This post is condensed from a full article appearing in Aqua magazine.
When talking to sauna enthusiasts, the experience and health benefits are almost always a primary focus. Let’s take a look at several different aspects of saunas.
On the most fundamental level, a sauna is simply a heated room where you go to sweat. These sessions are usually followed by a cooling off period in a nearby shower, body of water or even snow. Because heaters are the heart of the sauna experience, naturally the type of heater largely defines the sauna type.
In the U.S. and many other markets, there’s no question that traditional, Finnish, electrically heated saunas are the most popular. Simple in concept, electrical heating elements heat rocks that in turn heat the room.
Although the traditional sauna is known as a “dry” sauna, users often pour water onto heated rocks to create humidity, which contributes to the heating effect and is strictly a matter of personal preference.
Heater outputs can range anywhere from 1.5 to 15 kW. Energy consumption varies with size, type of heater, the amount of insulation and usage, but as a rule, manufacturers report that cost ranges from about one to two dollars per use.
Most saunas using electric heat will reached desired temperature in 40 minutes to an hour. There are heaters that are designed to maintain a base temperature of approximately a hundred degrees, which can cut the heat-up time half, but obviously these are more expensive to operate. Also, many of the controls available allow homeowners to preset a heat-up time of day to avoid the wait.
INFRARED TO WOOD
In contrast to traditional electric heaters, saunas with infrared heating elements have also become popular in recent years among consumers who want a purely dry sauna experience. Because the infrared elements heat the body directly (in lieu humidity), recommended temperatures range from 110-to-130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wood-burning saunas are the direct descendants of historic sauna types, and although not widely used in the U.S., they are still popular with a class of consumers in other countries. Most wood-burning sauna heaters continuously burn wood during sauna use. They are often considered the preference of sauna “purists.”
Whichever the type of construction, sauna providers point out that it’s the most fundamental design considerations that oftentimes make the biggest difference in terms of long-term customer satisfaction and frequency of use — beginning with the location inside or outside the home.
For starters, saunas should be located somewhere the homeowner enjoys spending time. That’s commonly a master bathroom, home gym or somewhere outdoors where they can enjoy natural surroundings. Many homeowners opt for a sauna with a view, taking advantage of glass doors and windows. Unsurprisingly, glass doors have become the standard for the industry largely for aesthetic reasons (and for preventing any sense of claustrophobia).
They should be in a private location, especially if the homeowners plan on observing traditional sauna practice by using their saunas in the nude. (In Finnish culture, using a sauna while wearing swimwear or other clothing is considered a social faux pas.)
Sauna doors don’t have locks on them for safety reasons, so there is an issue of access and supervision in the presence of small children, as well.
Saunas should always be located somewhere near a shower and/or a cooling off area. Traditional use suggests bathing in the sauna for 15-to-20 minutes or longer and then alternating with a brief cool-down shower and then repeating the process one or two more times.
Because of the traffic between the shower/cool down area, the pathway should not be carpeted or have a slippery surface. Some dealers note that pools and spas maintained at a cold temperature can also facilitate the cool down process, although in those settings a shower is still considered a necessity to prevent entering chemically treated water dripping perspiration.
It also helps to have a convenient place to hang towels and bathrobes near the sauna and shower.
Although it’s unlikely that saunas will ever become as popular in the U.S. as they are in Finland, for many customers they offer a luxurious option that is more than just hot air.
Stop by either one of our locations to learn more about Finnleo Saunas. Our expert staff can assist you in learning more—and trying them out, if you like.
AQUA gratefully acknowledges Norm Coburn of New England Spas, Steve Ruscigno of Oregon Hot Tubs, the North American Sauna Society and finnleo.com for providing the above information.