Sweating has long been used as a therapy and traditional medicine. The Mayans used sweat houses 3,000 years ago. In Finland, saunas have been used for thousands of years, and 1 in 3 Finns still use them. In the United States, there are over one million saunas and their demand is only increasing—especially as a special function room in American households. IEC 60335-2-53 Ed. 4.1 b:2017—Household And Similar Electrical Appliances – Safety – Part 2-53: Particular Requirements For Sauna Heating Appliances And Infrared Cabins details specifications for saunas and infrared cabins.
Traditional VS Infrared Sauna
In both traditional and infrared saunas, you feel the warmth and receive benefits of the heat, but these two types of saunas operate differently. Unlike traditional saunas which use flame-stoked heat or steam to create hot air, infrared saunas use infrared light and infrared waves to create high heat (similar to heat produced by the sun) without heating up the room around you. Infrared saunas also use no steam, and for that reason they have a much lower level of humidity. Only the rays in infrared saunas heat up the body, and this is without raising the overall temperature of the room. Further, they do not heat the air directly around you like in a traditional sauna experience that enables your body to kickstart its natural cooling process—bringing blood closer to the surface of the skin and opening the pores to release sweat. In infrared saunas, the wavelength of light that you body absorbs does the same cooling process as in traditional saunas just without having to steam you in the process.
What Is IEC 60335-2-53?
IEC 60335-2-53 Ed. 4.1 b:2017 deals with the safety of electric sauna heating appliances and infrared emitting units having a rated power input not exceeding 20 kW, rated voltage being not more than 250 V for single-phase appliances, and a rated voltage of 480 V for other appliances. This standard also deals with the safety of electric sauna heating appliances provided with a humidifier unit, their rated voltage being not more than 250 V for single-phase appliances and 480 V for other appliances. A humidifier may be part of a sauna heating appliance or may be incorporated in the sauna heater.
The appliances covered by IEC 60335-2-53 Ed. 4.1 b:2017 are intended for use in the home and in public saunas located in apartment buildings, hotels, and similar locations.
There are numerous benefits of using a sauna, such as:
- Soothing and relaxing tired muscles: Athletes use saunas to improve their range of motion and loosen tight muscles after an intensive workout.
- Providing a cardiovascular workout: Finnish researchers have reported that the regular use of saunas helps maintain the blood vessels because they become elastic and pliable longer due to regular dilation and contraction from the process of heating and cooling the body repeatedly. The heart rate increases in the sauna creating a demand for more oxygen, which in turn burns calories and provides a mild workout for the heart.
- Increases metabolic rate: Regular sauna usage helps speed up the metabolism in a way similar to exercise.
- Promotes healing and releases natural pain killers: Beta Endorphins and Norepinephrines are released as the body’s natural pain killers temporarily raise the body’s pain threshold.
- Improving circulation: Blood vessel dilation brings blood closer to the surface of the skin, and as blood vessels expand to accommodate increased blood flow, circulation in the extremities improves.
- Sweating out toxins and impurities from the body: Perspiration induced by a sauna opens the body’s pores and naturally expels impurities and toxins from the body.
- Helping maintain clear, healthy skin: Increased blood flow promotes cellular growth and development by bringing important nutrients to subcutaneous and surface tissue. Also, vasodilation (expansion of blood vessels) brings essential fluids to the surface, enhancing collagen production, to maintain skin elasticity and a wrinkle-free complexion.
- Increasing resistance to illness: Sauna heat puts the body into an artificial fever state (hyperthermia), and fever is part of the body’s natural healing process. This “fake fever” stimulates the immune system resulting in an increased production of disease fighting white blood cells and antibodies. Additionally, tests show a 30% less chance of getting a cold when saunas are taken regularly.
The History of Sauna
Over 2,000 years ago the Finns invented the sauna—a bathhouse. The earliest sauna was dug into an embankment in the ground; later saunas were built above ground with wooden logs. Rocks were heated in a stone stove with a wood fire until the rocks became extremely hot. Instead of a chimney, this room had a small air vent in the back wall. The smoke would fill the room while it was heating. This entire heating process took half a day. When the sauna reached a high enough temperature, turning its walls and ceiling dark black, the bathers entered after the smoke cleared.
This original sauna was called “savu” (Finnish for smoke). The name sauna was believed to be a derivative of the word savuna, literally “in smoke”. The sauna later evolved to the more typical metal woodstove heater with the chimney. Wherever Finns traveled they brought their sauna culture with them. They first brought it to America in 1638 when they settled in Delaware. The Industrial Revolution sophisticated and further evolved the sauna. Saunas became more accessible in the United States after the electric sauna stove was developed in the 1950s. Moreover, after 360 years in the US, the sauna has become an established tradition for as many Americans as it has been for the Finns.
IEC 60335-2-53 Ed. 4.1 b:2017—Household And Similar Electrical Appliances – Safety – Part 2-53: Particular Requirements For Sauna Heating Appliances And Infrared Cabins is available on the ANSI Webstore.