5-Minute DIY Near Infrared Sauna (Save $2,000+)

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Few people live past age 100. In all those years, plenty of life or death situations arise. Regular sauna usage increases the odds you’ll join the ranks of centenarians:

Incredibly, sauna use alone decreases your risk of dropping dead at any time by 40 percent. And the more often, the greater your results.

I began at my local gym. I learned to enjoy the traditional sauna. But I became constrained by the gym’s open hours, suboptimal temperature setting, and long lines waiting outside in line.

I looked into getting my own traditional sauna and but couldn’t comfortably fit it in my apartment. New, high-tech options were out of my budget. So I scoured the internet. I painstakingly pieced together my own setup. Since then, I’ve made multiple portable DIY near infrared saunas for myself and friends. Now with little effort, you can too.

What is a Sauna?

A sauna is a small enclosure with air or light intentionally heated to elicit strong biological responses like sweating, relaxation, and metabolic adaptation. Sauna temperatures typically range from 100 to 212° F.Sauna-goers usually spend between five to 30 minutes inside per session. Some people combine sauna and cold in a practice called hot/cold contrast therapy.

The heating element (what heats the sauna and how hot it gets) is the primary differentiator between different sauna types.

  • Traditional saunas heat the air itself (called Radiant heating). Radiant saunas heat the body from the outside.
  • Infrared saunas, on the other hand, generate a special spectrum of (infrared) light. Beams of infrared light easily penetrate the skin and heat up the water inside the skin.
NASA explains infrared light in ~1 minutes.

While both accomplish the same goal, infrared saunas heat the body far more efficiently, use lower more comfortable temperatures (100-130° F compared to the 160-180° F of traditional saunas), and have other healing benefits.

Despite the temperature, infrared saunas can still drench you in sweat.

Which is better?

The outpouring of evidence over the last decade have greatly favored infrared saunas over traditional radiant heat. But choose your infrared wisely.

Difference Between Full Spectrum, Far Infrared, Near Infrared

NIR FIR FullSpectrum

No infrared sauna talk would be complete without contrasting: near infrared and far infrared.

The TL;DR: choose near infrared.

Here’s why.

Near Infrared (NIR) Saunas

Near infrared (NIR) is an invisible light spectrum, just beyond red light. NIR bulbs emit a tiny amount of red light and glow a reddish hue. Near infrared penetrates up to three inches into the body. It’s a combination of heat therapy and light therapy. NIR is great for detoxification, boosting the immune system, and wound healing.

NIR is the hands-down choice over far infrared.

Dr. Jacob Wilson compared the two spectrums. You can check out his article here. To summarize the benefits of near infrared over far infrared:

  • NIR emits little EMF
  • NIR is more powerful (and effective)
  • NIR penetrates deeper
  • NIR emits a more healing light spectrum
  • NIR is easily targeted on specific areas

So why do far infrared saunas exist?

Far Infrared (FIR) Saunas

Far infrared is farther from the visible light spectrum. FIR saunas use heating elements to emit their invisible light. Far infrared doesn’t penetrate as deeply as NIR. It provides some detox and relaxation benefits, and slightly lowers blood pressure.

Dr. Wilson never recommends FIR sauna use. But in the same article lists their only benefits over NIR:

  • Occasional rotation isn’t required
  • Physically smaller and take up less space.

That’s it. No other advantages of far infrared.

Full-Spectrum Saunas

Full-spectrum saunas emit the widest range of infrared light. Essentially combining near infrared and far infrared. Full-spectrum more closely mimics the sun and is used in high-end saunas.

While full-spectrum resembles biologically compatible real light, they’re considerably more expensive. Full-spectrum saunas generally emit less near infrared than ideal. Emitting far infrared means full-spectrum saunas produce higher EMF levels.

Popular Pre-Made Infrared Saunas

Maybe you want the very best, professional, stylish design. If you have extra budget, you can skip the whole DIY sauna-making process.

Several companies on the market make great products. High-quality, low-EMF sauna options include:

A word of caution: cheap saunas on marketplaces like eBay and Alibaba aren’t worth the time or cost. In addition to being poorly made and breaking easily, third-party testing has shown dangerously high EMF levels, underdosed light/heat, and toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Either source from a reputable brand of make your own.

Why Make Your Own NIR Sauna

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I made my first sauna by accident. I wanted a pricey red light therapy device called the Joov. Amazon know that near infrared is related to red light. Days later, I had all the pieces sitting on my doorstep.

Near infrared bulbs are a sauna and light therapy device in one. Click To Tweet

My top reasons to build your own near infrared sauna:

  • Thousands cheaper than the leading brands.
  • Customizable to your liking.
  • Portable. The entire rig can be broken down.
  • Empowering. You’ll be proud of your creation.
  • Easily replaceable. New parts are cheap and easy to get.
  • Dual use. Quality NIR bulbs work as both light therapy and sauna heat therapy.
  • Separable. You can bring one light into another room
  • Build into other setups. I mounted my lights to my standing desk.
  • Small. My apartment is small and I don’t have space for something large like a Clearlight

Before we get to the 5-minute assembly process, gather your parts.

