A family member recently asked me if I had any suggestions about buying and using an in-home sauna. I consider myself a sauna enthusiast each winter; I’ve been using a sauna here in town located at Bliss, a tanning salon in Traverse City. It’s easy, clean and convenient and helps me keep my immune system in good shape. Renting sauna time is great for seasonal or occasional users as the cost is very attractive and there is no maintenance. However, if you have multiple people in your household that would use a sauna more than once a week, a purchase might be worthwhile.
Benefits of using a sauna include:
- Improves heart and brain health by dilating blood vessels and stimulating blood flow
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases relaxation, may relieve tension headaches
- Improves sweating detoxification of toxins like arsenic, lead, mercury, flame retardants, BPA, and pesticides
- Lowers fasting blood glucose
- Stimulates immune response
Traditional Finnish saunas heat the air inside using wood fire or gas. Temperatures run above 180 degrees F and are used for 5-20 minutes. These are often found at large resorts or spas that seat five or more people in them. If you have ever sat inside a sauna and felt like your skin hairs were on fire, it was probably a traditional sauna. It takes a bit to get used to the intensity, but some people prefer being in an enclosure not powered by electricity.
Home saunas are more often an infrared sauna. This uses long wavelengths of light to penetrate the skin and warm up the body. Think of standing on the beach on a cold day. The air around you is cold but the sunlight warms the skin on your face. Similarly the heat units in an infrared sauna heat up your skin and thus you become warm and begin to sweat. The inside air may range from 115-140 degrees F and is adjustable with a touch of a button.
A few guidelines to consider before you purchase a sauna:
- Try out as many types as you can beforehand so you know what features you like. Call around to health clubs, spas, salons, and medical offices that may offer this service. Also ask dealers if they have models available for a “test drive.”
- Consider if you will use the sauna alone or with others (remember that you all are naked, sweating and smelling fragrant). Choose the right size for your needs. Ask your family members their opinion too.
- Choose a bench width and length that fits the bodies of your family. Many benches are quite narrow and short and may not be comfortable for larger bodies.
- Consider comfort – would you be more likely to sit or lie down?
- If you are sensitive to electro-magnetic frequencies (EMF), be sure to look for a sauna that has a low reading at the “point of body contact” and not just the EMF rating that one free standing heater puts out. Be sure to inquire about third party lab data measuring EMF.
- Consider the VOC (volatile organic chemical) output and outgassing potential of the materials used to build the sauna. Is the wood made from natural cedar planks or similar? Or has it been chemically treated with formaldehyde, flame retardants, insecticides, or other preservatives? Is it made with particle board? What types of glue are used?
- What type of heater is used? Does the heater leave “cold spots” inside the sauna? Carbon heaters are considered higher quality than ceramic.
- Ask about lighting inside and outside the unit, speakers and music options, and back jacks that you can use to lean against the wall without blocking the heater.
- Investigate articles, online reviews, Consumer Reports to compare prices, features and models. Use words like “eco friendly”, “non-toxic”, “VOC Free”, “chemical free” when searching. You don’t want to detoxify your body in a toxic hot box.
References and Resources