Building A DIY Near Infrared Sauna Tent [For $100] (that actually works well)

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If this is your first time exploring DIY infrared saunas, you should probably be aware right up front that I’ve built several iterations of what people are calling a “near infrared sauna” over the years. Some work okay, other variations don’t work well at all. I want to show you the progression into a complete sauna tent, that anyone can build/use simply by ordering the parts online, and assembling it with no special tools or experience needed.

The intention of sharing my DIY sauna builds, is to help anyone who is either in a small apartment and doesn’t have room for a big wooden sauna, short on funds to purchase a sauna, but still needs the healing benefits of infrared now, or especially for anyone that’s skeptical like I was… I didn’t even know if these “infrared saunas” really worked, so I wasn’t about to drop thousands on one until I was sure.

Now, anyone with the desire a couple bucks, can put together their own DIY infrared sauna, that actually works well in less than an hour.

BY no means is this a replacement for a stand up wooden sauna, complete with a glass door, lights, and a stereo system. But not everyone is in their forever home, and a cost effective solution that’s easy to make is still needed.

No more fooling with insulation, cutting wood, dragging extension cords into your bathtub/shower, etc…

Also read: one weird trick to DIY NIR saunas


(this article has been butchered a bit, with new updates each time I made a new diy sauna version. I’ll get it cleaned up after the holiday with the old pictures added back in.)

Do Near Infrared Portable Saunas Really Work To Detox?

The first version I made, was a shower conversion pole sauna. A super basic design, no sauna enclosure except the shower tub area, and 4 heat lamp bulbs affixed to the shower handle. My goal was to get this setup for under $100 bucks, but little did I know at the time, $250 dollars would have gotten me a full fledged DIY sauna.

Spoiler alert: $100 bucks in materials is not enough to make a good DIY NIR heat lamp sauna from my tests. $220’ish dollars will get you everything you need however.

Next came a custom wooden array, that would hold 6 NIR sauna bulbs for more heat, since the first few versions didn’t work that great. (I will elaborate in detail below about each type, just wanted to give you an overview)

Once I figured out that using the shower/tub area in the bathroom for my sauna space wasn’t ideal, I ended up working on a diy sauna enclosure to trap the heat and create a true sauna experience.

The DIY infrared sauna guides I was finding online back then, all used a shelving system to mount the lights on, some type of cloth fabric curtain as an enclosure, and in general a completely open design that wasn’t insulated very well.

Much has changed since then, and in 2020 I realeased a DIY near infrared sauna tent course, that shows anyone how to build a cost effective heat lamp sauna in their own home… that actually works well.

Total cost to build this is around $250, and it doesn’t use a shelving system that can fall over, no cloth coverings that let the heat out, and do not involve any complex tools or wood cutting to make it.

It’s easy, takes about an hour, and anyone can do it using parts you can order online.

If you’re interested in that, head over to saunacourses.com and check it out.


Building My First DIY Heat Lamp Infrared Sauna (shower conversion style)

First up, back in 2017, I made this NIR heat lamp bulb shower conversion sauna… or at least attempted it. It didn’t work very well, mostly because there was no insulation, nothing to trap the heat, and damn near melted my shower curtain since I was too cheap to buy Reflectix to put in place of it.

diy sauna in bathtub shower combo
August 11th, 2017 – First Test Version

This was a very simple diy pole design, whereby I used a dowel rod from Home Depot, some clamp lights screwed into the rod (the clamps from clamp lights suck… they fall eventually), and an Amazon shoe box to tie it to the shower handle with a shoelace.

Haha, yes I’m serious. Are you laughing yet?

I figured, heck… I don’t even know if this thing is going to work or not, why not make a rudimentary version to test it out before spending tons of money right?

It didn’t take long to smarten up after a couple of the clamp lights fell. I’m not sure how anyone in their right mind can use these things and feel good about it.

To hell with the little clamps I said, we’re screwing these suckers in!

August 17th, 2017 – already tired of the clamps slipping off

On To DIY Near Infrared Sauna Homemade Design #2

My second DIY sauna design, was a little better. Still used the pole for the time being, with 4 heat lamps attached to a power strip, with an extension cord running out of the shower. (so safe – totally kidding!)

But this time, I had moved to a different house, and had the ability to build an insulated door to the shower in order to trap the heat.

This worked much better, but the inside ceiling height was too tall, creating waaaaay too much cubic footage for 4 lights to heat effectively. I ended up having to bring in a supplemental heater, in order to get it hot enough to get a good sweat without waiting forever and a day for the dang thing to preheat.

I still wasn’t satisfied with this, and it took a lot of work to drag everything into the shower and set it up each time. I found myself not using this very often, simply because when you get done with a sauna session, what’s the one thing you want to do?

Shower!

And where where all my extension cords running, with shit tied to the walls, and insulation on the door?

In. The. Dang. Shower. (fml)

And so, I hated walking around post sauna session, dripping sweat, putting all this stuff away, only to get back in the shower and rinse off. lol

Yes, this was my life.


DIY Heat Lamp Sauna Design #3 – Handmade From Wood This Time (better, but still cumbersome)

For the third version, I decided to get out some real tools, go to Home Depot, buy some lumber, and get to work.

I wanted to make a stand that wouldn’t tip over if I bumped into it, so the clamp lights housing the heat lamp bulbs would be more secure than just clamping them to something in the shower.

