Not every infrared sauna uses the same type of heater. Instead, carbon sauna heaters and ceramic heaters are the two main types of heaters used in infrared saunas.
Many infrared sauna makers use the ceramic type because they're dependable and work very well. But carbon heaters made their entry in the infrared sauna arena a while ago, and many companies now sell infrared saunas that use carbon heaters.
There is some debate over which type of heater is "better" for use in infrared saunas. In truth, both types of heaters have their pros and cons. For example, sauna makers often promote carbon heaters as the type of heaters that produce high quality infrared heat in the longer wavelengths that are more therapeutically beneficial. Conversely, ceramic heaters are typically considered to be safer when it comes to EMF levels or off-gassing toxic fumes. However, whether they are "better" or not, carbon heaters are usually more expensive than their ceramic counterparts. Some companies that once sold carbon heater saunas have returned to primarily selling saunas with ceramic heaters, offering carbon as an added-expense option.
After that quick introduction, let's focus on what I hope will be some helpful information.
Not many people are aware that carbon sauna heaters use carbon oxidation. Many carbon heaters contain lead, aluminum and epoxy-glued resin. And often the heaters are laminated, which essentially converts them into plastic heaters. You'll also see carbon sauna heaters with several metal rods placed into panels made of aluminum and then coated with a spray-on carbon oxidation.
As mentioned above, carbon sauna heaters contain aluminum and lead, and these two metallic components give rise to a potential drawback of these heaters. In today's information age, just about everyone has heard that aluminum can contribute to metal toxicity. In fact, both aluminum and lead are neurotoxins. Is sitting in a sauna for up to thirty minutes a day with your back inches away from these toxic elements something you really want to do? It's your decision, of course - I'm just trying to give you enough information to be able to make your decision be an informed one. The companies that make or sell carbon sauna heaters claim they are safe to use, and one hopes that these companies have solid scientific evidence to back up that claim.
On the positive side, when you look at or buy an infrared sauna with carbon sauna heaters, you'll see that the heaters are often distributed throughout the entire sauna enclosure. They have an appealing appearance because they're placed behind small wooden slats.
The presence of so many carbon heaters might make you think you're getting a more thorough exposure to infrared than you would receive in a sauna that uses a smaller number of ceramic heaters. However, the reason so many carbon heaters are used is because each individual carbon heater produces less infrared heat than the amount produced by an individual ceramic heater. In the end, it doesn't matter if a sauna uses 5 heaters to generate 1,500 watts or if it uses 20 heaters to generate 1,500 watts - it's still the same total wattage of infrared energy. The number of heaters is irrelevant, as long as it's sufficient to produce the desired wattage of infrared energy.
Unfortunately, many carbon sauna heaters do produce high EMF levels. You can easily measure the electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by an infrared sauna by using a small device called an EMF detector. These meters are available on Amazon for thirty or thirty-five dollars, so the investment isn't significant.
Whether the EMF levels generated by carbon sauna heaters are dangerous is the subject of much debate. Until the issue is settled, I think it might be safer to choose a model with a low EMF level if possible, but that's just my opinion. Before you make a visit to a sauna seller's store, phone them up and ask whether you can bring your EMF detector. That way you can check their saunas before making your selection.
Some sauna sellers aren't terribly familiar with EMF and might even think you're checking out their saunas because you're working for one of their competitors. But, if you insist on testing their equipment's EMF levels, you might actually make the seller more aware of something that could turn out to be an important consideration.
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