Well, there is quite a bit of difference, and understanding those differences is very important for both usage and creating your training and recovery programs.
So, what are the significant differences between traditional and infrared saunas? Here is all you need to know about the different types of sauna.
HOW DOES A TRADITIONAL SAUNA WORK?
All modern saunas work with heated air. While all saunas produce heat, it’s the source of heat that changes with the type of sauna.
Traditional saunas, also called Finnish saunas or steam saunas, are wooden chambers with a pile of rocks that are the heating method. The heated stones are doused with water to create steam. A traditional steam sauna produces steam to create hot air temperature as well as a lot of humidity inside the chamber.
With that said, the climate inside traditional saunas can be regulated to adjust different degrees of temperature and humidity. Also, traditional saunas heat up slowly and gradually.
They can range from regular dry sauna bathing to becoming steam rooms but typically are kept between 5% and 15% humidity.
HOW IS AN INFRARED SAUNA DIFFERENT?
Infrared saunas, also called IR saunas or far infrared saunas, work with an entirely different heating system. Unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas operate with radiant heat therapy, as opposed to an ambient heating system intended to heat from the outside in.
An infrared sauna can be either a wooden or plastic chamber and uses ceramic, Incoloy, or carbon panel heaters that emit infrared light (also called far-infrared light) throughout the sauna room.
As infrared saunas use radiant heat, the human body absorbs the heat during the entire sauna experience.
INFRARED VS TRADITIONAL SAUNA: THE KEY DIFFERENCES
There are essentially 8 key differences between traditional steam and infrared saunas.
Traditional saunas are typically heated to high temperatures, between 70C and 110C.
In contrast, infrared saunas are typically heated to lower temperatures, only to 50C and 60C.
For most people, the lower temperature makes for more relaxation and stress reduction during sauna bathing.
There are numerous wonderful health benefits to be gained with sauna sessions. Even the earliest known sauna structures were elements of traditional medicine because of the wellness benefits that they provided.
You can still gain the same benefits with sauna use whether in traditional saunas or with infrared sauna therapy. However, infrared sauna use vs traditional saunas does come with added benefits.
A regular sauna bath in either type has shown beneficial in the following areas:
- Cardiovascular health and disease
- Chronic fatigue and pain (including Rheumatoid diseases)
- Skin properties
- Exercise, wellness, and recovery
- Deep relaxation
The steam generators of traditional sauna therapy are good for:
- Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Respiratory issues and pneumonia
- Blood flow
Sauna bathing inside an IR sauna is very similar to sunbathing. However, infrared sauna benefits the sauna bather more than the sun benefits the sunbather.
However, those who use infrared heat experience deep relaxation on a much greater scale. As well as:
- Better muscle recovery
- Improved blood circulation and blood pressure
- Boost endurance and metabolism
- Anti-aging properties
It takes a traditional sauna 30-40 minutes to heat up, while infrared saunas only take 10-15 minutes. This is due to the traditional sauna needing to heat the whole room, where as the infrared light heats up you.
The operational costs of these two saunas are drastic. Infrared sauna companies have engineered them to be extremely energy efficient and typically cost about one-third of what a traditional sauna does.
All saunas tend to be rather low maintenance. But of course, it also depends upon your sauna use.
An infrared sauna is far more low maintenance than a traditional sauna. Simply because you are talking about dry heat compared to wet heat, the chance of mould and mildew is almost zero, whereas, with wet heat, mould and mildew can be an endless battle.
THE OVERALL EXPERIENCE
The sauna experience is all about comfort and benefit.
EASE OF INSTALLATION
Traditional saunas must be professionally built and installed on-site. This is one of the biggest cost factors involved.
However, most infrared saunas are pre-built and are sold as kits that you can assemble and install yourself if you want to. Normally, it only requires a couple of people with typical hand tools and a couple of hours.
Also, infrared does not require any venting as steam saunas do.
Depending upon the quality of the sauna, the price varies tremendously.
Infrared saunas range from $2500 to over $16,000. But, traditional saunas are far more expensive, and typically range between $10,000 and $40,000.
As an example, comparable saunas of mid-level quality would sell for around $8000 for infrared and $22,500 for traditional.
WHICH SAUNA TYPE IS BEST?
Which sauna is best comes down to your sauna use. To maximize the benefits, you should always jump into a cold shower immediately after sauna use.
For the full spectrum of thermal therapy, a far infrared sauna is the best option, especially for those who live active fitness lifestyles.
However, even for those who are a bit older and can’t get around as well as before, the dry heat of an infrared sauna can do wonders for overall health while not demanding the tolerance of an uncomfortable climate.
WHICH IS BETTER FOR ATHLETES, AN INFRARED OR TRADITIONAL SAUNA?
Saunas have long been a favourite recovery method for professional athletes. Today, most professional athletes and trainers prefer to include the use of an infrared sauna in their training and recovery programs. These saunas are far more effective in reducing pain and facilitating muscle recovery. The benefits of the traditional sauna is that it can get much hotter and thus you get the benefits of heat shock proteins, something we will dig into further on another blog post.
CAN I INSTALL INFRARED SAUNAS MYSELF?
It depends upon the model of sauna you are going to buy, but generally speaking, you can assemble and install a pre-built infrared sauna yourself. You should expect the entire process to take you about 1 to 2 hours, but once it’s together, you simply need to plug the sauna into a normal outlet and you are ready to go.
ARE INFRARED AND TRADITIONAL SAUNAS EXPENSIVE TO OPERATE?
There is a significant difference in operational costs between a traditional sauna and an infrared. In fact, an infrared sauna is about a third cheaper. As a comparison, if you used the sauna 3 times a week, an infrared sauna would cost about $10 to operate. A traditional sauna would be upward of $30.
WHICH SAUNA TYPE OFFERS MORE HEALTH BENEFITS?
Both types of saunas have excellent health benefits. The genuine question here is comfort. Some people simply have a difficult time being in a traditional sauna due to the heat. However, that issue is completely resolved with an infrared sauna, so everyone can take full advantage of the health benefits.
The sauna has come a long way and has benefited greatly from modern technology and engineering. This means you also can benefit greatly from it.
Saunas are far more than just relaxation chambers. They were originally a form of traditional therapy practice and still have many, in fact, more, of those same incredible benefits to this day.
Your sauna session can be targeted to achieve your specific goals, or you can simply use the sauna and take in all that it has to offer. The choice is yours.