Parts Needed to Build a Near Infrared Sauna

For a basic setup you don’t need much.

The requirements:

The two most important components of the setup are the bulbs and the brooding lamp mounts.

Brooding lamps must be rated at 250W or higher to prevent fires. These bulbs reach 450 degrees Fahrenheit in seconds.

Your choice of near infrared bulbs will make or break your homemade sauna. Click To Tweet

Get the best lighting you can afford. I like two brands:

Best Quality: RubyLux

Best Value: Philips

If choosing a different brand, make sure that the bulb:

  • Is 250W or more to be effective
  • Non-toxic (should be CE certified and without California Prop. 65 warnings)
  • Produces the right spectrum of light. Companies often use a clear bulb with a red coat of paint on top (which does not work).

Start with at least two bulbs. You can always add more.

How to Build a Near Infrared Sauna

Ultimately, your unique sauna setup comes down to your:

  • Free space
  • Budget

In California, I had more space. I converted a cheap grow tent into a sweat-inducing near infrared sauna. My New York City apartment is cramped. So I use a work station sauna, similar to the shower setup.

Each DIY sauna setup below has a few important differences.

Best Overall DIY Infrared Sauna: Grow Tent

I got a little creative with my second sauna. I started with the shower sauna—lights mounted to a shoe rack. It worked, but the open-air all but prevented sweating.

I needed an enclosure. Then I remembered that I had a cheap *tomato* grow tent lying around. I took it a step further.

I pulled it out, assembled the frame, and planned the conversion.

I learned a harsh lesson. Sitting less than 24 inches from the bulbs made my skin peel. This tent wouldn’t do.

I made a last ditch adjustment:

sauna grow tent frame
Grow tent frame.
sauna grow tent size
Reflective mylar film.
sauna grow tent rotated 1
Problem solving magic trick.
sauna diy urban
6’3″ me fits in there… mostly.

The dimensions of my above sauna (as rotated) are:

  • 60″ long
  • 48″ tall
  • 36″ thick

For comfort reasons, I recommend choosing a slightly larger grow tent.

Pros

Mylar lining effectively reflects infrared light

Gets very hot

Heavy sweat

Semi-portable

Faster

Cons

Looks sketchy

Takes up more space than other setups

Too small (my tent at least)

Material may off-gas (open vent hole above)

Heavy

How to assemble a near infrared grow tent sauna:

  1. Gather light and grow tent parts
  2. Assemble grow tent
  3. Put brooding lamps together and attach their mounts
  4. Carefully screw in bulbs
  5. Affix shatter guard to brooding lamp (if supplied)
  6. (Optional) Attach a string to lights and fasten to top. That way if the lights come loose, they don’t hit the ground and shatter
  7. Clamp lights on to tent support beams
  8. Minimize cord path to keep dirty electricity low
  9. Plug cords into surge protecting power strip
  10. Partially zip tent and enjoy sauna

Best Aesthetic DIY Infrared Sauna: Canvas Enclosure

Canvas saunas look good. Really good. Better than a shower set up or grow tent.

I got the inspiration from SaunaSpace. If they can make it, so can I. Or so I reasoned. This one is still on my todo list. High-quality, heat-resistant canvas isn’t easy to come by.

Scrolling through hundreds of Amazon, eBay, and even Alibaba listings yielded little. My options were to either:

  • Buy a huge 10x10 foot garage storage canvas (too big).
  • Risk burning down the house with powerful lights in a tiny canvas clothes hamper.

I passed on both.

At last, I came across one product that looked decent. Until I saw the price. $350 for the canvas alone, double my sauna investment.

I held off, but am eager to build a canvas enclosure once I find a good deal.

Please let me know if you come across any!

saunaspace luminati
SaunaSpace Luminati

How do canvas saunas compare to the others?

Pros

Enclosure gets hot

Heavy sweat

Semi-portable

Faster

Light

Aesthetically pleasing

Cons

More expensive

Doesn’t reflect light as well

Canvas breathes more than other materials

Potential fire hazard

How to assemble a near infrared canvas-enclosed sauna:

  1. Gather light parts
  2. Put brooding lamps together and attach their mounts
  3. Carefully screw in bulbs
  4. Affix shatter guard to the brooding lamp (if supplied)
  5. Mount on cart or other surface
  6. If the canvas enclosure came with a frame, set it up and place the cart inside. If not, find somewhere to hang the canvas. You might have to get creative
  7. Ensure at least 12″ between the bulb and any canvas
  8. Plug into surge protecting power strip
  9. Flip on lights and enjoy your sauna

Best Portable DIY Infrared Sauna: Converted Shower

The shower sauna makes cleanup a breeze and doesn’t require any dedicates space. Converting your bathroom shower into a near infrared sauna takes one minute flat.

Unless you can dedicate bathroom space to it, shower saunas require manual setup before every use. Making shower saunas the least convenient.

