Guide to Choosing the Right Incandescent Near Infrared Bulb

Updated January 10, 2023


So. You’ve heard all about near infrared light therapy and near infrared saunas. You’re ready to try it for yourself to see if it really works (and if you use the right bulbs the right way, someone will have to pry those bulbs from your cold, dead fingers. Trust me.). But how do you choose the best incandescent, heat-producing near infrared option? What should you look for? What should you avoid? I am here to tell you everything you need to know when looking for bulbs for near infrared sauna or light therapy.

Hot Incandescent or Infrared LED?

One of the first decisions you have to make is whether you even want a heat-producing near infrared bulb or whether you want a cooler LED-type bulb. One is not inherently better than the other. Rather, in some cases (or for some people) one is preferable over the other.

If you’re looking for bulbs for your near infrared sauna or to make your own sauna, you need non-LED incandescent, heat-producing near infrared bulbs.

But if you’re only wanting bulbs for near infrared light therapy, the choice isn’t so clear. You need to know the differences between the two types of bulbs.


So, What Are the Differences?

The main differences between an LED-type bulb and an incandescent type are:

  1. The incandescent produces heat (a lot of it) and the LED-type bulbs do not. Some situations call for a solution that produces little to no heat, such as light therapy for someone who has lymphedema or who still has some swelling from an injury (note that you shouldn’t ever use light or heat therapy on a fresh, swollen wound). Many would choose the LED bulb for use on an animal, whose behavior is unpredictable (they could touch the bulb and burn themselves) and who can’t talk to tell you they are too hot or uncomfortable.

  2. Fragility. Near infrared bulbs are made of glass. LED bulbs are made of plastic and metal. An LED bulb might survive a drop on the floor, but a near infrared bulb probably will not.

  3. Safety. A good near infrared bulb gets extremely hot within seconds. As with anything that gets hot, you have to be careful not to touch it or you will burn yourself. And as with anything that is hot and glass, any contact with cooler liquid will make it shatter. Some people prefer not to have to mess with that extra caution, so they opt for an LED-type bulb instead.

  4. Portability. LED-type bulbs are easier to transport because they are less fragile. They also require less energy and special lamps or fixtures for high-heat bulbs are not needed. This means you could throw your bulb into your suitcase with a bit of cushioning, grab any random hotel room lamp and have your light therapy on the go. With incandescent near infrared bulbs, their glass makes them fragile and the heat they produce requires lamps/fixtures that can handle the wattage and the heat. Your average hotel room lamp may not work with them.

  5. Energy consumption. LED’s require very little power to operate, but still produce (sometimes blindingly) intense light. Heat-producing near infrared bulbs, on the other hand, need a lot more.


Make Sure You Get the Right Voltage

If your eyes just glazed over when you read “voltage”, don’t worry. I’ll keep this short and easy.

You need to buy the right voltage for the country you live in. In the US and Canada, you need 120V bulbs- no matter if you’re buying LED or incandescent near infrared. If you live in Europe or Australia, you need 220V bulbs. If you live in a different country, you should check which type you need

Incandescent Near Infrared Wattage: Will 100W or 150W Work?

If you are considering buying an incandescent near infrared bulb that is 100-150W, be aware that these are designed for use on small pets, not humans.  

There are some companies out there producing 100-150W bulbs originally intended for small animals, branding them with their logo and selling them to the public for humans. They claim that these bulbs are equivalent to human-grade bulbs or that they are intended for use on areas such as the face. The reality is that they are made for pets, not human beings, regardless of the company’s claims.   

On top of being designed for animal use, by definition, these bulbs are 40% to 60% less powerful than a true human-grade near infrared bulb. Considering that the average person can use two to three real, human-grade near infrared bulbs for near infrared light therapy, the idea that these small, low-Wattage bulbs could be equally effective is just unrealistic.

Only buy true, human-grade near infrared bulbs, which are 250 Watts or higher, cover an area proportionate to a person’s body and are manufactured to the safety and effectiveness standards of a human-grade product. 

Bottom line: if you want a bulb for yourself, buy one large enough and strong enough (and safe enough) for human use.  


How Many Bulbs Do I Need?

The number of bulbs you need depends on what you intend to use them for.

If you plan to use incandescent near infrared bulbs to create your own near infrared sauna, you will need enough bulbs so the light and heat reaches from head-to-toe. If you are a short, small person (let’s say, 5’0” tall and 100-110 lbs), you’ll probably only need two or three large, 250W, human-grade bulbs. A taller, larger person would probably need more. Someone who is over 6’ tall would probably need at least three or four bulbs. These are just estimates and like anything else, needs are going to vary from person to person.

If you want to use incandescent near infrared bulbs for near infrared light therapy, one 250W bulb can be enough to do the trick if you’re wanting to treat an area that is about two to three feet in diameter. You can always add more bulbs later if desired.


Avoid Bulbs Containing Toxic Substances

While nobody wants products full of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, for those with serious health problems and chemical sensitivity, avoiding them is absolutely mandatory.

