Comparing Saunas: Infrared Heaters / Emitters
The internet is filled with sauna companies marketing their heaters, but what heater is the one right choice? As you might expect from seeing so many different options available, there is no one right choice, but there are good reasons to avoid some heaters and the saunas that use them.
A number of sauna companies have extensive woodworking experience, but no other sauna company comes close to our extensive experience in either health or electronics. That experience means our custom emitter designs are only ready for use in products once they meet our strict requirements for efficacy, functionality, durability, and safety. Efficiency in heater design, relatively speaking, is not difficult from an engineering perspective. After those considerations, the remaining variables can be decided by personal preference.
Types of Heaters / Emitters Used in Infrared Saunas
Ceramic inside Metal Sheath (CIMS)
The Bio-Resonance™ Heaters inside our Thermal Life saunas are this type.
Carbon or "Laminate" Heater
This example is from a manufacturer that is no longer in business. On the left you see a rigid-style carbon heater without its cover -- it uses fiber glass as its base material.
This is an example of a heater from another manufacturer that is currently in production. This flimsy-style carbon heater uses an unknown base material -- perhaps polyimide -- and is also shown without its cover. Notice the bank of near infrared (NIR) LEDs in the center of the left section.
Some ceramic block heaters change color when they are hot. This is so that when a large bank of them is used to dry paint, such as on a car, that it is easy to see one that has burnt out.
Notice that much of the outside ceramic has cracked off.
Near Infrared Bulbs / Near Infrared LEDs
What to Avoid in Infrared Emitters
NEAR INFRARED (NIR)
Nothing exemplifies inexperience with health like adding something that can be detrimental to health and calling it an advantage. Since the early 1900s it has been known that exposure to near infrared (NIR) promotes the formation of cataracts (opacity, or clouding of the lens of the eye). We suggest googling “glass-workers cataract” for more information. High Tech Health saunas do not use NIR.
LOW DURABILITY / LOW RELIABILITY
Nobody wants a sauna that frequently needs its heaters replaced.
Ceramic block and ceramic rod heaters are prone to absorption of moisture over time, ultimately leading to their failure and need for replacement. Their fragile nature also means they can break during transportation. Our Bio-Resonance ™ heaters inside our Thermal Life saunas use Ceramic Inside Metal Sheath heaters that do not have these problems.
Typical carbon (sometimes called “laminant”) heaters do not have very good reliability and will fail over time too. The reason is that they are not manufactured and tested to meet high enough tolerances. Unlike ceramic-style heaters, which require significant manufacturing knowledge and investment to produce, carbon heaters can be made inexpensively enough that the same factory that does the woodwork almost always makes the heaters too. As you would expect from people skilled in woodwork and not heaters, the typical depth of knowledge is very limited. An unfortunate side effect of all this is that the factory can make enough extra profit on the heaters that they can afford to simply replace heaters later when they fail, as opposed to needing to design in reliability to begin with – they count on the fact that there is no way for a consumer to know whether they are buying one built to be reliable or not, and that many people will not bother to get their sauna fixed in the future.
At this time there is no conclusive proof that non-ionizing radiation in the form of electric or magnetic fields (EMF), no matter what frequency, are harmful. That said, High Tech Health feels that an unknown risk that can be avoided should definitely be avoided. All High Tech Health saunas are low EMF. Its expensive, but we feel that peace-of-mind is important and we wouldn’t feel good about ourselves if we later learned that we had unknowingly contributed negatively to people’s health.
One of the biggest drawbacks to carbon heaters is their exceptionally high EMF compared to other heater technologies. Carbon heaters have been around for as long as far infrared saunas have been around, but without solving the EMF problem, High Tech Health would never consider using them. The ONLY WAY to reduce the EMF on a carbon heater is to do it by design.
Other Heater Considerations
A sauna that uses carbon heaters will have much of its inside surface covered with them. Use of a different heater technology that covers less surface area obviously exposes more wood. This is a question of personal preference.