Before I go into explanations I want to warn you about safety. Building a sauna yourself may involve doing some electrical wiring. Infrared heaters used in a sauna usually have high power requirements – as much as 1000 Watt. Please, do not try to build sauna yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. Better ask or hire someone who has experience with electricity to do it for you. If you’ll set up a sauna in a bathroom keep in mind that as a wet place it has strict requirements for electrical wiring safety.
Infrared sauna with two infrared heaters
First way to set up a home sauna is described by Jim Clements in his article The Bathroom for FIR Sauna, in which he explains how to use two infrared heaters placed in a relatively small room (5×11 feet suggested). He uses two 500 Watt 9 Amp infrared heaters from THMI, saying that these heaters give similar experience as in an infrared sauna cabin. He gives no specific information about this heaters aside from wattage and don’t know if any other brand of heaters will suit for this sauna set-up. I think it is important that heaters should not have too high wattage (not above 600 Watt).
These two heaters should be placed on the either sides of the room (5-6 feet apart). As they are 9 Amp you should either use 20 Amp outlet or use extension cord from some other outlet in your house to split current between two 15 Amp outlets. Make sure that extension cord can safely handle power requirements of an infrared heater.
At pre-heating stage Jim recommends to turn heaters to a door or to a wall for heating to occur faster. Don’t place heaters too close to the walls or other objects due to the risk of inflammation. The heating time is usually greater than with infrared sauna cabin and can be from 30 minutes to an hour. When the room is heated you can use it as a common infrared sauna, just go and sweat there. You may want to place a towel under the door and not to use ventilation as it will let air flow to lower temperature in a room. You don’t necessarily have to use a bathroom for a sauna; you can use any suitable place or make a special enclosure.
As an addition for two heaters Jim uses a 250 Watt infrared lamp hanged on the room ceiling (in his description he suggests to attach it to a shower curtain rod. He says he uses a light bulb from Sylvania but I think other manufacturers will be fine. Try to get a lamp with not focused but radiant infrared light.
Infrared sauna with infrared lamps
Another way to build an infrared sauna at your home is proposed by Dr. Lawrence Wilson. On his page about sauna therapy he describes how to use three 250 Watt infrared light bulbs to build an infrared sauna. You will need three 250 Watt infrared bulbs (not clear heat, as he writes that they have wrong spectrum). He recommends using Philips, General Electric or Sli lamps. Also you will need three ceramic or plastic lamp sockets for the bulbs, fifteen feet of heavy lamp cord, medium duty male wall plug and a switch, or better, timer-switch which is capable to handle seven amps current.
Socket should be mounted on a 46′’ high by 15′’ wide (or 12′’ high by 24′’ wide if you want to mount it on a wall) board made from wood, plywood or veneer. They should form a triangle with the middle socket on the top of it. The top socket should be at chest level when sitting. Sockets should be wired in parallel. Connect socket wire to a switch. After attaching sockets to the board with screws you need to make a cover form hardware cloth to prevent bulbs from touching anything.
Be very careful when using this sauna, always secure a board to a wall to ensure that it will not fall. Do not allow children to play with or use it without your supervision.
Dr. Wilson also describes how to build an enclosure for your sauna with a set of pipes. They form a frame which can be covered by blankets or other fabric to create a small room which can be used for sauna sessions.
Comparison of two methods
The first method described, by Jim Clements, is much easier to implement than the second, by Dr. Lawrence Wilson. And what is more important it uses prefabricated equipment so no additional wiring is needed so the risk of harm or malfunction is low. Heaters are covered so they cannot be touched by design and all wiring is made at factory. The minus is that infrared heaters cost more than infrared heat lamps.
From the other side, Dr. Wilson’s sauna, if made well and accurate is no worse that the first one, but costs significantly less. To build it one should know how to do electrical wiring or have someone who will do it for them. This sauna’s safety depends on a skill of the person who made it and can be dangerous if done improperly.
Once again, I want to warn anyone who wants to build a sauna that you must do it only if you are sure that you’re doing. You should be familiar with electrical wiring and should have skill and knowledge to do it right. Authors of the original articles or me can not be responsible for the misuse of a sauna or any problem with poor construction. Remember – safety first.