When it comes to incandescent near infrared bulbs, beware of bulbs labeled as “shatterproof”. They have a coating that releases odorless toxic fumes when heated above 350-400 degrees. An incandescent near infrared bulb has a surface temperature of 450 degrees within seconds of switching it on. At this level of heat, the coating releases dangerous toxic fumes known to cause illness in humans and death in small birds and animals. While it’s totally understandable to want a solution to the fragility of a normal near infrared incandescent bulb, dangerous toxic fumes that you can’t even see or smell just aren’t worth it.

Heavy metals can also be a concern with less reputable brands. Because the proper metals are expensive, they allow their factories to dilute the metals used in the bulb with toxic heavy metals to create a cheaper alloy. It can be difficult to tell if a bulb contains these substances, but there are a few things you can do to avoid the problem:

  • Ask if their products conform to CE standards. Although this is not required in the US, some brands apply the European Union’s stringent CE directive standards to all of their products. These standards force the manufacturer to check that their goods are free of over 200 known toxins, including heavy metals such as mercury. I am proud to say that all RubyLux brand products conform to CE standards.  

  • Only buy from a company that cares about safety. Look at the other products a company sells- a company that cares about safety will not carry products known to be dangerous, such as “shatterproof” bulbs. If the company would throw some of its customers under the bus for a few bucks, it’ll have no problem doing that to you, too. Be on the lookout for signs the company is resistant to taking full responsibility for the products they sell (such as trying to convince unhappy customers that they should keep the product anyway, asking customers to remove negative reviews or resistance to accepting returns, charging restocking fees, etc.).

  • Listen to your body. If you use a light therapy or sauna product and feel ill afterwards (especially within 4-6 hours of use), or if something about it just doesn’t seem right, discontinue use and return it. A reputable brand will have a liberal, hassle-free return policy because if their products are good, almost no one will return them.

  • Watch who you deal with. Companies are owned by people and you have a right to know who you are dealing with. The company shouldn’t hide who its owner is. You can even check up on the company and its owner. These days, a quick Google search will tell you if you’re dealing with a criminal or not. There is at least one company owned by a person whose history includes criminal charges of drug distribution and human trafficking. This is probably not a person who cares about the safety and well-being of others.


Skip Bulbs that Have a Logo Blocking the Light

A common problem you will find are bulbs that have printed messages or logos on the face of the bulb. This means the logo is blocking the light that gets to you. Always go for a bulb that does not have a logo or anything else printed on the size you point toward you. 

Make Sure the Bulb Does Not Have Ridges on the Face

If a bulb has ridges, bumps or waves built into the glass on the face (the side you point toward you), it is purposely distorting the light that gets emitted. It will cause the light to go in different directions depending on how it hit the ridges instead of going more straightforward toward you. 

Here is an example of this type of bulb with lines on the face. 

Do Not Choose a Near Infrared Bulb with Lines on the Face

Choose a Bulb that is Red All Over

Some near infrared bulbs are colors other than red. For instance, some are clear or even green. While clear is acceptable, it isn't as good as a bulb with red glass. The reason is that the red glass shields you from excess brightness and prevents sleep disruption caused by all-spectrum light (which contains blue light, well-known to disrupt melatonin production and sleep). 

Furthermore, since any near infrared bulb emits some colored light, it's smart to make that visible, colored light useful to yourself. That means red is the best choice, as it is closest on the spectrum to near infrared. Red light therapy has established benefits and you can choose to get those benefits from your bulb's excess visible light. 


Choose Genuine Red Glass

There are different ways of producing a red near infrared bulb. One way is to paint the outside. These types of bulbs should be avoided at all costs. The paint will quickly get hot, emitting chemicals, before flaking off. 

Another way is for the paint to be applied to the inside of the bulb, then heated to make it adhere. This is acceptable, since the paint is contained to the inside of the bulb, which is always sealed in a vacuum. 

However, the best production method is to use glass tinted red, which involves no paint. This method is the one RubyLux currently uses for its red near infrared bulbs. The color remains part of the glass, totally stable, so there is no paint to heat up or flake off. 


Make Sure the Company Has Hassle-Free Returns

If you’re buying this type of bulb for the first time, make sure the company has a good return policy. If the company’s products are good, it’s unlikely you’ll need to return them. But even the best company can make mistakes. And in rare cases, you might find that the bulbs just don’t work for you or you don’t like them. You shouldn’t have to fight a company to get your money back.

Returns should be allowed for any reason and there should not be a restocking fee. The return period should be long enough that you can really give the bulbs plenty of time to work (at the very least, one month, but preferably two months).

I firmly believe if a company has good products, the products sell themselves and returns will be low. And if a company sells bad products, they should be ready to take responsibility and accept those products back for a full refund. The company’s return policy will tell you a lot about them and their product before you ever even buy it. These are the reasons RubyLux offers hassle-free returns on all of their products within 60 days. 


What You Should Do Next

If you're ready to try near infrared light therapy, head over to pick up the RubyLux NIR-A Near Infrared Bulb. We offer hassle-free returns within 60 days and free shipping within the U.S. on all orders. It's easy for us to offer hassle-free returns because so few people return their products. Find out for yourself why thousands of people all over the world love RubyLux bulbs