by Lawrence Wilson, MD
Updated October 2014
WARNING: Converting a sauna may require electrical changes that can easily cause fires and shocks and should only be done by a licensed electrician or someone else knowledgeable in contracting or construction.
Infrared heat lamps give off a lot of heat and can easily burn the skin or start fires. Be sure infrared lights have a guard over them and are at least 8Ó from any flammable surface. Also, do not expose the lamps to moisture, although they are designed for bathroom use.
We cannot be responsible for your conversion of your sauna unit. Use the utmost care with your sauna, as you would with any electrical device or heater.
Converting a traditional or far infrared sauna to a near infrared light sauna is often not difficult. The most important consideration is to make sure you can sit about two feet from the infrared lights. Also, you will need access to about a standard electrical outlet to light up three 250-watt infrared heat lamps.
Two basic situations exist: 1) Your existing sauna is greater than about 48Ó on one side, or 2) your sauna is smaller on both sides.
If the sauna is greater than about 48Ó on one side, here is the procedure:
STEP 1. THE BENCH. You will need to rotate 360 degrees or close to it, in the near infrared light sauna to expose all sides of the body to the infrared light. Most traditional and far infrared saunas have the bench or benches on one wall, making complete rotation difficult.
The best arrangement for the light sauna is to have a small bench or rotating stool in the middle of the sauna, to make it easy to rotate. If there is room in your sauna for a small bench and room for your legs to rotate, you can move to step 2.
If the sauna is too small for this option, you may want to remove your existing bench to allow room for a small stool or bench in the middle of the sauna.
Otherwise, you can leave your present bench, but you will not be able to rotate as easily with this arrangement.
STEP 2. THE HEAT LAMPS. Build or purchase an electrical unit that contains three or four red infrared heat lamps. Four lamps in a diamond-shaped pattern are better, especially if your sauna is large.
Mount the electrical unit containing the lamps on one of the walls of your sauna in such a way that you can sit about two feet from the lamps and that you can rotate your body so that the light will strike all sides of the body.
Mount the lamp unit about three feet off the ground, so that you can sit in front of the unit and the lamps will shine on your chest and abdomen.
Run the electrical cord from the unit out a vent of the sauna so it can be plugged into a regular wall electrical outlet.
STEP 3. THE EXISTING SAUNA HEATER(S). If your sauna is larger than about 4Õ by 4Õ, you will need to use the existing heater(s) to heat up the sauna, as the infrared lights alone will not be adequate. If your sauna is less than about 4Õ by 4Õ, you may remove your existing heater if you wish, as the lights should be adequate to heat the sauna. You can also use your existing heater to help pre-heat the sauna faster and then turn it off when the sauna reaches about 110-120¡ F. With a heat lamp sauna, this is plenty hot enough.
We find that far infrared saunas often give off harmful electromagnetic frequencies, so it is best to turn off far infrared heaters when using your heat lamp sauna.
IF YOUR SAUNA IS LESS THAN ABOUT 48Ó ON A SIDE.
If you are short in stature, you may still be able to mount an electrical unit on one wall, providing the sauna is almost 48Ó long on one side.
If you are larger, over 6 feet tall, for instance, you will have trouble converting a very small sauna by the method described above. Here are four options:
1. Recess The Infrared Lights Into One Wall. This is a lot more work because it involves cutting a large opening in one wall of your sauna and placing the light unit described above in such a way that the lights shine into the sauna. You must use an electrician, a carpenter or someone skilled in sauna modification for this type of installation. Be very careful about exposing any flammable material such as wood or fabric near the lights.
Remember that you need to be able to sit about two feet from the lights, which are large bulbs that stick out about 10-12 inches from their base.
2. A Simpler Option. Depending on your sauna, you may be able to leave the sauna door open and sit partially outside the sauna so that you are far enough away from the lamps. You would then need to set up a heavy curtain that seals the entryway to keep in the heat.
3. Building Out Your Sauna. Another idea would be to "build on" to the end of the sauna where the door is to make the sauna about 48" long.
CONVERTING A STEAM CABINET TO A SAUNA
Converting a steam cabinet to a lamp sauna or adding lamps to a steam cabinet is difficult because the cabinets are usually too small to allow one to sit about two feet from the lamps. Also, it is difficult to turn around in the cabinet.
WARNINGS FOR ALL CONVERSIONS
á Do not mount lamps on the ceiling or use ceiling-mounted infrared heat lamps. Too much infrared to the head is dangerous.
á Also, we do not recommend lamps in the corners of a sauna as they may be too close to the flammable walls. The lamps must be at least 8Ó from any flammable material.
á You must have a wire-mesh guard over the near infrared heat lamps for safety.
á Do not allow any water, sweat, towels or other clothing to touch the lamps at any time.
á We cannot be responsible for your sauna conversion. Please use utmost care and caution as with any device that uses high voltage and amperage and high heat.