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Infrared Sauna Installation Documents
Infrared Material Kit
Traditional vs. Infrared Sauna
Carbon Vs. Ceramic
If you are interested in heat bathing, you have probably read many articles regarding the health benefits of traditional sauna, far-infrared sauna, and steam baths. Today, we are going to look at the biggest debate, which is between traditional sauna and far-infrared sauna.
To begin: "The sauna you will use the most is the best sauna.” Thus, this article is not to address the question of "What’s better—traditional sauna or far-infrared sauna?” Rather, we’ll explore the differences between the sauna types and why you might prefer one over the other.
If you enjoy steam in the sauna, higher temperatures and a more social environment, then traditional sauna may be the best sauna for you.
If you prefer lower temperatures but with body-penetrating heat, far-infrared sauna may be your best sauna choice.
First, let us look at the similarities of the rooms and the shared benefits. The goal of sauna bathing varies by person, but let’s assume your general goal is to enjoy the benefits of heat bathing: relaxation and stress reduction, sweating (with the associated detoxification) and relieving aches and pains. Both sauna types provide these benefits, although the conditions under which the benefits are achieved are quite different.
The benefits of heat bathing have much to do with the sauna creating a self-induced fever. As Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine observed, "Give me fever and I can cure every disease.” While this statement is hyperbole, it does point to the healing power of an increased body temperature.
Both sauna types will be relatively dry. The far-infrared rooms tend to be close to normal house humidity levels unless it has been on for extended periods of time. The traditional sauna will be drier (10% or lower) until water is sprinkled over the rocks. The traditional sauna is the only bath in the world where the user controls both temperature and humidity, with humidity controlled to user liking by how much water is thrown on the rocks. In far-infrared saunas you control the temperature, but the humidity is whatever it is
While perspiring in either sauna, you will experience deep relaxation, sore muscles are loosened, and aching joints will likely feel relief. The process of perspiration burns some calories, though the number of calories burned is debatable and is dependent upon the individual. Most of the weight lost in a sauna is water loss and is re-gained upon rehydrating. However, without a doubt sauna can be an important part of a healthy weight loss program.
To look at the differences between traditional and IR saunas, we will separate these into verifiable, theoretical, and fabricated differences. The verifiable differences are temperature, method of heat, heat-up time, amount of energy used for typical sized room, and the social experience.
The temperature for a traditional sauna typically ranges between 150 and 185º F. In the United States & Canada, regulation dictates that the maximum temperature at ceiling level is 194º F (90º C). Thus, the hottest point in the sauna—which is at the ceiling directly above the sauna heater—is typically between 185º and 190º F (80-90ºC). Claims that a traditional sauna exceeds 200º F is simply not true and not applicable for electric saunas sold in the US.
The temperature for a far-infrared sauna is usually set between 120 and 140º F; however, unlike the traditional sauna, the goal in and IR room is not to achieve a high temperature. Instead, in a far-infrared room, the bather wants the emitters to remain active because infrared energy is only being emitted (therefore providing the benefit of the deep penetrating infrared heat) when the emitters are on. Because of this, the temperature difference is almost irrelevant, since profuse sweating results in both sauna types, but the method of heating the body is different. In an IR sauna the bather will feel hot and will sweat profusely, but at much lower temperatures. Thus, if the goal is to spend longer periods of time in the sauna, the IR sauna is a good choice.
In a traditional sauna, perspiration is achieved when the bather enters a heated room. When a traditional sauna has been properly heated, the sauna walls are warm, the air temperature has achieved set temperature and the rocks are super heated. As an interesting side note, the heated walls and the rocks are emitting far-infrared heat, combined with the heated air, to create an "enveloping heat”. The process for heating the room most often involves an electric heater that heats a compartment of stones, which then radiate the heat throughout the room. When the high temperature is achieved, the elements cycle on and off to maintain the high temperature. Most traditional sauna users enjoy pouring water over the rocks to create steam to raise sauna humidity levels. The benefits of pouring water over the rocks include: making the room more comfortable, moistening the nasal passages, and allowing the use of aromatherapy by mixing essential oils with the water.
