Complete Guide: Upgraded DIY Infrared Home Sauna
Infrared saunas bathe you in the therapeutic benefits of infrared light, with the added bonus of warming your entire body and helping you sweat. Many people who struggle using a traditional sauna have found that IR light saunas do not get as hot and are, therefore far more comfortable.
>> READ MORE: The Benefits of Infrared Light Therapy
But not everyone lives close to an indoor sauna or therapy center that offers infrared sauna therapy — nor do they want to pay steep membership fees to make use of it.
The good news is that it’s entirely possible to build your own infrared sauna right at home. In fact, many TheraBulb users have been doing just that and I have as well. As the CEO of TheraBulb I decided to write this article as a follow up to our previous article BUILD YOUR OWN HOME INFRARED SAUNA and explain how I built my own TheraBulb Infrared sauna in a corner of my shed using off the shelf hardware and 10 TheraBulb lamps and 10 TheraBulb 300 Watt bulbs.
How Your Home Infrared Sauna Works
I’d like to go over the basics of IR/NIR light saunas for those readers who may be new to our products.
Infrared saunas are very different from traditional saunas in that they don’t just heat the air in a small room. Instead, IR saunas use an array of bulbs that emit infrared and red light rather than a sauna heater. Where does the heat come in? These IR bulbs emit a lot of heat — a great heat source that also gives you the rejuvenating radiant infrared light.
This light shines directly on your body, penetrating the skin and delivering the warming benefits deep into your tissue and bones. (I’ll talk more about this effect later!)
>> READ MORE: How Infrared Light Affects the Body
Now, this is an entirely different process from saunas that use ceramic electrical heaters or hot rocks to produce ambient heat. They can only warm up the space around you, leaving it up to your body to absorb the heat in a very inefficient way.
The biggest difference is that NIR bulbs are very easy to work with. As we explained in the previous guide, you can build a simple IR sauna in an unused closet with very little work and without hiring an electrician.
But this article is for TheraBulb fans who want to take it to the next level. We’ll actually be framing and insulating a small sauna and installing considerably more NIR bulbs than we talked about in our original DIY sauna article.
This is a major upgrade to the previous DIY sauna and will involve carpentry and electrical work. If you’re not completely confident in your skills in those areas, I recommend enlisting the help of a professional. Check your local regulations regarding improvements and electrical installations before proceeding. Electrical work in your home should always be performed and inspected by a licensed electrician.
What You’ll Need to Build Your UPGRADED NIR Sauna
These are the products and materials I used to build the example sauna in this article. All pictures in this article are from the sauna I built that I use 4-5 days a week for the past 8 months. Your building material needs will vary depending on the size and construction method you use to build your own. In this section, we’ll mainly focus on the specific requirements for the bulbs and providing power to your sauna.
Infrared Light Bulbs
- 10 x 300 Watt Near Infrared Light Bulbs
- Click here for the TheraBulb sauna owner’s discount of $3.75 off each bulb when purchasing four or more. Or enter the code SAUNA at checkout.
- Ten brooder-style clamp lamps rated for 300 watts.
- We used the TheraBulb hanging clamp lamps. These universal voltage lamps have been designed specifically to operate our 300W near infrared bulbs and feature a velcro support strap and a recessed ceramic socket.
- You will need a stand to attach the lamps to. We used a 50 pair shoe rack.
- Optional: You may leave out the shoe rack if you choose to do a little extra carpentry. We describe using mounted 2 x 4's in lieu of the shoe rack in the section titled "Building Your Near Infrared Sauna" below.
- These racks can be purchased on Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2Dst698
- Power strips provide outlets for the multiple lamps and provide integrated overload protection, which will interrupt the flow of power to the lamps in the event of an electrical problem
- I used two 20 amp power strips to match the 20 amp outlets I had installed.
- These can be purchased on Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/3Cc7FnE
Velcro Cable Ties
- The cable ties are used to secure the lamps to the stand and to keep the lamp cords out of the way.
- NOTE: The TheraBulb hanging clamp lamps include Velcro cable ties. These lamps are compatible with the TheraBulb 150W and 300W near infrared bulbs only.
- If you need additional cable ties or aren’t using TheraBulb lamps, Velcro straps can be purchased on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3CbHZYq
- NOTE: Incandescent near infrared bulbs are extremely bright, making eye protection absolutely essential.
