Saunas - An Introduction
Many cultures the world over have had their own variations of saunas.
It is essentially a small room or building that has been specially designed to be heated to high temperatures with a level of controlled humidity.
Around the world saunas have been used for both recreation and therapeutic purposes while the most common use is for relaxation and for the health benefits that saunas can offer.
What types of saunas are available?
There are several types of saunas available including:
- Dry saunas – a sauna where the air itself is heated and there is no steam produced. This type of sauna is very low in humidity.
- Wet / Steam saunas – this is the “traditional” sauna experience where steam is created by splashing water onto heated volcanic rocks. Wet saunas are more comfortable than dry saunas, as they do not get as hot and the humidity level is higher.
- Herbal saunas – this is a steam sauna with the addition of essential oils for therapeutic purposes.
- Infrared saunas – the body itself is heated and not the air. The heating is done by using a special far infrared heated. The heat penetrates the body more deeply than other types of saunas, meaning you sweat more as well as getting the best detoxification benefits. Infrared saunas are considered the most comfortable type of sauna.
There is nothing like the heat of a sauna and it is becoming more and more achievable to have your own sauna experience at home. But do you want the traditional steam heat experience or the newer infrared experience?
Here’s what you need to know.
About Infrared Saunas
An infrared sauna is one that uses far infrared rays as the principle source of heating inside the sauna. What happens is that the heater produces infrared rays that actually penetrate the skin and enter the body, so you are being warmed from the inside out. The actual air inside the sauna remains at a relatively comfortable temperature. It is the body that is being warmed not the air. The infrared rays are produced by a carbon or a ceramic heater.
An infrared sauna can be installed as a permanent sauna or it can be a portable sauna. Portable saunas mean that you can simply assemble and disassemble the sauna as needed and that you can place the sauna wherever you like at any given time. You can plug in smaller infrared saunas to a standard power point but larger ones will probably require their own power supply. Once installed and turned on, an infrared sauna can take up to ten minutes to preheat and you will start sweating after another ten to twenty minutes of sitting in it.
About Steam Heat Saunas
A traditional steam heat sauna operates at very high temperatures. What happens is that the air inside the sauna is heated to a high temperature and steam is created by splashing water over heated rocks. The rocks are heated using a special, waterproof heater that is powered by gas or electricity, or even by burning wood.
Traditional steam heat saunas are generally installed as permanent sauna but it may be possible to buy them in a kit form. You do however require an electrician to install a steam heat sauna as they may need their own source of power. Traditionally, steam heat saunas are made from Cedar as it is a durable softwood that can stand up well to the heat and steam created. A steam heat sauna can take up to 45 minutes to preheat but you can start sweating as soon as you enter the sauna and pour water over the rocks.
Choosing the Location
Where do you want the sauna to go? This is the first – and very important – question to ask. A bathroom or laundry is best, as a sauna should be installed on tiles or concrete. Plus it makes sense to take a sauna where you bathe. However, some people prefer an outdoor sauna – just be sure not to install it on grass or timber.
Should I choose a traditional or an infrared sauna?
The type of sauna that you choose will depend on the type of sauna experience you want. If you want the traditional sauna experience, you can’t go past the famous steam saunas, but if you want an energy efficient, effective sauna that allows you to spend more time inside it, an infrared sauna may be the way to go.
Can I buy a portable sauna?
Portable or modular saunas are definitely available and they are becoming more and more popular due to the ease of set up (just plug and play, so to speak), and the fact that you can take them with you when you move.
What size sauna should I buy?
The size of sauna that you choose will depend on how many people you wish to be able to use it at the same time. Saunas can be built to accommodate just one person through to ten people or more.
How do I provide the heat to my sauna?
When you are installing a sauna, you have several different options for sauna heaters. Your main choices are infrared heaters, electric heaters, gas powered heaters, or solid fuel heaters such as wood burning stoves.
Are saunas cheap to run?
The cost of running your sauna will depend primarily on the heating method that you have chosen. The cheapest method is an infrared heater due to their incredible energy efficiency and the fact that they are so fast to heat up. Gas heaters can also be very cost effective to run. Electrical and solid fuel heaters can cost you the most to run. Of course, the cost of running your sauna will also depend on how large it is, how often you use it, and how long you use it for at a time.
How do I install a sauna?
How your sauna is installed depends on the type of sauna that you buy. Portable or pre-assembled saunas are your best bet if you want an easy to install sauna. Other saunas come in kits that you can put together yourself or with a mate. The most elaborate saunas are permanent saunas housed inside a room or a special building and these will require professional installation.
Can I do the sauna wiring myself?
The simple answer to this question is never. All electrical work required for your sauna must be done by a licensed electrical professional.