In a far-infrared sauna, the heat waves penetrate the body to effectively heat the body and raise the body core temperature. To achieve this increased temperature, Far-infrared emitters create infrared energy which is close to the same wavelength as that which the body naturally emits—often referred to as the "Vital Range” of 7 to 14 microns, so the energy is well received by the body. The infrared energy deeply penetrates the skin and warms the muscles and joints. When the energy enters the body, it causes the body temperature to increase and ultimately results in perspiration. In an infrared sauna it’s important for the emitters/heaters to remain on almost constantly. Since there is no mass of rocks to retain heat, the sauna will cool if the emitters shut off. Thus, even though most of the energy is turned into efficient infrared energy, IR saunas are designed for almost continuous operation of the infrared emitters. As mentioned above, the sauna bather in an infrared room wants to position himself in front of operating emitters to get maximum benefit from the heat.
The heating time for the two rooms can be very different, depending on how the rooms are used. For a traditional sauna, a bather should allow 20-40 minutes for the room to achieve a desired temperature and to properly pre-heat the rocks. This heating time is dependent upon the starting temperature (An outdoor sauna in winter will take longer to heat up. Once the room achieves set temperature, the heater will cycle on and off, typically operating about 50% of the time. The insulated walls and the heated rocks will keep the room hot and at stable temperatures. Many sauna users enjoy staying in the sauna after the elements have timed out (a 60-minute timer is standard on all residential saunas).
For a Far-Infrared room, a person may begin bathing when the room is turned on, since the infrared energy is being emitted by the heaters; however, many bathers would prefer to wait until the room is 110º F or hotter. With an ambient room temperature of 70º F degrees, it can take 15-20 minutes to exceed 100º F. There are two schools of thought with how to use the room. To some, 15 minutes was "wasted” while the infrared energy heated the wood panels rather than heating a body, while others find a pre-heated room to be more comfortable and believe an elevated starting temperature is necessary to begin perspiring.
The length of recommended use for each room is approximately the same (10-15 minutes per session); however, due to the lower air temperatures and the ability to feel the effects of infrared heat faster than a traditional sauna, it is not uncommon for a person to spend a total of 20-30 minutes in an infrared sauna. Regardless of which heat system is used, the bather must closely monitor how he feels while using the room, and they must be sure to drink plenty of water during the break between sessions.
From an economic and ecologic standpoint, energy use has become a more important factor in consumers’ decision making. Neither room will cause a substantial increase in a household electric bill.
For a traditional sauna, 5x7 size is most popular. The top bench can comfortably seat three people (more with L bench) and is also long enough to lie down during the sauna session. This room uses a 6 kW heater, 240 volt, 1 phase power; it draws 25 amps and requires a dedicated line and breaker. The average cost per kWH of electricity is approximately $0.11-.15 cents, so a 6-kW heater will cost approximately $.75 cents to run for one hour, if the heater runs continuously for one hour. Typically, a sauna heater will run for 75% of the first hour and 50% of subsequent hours on since the elements cycle once the set temperature is achieved.
A custom IR sauna is typically 2-3 kW using a 240 volt. Since the room can be used sooner than a sauna room, we will assume the room is used for ½ to ¾ of an hour including heat up time. At $0.11 / kWH, an infrared room will cost about $0.30 cents to run for one hour.
In addition to the traditional vs. IR “either/or” selection, there are other options. TyloHelo infrared kits allow you to add a Viki traditional heater in conjunction with the infrared package, with both operated by the same control. Since adding a rock heater tends to be modest extra, most who install a custom infrared sauna also add the traditional option.