- There are protective glasses made specifically for infrared home sauna users. These can be purchased here: https://bit.ly/32SNo45
- Additional infrared protective eyewear options can be found through industrial safety suppliers, as infrared filtering glasses are worn by welders. This eyewear is identified as IR2, IR3, or IR5 glasses, with higher numbers indicating increased darkness. Such eyewear may also be described as being ANSI Z87.1 certified or compliant. Here is a link to one source of industrial safety equipment, including eyewear: https://www.safetyglassesusa.com/welding-goggles.html
- 2x4's for framing
- Formaldehyde-free plywood such as this birch plywood
- R19 Insulation (this will help retain the heat produced by the bulbs, making the most efficient sauna possible)
- 2 x 20 amp GFCI Outlets: https://amzn.to/3i2PBpn
- 2 x 20 amp circuit breakers
- Conduit (as needed)
- Optional: 20 amp hot tub timer switches: https://amzn.to/3WE1AJc
Choosing a Location
We’ll be constructing a simple insulated sauna room with a door, so you’ll need to choose a location with enough space for your sauna. My example sauna measures 68” x 50” and is about the size of a typical half-bath. Of course you can modify your installation to suit the available space.
You’ll also need to run two 20-amp dedicated circuits and install two GFCI outlets in your sauna, so make sure you’re choosing a location that allows for this kind of electrical wiring.
What If I Don’t Want to Build?
If you want to skip the process of building a small room or wiring dedicated circuits, you can also use an outdoor sauna or exercise/hot yoga sauna tent from our approved provider Creatrix Solutions.
We’ve partnered with this company in the past to provide TheraBulb NIR incandescent bulbs for their portable saunas.
How Large Should I Build My Infrared Sauna?
Science comes into play a bit here in that the smaller the space, the faster your sauna (and you) will heat up. That said, you’ll want to strike a balance between comfort and efficiency.
Speaking purely to efficiency, a room of around 5’x5’ can be ideal. It allows your sauna to heat quickly and allow the user to sit relatively close to the bulbs on two sides. I built my sauna to dimensions of 5’10” inside height, by 5'8" in lengthy by 4’2” in width. This allows me to have a good sized chair or stool to sit in or even utilize a stretching mat in the room.
On the other hand, this size doesn’t allow much room to stretch out and definitely doesn’t provide for two users in the sauna at the same time. Keep in mind that you’ll have unlimited access to your own sauna, so you may want to spend 20+ minutes inside multiple times a day!
Building Your Infrared Sauna
I chose an empty area inside my shed for my sauna project. Notice that there’s plenty of room for the build, as well as space for the sauna door to open outward.
I began framing out the sauna using 2x4s. As you can see, my shed has a high ceiling so I also framed out a ceiling for the sauna itself. With a height of 5’10”, I can walk comfortably in the sauna. If you are taller you may want to take that in to consideration.
I created the exterior walls of the sauna using plywood that has not been treated with formaldehyde. This type of plywood is very important because heat will release noxious fumes from standard plywood. Home Depot carries a line of plywood called Columbia Forest PureBond.
Here you can see the installation of the insulation, which is necessary for making the most efficient sauna possible.The ceiling is insulated as well.
The R19 insulation used here allows the sauna to reach temperatures of over 140 degrees even in winter! You'll want this insulation in the walls and ceiling of the sauna to hold in the heat.
I’ve installed the plywood, encasing the insulation and forming the interior walls.
Notice the installation of two dedicated 20 amp circuits. This is important because you don’t want to cut corners on electrical work! A typical household power outlet is part of a 15 amp circuit, which can deliver a maximum of 1800 watts of power. This translates to six 300W bulbs, assuming nothing else is drawing power from that circuit while the bulbs are in use. Since a household circuit can include as many as ten outlets, the entire capacity of a circuit is rarely available. This is the reason that we are installing two dedicated 20 amp circuits. Combined, they deliver 4800 watts of power, which is enough to power sixteen 300W bulbs. We will only be using ten in this build, however.
Each TheraBulb hanging clamp lamp with 300 watt bulb as tested draws 2.46 amps. When tested at the circuit it tested out at 12.78 amps leaving plenty of available amps to add a fan as recommended to distribute the heat from each array of lamps. Be sure to consult an electrician and stay within the limitations of your outlets, wiring and circuit.
Optional: When installing your outlets, you can opt to install hot tub timer switches as well. You’ve probably seen these spring-loaded dials at public hot tubs or saunas. These will allow you to time your sessions by controlling the flow of power to the lamps, shutting them off automatically when the specified time elapses.
At this point in the project, I had room to install a shelf that proved to be very useful to store tissue on, a book to read while in the sauna and any other items you may need while using the sauna. This is your sauna, so don’t be afraid to include these types of amenities!
