Infrared saunas come with one of two types of infrared heaters: ceramic or carbon fiber. Both are efficient in delivering therapeutic far-infrared light, but there are pros and cons to both.
What is Infrared Heat?
Infrared light and heat comes from a specific section on the electromagnetic spectrum.
Infrared waves are between .7 and 1000 microns on the electromagnetic spectrum. Below infrared light on the spectrum are gamma rays, x-rays, UV light, and visible light. Above infrared light are radar waves, microwaves, UHF and VHF radio waves and short-, medium-, and long wave radio.
Within the infrared spectrum are near infrared waves (.7 - 1.5 microns), medium infrared waves (1.5 to 5 microns), and far infrared waves (5 - 1000 microns).
Near infrared waves don't produce heat and is what is used in television remote controls and other infrared communication technology.
Far infrared waves, however, are thermal (Thermal-IR). We feel them as heat. In fact, humans emit far infrared waves, too, which is what night vision equipment "sees".
Infrared light heats the object it hits, but not the air in between it and the object. Most of the sun's heat is emitted in infrared light, but the earth's atmosphere absorbs most of it.
Now, back to saunas. The infrared heaters in saunas heat the object they come in contact with (you and the walls), which radiate heat back out, but they do not heat the air itself.
Far infrared waves are able to penetrate human tissue to a depth of about 1.5 to 3 inches. The deep penetrating heat of far infrared decreases stiff joints directly, increases blood flow, relieves muscle spasms, and burns calories, to name just a few of the many benefits.
Traditional wet and dry saunas heat the air first, then the body. But because infrared waves penetrate into the body tissue and heat from within, you begin sweating in an infrared sauna almost immediately. This is beneficial because toxins in your body are excreted through sweat glands and in your breath as you exhale. The increased blood flow takes more toxins through your system to your lungs to be exhaled, and the deep, penetrating heat releases toxins from deep within the tissues to be sweated away on the surface of your skin.
Types of Infrared Heaters
The two main types of infrared heaters are ceramic heaters and carbon heaters.
Ceramic heaters use a ceramic rod to radiate infrared waves (heat). They emit more heat than carbon heaters, but they're heat is more concentrated to around the rod itself. They also do not emit as much far infrared as carbon fiber heaters do, so, the therapeutic benefit may not be as high, although they are plenty effective at delivering infrared heat into the body.
Carbon heaters have been less common than ceramic, but they are gaining popularity. They are extremely thin, about 1 millimeter, and made of a carbon film or plate. The surface area of carbon heaters is much larger than ceramic rods. The plus to this a larger surface area is that the infrared waves are emitted more evenly throughout the sauna and across your body.
On the other hand, they don't give off quite as much heat due to the surface size. But this isn't necessarily a downside. The carbon plates are not as hot to the touch, so you can lean against them or touch them safely.
Carbon fiber infrared heaters are more economical, saving up to 40% over ceramic rod heaters.
True Value technology combines the best of both ceramic and carbon heaters. They use the surface space of carbon fiber heaters and include a patented micro ceramic compound within the fibers.
Infrared Sauna Buying Guide
The type of heater to use in your infrared sauna is only one decision you will need to make. Our infrared sauna buying guide discusses more features to consider before purchasing. A sauna is a big investment for many, both in size and cost, so it pays to be fully informed before purchasing.
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