Ceramic Vs Carbon Heaters in Saunas (Differences, Pros, and Cons)

There has been a rise in the popularity of infrared home saunas recently, especially with people who are looking to elevate their personal home space by adding more relaxation and detoxifying tools. One factor you have to consider when installing a home infrared sauna is the type of heater: should you go with ceramic or carbon?

When installing an infrared sauna, ceramic heaters are the better option for a home sauna. These heaters are a tried-and-true technology, heat up more quickly, and are less expensive. Carbon heaters, while more expensive, will give significantly more hours of use and allow for a more even heat distribution and a more efficient sauna experience.

Keep reading for more information about the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of both ceramic and carbon heaters so that you can make an informed decision when installing or upgrading your home sauna.

Which type of heater is best for a sauna – ceramic or carbon?

When choosing a heater for your home sauna, you have two choices: ceramic or carbon.

For most installations, a ceramic choice is preferable because of the initial cost savings and speedy warm-up time. While carbon heaters have a variety of excellent qualities, the relative newness of the technology and higher up-front cost make them less appealing for the average sauna user.

Ceramic is cheaper and takes less time to heat up but can only give you up to 5,000 hours of use before it becomes brittle from the heat. Ceramic material has been around longer and is proven in the sauna world. 

On the other hand, carbon is newer technology and more efficient in emitting heat at lower temperatures. It lasts longer and can give you up to 100,000 hours of use. If you have the financial means to shell out on a carbon heater, it is a great investment over time, but not ideal for all situations.

What is the difference between ceramic and carbon heaters?

Infrared saunas can have ceramic or carbon heaters or even a combination of both.

Here are the main differences between ceramic and carbon:

Heat generation

A ceramic heater will heat up more quickly compared to a carbon heater but at the same time, you will have increased temperatures with ceramic as opposed to carbon. When you are using a carbon heater, the heat generated is more evenly distributed throughout the whole sauna and will give you a more balanced heat exposure.

Heat distribution

Carbon heaters can distribute the heat evenly in wavelengths which leads to faster warming of the skin. Older ceramic heaters will create hotspots inside the sauna which makes the heater work harder and hotter to heat the space around it.


Saunas that have carbon heaters cost more than saunas with ceramic heaters; however, ceramic heaters will need to repaired or replaced more frequently than carbon ones.


Ceramic heaters are older and have been around for many decades which means that the technology behind them can be trusted. On the other hand, carbon heaters use newer technology and are more advanced. 


The materials that make up a ceramic heater tend to be more fragile which can lead to cracks. Carbon heaters are more durable and will last longer. Carbon heaters have an average life span of 50,000 to 100,000 hours while ceramic heaters have a lifespan of 5,000 hours before they start showing wear and tear. 

Energy efficiency

Since carbon heaters use modern technology, they are more energy efficient compared to ceramic heaters. 

Warm-up time

The ceramic heater will heat your infrared sauna quickly and efficiently. With a heat-up time of 10 minutes, your sauna will be ready to go. While carbon heaters take up to 25 minutes to heat up, they can heat your body more intensely which makes it more efficient.

Can ceramic and carbon be used together?

If ceramic is quick and carbon is long-lasting, is there a way to get the best of both worlds?

It is possible to use ceramic and carbon heaters in conjunction with each other, especially if the ceramic heaters are on the newer and higher-end side. It is actually fairly common to see both heaters being used side-by-side inside the best infrared saunas.

The newer technology with ceramic heaters when mixed with a carbon heater can provide a superior relaxing environment.

Can you replace a ceramic heater with a carbon heater?

Is it possible to replace an existing ceramic heater with a new carbon heater?

There is not likely to be a specific reason for your home sauna to require either a ceramic heater or a carbon heater. If the new heater has the specifications as the old one, the switch will be fairly straightforward.

Make sure you check both the voltage and the physical size/shape of the heaters before committing to the upgrade. Carbon heaters are typically much larger than traditional ceramic heaters.

What is a ceramic sauna heater?

The use of ceramic heaters was introduced in Japan in the 1970s for medical purposes.

Ceramic sauna heaters use ceramic rods to emit infrared wavelengths needed to heat an infrared sauna. 

The effectiveness of ceramic is dependent on the shape of the heater.

For units that have single rod elements, the energy produced is called near-infrared which are short wavelengths. Since these wavelengths are shorter, it is only capable of shallow heat penetration. Concave or cone-shaped ceramic heaters allow for greater emissions and can give off heat using far-infrared wavelengths. 

Are ceramic infrared saunas safe?

One of the biggest safety advantages of using a ceramic heater is that you will not be exposed to metal toxicity from aluminum or lead.

For people who are trying to stay away from exposure to these types of metals, a ceramic heater is a preferred option.


  • One of the biggest advantages of a ceramic heater is the ability to heat a sauna fairly quickly with an estimated time of 10 minutes. The reason for this is that it uses infrared waves at a higher rate.
  • Ceramic heaters are also cheaper compared to carbon heaters.
  • The surface temperatures with ceramic heaters are also lower, making it safer to touch. 


  • Even though ceramic heaters heat up quicker, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is more efficient in producing and transferring heat. Ceramic can create hotspots which means that the heat is not spread evenly.
  • Ceramic heaters can also be more likely to get cracks or damages because the ceramic rod is fragile.

What is a carbon sauna heater?

Carbon fiber technology was first developed in 2009 and it has taken the sauna world by storm. The fiber panels with carbon heaters are softer compared to ceramic which leads to a wider heat cover. This is the reason why carbon heaters are preferred with larger-sized saunas. 

Carbon heaters are normally used with low-temperature infrared saunas emitting near and medium infrared radiation. This technology is newer and more advanced. The heat from carbon heaters can penetrate below the body’s skin surface without extreme and high temperatures associated with traditional saunas. 

The heater’s larger surface area allows for far-infrared wavelengths that are longer coupled with lower surface temperatures which allows you to have longer sauna sessions.

Are carbon infrared saunas safe?

Since carbon heaters use lower temperatures and are more efficient in energy production and heat transmission, they are very safe.

The lower temperatures that this heater emits also prevent the risk of burning or overheating.


  • Carbon heaters utilize lower temperatures which means that they can use energy more efficiently.
  • The lower temperatures and more even heat distribution make the carbon heater extremely safe and minimize the risk of overheating.
  • The lifespan of a carbon heater can last up to 100,000 hours of usage.


  • Since carbon heaters are a newer technology, they are more expensive compared to ceramic heaters.
  • Some carbon heaters have higher EMF levels which can lead to cell damage if used frequently. Because of this, experts are advising to select carbon heaters that generate a lower EMF reading.