Infrared Sauna Heaters

Infrared sauna heaters are the key components of the far infrared sauna: Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about these critical sauna parts : • What exactly are far infrared sauna heaters?
• How do they work?
• What type of these sauna heaters are available?
• What are the parts of the sauna heater?
• What materials are used in sauna heaters and how are they different?

(This is our most technical infrared sauna page. If you want a less technical explanation of infrared heaters, you'll find it on to our fir sauna page! )

What exactly are far infrared sauna heaters?

Infrared heaters are designed to emit energy in a very specific wavelength — the highly beneficial infrared wavelength.

Energy comes in a range of wavelengths. The visible light we see falls into one section of this range. Ultraviolet rays and x-rays fall into other sections of the range.

While the infrared energy wavelengths range from 5.6 to 1000 microns (one micron equals one micrometer or one millionth of a meter), far infrared sauna heaters are designed to provide infrared waves with a concentration between 6 and 14 microns. FIR wavelengths of between 6 and 14 microns are believed to be the most beneficial to humans and other living things on Earth.

Nowadays, designers try to further fine-tune these heaters to emit energy in the 9.35-12 micron wavelength range. This narrower wavelength range is thought to be ideal for sauna users and maximize the benefits of the infrared sauna . This corresponds to a heat radiation between 98.6-120 degrees F.


• The human palm emits far infrared energy between 8 and 12 microns.

• The energy output from quality far infrared sauna heaters so closely match the human body’s radiant energy that nearly 93 percent of the sauna’s far infrared waves reach the skin.

The heaters work when an electrical current is passed through its emitter, an infrared-producing conductive material.

All professionally manufactured saunas have their heaters operated by a control unit. Most of these units are dual control, meaning they can be operated from inside or outside the cabinet. This control unit or brain can be analog or digital and allows the user to program the sauna temperature and set a timer for how long they will be using the heaters.

If you’re planning on building a sauna using a do it yourself sauna kit or a sauna construction plan, you’ll want to review our upcoming sauna kit page for some important considerations on which sauna heater controls to choose. Of all the infrared sauna equipment you will buy, the heaters will be the key to a high quality home sauna.

How do they work?

Infrared sauna heaters produce far infrared radiation to directly heat the user, they do not use steam or dry heat like a steam room or dry heat sauna does. Read more about this on our fir saunas page .

The infrared waves don’t heat the air of the sauna as much as conventional sauna heaters do. Instead, they travel through the air until they run into an object (in this case the user). Then, by an energy and heat transfer process called radiation, the waves warm the object.

The heaters are activated by running an electrical current across its emmiter. The electrical current energizes and excites the emmiter and energy is radiated and broadcast from it in the form of heat and light.

A warmed up emitter is sending out FIR waves even when the electricity doesn't sound "on"

Heater manufacturers figure out what specific temperature their emmiter needs to operate at in order to produce the highest quality and concentration of desirable FIR heat. The sauna control panel toggles the heaters on and off to maintain the heaters in their ideal operating range while respecting the sauna user’s requested temperature.

A sauna heater that stays on continously or that operates at a very high temperature, unless specifically designed to do so, is not necessarily producing FIR in the ideal range. When the emitter is at its optimal temperature, with or without a current passing through it, it is broadcasting FIR.

Technical corner: why fir heat waves don’t heat the air as much as conventional sauna heaters do

Of all the sauna parts , understanding the way infrared sauna heaters heat the user is the only complicated part.

Far infrared waves heat objects directly through an energy and heat transfer process called radiation. A simple explanation why quality infrared sauna heaters requires less heat then any other type of sauna to produce more dramatic results is defined by Planck’s law of radiation.

Basically, Planck's law is a formula that calculates the range, quantity, and concentration of wavelengths (frequency) of thermal radiation. Planck’s law tells us that there is an inverse correlation between temperature and FIR frequency.

Essentially, by applying less heat energy you create FIR at lower wavelengths. The FIR frequency range is approximately 5.6 microns to 1000 microns. A 9.35 Microns wavelength produces 98.6 degrees F. Heat.

Heater Types

There are two primary types of infrared sauna heaters. These are rod and panel. Visually it is very easy to distinguish between the two. Operationally they are both very effective and similar. I’ve experienced each one, and found that they both got me to sweat profusely. They also both maintained proper cabin temperature, cost the same to operate, look good, and are safe to use.

The rod style of heater uses a coated or uncoated cylindrical material as its emitter. A rod type is significantly smaller than a panel style in area and is covered by a metal grating. The panel style of heater is constructed of a conductive fabric—commonly carbon — that is attached to a frame or laminated to a substrate. The panel type covers a larger area, is typically black, and contained in a low profile framework. The fabric can be laminated to fiberglass substrates.

Due to its large area, panel style heaters provide more uniform coverage and none of the cool spots that may sometimes be associated with rod heaters.

Parts of the heater

A heater assembly is comprised of a housing, a reflector, an emitter, and a protective cover:

Housing- The frame or open case that the parts are assembled within. Reflector- A shiny metalic shield placed on the inside of the housing under the emmiter used to reflect energy into the sauna room from the back side of the emitter. Emitter - The FIR-producing conductive material. Protective cover – A metalic or wooden screen that prevents the user from coming in contact with the emitter.

Types of Materials the Emitters are Made Of

The most common types of materials that sauna heaters are constructed of are ceramic, incoloy, carbon fiber, compressed carbon, and carbon flat panel.

Each manufacturer, using what they believe to be the best material, claims to produce the heater with the optimal production of infrared heat! Move on from infrared sauna heaters to benefits of the infrared sauna.