Indoor Sauna vs Outdoor Sauna

Having a personal sauna has been my dream for a while. When it comes to going to a sauna, most of us imagine a steamy room full of people. I always found that intimidating and instead liked the idea of having one in my private space.  Personal saunas provide you with the luxury of privacy along with a sauna that meets your needs. 

When I had a look at the market, there were options for outdoor and indoor saunas. Most of the difference is based on the space that we may have around our house. If you choose to go with an infrared sauna, both types of sauna will work in exactly the same way.

So I was stuck in the indoor sauna vs outdoor sauna dilemma, and started exploring the major differences between them. As I know that making the right choice can be tough, here are some tips for choosing the best personal sauna for yourself. 

Indoor Sauna vs Outdoor Sauna 

The battle of the saunas is officially on, and here are some ground rules that will help make the comparison. I like to follow the most basic features, as it will define the sauna that we need, which include the space, installation, maintenance as well as budget of the sauna. 

Ok, let’s dig in..

Installation and Space 

Both installation and space are important points when you are buying a personal sauna. If you have a huge backyard or garden, then accommodating an outdoor sauna becomes easier.

However, in an apartment or houses with limited space, an indoor sauna would work better. I have also observed that installing an indoor sauna takes much less time than an outdoor sauna as they come mostly pre-assembled.

As outdoor saunas are mostly in the traditional style, they will generally come shipped on a pallet and will take up to a few days to assemble.  Unless you are handy, you might want to hire a professional to assemble your outdoor sauna.  If you do decide to attempt it yourself, you might want to have a few friends come and help as you probably won’t be able to do it by yourself. 

But, that might not be necessary for an indoor sauna as most of them have infrared technology. I find setting up a bulb much simpler than working out the heater for an outdoor sauna. 


While investing in a personal sauna, one box that it had to tick was that of maintenance. I don’t think that everyone will be up for frequent, thorough maintenance of the sauna. That is the very reason that people gravitate towards indoor saunas as they are low maintenance. You may only need to vacuum the inside from time to time to keep it clean. 

On the other hand, maintaining an outdoor sauna can be time consuming. The heater requires proper maintenance and the outside may need sealing or staining to protect it from the outside elements.  Cycling the interior of the sauna between hot (while it’s in use) and cold and exposing the inside of the sauna with steam will load the wood with moisture which means it’s constantly expanding and contracting which will affect the overall lifespan if not cared for properly.

And don’t forget that it’s nice to have a clean sauna!  So you will need to dedicate your time to cleaning the sauna every day to keep it healthy and free of mold.

Lifestyle Choice 

Lifestyle may dictate the sauna that you choose. Most people don’t have the time to spend needed to take care of an outdoor sauna. 

Yes, it might be the traditional way of experiencing sauna, but it also requires attention when setting it up. Outdoor saunas also take a longer time to heat up. 

An indoor sauna is suitable for people who are always time poor. It is perfect for getting relaxed after a long day at work. And, the best part is that there is less wait time like a traditional sauna. 

Hence, it is better to assess the time and lifestyle factors before settling on a model of a personal sauna. 


Now, there is no set budget for a personal sauna. The price of a product increases according to its features and amenities. 

When it comes to these saunas, the price may vary drastically according to the technology. An indoor sauna with infrared technology may have a high initial cost. 

However, it is much cheaper to maintain compared to a traditional outdoor sauna. 


A personal indoor sauna will generally accommodate 2-3 people. Compared to an outdoor sauna that may have a capacity of usually 5-6, but sometimes up to 10 people. Hence, if someone has a big family, they may want to get an outdoor sauna. But, I do think that more people care about their privacy, and they may still want an indoor sauna for that reason. 

I have seen that many people associate saunas with a community experience, so they may want to enjoy the time with friends or family. It’s important to remember that capacity is proportional to space. Hence, a sauna with a bigger capacity will require much more space and will take longer to heat.

Design Options 

I am someone who can be finicky about the design of any product. When it comes to a personal sauna, I do want it to be comfortable. This includes everything from a proper backrest to enough leg space. 

I also like saunas that have tempered glass doors that give a spacious look. Even though you shouldn’t get carried away by the design options, enough time should look at them. 

Entertainment is crucial to many, and I have seen people who eye that entertainment system. Design aspects also include the look and feel of a sauna. In this aspect, an outdoor sauna may stand out because most of them are exquisite when it comes to quality. 

