Expert Recommends: How To Choose The Right Home Sauna?
While a Finnish sauna has extreme conditions that challenge your body, an infrared sauna is more relaxing, with temperatures around 50 °C. In the steam sauna, you will enjoy 100% air humidity. Choosing a home sauna for an apartment or house mainly depends on what you expect from the sauna.
Our expert Zdeněk Kolář explains the differences between individual types of saunas and recommends how to choose one.
Finnish saunas: A traditional experience of hot and dry air
A Finnish sauna is "classic" and the choice of most customers. The sauna cabin is very hot (60-105 °C) and has dry air with a humidity of around 5%. Therefore, you should not spend too much time inside the sauna; we recommend about 15 minutes. Afterwards, relax and cool down, for example, in a pool with cold water.
Finnish saunas are suitable for both apartments and houses. "For smaller Finnish saunas in apartments, I recommend electric heaters, which are cheap and easy to maintain. They don't have such a high heating capacity, but that doesn't matter so much with indoor and smaller saunas," said; Kolář. On the other hand, he recommends traditional wood-burning stoves for outdoor Finnish saunas in the garden as they have a much higher heating capacity, so they can quickly heat up even a frozen sauna. Besides, the wood crackles and smells in them and creates a more intimate atmosphere.
Remember that you can pour water on almost all stoves with sauna stones – this certainly applies to all stoves of Finnish origin. By pouring the stove, you will increase the humidity in the sauna, and you will feel warmer – you will sweat more. The combination of lower temperature and frequent pouring is very popular, especially in Finland, because it costs less energy to heat the sauna, and thanks to the humidity, the environment in the sauna is more pleasant for the skin, hair and breathing.
This will be appreciated by allergy sufferers who cannot tolerate hot and dry air. You can add aromas to the water that you pour over the stove. For example, eucalyptus or mint facilitate breathing, soothe irritated mucous membranes, and have anti-inflammatory effects.
The choice of moulding wood is also key to the longevity of the sauna. For smaller Finnish saunas in apartments, Kolář recommends lighter wood, such as Nordic spruce or aspen. " Spruce is cheaper, has visible knots and resin pockets, and it smells great when heated. But count with greater maintenance requirements. Aspen is harder, doesn't have knots or resin pockets, and doesn't smell as much. But it is more durable and doesn't require maintenance," he said.
For larger saunas in the house or in the garden, you can use darker thermally treated ThermoWood.
Infrared saunas: Made to regenerate muscles and joints
There are no stoves in the infrared sauna, but special radiators that produce infrared light. This light then penetrates deep into your muscles or joints, helping to release muscle tension and contributing to regeneration.
Thanks to this, the air in the infrared sauna is nowhere near as hot as in a Finnish sauna – most often around 50 °C. The reason is that the heat from the radiators does not warm the air so much, but primarily your skin. Despite the relatively low temperature, you sweat intensely.
Thanks to the lower temperature, you can spend more time in the infrared sauna. One procedure usually takes 30-40 minutes. In order not to get bored in the sauna, take a book inside, equip the sauna with a sound system, or light it with colour therapy.
"For infrared saunas, the most important thing is the type of infrared emitter. The cheapest are flat carbon radiators, which take a relatively long time to heat up and have a narrower radiation spectrum, so they don't go as deep into the skin. On the contrary, more advanced tube radiators with a complete spectrum of infrared radiation will warm you up significantly faster, and you will start sweating immediately," said Kolář.
More advanced radiators have one more advantage – they are usually resistant to moisture, so you can use them in combined saunas, where you can have a Finnish sauna and an infrared sauna in one cabin at the same time.
Infrared saunas are particularly suitable for apartments or smaller houses. A miniature infrared sauna for an apartment can easily have just a few square meters. Always choose light wood for lining a smaller cabin, such as spruce or aspen, or more luxurious cedar.
Steam saunas: An experience like in ancient Rome
Steam saunas are specific for their lower temperature (most often 40-50 °C) and high air humidity of up to 100%. Thanks to this, the sauna feels very hot; you will sweat profusely, but at the same time, you can breathe easily. It is no wonder that steam baths were already popular with the ancient Romans.
Steam for the steam sauna is generated by a steam generator – just imagine an electric kettle. For a better sauna experience, you can add an aroma to the steam output of the generator to make the steam smell to your liking and make breathing even easier.
Again, the quality of steam generators varies by price and manufacturer. For example, basic models require you to drain the water manually, while more advanced types have an automatic drain valve. Better generators are also less maintenance-intensive and allow easier access to coils, replaceable parts, or scale build-up.
Due to the high humidity, the steam sauna is the most constructionally demanding. The supplier must solve the waterproofing, vapour barrier and lighting perfectly. Since hot steam can penetrate ordinary building materials, wood is usually not used as moulding in steam saunas. Instead, ceramic mosaics or tiles are used most often.
"Because the cabin is only heated by steam, which condenses and cools down on colder surfaces, the seats and floor can sometimes feel cold. For this reason, I recommend that more demanding customers install floor heating into tile flooring. You can also install a heating mat into the seats. The sauna experience is then more pleasant,“ said Kolář.
You can also choose a combination
Each sauna has its own specifics. If you cannot decide between the types, you can always opt for a combined sauna. The most frequent combinations are a Finnish sauna with an infrared heater or a Finnish sauna with a steam generator.
But always remember that the sum of humidity and temperature may not exceed a maximum of 140 points. For example, the limit for a Finnish sauna with a steam generator is a temperature of 80 °C with an air humidity of 60%.
"The choice is yours, of course, but if you want to experience the real Finnish sauna, I recommend getting a classic Finnish sauna with a wood-burning stove and moulding of Nordic spruce. The cabin heats up quickly. The wood smells wonderful inside, and the flames in the stove dance on the walls of the sauna in such a way that you won't even want to leave," concluded Kolář.