John Morelli’s sauna review

Posted July 17th, 2014 by admin and filed in Saunas

Our sauna is fully constructed, has been complete for about one week now and we have been enjoying it immensely – especially me, being semi-retired and having the time every day to play. I want to tell you a little bit about the project from my perspective. As you know, I purchased a pre-cut sauna kit. What you don’t know is that I was just about 17 years old (around 50 years ago) the last time I purchased a build-it -yourself-kit of any kind – it was a Heathkit stereo amplifier – so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time around. A big difference between the two was that I didn’t have to provide any specifications last time around. The kit was what it was and that was all there was to it. This time, however, I was working with an odd shaped

little shower room that had been added on to our house by the previous owners. I tried to be very accurate in my measurements so that you could design the kit accordingly but I was measuring around a built-in shower and some wooden cabinets and it turned out that the configuration of the

room was a bit different than anticipated. In the end – after I had sent my best guess at the dimensions – the actual floor plan turned out to be faceted five-sided room (a pentagon!) instead of just an irregular trapezoid. Who knew?!?!?

In any event, most of the dimensions were correct but even so, it is an oddball room configuration. I could hardly imagine how you might go about figuring out the number and dimensions of the boards you needed to cut to match this strange space. BUT YOU DID IT!!!

Not only were all the pieces clearly marked with respect to where in the room they were to be

used, but there wasn’t a single instance where they didn’t work. You also seemed to figure out somehow, that I would make 2.7 errors along the way and so provided enough extra pieces to get me successfully through those crises. Everything I needed was there and perfect. Best of all was

having you a phone call away – even on the weekend! Your calm and confident responses to my questions were reassuring, accurate and most helpful. Your guidance was perfect.

The finish on the cedar planks was as you stated, exceedingly fine. The sauna is unquestionably the nicest artifact in our house. This leads me to the only caution I must give to anyone contemplating following this path . . . it is so much nicer than everything else, that we are now discussing replacing the various painted doors, trim, moldings, and windows around it so as not to detract from its splendor.

Thank you so much Art for such a fine product and such outstanding service and support.

Best regards,



John Morelli
Rush, NY
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Is a homemade tub for me?

While there are certainly exceptions, most homemade hot tubs are built not as a way to save money compared to an acrylic spa, but more as a way to create a bathing experience you just can’t have with a plastic or even a wooden hot tub.

Someone may desire a special shape or contour, or a tile interior, and although a plywood vessel is not unheard of (usually fitted with a vinyl liner), probably the most common material used nowadays to fashion a home built hot tub is indeed some form of masonry – concrete, block or gunite – usually either with a natural, plaster or tile interior.

Outfitting such a vessel has been a specialty of ours for quite a number of years, and they represent our most beautiful and exotic installations. However, unless you can do the masonry work yourself, you can expect to pay much more for such an spa than you would for a plastic hot tub.

The exception would be the surprising number of people over the years that we’ve helped to convert an existing vessel into a hot tub, most often a plastic tank designed to water stock farm animals.

However, when you’re comparing the cost of an acrylic spa to such a system, it’s worth noting that only about a third of that cost is represented by the value of the vessel. Therefore, all other factors being equal, you’re still going to spend about two thirds the cost of a commercially built spa for the equipment that you need to support this vessel.

We feel obliged to part with a warning. As you shop around for a way to get you and your family into hot water, beware of the acrylic spas that presently flood our market that are made in China. These are the spas that you see being sold by the mass merchandisers, and by many of the other companies selling spas – both on the internet and brick and mortar.

Do not assume that even a well known brand name is still made here in the U.S., as many have moved their manufacturing off shore.

The Chinese made spas are the epitome of substandard merchandise. They are guaranteed to fail within the first year or two, and usually it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get replacement part and equipment.

Unfortunately we make a good business helping hapless customers that have purchased these cheap spas and are faced with the task of gutting and replacing the entire equipment compartment.

You’ll find plumbing schematics and other support and suggestions for homemade hot tub builders available here for free download, and we’re always happy to address your specific questions directly via a call (304-645-2310), e-mail (sales@almostheaven.net) or live chat accessible by clicking on the live chat button in the upper right of any page on our main website at http://www.almostheaven.net.

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Genuine Physical Health Benefits of Saunas

With so many off shore companies perpetuating inflated and even flat out false health claims associated with saunas, we thought an article about the genuine health benefits would be appropriate and helpful for anyone who might be anticipating adopting a sauna bathing regimen.

First let’s start with what saunas DON’T do.

A sauna will not help you lose weight. The only weight lost in a sauna is water weight. You regain this weight as soon as your rehydrate yourself. Failure to rehydrate can lead to dehydration, which is very dangerous. In severe cases it can even be deadly – remember the guy who died at the World Sauna Championships, or the people who lost their lives in the makeshift sauna in Arizona?

