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Sauna Versus Steam Room

Steam Room

While saunas and steam rooms have a lot of similarities, they are also two different types of experiences. The common denominator is that they both are used as therapeutical applications that causes the body's temperature to increase and ultimately sweat. The raising of the body's temperature causes the blood flow to increase to pump more blood to the muscles and body surface in order to attempt to cool the body. Endorphins are also produced upon an elevated body temperature. These result in a feeling of well-being as they make their way to the brain.

Sauna Room

The difference in a wet sauna room and a steam room are primarily based on the amount of humidity found in the room. A steam room uses a lower heat temperature but a much higher relative humidity approaching 100%. This high humidity has the same effect on the body temperature despite the actual temperature being the lower. A sauna room on the other hand is usually hotter and while it may have short burst of humidity, the humidity level is much less than a steam room.

Apparent Temperature versus Actual temperature

The body reacts to the external temperature by opening and closing its pours to create sweat to help cool itself. However, if humidity is present the relative temperature will feel hotter than if it was dry. This is because humidity (water) transports heat better than dry air. A dry 100 F degree desert heat is not nearly as hot feeling as a 100 F tropical wet heat. The apparent temperature is measured considering both temperature and humidity.

So, knowing that humidity plays an important role in the perceived body temperature, a steam room that is 100% humidity and only 120 F internally may have the same effect as a sauna room at 180 F. When adding steam to a hot sauna room the short-term blast of heat can feel tremendously hot especially if the sauna room is very hot to begin with! However, generally this blast of humidity is short lived in a sauna room.

Air Movement

A steam room is generally built from 100% tiles with a floor drain to capture the compensating steam. The door will be sealed with rubber sealing strips to avoid any steam from escaping the room. A sauna on the other hand is designed to breath.  Cold air is drawn in from the door gap or door vent and circulated through the room to a top vent found on the outside wall of a sauna. The natural movement of air is why steam poured on sauna rocks is short lived as it is quickly removed out of the unit.  Because there is little condensation in a sauna, a floor drain is optional and not necessary in most private saunas.

Heating Capacity

Both types of rooms require relatively the same size of heater to do their job. A sauna kit requiring a 5 Kw sauna heater will generally need a similar size steam boiler for the steam room.  However, the steam generator requires an extra water line to constantly feed it water. The quality of water going to the steam room is important as hard mineral water can lead to early failure of the steam head.

Whether you like a steam room or a sauna or both, you should take pleasure in the relaxing therapeutic benefits that both can provide. Take your time, and allow your body, mind, and soul to be rejuvenated by the ancient practice of steam or sauna.


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