Pros

Extremely portable

Does not require dedicated space

Shower ideal for moisture & sweat

Semi-enclosed room

White paint naturally reflects light

Cons

Moisture can shatter the 450 degree glass

If glass were to break, it’d be in a barefoot area

Each session requires manual setup

Occupies the entire shower (not good for shared bathrooms)

Combining electricity and water in the same room isn’t recommended

Once hooked, you’ll want to upgrade.

How to assemble a near infrared shower sauna:

  1. Gather light parts
  2. Put brooding lamps together and attach their mounts
  3. Carefully screw in bulbs
  4. Affix shatter guard to brooding lamp (if supplied)
  5. Attach to cart or other mounting surface
  6. Plug into surge protecting power strip
  7. Sauna

Sauna Building & Usage Tips

Buy a Surge Protector

Breaking a high-quality (heavy-metal free) bulb isn’t the end of the world. They’re not outlandishly expensive. But you can easily protect yourself against the dangers of shattering glass by using surge-protecting power strips. A few dollars extra to protect against glass-shattering power surges.

Making Light Stands From Household Parts

You might not need to buy a stand to hold your lights. Scavenge around the house for clampable materials. Spare furniture, stands, or other parts. I used a shoe caddy for two reasons:

  • Having wheels makes it super easy to move around
  • The three levels give me more options to mount my lights

It doesn’t hurt that they’re also cheap.

Replace Electrolytes

Every night at 2:30 AM, sudden cramps jolted me out of my deepest sleep. Intense cramps. Mostly leg but also forearm, calf, and neck. I stopped saunaing for a few weeks and they went away. Strange, considering that I already paid attention to my electrolyte consumption. Later, I heard sauna aficionados explain how easily the heat and sweating deplete copper and other electrolytes.

I supplemented more magnesium and trace minerals and the cramping stopped. Admittedly, this is more of an issue with high-heat traditional saunas (which I also use).

Check Voltages & Rating

I rarely waste time on safety manuals and warnings.

Make an exception for DIY saunas. Sitting inches away from 450-degree glass… a lot can go wrong. Like using the wrong voltage light bulbs. An expensive and glass-shattering mistake. Make sure to get 110 or 220-volt bulbs, depending on where you live.

Likewise, brooding lamps should handle 250+ watt bulbs.

Use an Enclosure

The basic NIR model works well. Ready to transform your sauna into a machine rivaling the high-end professional units?

Add an enclosure.

DIY sauna enclosures heat up faster, reflect more infrared light, and cause deeper sweating. I built my enclosed grow tent sauna and completely stopped traditional saunaing. Whether canvas, mylar, or a small room, adding an enclosure enrich saunaing.

Using Your Infrared Sauna

You’re setup and ready to go.

Your new infrared sauna isn’t like traditional dry saunas.

  • Sit 12-24 inches away from the lights. The energy concentrates similar to a spotlight. The farther you sit, the less effect.
  • Avoid shining lights directly at your head. 4,000-year-old Ayurvedic wisdom suggests keeping the head cool. After all, it doesn’t have a cooling mechanism. Or wear a special Finnish sauna hat designed to keep the head cool.
  • Consider eye protection. Infrared light is intense, and some recommend to wear eye protection.
  • Start slow and gradually increase session length. You’ll need repeated exposure to build “sun calluses”, or tolerance to intense light.

For more safety information, check out the RubyLux sauna safety page.

Near Infrared Sauna Frequently Asked Questions

How much space do you need?

DIY saunas fit into small spaces. Depending on the setup you choose, as little as 3′ x 3′ (my setup) is enough. For most complete setups, a 5′ x 5′ space is ideal.

Do you need eye protection?

The conservative approach is to use eye protection. Sauna users and researchers alike debate the necessity of protective eyewear. I recommend using eye protection just in case. At least look away and avoid staring at the light bulb.

How often can I use my infrared sauna?

Every single day. The upper limit depends on your distance from the bulb and your skin type. If you get too close and for too long, your skin may peel similar to a sun burn. Start slow, and gradually build up your exposure.

Easily Building a Near Infrared Sauna

Crafting your own NIR sauna is the perfect beginner-friendly DIY biohacking project. Sauna heat therapy is a top way to build personal resilience.

Virtually anyone anywhere can make their own low-EMF, powerful, and ultra-portable deeply healing sauna. Click To Tweet

You can build a basic model for under $100, and a top-of-the-line near infrared sauna for $200-300.

Years later, all my saunas continue running strong. I’ve made slight tweaks, modifications, and upgrades, but the basic build remains the same.

DIY Near Infrared (NIR) Sauna Red Light Setup Build

To recap the basic steps of building your own near infrared sauna:

Total Time: 5 minutes

  1. Gather bulbs, brooding lamps, power strips, and mounting surface

  2. Put brooding lamps together and attach their mounts

  3. Carefully screw-in bulbs

  4. Affix shatter guard to brooding lamp (if supplied)

  5. (Optional) Attach a string to lamps and fasten to top.

    That way if the lights come loose, they don’t hit the ground and shatter

  6. Clamp lamps to surface

  7. Plug cords into surge protecting power strip and route cords efficiently

  8. Flip on lights and sauna

I’m always looking to improve my setup. Let me know how your near infrared sauna build goes. Good luck.

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