As the temperature becomes cooler and winter lurks just a few weeks away, the idea of a warm, cozy home sauna can be pretty appealing. So what goes in to installing one? Here’s a detailed breakdown of home saunas and what you need to know if you’re considering one of your own.
Saunas have been around for about 2,000 years. Not surprisingly, they originated in the Scandinavia, where the Nordic winter nights can dip well below zero.
But you don’t need to live in the Arctic to enjoy a sauna’s lush warmth and health benefits. Installing one in your own home may be easier than you think. Let’s start with what a sauna is, and what it isn’t.
Sauna vs Steam Room
A sauna isn’t a steam room. Though both rooms involve sitting in an often small heated space, saunas and steam rooms have significant differences.
A steam room uses very high humidity, typically around 100%, along with temperatures around 120 degrees Fahrenheit to heat the space via a generator filed with boiling water. All that humidity makes your body sweat. But it also produces a fair amount of condensation in the space. For that reason, steam rooms require a drain for all the moisture run off.
By contrast, saunas use a dry heat. Most home saunas are heated with an electric source to a temperature of around 190 degrees Fahrenheit, but with low humidity. In fact, they’re so dry that people often pour water over rocks placed saunas in order to create steam and add a bit more moisture. Rocks also help store and evenly distribute the heat. The lack of condensation also means that saunas do not require a drain.
What are the health benefits of a home sauna?
When used safely, a home sauna can provide a host of benefits. The high heat helps your heart pump more vigorously, which can result in improved blood circulation and cardiovascular health. The sweating can also help open up your pores, release toxins, and improve skin. And some research shows that regular sauna use can even lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
How Do I Add a Home Sauna?
If you’re thinking about a sauna for your home, first consider where you’d like to put it. A small, two-person sauna does not require a lot of space. One can be built in an area as little as 30 square feet. That could mean an extension of your master bath for example.
Since you need a sauna to be as thoroughly insulated as possible (meaning no windows), basements are another candidate. Most basements will have enough room for a sauna. And they may have enough space to install one big enough for multiple people.
A back yard shed, deck, or an ADU can also be great places for a sauna. Basically, any space with access to a proper heat source and with the proper flooring will work. Speaking of…
Heat source and power
We mentioned that saunas typically use electric heaters to generate their warmth. The heater will require a dedicated 220-240 volt hookup that isn’t being used for any other electrical items, like garage circuits, outdoor lights, or appliances. A non-dedicated circuit could result in overloading and resetting of the breaker switch. You’ll also likely want a separate light source in your sauna, so those connections will also need to be kept in mind.
While saunas do not build a lot of condensation, you’ll likely be doing a lot of sweating in there. For that reason, you’ll want to install a waterproof floor. That means something like tile or concrete. Wood floors aren’t recommended as they aren’t as hygienic and can trap odor-causing bacteria.
Most saunas use cedar for the paneling. It has a natural ability to hold up under wet conditions, and it can repel insects. While not as important if it’s inside your home, the insect aspect can be beneficial if you install yours on a back deck or patio.
Ceiling height and venting
You’ll want to keep the ceiling fairly low, under 7 feet or so, in order to maximize the efficiency of the heating. Higher ceilings will cause the heat to rise too high for people sitting on the benches to reap the full benefits. Plus, lower ceilings can help the sauna heat faster.
The sauna should include vents to help release a bit of the heat build up and make the sauna more comfortable. Consider placing one a few inches off the floor near the heater and other on a separate wall. No ductwork is required for the vents; they’re simply cut-outs — about 4″x10″ — to an adjoining room or to the outside.
Home sauna maintenance is fairly easy. Simply mop the floor regularly and wash the benches with a mild soap and a wet cloth. You may want to consider laying or sitting on towels when using your sauna to keep it as sanitary as possible.
Home sauna cost
Most home saunas cost in the range of a few thousand dollars up to $13k or $16k. Of course, that can go higher depending on size and location. Since saunas only consume energy when they’re in use, Regular operating costs are fairly low — usually just a few dollars a month when used 3-4 times per week.
Next Level Home Sauna Amenity
If you’d like to kick your sauna up a notch, consider salt wall panels. The salt works to purify the air by using the humidity in the room to reduce dust, bacteria, and other pollutants. The heated salt is also said to release particles that can aid increasing serotonin, a natural mood balancing chemical in the body. Plus, they just look really cool!
Are you thinking about including a home sauna in your next remodel and aren’t sure where to start? Schedule a conversation with us. We’re happy to discuss your project!