What are the modern features of an Indoor Sauna? 

Because most indoor saunas contain infrared technology, running is often fuss-free. There is no need to struggle with electricity or heaters. It is also one of the safest things to have in an apartment when someone has kids or pets. 

Even if you choose to get a traditional indoor sauna, it will usually be placed in a convenient way that requires less time. These personal saunas are great for compact spaces and accommodate 2-3 people. 

I think that new couples can get such a personal sauna to relax after a long day at work. Also, it is extremely fast to set up an indoor sauna compared to traditional models. 

Advantages of Indoor saunas

  • Space-saving
  • Easy to install
  • Great for couples
  • Maintenance is easier

What are the traditional features and advantages of outdoor saunas? 

I know people who like to stick with traditional systems such as the usual sauna. These saunas are usually heated with gas or electric heaters and have much higher temperatures. Modern technologies are great, but some people prefer comfort and charm. 

Moreover, an outdoor sauna accommodates many more people compared to an indoor sauna. Hence, you can truly get the community feel of a sauna from an outdoor model. 

In my opinion, outdoor saunas are superior when it comes to quality and makeup. Most companies price their outdoor models higher and you’re paying for better materials.

Outdoor models also last for a long time.  You can also have your way around customizing the outdoor sauna and set it up in your way. I have seen people building some from scratch to fit in with their style. 

Advantages of Outdoor saunas: 

  • Superior quality
  • The traditional way of heating
  • Accommodates more people
  • Highly customizable

How do Sauna’s health benefits stay the same regardless of the location? 

Both the indoor and outdoor saunas work perfectly well when relaxing your body.

However if you want to be sure of getting the full health benefits of sauna, my opinion is that you need to get a traditional sauna that goes to at least 175 degrees F.  The scientific study that was used to discover the health benefits of sauna used a dry outdoor sauna and an average air temperature of 174 F, with an exposure time of at least 20 minutes. 

This will expose your body to the right stress and allow the body to produce the heat shock proteins (HSP’s).  This will in turn lead to all the desired benefits of sauna such as enhanced cardiovascular health and even extended lifespan.  

The best infrared saunas don’t get up to 175F.  However while the traditional sauna heats the air which in turn heats your body, the infrared sauna heats your body directly – in a similar way the sun does – using electromagnetic radiation.  This will mean that the heat output will be lower.

Now you should experience the same benefits using an infrared sauna, but there’s nothing definitive to say either way – because those specific benefits haven’t been studied using infrared technology.

So I personally prefer a traditional sauna – outside or inside doesn’t matter to me, so long as I can get nice and sweaty!

Disadvantages of Indoor Sauna 

Yes, I do tend to agree that indoor saunas are great when it comes to privacy and ease of use. 

However, there are still some points that may be disadvantageous to some, such as:

  • Many people don’t like to sacrifice their indoor space. Yes, you will need to make an ample amount of space indoors to accommodate the sauna. It takes up floor space, and you may need to sacrifice a room or a large part of your basement.
  • Also, you may have to hunt out a specific space that has a water connection in case you decide to buy an indoor sauna with traditional features.
  • There is little to no possibility of customization when it comes to indoor saunas. You will need to follow the designs laid out by the company.
  • Even though indoor saunas cost less, these may not have the best quality compared to outdoor models.

Disadvantages of Outdoor Sauna

Just like with indoor saunas, some drawbacks may deter you from buying outdoor saunas:

  • Outdoor saunas will require meticulous attention to detail as well as lots of effort when it comes to setting them up. I find reading the instructions quite tedious, but every step is crucial to get the best result.
  • These saunas need regular maintenance. You will need to clean it up regularly and check up on every part of it. This can be fun for some people, but most want a ‘set and forget’ setup.
  • Outdoor saunas can get damaged due to rain, hail or adverse weather conditions; hence care is needed for protection.
  • Running an outdoor sauna is more costly in the longer run. This is especially true for models that have gas heaters.

Indoor Sauna vs Outdoor Sauna: Final Verdict 

Well, everybody will always have a personal preference in this debate.  For my money, if you have the space definitely go for a dry sauna over an infrared.  The location is less important to me but my criteria would be to:

Go for an indoor sauna if you lack outdoor space and/or want to have an easy setup, lower cost and low maintenance.

Go for an outdoor sauna if you can afford the price and the space required and don’t mind the extra maintenance.  

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