You will be mounting NIR lamps on two sides of your sauna. As you can see here, I’ve used the shoe rack-mounting method on one side as detailed in our first DIY Sauna Article. On the opposite wall, I mounted a 2x4 vertically and affixed five more lamps to it.
Optional: If you choose not to use the rack mounting method, you can simply install additional horizontal 2x4s along the wall as mounting points for the lamps.
Assembling the NIR Light Arrays
We provide more detail on this part of the build in our previous sauna article, Build Your Home Infrared Sauna.
Step 1: Put the Stand Together
- Assemble the stand as described in the instructions.
- You may find that the wheels are not needed. We chose not to use them.
Step 2: Unwrap Clamp Lamps and Attach Velcro Straps
- Remove the clamp lamps from the packaging.
- Leave the shatter guards unattached. You will use these in Step 4.
- Attach a Velcro cable tie to the end of each lamp as shown at right.
- Skip this step if you are using TheraBulb hanging clamp lamps, as these have an integrated Velcro strap.
Step 3: Affix Lamps to Stand
- Affix clamp lamps to the stand
- Use the Velcro straps to secure the lamps to the stand.
- In addition you may want to use zip ties as I have to attach the lamps and cords to the shoe rack.
Step 4: Install TheraBulb Infrared Bulbs
- We used ten TheraBulb 300W bulbs for this build. Five will be installed on the shoe rack. Five more will be installed on a 2x4 mounted to the opposite wall.
- Screw each bulb into a clamp lamp.
- Avoid over-tightening.
- Install the shatter guards onto the clamp lamps (if your clamp lamps come with them. TheraBulb hanging clamp lamps have a large dome leaving the bulb recessed by several inches.
Step 5: Connect Cords and Plug In Power Strips
- Use additional Velcro straps to secure the lamp cords to the stand.
- Ensure that power strips are switched off, then plug lamp cords into each power strip. Plug power strips into socket.
- Put on eye protection.
- Turn on power strips.
Setting Up the Clamp Lamps
We’ll want to make sure you’re setting everything up safely. For ease of installation, we’ve used simple clamp lamps rated for 300 watts and made from metal and ceramic parts that won’t melt.
You’ll be clamping the lamps to 2x4 mounting points and/or the shoe rack. Again, keep safety in mind as you’re going through these steps. TheraBulb infrared bulbs are very durable, but you still don’t want your lamps to fall down because they were poorly mounted!
Install the shatter guards on each lamp for safety. Once you’ve mounted your lights, tidy up the cords and mount them to the walls to avoid tripping hazards.
As I mentioned earlier, you must make sure the lamp hoods stay clear of your skin and anything flammable, as they will get hot near the base.
Be sure to install a thermometer so you can monitor the temperature inside your DIY infrared sauna.
Notice in these pictures that I’m also using a large fan in my sauna pointed at the array of lamps on the shoe rack and a small one pointed at the array mounted on the 2x4. I’ve directed the fan toward the rack of bulbs on the far wall so that the airflow pushes warm air away from the wall and toward the center of the sauna.
How to Use Your DIY Home Sauna
There are many ways to use infrared at home. I work out a great deal and like to sweat, and I’ve used saunas for years as a part of my gym recovery routine. Given the current health climate, I no longer feel comfortable using saunas at gyms and spas so I wanted to recreate the experience at home.
I wanted to make sure I could cover my entire body in radiant NIR light to get the most from the photobiomodulation effect. I also wanted to direct the infrared light to hit particular body parts such as my arthritic shoulder and surgically repaired knee.
I knew I needed a lot of bulbs and a lot of heat to get the desired results. I also knew that an infrared sauna might not get as hot as a commercial sauna, but the deep penetrating infrared wavelengths could provide me better results overall.
Best of all, the beautiful thing about having your own sauna is that you’re free to use it however you’d like! That said, I’ll share my routine with you so you can see how I used my DIY home sauna.
I begin by letting my sauna warm up for about 20 minutes.
My regimen includes multiple rounds in the sauna, making up one full session. For the first round, I will spend 20-25 minutes inside. I have a chair and a stool inside so that I can choose between sitting with bulbs to the front and back of me, or bulbs to either side.
After that round, I take a break and cool off for about 10 minutes. I do this by cooling naturally and then after about 5-10 minutes a very cold shower — and with my well water the shower can get as cold as 50 degrees! I set the timer on my phone to 1-2 minutes and move around under the cold weather until times up and I am shivering. I then rush back out to the sauna to warm up for round 2. This time I spend around 15 minutes in the heat before getting out and cooling off again.