I also wanted to make this modular, so if I ended up building a standalone insulated enclosure in another space, I could easily swap the light array.

In addition to this, I wanted much more heat than the original Dr. Wilson four bulb diamond shaped design.

I added six NIR heat lamp bulbs, all mounted on a single plain to, with enough coverage to hit the body from head to toe.

One thing I noticed during my early experiments, is that these bulbs are super directional in nature. Meaning, if you don’t have any heat pointed at your lower legs, your feet, calves, and thighs can sometimes end up cold compared to your core and upper body.

I wasn’t exactly sure how to fix that yet, so I wanted to at least get some more heat going, and never have to use that extra heater again.


Giving Up On Heat Lamps Saunas For A While

It was at this point, that I gave up on heat lamp saunas for a while, and moved on to wooden stand up far infrared saunas for my own use.

It just wasn’t worth the time fooling around with these things, when I could buy a ready made kit and be up and running in an hour. It made more financial sense at the time, and from an energetic standpoint, I was focusing more on improving my health, instead of fooling around with tents and poles.

It was at this point, that I published the near infrared sauna ultimate guide on YouTube. It may have been a bit premature, since I was sort of over these things at the time, and didn’t plan on revisiting this anytime in the near future.

And the other thing that always irked me…

“Near Infrared” Saunas Don’t Really Exist

So many people have made the term near infrared sauna popular, that if I change the name to what this should be called, no one will have any idea what we’re talking about.

So for now, it stays the same. But in reality, near infrared when isolated, does NOT produce a sauna experience in any way.

You can test this yourself by sitting in front of any PBMT red light therapy device (like a Joovv or similar) for an hour, and you will not sweat.

How A Heat Lamp Sauna Really Works

to be continued…


Determined To Make A DIY Infrared Heat Lamp Sauna Work (for cheap)

After wo years of folks asking what portable sauna to buy with little to no money, I decided to get my head out of my ass and figure this out.

At first I hated it: working with limited resources, shitty parts, and trying to make something for someone that didn’t have a workshop and couldn’t use tools was a bear and a half.

So right off the bat, I knew using the shower in the bathroom for a diy sauna was out for most people… It took too much setup to use frequently, and the details made all the difference.

Little things like tall ceilings, screwed the whole thing up. So for one person it would work great, for the next they were bitching like crazy.

it became cumbersome to explain watt density and cubic footage to certain folks, but the truth was, every single persons application was slightly different. A triangle shower, a cast iron bathtub, a step down shower, and on and on…

it was clear that the person’s bathroom or dwelling environment had to be eliminated from the equation for this to work for everyone.

Back to the sauna tent enclosures we go…

Now I couldn’t stand these things, because the first styles that I stepped foot in, were either pvc or wood framed designs. Once I because experimenting with metal though, things got better.

Over the next several months, in my spare time I would test different heat lamp applications, see how few we could use to achieve a full body sweat, and work out how most people could mount them safely without tools, cutting lumber, etc…

The Dreaded Clamp Lights

These things were dangerous, PLUS SOME!

Every time I turned around, they were slipping off their mounting surface, breaking bulbs if they fell from over two feet high or more, and got hotter than a cannon in general.

All I saw on YouTube in the past, were people mounting these thing to a metal shelf… which I could not stand. The whole thing would just topple over if you snagged your feet on the power strip.

Not to mention, it forced all the lights to stay on one side like the Dr. Wilson design, requiring you to rotate around like a rotisserie chicken on a stick… only you had to be on a stool so you could swivel.

This immediately eliminated the use for transfer benches, wheelchairs, or stationary chairs, which was the whole reason some folks were asking for this solution in the first place.

Once I figured out that there was no getting around using a sauna tent of some type, I had to accept my fate of squatting down, crouching onto a little stool, and spinning around like a pop top to get my sweat on.

That was, until….

Enter: full height stand up portable sauna enclosures!

Yes, yes, YES!


Parts List: building your diy portable near infrared sauna tent

I’ve added a diy sauna course now, that shows you how to do this step by step.

A blog post and an ebook is great and all, but there were too many steps that are made so much easier by seeing someone do it firsthand.

This DIY sauna tent works better than using a shelf in your bathroom, cloth enclosures, and still much MUCH cheaper than buying a readymade unit.

Enclosure

Heat Lamps

Electrical Wiring

Chair (why I don’t use a stool anymore)

If you’re not using a Dr Wilson style design, where all the lamps are on one side of the sauna, you no longer have to spin around like a rotisserie every couple of minutes to prevent burning. When we split up the heat lamps, we achieved a more balanced approach in my opinion, and you can use a more comfortable chair and tent size for better results.

Some folks have said, they don’t feel like assembling a diy sauna themselves, but still like learning from the idea, how it works, etc…

If this is you, I have an entire series on far infrared sauna reviews, plus a youtube channel dedicated to all things sauna health and detox.

diy infrared sauna course banner on saunacourses.com

2 thoughts on “Building A DIY Near Infrared Sauna Tent [For $100] (that actually works well)”

  1. Just what I’m looking for! Anxiously awaiting more instructions and pics! Still at a three lights on pole in shower level trying to upgrade. I call it my Hillbilly Sauna 😉

    Reply

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