Do you want a dry home sauna or a steam bath experience? This is probably the single most important decision to make right off the bat. Both heat you up but in very different ways.
Dry sauna, such as infrared and Finnish, are made of wood and use a heater to warm the surrounding air to about 180°F. Humidity is low at about 20%. Finnish sauna uses hot stones that produce a light steam when water is poured over them, but the home sauna room itself is bone-dry. Outside the US, sauna is often done in the nude, even with other people present. In the US, it depends on how comfortable you are with this.
Steam baths, also known as wet sauna or Russian sauna, is essentially a shower unit that uses a steam generator and multiple steam jets to produce 100% humidity. Steam rooms in the home often replace traditional showers. With steam sauna, you and the surrounding room are completely wet, all the time. Obviously, steam sauna is done in the nude.
How many people will be in the sauna at the same time? Two-person saunas are small (as little as 4′ x 4′), can easily fit inside most homes, and have quicker heat-up times. Larger saunas (up to 12′ x 12′) used for social occasions are more likely to be found outdoors next to a pool or lake.
Will you ever want to move the sauna? Older saunas were either outdoors or were custom-built units inside the home. Today, there are a variety of pre-built and portable sauna units that are free-standing and simply plug into the wall. If you think you will ever want to move the sauna to a different spot, or take it with you when you sell, consider such a unit.
How comfortable are you assembling a sauna yourself? Saunas range from the portable unit that you simply plug into the wall, to custom do-it-yourself sauna kits that require you to build, wire and assemble everything. Take stock in your comfort level in assembly when buying a sauna and also keep in mind that a professional contractor is just a phone
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Types of Saunas
Home saunas can be built in many shapes and styles. It could be a separate building or built as a sauna room inside a house or apartment. Traditional saunas are wooden structures and are as beautiful as they are functional.
The worldwide popularity of saunas has spurred innovative new designs. One of the most unusual of these is the portable sauna – folding saunas that can be used almost anywhere. They are just big enough for one person to sit in. There is a hole for your head and slits for your hands if you wish to read or talk on the phone while you are sitting in this portable sauna.
Another unusual design is the barrel sauna. This is a small cabin constructed using barrel making techniques and can hold six to eight people. Barrel saunas can be installed either inside or outside the house and can be heated with a wood or electric stove.
The infrared sauna has been used since the 1960s. The heating source is an infrared heater. Unlike traditional heaters that heat the air of the sauna, infrared heaters heat objects and people but not the air. Infrared is a type of light and proponents of infrared saunas say that they have superior health benefits to traditional saunas.
Almost every type of sauna is made of wood. The walls, ceilings, and floors and benches are all made from beautiful woods such as cedar or hemlock. The only non-wood materials are the sauna heater and the sauna rocks.
The sauna provides a dry heat – usually between 70 and 100 degrees Celsius (158 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit). From time to time water can be thrown on the rocks on the heater. This creates a cloud of steam which has the effect of immediately raising the temperature.
The dry sauna can be heated with an electric sauna heater or wood burning sauna heater. Wood burning sauna heaters are traditional in the countryside, but most urban saunas use electric sauna heaters.