I've been looking through a lot of infrared sauna kits lately trying to find something affordable as well as something that will fit the needs of me and my family.

I'd like to walk you through some of the steps I've been taking to weed out some models versus others.

Infrared sauna's are becoming pretty popular lately not only for their health benefits (which are many) but also because they are fairly inexpensive, don't require a lot of space and in many cases can be taken down and moved in case you move to a different home or want to move it to a different spot in the house.

With that being said I had a couple of requirements myself before I put in an infrared sauna.

(1) Power Source

All the infrared saunas that I've seen or looked at require regular 110 volt service somewhere in your house to provide the heat.

In case your not familiar with electrical terms 110-volt is just the regular outlets that run through your house. So, if you can plug your curling iron or toaster into it - you can run an infrared sauna from it.

Instead, the reason I bring up power source is because wherever you do decide to ultimately put your finished infrared kit you'll want to make sure that you have an outlet with just a few feet of the sauna or else you'll have to have a licensed electrician run power to that source. I'll cover more about this problem in step 7 but suffice it to say that if you have a reliable power source where you want the sauna, you are good to go. If not, you've got some planning to do.

(2) Size

How big of a sauna do you need. I cover seating capacity in point 4 below. But, irregardless of the seating capacity all models have different square floor footage and height that they take up. It's an issue that you have to give serious thought.

Incidentally, different manufacturers offer different sizes to maximize seating capacity while minimizing square footage. For example, you could look at a six-person model that may be able to fit into the corner of your basement rather than a rectangular model that maybe would have had to fit into that spot and left dead space in the corner.

(3) Materials

Like a home, every manufacturer and owner has preferences on what particular material their sauna is built out of and the reasons for them doing so. But, by in large, the material of choice is cedar.

It's pretty much weather resistant as well as long lasting. Plus, it's a handsome wood and relatively inexpensive compared to some other sauna materials that might stand up as well but are more 'flashy'.

(4) Seating Capacity

Depending on who you ask you'll get different recommendations all the time. In my opinion, and this is from talking to numerous different people and infrared and regular sauna owners, you really can't go too big. I mean, whenever I use a sauna at someone else's house it happens to coincide with suppers or parties which means 4 to 8 people.

That doesn't mean that you have to get an 8-person model, because you can certainly all take turns in a 3 or 4 person sauna. But it is something for you to think about because it's nice to be able to get everybody in at once, talk and relax.

Also, the added cost for a six or eight person sauna is pretty nominal versus a two or four-person sauna.

(5) Warranty

A warranty is really important for obvious reasons. Maybe your heater breaks down (we'll get into different heater types in the next section). Do you have a warranty on the heater or just on the rest of the infrared sauna? Does your warranty last for six months or two years? As part of your warranty will the company bring someone to fix it or do you have to disassemble the unit and send the defective part back in.

One of the tricks with warranties is to know what is reasonable and what it not. In my experience, one of the first things to possibly go haywire on an infrared sauna would be the heating unit. So you'll want to make sure that one of the things you have covered is your heater.

Also, is your sauna kit one with a radio or other electronic gadgets (extras)? If so, you'll want to inquire about the warranty on those items also.

(6) Heater

OK, this is one of the most - no, I take that back - this is the most important part of your infrared kit. If it's bad or doesn't work you just have a nice smelling cedar box.

But, with a nice, long-lasting model you can enjoy your sauna for years and years with no problems. But, there is a bit of an art to evaluating infrared sauna heaters and this will give you a brief overview.

Aluminum Heaters: aluminum can be toxic to humans and really isn't the best conductor of heat in the world. Also, unless the particualr infrared kit has a heat shield behind the unit you'll lose heat through the walls. The average life expectancy is generally no more than 3 years.

Carbon Heater: this type of heater is composed a mesh of carbon fibers and fiberglass. You'll often see a type of felt on the front of the heater to hide the heater.

The biggest drawback in my opinion to these types of heaters is the fact they don't get to a very high temperature which means you have to have more of these units in your infrared sauna kit. Incidentally, these types of heater are NOT good at low temps and can also scorch over time.

Worst of all, they have been reported as fire hazards.

Life expectancy is usually 3 years also.

Ceramic Tube: these units are filled with sand and over time the sand can actually settle to the bottom of the tubes and fail. Also, if they get kicked on accident the tubes tend to crack easily. Also, I'm a little gun-shy of these units as far as fire safety is concerned. As with the previous two models, life expectancy is around 3 years.

M-Type heater: this unit is composed of 3 different 'layers'. A ceramic core surround an alloy wire and the two compounds are wrapped in incoloy (a metal alloy that does well in high temperatures. Ideally, this unit should be backed up by a metal shield.

The two biggest pluses to this unit is the safety of the unit and also the life expectancy which some experts predict to be up to 15 years.

(7) Difficulty of Setup

Frankly, this is one of the things I'm not worried about. Most of the infrared kits that I've seen on the market can be setup in an hour of less with basic carpentry skills.

However, this could be something extremely important for YOU. I know a fair amount of people who have no medium or even basic carpentry skills.

Still, with some patience and basic tools I still think almost anyone with even a little know-how can set an infrared kit up. If, like me, you're fairly confident in your carpentry skills 1/2 hour build time should be plenty.

(8) Customization

One of the drawbacks to infrared kits is the fact that they are, well...kits. They aren't truly customizable. So, if you're looking for something fancier you'll either have to custom order something to be made that way at the factory, or, hand-build the unit yourself with individual parts. Which, has been done many times and if you feel like your 'handy' you can certainly do.

(9) Accessories

Do you like to listen to music while in the sauna? If so, you can have a radio put in. Do you like digital temperature controls because you're eyes aren't what they use to be? Your kit can come with that.

While the amount of customization you can do is limited - you do have some options. The two above are just a small sampling. If you do decide that an infrared sauna kit is for you then you'll certainly want to check out different manufacturers and get the low-down on what they offer.