Home saunas provide a perfect place to relax and unwind after long days at work, at school, or out running errands. Installing a new sauna is an investment, though, so it’s important for homeowners to consider their options carefully. Get started by learning about the most common types of indoor saunas described below.
When most people think of saunas, the first image that comes to mind is that of a traditional, Finnish wood-burning sauna. Sometimes referred to as “dry” saunas, these models are powered by wood stoves that heat stones, which, in turn, heat the small sauna rooms to between 140- and 200-degrees Fahrenheit. Users can then ladle small amounts of water onto the stones to create steam. All wood-burning saunas are best installed in uncongested areas where the smoke won’t bother neighbours.
Electric saunas offer a similar experience to the traditional models, but they don’t require dirty and difficult-to-maintain fires. The only real difference is that the stove that heats the stones runs on electricity. The fact that there’s no need for a wood fire makes electric saunas good for indoor applications, even in urban areas.
Infrared saunas are the newest addition to the line-up. They offer all the benefits of traditional wood and electric saunas but without the need for extreme heat. Instead of heating up the air, infrared saunas heat the user’s body directly, creating a more tolerable ambiance. Infrared models also tend to be the cheapest to install.
It’s rare to come across smoke saunas these days, but they can still be found in some hyper-traditional Finnish environments. Instead of featuring a stove and a chimney, a smoke sauna relies on a fire built directly beneath the rocks. Once the rocks get heated up sufficiently, the fire goes out and the smoke gets vented. It’s only at this point that people can start to use the sauna.
Often referred to as Turkish saunas, hammams, or steam rooms, steam saunas don’t use stones to heat the room. Instead of producing dry heat, they rely on boiling water that releases steam into the chamber to produce wet heat. Steam saunas need to be built out of completely mold-resistant, non-porous materials to avoid issues with constant moisture exposure.
How to Choose the Best Option
The first thing to consider is where the home is located. If it’s in a rural environment, a wood-fired sauna may be an option, although these models are best reserved for outdoor use. In urban environments, stick to electrically powered models.
Steam saunas are sometimes touted for their respiratory benefits, but they tend to be expensive and difficult to maintain. Dry saunas are the best option for people looking for a traditional sauna experience that won’t require thorough cleaning after every use to avoid mold. Although some purists refuse to group infrared saunas with the traditional dry and wet saunas, this option is great for people working with strict budgets since infrared models tend to be cheaper.
Installing the New Sauna
All of the types of saunas described above are best installed by trained professionals. Though there are sauna kits available, correctly installing them still requires at least some tools and construction experience.