Contrary to even more widely held views; a sauna likely doesn’t really do too much in the way of detoxification, either, at least not through the process of perspiration. This article from Discovery Health does a good job at explaining the role of perspiration in the human body. From the article, “…all sweat contains the same primary ingredients: mostly water, some sodium and chloride, and to a lesser extent, potassium. Though you do lose electrolytes when you sweat, perspiration contains only trace amounts of any type of toxins.”

Many people, even health professionals, swear by the detoxification effects of a sauna, but the scientific data suggests that if there is detoxification, it’s not happening through perspiration. It would be easy enough to test the sweat of sauna bathers, which should contain considerable amounts of toxins if sauna detoxification is true. The lack of this seemingly easy to gather data leads us to believe this is just another one of those myths that so easily circulate the internet.

This brings us to the real, true, genuine health benefits of traditional Scandinavian style saunas.

Although detoxification doesn’t really happen in a sauna from perspiration, sweating can help clean out your pores, making your skin cleaner and clearer. If this is one of the benefits you seek from sauna bathing, you should wash your skin after your sauna bath. A cool shower (or cold plunge if you’re a serious sauna user – click here for a list of sauna words and their meanings) will not only wash away the impurities that perspiring pushed out of your pores, but will help close them to keep other dirt and debris out.

Another benefit of sauna use is an increase in circulation. This increase can provide a healthy, low impact workout for your circulatory system. Please keep in mind this isn’t the kind of work out that would make you shed pounds, though, and before you frequent a sauna you should check with your doctor if you have any kind of health issues that might preclude sauna bathing.

The environment in the sauna also induces the extra blood we all have circulating in our bodies to flow towards and nourish muscle tissue and might even help to detoxify these tissues, though this process would still be completed in the same way as the body would normally expel toxins – through the liver and kidneys. Regardless, no one disputes the therapeutic effect that moist heat can have on sore tired muscles.

Aside from these physical benefits, you can’t overlook the benefit that relaxation and “unwinding” can have on your mind, body and spirit. Many people use sauna bathing as a way to relax and mentally recharge. This can help you deal with every day stresses, and generally improve your day-to-day outlook.

Lastly, in many cultures the sauna is a family affair. With no distractions such as television and smart phones, the sauna can easily become a place where you reconnect with your family and friends. It is a safe, healthy, wholesome, family friendly activity that can strengthen the bonds with those you love.

Please keep in mind all the benefits listed above are for traditional Scandinavian style saunas, and not the faux infrared enclosures that some manufacturers try to pass off as saunas. True saunas will have a sauna stove that contains rocks upon which you can sprinkle water, adding humidity to your sauna environment.

Infrared enclosures simply have heating elements similar to a common space heater embedded in their walls, which heat the space to only a fraction of the traditional temperature of a sauna. They have no rocks and can be operated in dry mode only. Traditional saunas have been time tested in various cultures for centuries; infrared enclosures, on the other hand, are relatively new, and because of the lack of a real sauna environment, they really can’t lay claim to any of a genuine sauna’s actual benefits.

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Sound Smart with Sauna Terminology

Posted September 15th, 2013 by admin and filed in Saunas

With sauna use rapidly spreading into the Western culture, many people aren’t aware of the terminology and customs associated with saunas. In this article you’ll find some commonly used sauna terms, along with their meanings.

The first and most obvious term is “sauna” itself. A sauna is a small enclosure lined with a porous material, almost always wood. It uses a heater with a compartment of stones upon which you can sprinkle water. A sauna should not be confused with a steam room (which boasts similar health benefits but is a completely different enclosure).

A genuine Scandinavian style sauna should also not be confused with the cheaply made infrared enclosures from China that have recently flooded the American market under the same name. These are not saunas at all, but rather boxes with what amounts to space heaters embedded in the wall.

Our second term is “löyly”, which is the Finnish term for the tradition of sprinkling water on the hot sauna rocks. This creates what many people refer to as a “wet sauna”, even though the humidity still stays relatively low thanks to the porous wood walls and very high temperature.

The third term is “cold plunge”. In a traditional sauna bathing experience, sauna sessions are often followed by sessions of rapid cooling that are referred to as cold plunges. These include an icy body of water (some people even cut holes in the ice of frozen lakes) or even a snow bank in which the sauna bather can throw themselves. This cold plunge isn’t for everyone, and in the American culture many people prefer to use a cold, or even just a cool shower to help regulate their elevated body temperature and close their pores. Frequently, bathers alternate between the sauna and their chosen cold plunge several times during the same session, making their sauna bath into an hours long event.

The fourth and final term is the Finnish word “vihta”, or if you’re one of our Russian expat friends “venik”. A venik is a bundle twigs, very often birch that sauna bathers use to gently whip themselves. This sloughs off dead skin cells and helps increase circulation. Though a common European tradition, many sauna bathers in modern Western culture will often use a loofah sponge for a similar purpose.

