air inside the sauna. This results in a gentler, more comfortable sauna experience as infrared saunas typically operate at lower temperatures than electric saunas. The direct heat penetration allows users to feel the effects more quickly compared to traditional electric saunas, resulting in shorter, more efficient sessions.

Electric saunas, on the other hand, rely on electric heating elements to heat the air inside the sauna, which raises the temperature and creates the desired heat and humidity levels. The heat from an electric sauna takes longer to penetrate the body and requires more time spent in the sauna in order to achieve the full benefits. Electric saunas can be installed both indoors and outdoors, with options like barrel designs for outdoor installations.

When it comes to energy consumption and operating costs, infrared saunas have an edge over electric saunas, as they require less energy to heat up and maintain their temperature. In addition, infrared saunas are generally less expensive to purchase and install, making them an attractive option for home use. However, it is important to note that research on infrared saunas is limited and some of the marketing claims surrounding their benefits should be taken with a grain of salt.

In terms of health benefits, both infrared and electric saunas provide similar advantages, such as stress reduction, improved circulation, and potential skin rejuvenation. However, infrared saunas might offer a more comfortable and easier-to-use experience for some users due to their lower heat levels and quicker heating time.

Ultimately, the choice between an infrared and electric sauna comes down to personal preferences and priorities. Those in search of a more relaxed, less intense sauna experience may prefer the gentle heat of an infrared sauna. Meanwhile, for users seeking the traditional sauna environment with higher heat levels and humidity, an electric sauna may be the right fit.

Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas use dry heat, with light fixtures reflecting heat directly onto your body as a form of therapy. They have gained popularity in recent years due to their potential health benefits.

Improved cardiovascular and lung function: Infrared saunas help increase blood flow and widen your blood vessels, mimicking the physiological response of exercise. This can lead to a healthier heart and better lung function1.

Pain reduction: The warmth of an infrared sauna can help alleviate muscle and joint pain2. In particular, infrared saunas have been found to help decrease muscle soreness and aid recovery from strength-training sessions3.

Skin rejuvenation: The increased circulation and sweating stimulated by infrared saunas can help remove impurities and toxins from your skin, contributing to a rejuvenated and glowing complexion2.

Weight loss: Although not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise, infrared saunas may contribute to weight loss. One small study showed that regular sauna users experienced fat loss throughout the study4. This could be due to the increased core temperature that mimics the calorie-burning effect of exercising.

In summary, infrared saunas offer a range of potential health benefits, including improved cardiovascular function, pain reduction, skin rejuvenation, and potential weight loss. As always, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating infrared sauna sessions into your wellness routine.

Health Benefits of Electric Saunas

Electric saunas, also known as traditional saunas, use electric heaters to warm-up the air and create a hot, dry environment. They offer numerous health benefits, which are backed by scientific research.

One of the main advantages of electric saunas is improved cardiovascular health. The high temperature and increased heart rate helps to promote better blood circulation, which in turn can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart diseases. A Cleveland Clinic article states that the physiological response of the body to sauna heat mimics exercise, benefiting heart health.

Another health benefit associated with electric saunas is stress reduction. The heat and relaxing atmosphere in a sauna help to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation, ultimately lowering stress levels in the body. This can contribute to overall mental well-being.

Detoxification is another potential advantage of electric saunas. As the body sweats in response to the heat, it releases toxins and impurities through the skin. Sweating is a natural way for the body to cleanse itself, and the increased sweat production in saunas can aid in this process.

In addition, electric saunas may benefit individuals with certain skin conditions. The dry heat can alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and improve overall skin health by promoting cell regeneration.

Lastly, electric saunas may provide pain relief for individuals with joint and muscle discomfort. The heat helps to loosen tight muscles and reduce inflammation, providing temporary relief from pain.

In summary, electric saunas offer a variety of health benefits, including improved heart health, stress reduction, detoxification, skin rejuvenation, and pain relief. While these benefits are promising, it’s essential to use saunas safely and in moderation to avoid any potential risks or complications.

Safety Concerns: Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly, rather than heating the air around it like traditional electric saunas. While they have become popular for their potential health benefits, there are also safety concerns that users should be aware of.

One of the most common issues people may experience when using an infrared sauna is dehydration. Due to the increased sweating that occurs during a session, it is crucial to stay well-hydrated before, during, and after using the sauna. Failing to do so can lead to light-headedness, dizziness, or even fainting.

Additionally, infrared saunas may cause airway irritation, particularly in those with respiratory issues such as asthma. Prolonged exposure to the high heat can potentially worsen these conditions, so individuals with breathing problems should exercise caution when using an infrared sauna.

