Steam saunas, also known as traditional saunas, feature hot rocks that create steam when water is splashed over them. Users can control the sauna’s humidity by adding more water or using less. Steam saunas get much hotter than dry saunas, with temperatures ranging from about 160 to 200 degrees.
Steam saunas are wooden rooms that are typically constructed with cedar, due to its moisture resistance. The rooms can be heated by electricity, gas or a wood stove, although the vast majority of traditional saunas are electric.
Modular steam saunas, the most common type, cost anywhere from $1,200 to upwards of $6,000. On the low end of that price range, you’ll find one- or two-person saunas with few features. On the high end, you’ll find four-person saunas with features like built-in benches. Custom-built varieties can cost $10,000 or more.
Steam saunas tend to be slightly more expensive than dry saunas because they’re typically built with cedar, which is an expensive wood.
- Humidity control - With a steam sauna, you can adjust the humidity by using more or less water. Some people prefer having more humidity and appreciate the flexibility of being able to adjust the humidity level to match their comfort.
- Flexible use - Traditional steam saunas can be used indoors or outdoors. And they stand up well to cold weather.
- Longer to heat - It take about 30 to 45 minutes for a traditional steam sauna to heat up. Infrared saunas need half the time.
- Shorter sessions - Due to the high heat and humidity, recommended use is only 10 to 15 minutes.
- More expensive to operate - Steam saunas cost up to four times more to operate, largely because they heat the entire room, not just the people in the room.
When people refer to dry saunas, most often they’re talking about a newer technology known as the infrared sauna.
Unlike traditional steam saunas, infrared saunas directly heat the body using radiant heat. They offer the same benefits of health and relaxation but have lower air temperatures, ranging from about 100 to 130 degrees. The heat is very dry, with virtually no humidity, creating a milder environment.
Modular infrared saunas begin at about $1,000 and range up to about $6,000. Portable infrared saunas start at about $300, but these fold-up models look more like tents than traditional saunas. They’re designed for one-person use, and your head sticks out of an opening in the top.
Infrared saunas tend to be slightly less expensive than traditional steam saunas because the use of cedar is not required.
- Faster heating time - Infrared saunas are ready to use in about 15 or 20 minutes - about half the time required with steam saunas.
- Cheaper to operate - Infrared saunas are less expensive to operate than steam saunas powered by electricity or gas. They can be operated for about one-quarter of the price.
- Longer sessions - Because the air temperature is lower, you can stay in a dry sauna longer - up to 30 or 40 minutes.
- No humidity - With a dry sauna, you don’t have the option to control humidity.
- No outdoor use - Infrared saunas are not ideal for outdoor environments or for use in very cold weather.
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