Different Types of Sauna

A home sauna lets you create a relaxing experience. There are a few different types of sauna currently available and each variation can be found in health clubs, gyms and in homes around the country. But depending on your specific requirements and what you’re trying to achieve, you may want to target a specific type as not all are perfectly suited to your desired purpose.

No matter what type of sauna heater you select, all saunas have 1 thing in common: they heat the body up so a sweat response occurs – well, so long as you stay in long enough! From outdoor saunas to portable steam saunas, the sweat response will ensure that you get the health benefits you’re after and the body’s responds in a similar way no matter what type of sauna you select.

Electric Saunas

This type of sauna became popular in the 1950’s and uses a wall or floor mounted electric heater. This is probably the most popular type of sauna in gyms and health clubs as it’s easy to maintain and run. It produces a very dry heat with extremely low humidity levels of around 5 or 10%

As well as being convenient to start and stop, they are quick to heat up and get going and can maintain a very accurate temperature. Most electric saunas run in the 160F to 212F range, or 70-100C, although in the united states, there is a regulation that restricts the maximum temperature of an electric sauna heater to 194F or 90C. There is no such regulation in Europe. Another safety feature of most home installations is that many will not run for longer than an hour without having to be reset.

A common question that I get asked is can you pour water on an electric sauna heater? And the answer is of course you can! They are made so you can do so to control the humidity – it’s just that it is possible it will corrode your heater a bit faster which may mean it needs to be replaced sooner.

Gas Sauna

A sauna with a gas heater provides similar heat to an electric heater, however they can be more costly to purchase and installation is more complex. They are generally used in commercial situations where the sauna might be running for many hours throughout the day.

Which is better for you depends on the availability of gas or electricity at your desired installation location and how much extra you might be willing to pay for installation and maintenance.

Wood Burning Sauna

Outdoor wooden and transportable sauna

Wood burning saunas will burn wood to heat rocks, which then heats the sauna room. This is also a high temperature and low humidity option and a wood burning stove can get the room to roughly the same range as an electric heater – 160F – 212F.

Of course it’s a lot more difficult to maintain the same temperature to the level that an electric or even gas sauna heaters will be able to achieve. There is also a bit more of a delay while you get the fire started up from cold and of course you will need to install a chimney or other type of vent. But if you have no power or gas at your proposed site and have a good supply of wood, this is an excellent option. Especially if you can get the wood for free – you will have almost zero running costs.

A wood burning sauna will provide a more authentic, traditional experience – if that’s what you’re after. It’s also best suited outdoors and in an area where the smoke won’t bother the neighbors (or perhaps you could invite them along!)

If you’re looking to buy an electric, gas or wood sauna heater? click to find out our thoughts on the best sauna heater you can buy right now.

Infrared Sauna

Infrared sauna

An infrared sauna functions differently to the electric, gas and wood sauna heaters described above. Those operate by heating the surrounding air, which in turn heats your body. An infrared sauna uses infrared panels instead of conventional heat. These panels emit heat that heats your body directly – from the inside out! OK, the air is heated a little bit still – around 20% – but the rest goes into heating your body. Infrared saunas generally run at a cooler temperatures than other saunas – generally around 60C or 140F

Humidity is around the same as normal humidity levels – around 40-60%. This is because the air isn’t being heated and dried. Supports of infrared saunas claim that the heat penetrates more deeply than warmed air, which allows people to achieve a more intense sweat at a lower tempreture.

This means that this type of heater is more tolerable for new sauna users than the traditional heaters as it’s easier to remain in the sauna for longer. You can also more easily install this type of sauna indoors.

Steam Sauna (Steam Room)

A steam sauna produces a moist heat – as compared to a traditional Finnish sauna which produces a dry heat. The humidity of a steam room is close to 100% – compared to the dry heat of a Finnish sauna of around 5%.

Steam rooms are usually heated by an electrically powered generator which boils water and feeds hot steam into the sauna. Because of this, it’s impossible to heat a steam room to dry sauna levels as the steam would burn and most are set to around 50C or 120F

Both home and commercial units are available, but they are considerably more expensive than all of the other sauna heaters described above. There is also a greater risk of mold due to the high humidity. This type of sauna should be installed by a professional.

Portable Steam Sauna

If you don’t have the space for a dedicated sauna, or if you want to have a sauna while travelling, you can try a portable steam sauna. These are soft walled ‘tents’ that you sit in while your head sticks out the top. They might look silly, but they offer a steam sauna experience without the expense and dedication required for a full steam sauna. We also have a guide to help you find the best portable steam sauna

Still confused about what sort of sauna would suit your needs? Then take a look at our comparison of the best outdoor saunas you can buy.

1 Comment
  1. Thank you for sharing this helpful information, Mark! I personally prefer infrared saunas as I am not very comfortable with the high heat produced in traditional or steam saunas. Also, I think it makes my skin much healthier.

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