Not All Saunas Are Created Equal
Editor’s Note: In last month’s issue, you learned that there are several different ways of heating your sauna. And not all have the same effects. This month, continue to learn about details to pay attention to when shopping for the perfect sauna for your home or office.
The next consideration is the type of wood used. The traditional wood used for saunas has been cedar and is still the preferred wood by most manufactures and buyers. Cedar has the advantage of being durable but it is an aromatic wood and individuals may be sensitive to the odor produced by cedar. The odor is produced from off gassing. As the sauna is used this off gassing will diminish. Canadian Western Red Cedar is considered the best cedar to use in a sauna, but is also short in supply, making it the most expensive.
Aspen, basswood, hemlock, and spruce are other commonly used woods in saunas. The advantage of these woods is that they produce little or no off gassing. Aspen and basswood are considered to be the most hypoallergenic but are also more expensive.
An overlooked item by most sauna purchasers is whether the entire sauna is made of a hypoallergenic wood. Some sauna manufacturers cut corners by using an inexpensive wood onthe bottom, top, and back portions of the outside of the sauna. Some manufactures even go so far as to use plywood, which out gasses formaldehyde and other toxic substances.
It’s best to buy a sauna that uses only one wood and to stay away from any product that uses plywood. Also, you do not want to buy a sauna that uses glues and epoxies in its construction. A wooden sauna can be made without the use of such materials.
There is a growing concern that electro magnetic frequencies (EMF) are a risk to health. If you are concerned about EMF exposure you should look for a sauna that has shielded electrical wires.
Placement and ease of use of the controls are important considerations. It is best to have the on and off switch on the outside of the sauna where it is easy to access. Some saunas have only one control which is on the inside back wall which forces you to go inside to the sauna to turn it on and off. Some saunas take more than an hour to get up to operating temperature and will only stay on for an hour at a time which will require it to be turned on again. The temperature display should be on the outside and inside of your saunas so you can monitor the temperature before and during you sauna session. One of the most useful features is to have it where you can program your sauna to come on at a certain time so it is ready to go when you are. This is especially important for those with a busy schedule and do not have the time to turn on the sauna and wait for it to heat up.
It is highly recommended that you buy your sauna from a local dealer. Those that buy saunas over the Internet or from a wholesaler run the risk of getting stuck with something that does not work or meet expectations. Often the sauna will be delivered by a freight company and it is entirely up to the purchaser to bring it inside of the building, unpack it and assemble it. If there is a problem it is often difficult to get help from the seller who may be hundreds of miles away. It can be a very difficult and expensive task to ship the sauna back to the seller.
Ideally you should take your sauna for a “test drive” before purchasing. You should be able to go over to the dealer and sit in a sauna and sweat. More than one time is desirable because you might sweat more or less on different occasions. Look for a dealer that has a clean shower where you can shower off after your saunas session. You do not want to wait to go home and shower where you will reabsorb some of the toxins you just sweated out.
Ask questions. Talk to other sauna owners. A sauna is not like an automobile where if you have a problem you can drive it back to the dealer for service or trade it in forsomething else.
Investigate the manufacturer. How long has the company been making saunas? What kind of warranty does it offer? You want to get the best sauna for your money but more importantly you want to get the best sauna for your health. Sometimes the best sauna for you will be made overseas. Sometimes a manufacture will stress country of origin to over shadow its weakness. What is more important than where the sauna is made is that it works and is made out of quality materials and is well crafted. Look at the fit and finish. Some things to consider are: Is there gaps in the seams? Does it feel flimsy? Is it easy to assemble and disassemble? Are the benches narrow or deep?
Lastly, look for a sauna that has been independently tested by a third party to determine whether it is producing the correct micron of FIR energy and that it is not out gassing any toxins. Usually only the higher end manufactures will have these tests done because they are expensive; many saunas would not pass such a test, and therefore are not tested.
1. Infrared Sauna Guide-How to Use them and Why You Need Them, by Reggie Anderson, M.H. (2005)
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