Sunday, July 3, 2011

How to Get More From Your Infrared Sauna

The whole point of using an infrared sauna is to have the infrared energy land on your skin. Right? After all, it’s the infrared, and its ability to penetrate deeply into your body, that makes it a valuable health tool.  Otherwise,  you’re just sitting in a very hot little room.    

I’ve noticed something in the design of far infrared saunas, especially carbon saunas, that seems very significant. If you look closely, you can see that most of the infrared energy they create does not actually land on your body.  Let me explain.

First, infrared energy travels straight.  Technically it is a wave, but with an amplitude measured in nanometers, we can consider it a straight line. Second, infrared comes straight out of the heater, perpendicular to the surface.  That means it travels straight from the heater, and lands on the opposite wall where it is absorbed by the wood or another heater surface.  In the pictures below, you can see a typical carbon sauna and the diagrams of how the infrared will travel.

The infrared travels straight out of the heater, and is absorbed into the opposite wall. It does not get reflected by wood or carbon surfaces. So, it only has one chance to reach your body.

Now, let’s look at a common far infrared marketing distortion of how infrared light is represented:

The curved arrows in the picture imply that the infrared rays will somehow defy the laws of physics, magically bending through time and space to reach your body.  I especially like the “boomerang” effect of the lower heater. Well, it’s not true. The only infrared that will reach this woman’s body, is the infrared that is in-line with her body.

What I do like about this picture, is that the heaters are nicely divided into countable sections and it makes an easy model to estimate the true amount of infrared that will reach her body.  There are exactly 60 visible “rectangles” of carbon surface in this sauna. The top panels are divided into 24 rectangles, the sides into 12,  the bottom panel into 8, and there are 2 extras on the left and right side each to make 60 in total.

Since the infrared travels straight, only the panels she is in front of will deliver effective infrared to her body.  I count approximately the equivalent of 8 panels, maybe 10 to be very generous.  That means only 13-16% of the sauna’s output is reaching her body, or about 260-320 watts in a 2000 watt sauna.  In the picture below I have placed a red “X” on the parts of the heater that don’t ever reach her body with infrared.

There are two important points here. First, very little infrared actually body. Much too little to penetrate far into the body.  Second,  it is impossible to get much more, unless you can spread yourself out over the entire surface of the sauna:)

In addition, you can see that this sauna design will supply direct heat to the brain, which is considered bad. Ambient heat is okay, but direct infrared is not because the brain is very sensitive to temperature changes. 

Using an Eco-Sauna is an entirely different experience.  The heater design and the reflective walls combine to deliver as much as 90% of the infrared light to your body.  How is this possible?

First, the heaters are all mounted on one side, facing you. The heat lamps project their infrared like a spotlight.  It has a relatively narrow beam.  We are now using a diamond patterned heater that delivers almost all of its infrared right to you. First, here is the heater. It concentrated all its output into a small area.


Here is what it looks like, and what the heat pattern on the opposite wall will be. As you can see, most of the infrared lands on your body in the first pass!

Next, all of our near infrared saunas are lined with a radiant reflective lining. The key point is that it reflects infrared instead of absorbing it. No other infrared cabin sauna does this, so none are as effective at delivering infrared to your body. Any infrared that doesn’t reach you in the first pass will be reflected around the sauna to eventually reach you.

In our 1 person Eco-Sauna,  you can receive 90% of the therapeutic near infrared light into your body. This amounts to 900 watts  (90% of 1000 watts) , compared to about 300 watts in the sample 2 person sauna shown previously.  More power equals much deeper tissue penetration and much more therapeutic healing. 

When you think about it, it's common sense. And, you'll never read about it on the far infrared websites!