>> READ MORE: See what Dr. Rhonda Patrick says about the benefits of saunas and cold exposure
Occasionally the mood strikes me and I’ll actually do a third round in the sauna for about 10 more minutes. (Again, the beauty of having your own sauna is that you can figure out what suits you best.). I finish up this routine with 30 minutes of long hold yoga stretches.
During most of this time my sauna will be running a steady temperature of around 140 degrees in winter. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this isn’t hot enough simply because traditional saunas usually run at higher temperatures.
The difference, comparing apples to oranges, is that infrared saunas use the penetrating heat of directed light to reach that temperature. As such, the temperature you’ll feel is greater in an infrared sauna simply because the heat is penetrating deeper into your tissues. This is also why the benefits you’ll receive can be much greater versus the traditional method of just absorbing ambient heat from a sauna.
Ben Greenfield, renowned physical trainer and sauna evangelist, loves infrared saunas for their ability to penetrate tissue and warm the body directly without having to heat up the entire sauna. He’s published a list of ten reasons why he considers himself a “sauna addict” on his website. Greenfield’s list includes:
- Heart health and increasing lifespan
- Detoxification of heavy metals and chemicals
- Athletic recovery
- Muscle and arthritic pain relief
- Promoting muscle gain and fat burning
- Immune system boosting
- Skin benefits
- Improved sleep
- Increasing cardiovascular function and endurance
- Stress relief
These are some of the potential benefits you can enjoy once you’ve built your DIY home infrared sauna!
Safety Guidelines for Your Infrared Sauna
Infrared and red light wavelengths are completely safe and make up the warm part of sunlight, so NIR delivers all the benefits without the dangers of UV light. Though IR light is rejuvenating and safe, it is still important to follow standard safety tips when using any sauna.
Begin by warming your sauna temperature up to around 100 degrees. As the temperature rises, make note of your body’s response to the temperature. An insulated home sauna like our example build can reach temperatures of over 140 degrees, so be mindful when using it for long periods of time.
Remember that the benefits of infrared therapy are best derived from directed light rather than ambient heat. Point your infrared lamps directly at your body and maintain a distance of 12-18 inches from the bulbs. If the heat ever becomes uncomfortable, move away from the lamps until you feel a more comfortable and relaxing level of heat.
Be sure to stay hydrated to help your body maintain a safe internal temperature. You can safely use your infrared sauna every day.
Here are some additional safety guidelines to improve your home sauna experience:
- Check with your doctor before using any type of sauna.
- Never point NIR lamps directly at your head or face. This will make it difficult for you to maintain a safe body temperature.
- Do not look directly into the infrared lamps. Although NIR is safe, any bright light can damage your eyes over time. Use the protective eyewear described above while you’re in your sauna.
- Your sauna will probably make you sweat! Be sure to supplement fluids and electrolytes before and after your sessions. Hydration is important, but so is replacing lost minerals and salts.
Getting the Best Quality Infrared Sauna Bulbs
If you’re looking to get the best results from your new sauna, you’ll need the best NIR bulbs. The quality and output of your near infrared therapy bulbs are critical. And not all infrared therapy bulbs are the same. Differences in manufacturing processes, materials, and quality control will have a huge impact on your results.
A therapeutic infrared bulb should emit light at wavelengths between 700 and 1000 nanometers with an operating output in the ideal 750 nm range. Look for bulbs that also emit visible red light to allow you to focus the light correctly and to deliver the added benefits of red light.
You’ll also want to choose a bulb that isn't made with hazardous substances. If lead, chromium, PolyTetraFluoroEthylene (aka PTFE or Teflon), or other such substances are used to make the bulbs, the bulbs can release these substances into the air when the bulb heats up. TheraBulb products are CE certified and RoHS compliant, which means they are free of the previously-mentioned hazardous substances and others covered in the RoHs directive.
TheraBulb products give you the freedom to set up an infrared sauna at home! We’re offering a special home sauna discount that offers 15% off four or more near infrared bulbs, including the 300W versions described in this article. Not only are the heat, red light, and near infrared output certified in an independent ISO 17025-accredited laboratory, but the 300W bulbs offer you 15% more power than the more typical 250W bulbs. This allows you to achieve the same power output with fewer bulbs. For example, the combined 3000W output of the sauna detailed in this article is achieved with ten 300W bulbs rather than the twelve 250W bulbs it would otherwise require!
You can’t beat this deal for setting up your own infrared home sauna. Click here to order today!