In some cases, users have reported burns and falls due to excessive heat or improper usage. To prevent such accidents, it’s essential to follow the recommended guidelines for temperature settings and session duration. Moreover, individuals should ensure that they are familiar with the controls and safety features of the sauna.

Infrared saunas are generally safe for most people to use for short periods. However, those with chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, or diabetes, should consult their healthcare provider before incorporating infrared sauna sessions into their wellness routine. This will help to minimize any potential risks and maximize the potential benefits of sauna use.

To summarize, it is crucial for individuals to be aware of the safety concerns associated with infrared saunas before choosing to use them. Staying well-hydrated, following recommended guidelines, and consulting with a healthcare professional when needed are all essential steps in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.

Safety Concerns: Electric Saunas

Electric saunas are generally safe as long as you follow important safety guidelines and precautions. One of the primary concerns with electric saunas is the risk of burns. These saunas rely on an electric heater to warm the air inside, reaching high temperatures that can cause skin burns if touched directly. To avoid such injuries, it’s essential to keep a safe distance from the heating elements.

Another aspect to consider is the potential for dehydration and overheating. Staying in an electric sauna for too long may lead to excessive sweating, which can cause dehydration and, in some cases, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. It’s important to monitor your time spent in the sauna, start with shorter sessions, and stay adequately hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after your sauna experience.

Proper ventilation is also crucial in electric saunas. Since these saunas heat the air within the room, they can cause discomfort or even airway irritation if not properly ventilated. Adequate air circulation helps ensure that the users can breathe comfortably, and no harmful fumes accumulate inside the room.

Lastly, it is vital to perform regular maintenance checks on your electric sauna. Ensuring that the electrical components, including wiring and heating elements, are in proper working order can help prevent potential accidents or hazards. If you notice any issues or malfunctions, promptly address them by contacting a professional electrician or sauna specialist.

In summary, electric saunas can be enjoyed safely by following essential guidelines, staying hydrated, ensuring proper ventilation, and regularly maintaining the sauna’s electrical components.

Energy Efficiency: Infrared vs Electric

Infrared saunas and electric saunas are both effective in providing a sauna experience, but they differ in terms of energy efficiency. The main difference lies in how they generate heat: infrared saunas use infrared heat waves to directly warm the body, while electric saunas rely on electric heaters to heat the air inside the sauna room.

The infrared heat technology in infrared saunas allows the body to absorb heat energy directly, thus using less overall energy. In comparison, electric saunas require more energy to heat the surrounding air before the heat is transferred into the body. This means that infrared saunas are generally more energy-efficient and can result in energy savings for the user.

Another factor that affects energy efficiency is the preheating time. Infrared saunas typically take about 10-15 minutes to heat up, whereas electric saunas may take 30-45 minutes. The shorter preheating time in infrared saunas reduces energy consumption, making them more eco-friendly and cost-effective.

Temperature also plays a role in energy efficiency. Infrared saunas operate at a lower temperature range (around 110-140°F or 43-60°C) than electric saunas, which usually have a temperature range of 150-195°F (65-90°C). The lower temperature of infrared saunas contributes to their higher energy efficiency, as less energy is required to maintain the desired heat level.

In conclusion, the direct heat transfer technology, shorter preheating time, and lower temperatures of infrared saunas make them more energy-efficient than their electric counterparts. This can result in lower energy bills and a lower carbon footprint for users seeking an eco-friendly sauna experience.

Cost Considerations: Infrared vs Electric

When considering the purchase of a sauna, understanding the cost differences between infrared and electric saunas is crucial. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss in this section.

Infrared saunas are known for their lower energy consumption compared to electric saunas. They typically have a wattage below 1.6 kW for smaller 1-2 person models, which can be used in a standard 110-volt outlet 1. This means you can expect lower operating costs compared to traditional electric saunas. Some estimates suggest that an infrared sauna uses around 60% less electricity than a traditional sauna, leading to savings on energy bills over time 4.

On the other hand, electric saunas usually require a higher wattage, with even the smallest models ranging from 3.0-4.0 kW 1. This results in a higher energy consumption that can noticeably increase your electricity bill. However, a traditional electric sauna may have a lower initial cost, with prices typically between $500 and $1000 4.

Installation and setup costs should also be taken into account. Infrared saunas generally have a simpler installation process, often being portable and easy to assemble. Conversely, electric saunas may require a more complex installation due to the need for modified electrical outlets, similar to those used for washers and dryers 1.

In summary, infrared saunas tend to have lower operating costs and easier installation, whereas electric saunas may come with a lower initial price but higher energy consumption. Consider these factors when deciding which type of sauna will best suit your needs and budget.

Maintenance: Infrared vs Electric

When comparing maintenance requirements of infrared and electric saunas, there are certain aspects to consider that will help you understand the differences between the two options.