And for those who consider Infrared because they do not enjoy the extreme heat of a traditional sauna, Tylo offers the Sense Combi. Tylo refers to the Combi as the “Soft Sauna”. The Combi has a built steam reservoir. It offers the option of operating at lower temperatures (150F/60C) with humidity up to 50%. In steam mode, it is in a class by itself. An exceptional and unparalleled sauna experience. The steaming Combi takes the edge off the heat. You can still splash water to spike the humidity and intensify the heat. The Combi broadens the appeal of the sauna. Those who already enjoy saunas, love the Combi. And many who find saunas a bit too intense really like the Combi as well
When you research your purchase, carefully read relevant information; consider for yourself how you plan to use your sauna and what health benefits seems relevant. Carefully sort out claims by some manufacturers of superior health or safety benefits. The truth is, both types of saunas have the benefits of heat bathing. Your goal is to find a sauna that fits your wellness plan, your space available and which you enjoy more, keeping in mind "the sauna you will use more the best sauna for you.
Most elements are either Carbon or Ceramic (Solid Ceramic or Incoloy). Built properly, both types can work effectively. The basic difference is the size of the heater and the intensity of the heat.
Incoloy: It is a tubular element usually coated in ceramic in order for it to pass as an infrared element. Of the three types, we would strongly discourage these. Firstly, it is not true ceramic. Secondly, they are the lowest quality.
Solid Ceramic: It is a heating filament cast into solid convex shaped ceramic heater. These are industrial elements generally used for zone or patio heating. They are being used in saunas with no real alteration to their design or construction.
On the plus side, this is a real infrared emitter and can be effective. It is popular among smaller local manufacturers because the emitters are readily available in small quantities.
The issue with all ceramic emitters is their small size and the intensity of surface and localized temperature. These emitters can get up to 400oC (750oF). It is necessary to have a backrest at least to 3” to 4” away from the heater in order for it to be used at all. Many complain that it is too hot on their skin and that they must shift their body frequently or lean forward to avoid discomfort.
Ceramic emitters work well for those who are building their own sauna. Such saunas are often non-standard in size and the smaller ceramic emitters offer more flexibility in placement. Also, custom infrared saunas are often larger, so require more emitters. Ceramic are available in 240 volt, so that the load remains manageable. And since these are being hard-wired in the field, 240 volt is not an issue. With Carbon, it would be necessary to run several 120 volt circuits.
Carbon: Organic Carbon emitters have a very large surface area. The result is a much cooler surface temperature, more even heating and full body coverage. It is possible to touch the heater during use without getting burned. The heating surface area is typically 30-50 times greater ceramic tube heaters. The larger surface area envelopes and reduces any hot or cold spots in the sauna.
Depending on the motivation behind selecting an infrared sauna, carbon may be the preferred choice. If the major consideration is heat therapy for sore muscles, arthritis or fibromyalgia, carbon is likely the better selection. Carbon heaters spread the heat evenly throughout the sauna. Virtually all the wall space is covered. And as is the case with our Tylo saunas, there are heaters in the bench and floor as well – This can not be done with ceramic. Ceramic aims at your body core and it will work to make you perspire. But carbon will heat the whole body more evenly.
Having said that, our Carbon emitters operate from 8.4 to 9.4 microns for maximum infrared penetration and benefit.
Virtually all the infrared heater kits are not approved by the commonly recognized Certificiation Authorities (UL, ETL, CSA).
Most of the pre-fab "plug n play" are approved. The problem arises when these companies sell the infrared sauna heaters for customers to build their own custom built in infrared sauna. They may carry a component approval. That only means they can be used in used in another product that seeks to gain approval (i.e warehouse heating, pre-fab infrared sauna). However, these Infrared heater components are not approved to be sold on their own.
We only carry the infrared heaters sold by TyloHelo Inc. To our knowledge, TyloHelo is the only company that has an infrared package that is approved. The TyloHelo IS-IR heater kits are ETL approved for field installation. That is the reason why we can not and do sell individual emitters (heaters). We have four infrared kits that are approved. Each kit comes with a specified number of emitters, a relay box, control and explicit instruction for field installation.
Contact us to discuss or send a drawing of what you have in mind. There are many great new designer features being incorporated in saunas; inspired by online designer showcase websites. We will help you balance function vs. fashion. We will advise on how best to utilize the space. And just importantly, we will tell you if we think your design is bad or unworkable.
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