In infrared saunas, the primary component responsible for heating is the infrared heater panels. These panels require minimal maintenance, as they are designed to last for a long time without any issues. Periodically, you may need to wipe the panels gently with a soft cloth to remove dust or dirt. Additionally, infrared saunas tend to maintain a lower operating temperature, which can make general cleaning tasks, such as wiping down the interior surfaces, easier and less time-consuming.

On the other hand, electric saunas use a heating element to heat the space, often with the help of stones. These elements can sometimes develop scale buildup due to minerals in the water used for steam generation. Consequently, electric sauna owners may need to periodically check and clean the heating elements, as well as remove any built-up mineral deposits on the sauna stones. Additionally, the higher operating temperatures of electric saunas may require occasional deep-cleaning of sauna benches, walls, and floor to remove accumulated sweat and bacteria.

Both infrared and electric saunas share some common maintenance tasks, such as:

  • Ventilation: Ensuring proper air circulation is critical for the longevity and operation of your sauna. Regularly inspect the vents for any obstructions or dust buildup, and clean them as needed.
  • Wooden surfaces: Treat the wooden surfaces with a mild, non-toxic wood cleaner every few months to keep the wood looking fresh and prevent any mold or mildew growth.
  • Doors and windows: Check the seals, hinges, and handles of your sauna doors and windows for proper functioning. Apply lubrication to the hinges and tighten any loose screws as necessary.
  • Inspection: Regularly inspect your sauna for any visible damage, including worn or damaged components, and deal with such issues promptly to prevent further deterioration.

In summary, while both infrared and electric saunas require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity, the tasks involved are somewhat different due to their distinct heating methods. By being aware of and addressing these specific needs, you can enjoy a safe and efficient sauna experience for years to come.


Infrared and electric saunas both offer unique benefits and experiences. When comparing the two, it’s essential to consider factors such as operational costs, comfort, and potential health benefits.

Infrared saunas utilize infrared light to directly heat the body, providing a comfortable experience at lower temperatures compared to traditional saunas. They may also be easier to use at home and less expensive to purchase. However, it’s important to note that the research backing infrared saunas is still limited.

On the other hand, electric saunas heat up the air through an electric heater, creating a hot environment similar to traditional wood-burning saunas. They can reach higher temperatures than infrared saunas, and some people may prefer the more intense heat.

Energy efficiency is another critical factor to consider when choosing between infrared and electric saunas. Infrared saunas generally consume less power due to their lower operating temperatures, leading to lower energy bills over time. Meanwhile, electric saunas may require more power to maintain high temperatures, potentially resulting in higher costs.

Ultimately, the decision between infrared and electric saunas comes down to personal preference, budget, and desired health benefits. It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons, and consider factors like cost, warmth, and comfort when making the final choice. Regardless of the type of sauna you choose, incorporating regular sauna sessions into your wellness routine can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between an infrared and an electric sauna?

The main differences between an infrared and an electric sauna lie in the way they produce heat and warm the user. Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly, while electric saunas warm the air first, which then heats the body. This results in infrared saunas typically operating at a lower temperature than electric saunas.

Which type of sauna is more energy efficient?

In general, infrared saunas tend to be more energy efficient than electric saunas. This is because they require less energy to produce the same amount of heat, due to their direct heating method. Electric saunas, on the other hand, need to heat the air first, which can lead to more energy consumption.

How do the health benefits compare between infrared and electric saunas?

There is an ongoing debate about the health benefits of infrared and electric saunas, but both types have proven health benefits. It primarily depends on your preferences and health goals. Infrared saunas may offer a more comfortable experience due to their lower operating temperature, while traditional electric saunas provide the authentic experience of hot steam.

Can both types of saunas be used outdoors?

Yes, both infrared and electric saunas can be used outdoors as long as they are designed for outdoor use and have proper insulation, heating, and weather protection. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for outdoor installations to ensure safety and performance.

Which type of sauna is easier to install at home?

In general, infrared saunas are considered easier to install at home as they require less infrastructure, such as venting and wiring, compared to electric saunas. Additionally, many infrared saunas come in portable and modular designs, making installation and relocation more straightforward.

Are there any safety concerns when choosing between infrared and electric saunas?

As with any appliance, safety is paramount. Both infrared and electric saunas have safety features, but it is essential to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety protocols, such as not using the sauna alone, avoiding overexposure, and adherence to electrical safety standards. Infrared saunas have the added benefit of operating at a lower temperature, which may reduce the risk of overheating or burns.


  1. Modern Cabin Living: Infrared vs Traditional Saunas vs Electric 2 3 4 5
  2. Verywell Health 2
  3. Healthline
  4. WebMD 2 3

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