We know that our European friends have many more sauna specific terms, so feel free to tell us your favorites.

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Sauna Bathing Magic “the Finnish way”

Posted September 2nd, 2013 by admin and filed in Saunas

While saunas have genuine physical health benefits, sometimes it’s the mental and emotional benefits that are the most important.

In Kathy West’s recent blog post, she discussed a night shared in the sauna “the Finnish way”, which in this case referred to sauna bathing unclothed.

Although saunas can now be found in most gyms and hotels in the U.S., sauna bathing sans clothing is still something many people resist, and this is one main reason why many people install their own private sauna in their home.

Whether this reluctance is the result of insecurities or modesty, there are many people who would be unable to enjoy a sauna without something to cover themselves. This is despite the fact that sauna bathing uncovered is considered to be the norm in many cultures. Indeed in many saunas around the world, there is no other acceptable way to bathe.

As West illustrates, the companionship and camaraderie that can be so quickly forged in a sauna is something incredibly special. Many people, especially those who consider themselves “hard core” sauna aficionados, would probably argue that this close bonding happens in part because of the way a lack of clothing makes people feel vulnerable and ultimately more willing to share things about themselves.

Whether sauna bathing uncovered, in a towel or in a bathing suit, it is undeniable that saunas are beneficial, not only on an individual basis, but also in the way bathing together can help strengthen, and even begin, lifelong friendships.

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Mr. Steam’s new iSteam control is a hit

Posted June 5th, 2013 by admin and filed in Steam Rooms

In the “high-tech” world we live in, most people want the best, brightest, newest technology. With the newest upgrades to the Mr. Steam line, the bathroom is no longer an exception.

Mr. Steam’s newest control, the iSteam, allows you to touch and swipe your way to controlling the temperature, time, audio, visual and scent elements of your steam room. This touch screen control literally puts the overall functionality of your steam room at your fingertips.

We’re not the only ones who are excited about Mr. Steam’s newest addition. USAToday recently included the iSteam in their article about upgrade your bathroom. You can read that article right here.

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Heater differences and hot tub covers

We recently received an excellent comment on our blog post Gas Hot Tub Heaters VS Electric Hot Tub Heaters. Sandra says…

“In Hawaii our propane is $6.00 a gallon while our electricity is .45 cents a kilowatt. Either way you cut it, it is very expensive to run a hot tub but I’m not sure that running the heat for hours every day as opposed to turning on the gas only when you want to heat it up makes much sense. If the tub is used irregularly it makes more sense to use gas; which heats up in 30 minutes as opposed to electric which takes 3 hours to heat up the same amount of water. So what I’m learning is that electric heaters are meant to run for hours a day with the circulating pump and have a cover that keeps in the heat where as the gas heaters are meant to use on demand. So it will depend on the usage as to which one makes more sense. The question now is where to have a hard cover made since we put in electric before realizing all of the above.”

It’s true that a gas heater will heat the water faster than an electric heater, and you’re “spot on” that the faster heat rise is tailor made for a tub that’s used infrequently (e.g., no more often than just on the weekends), but even if you use the tub just a couple times per week, and regardless of the energy source, it will probably cost the same to keep it heated for use at all times as it will to allow it to cool between uses, assuming that it is covered when not in use.

You have to run the pump a certain number of hours per day for proper filtration, again regardless of use, and in most situations a good-sized electric heater will regain the heat lost over the previous day in a small fraction of the time needed for filtration.

We have formulae into which we plugged your energy costs. Those costs are extraordinary – no doubt part of that “paradise tax” we’ve heard you Hawaiians pay – and although electric is generally less expensive than propane in most locales, it’s about double the cost in your case, and that would have been the best reason to install a gas heater versus an electric.

Since you already have an electric heater installed, you can take as a consolation the difference in cost between the two heaters, because the cost of a gas hot tub heater is over twice the cost of an electric hot tub heater. Even though in your case the cost of running a gas heater would have been less than that of an electric heater, if your tub will only be use infrequently, it would have taken that much longer to recover the difference in the costs of the two types of heaters.

Although it doesn’t apply in your case, as a side note to others reading this response, and as noted elsewhere in our blog, a gas heater should never be operated outdoors in freezing weather.

Regardless of how much your tub is used or the type of heat source you’re using, you definitely want to cover your hot tub. A cover definitely does help keep heat in, but it also helps keep dirt and debris out. Even though you’re filtering and running your tub regularly (as you should regardless of use), leaving it uncovered would be an open invitation not only to falling debris (such as leaves), but also to animals, bugs and even possibly other people. A hot tub that is uncovered and unattended could quickly turn into a possible liability.

Of course you can get your hot tub cover from us! We offer a custom cover at the same price you’d pay elsewhere for a mass produced cover, and you should be very careful to steer clear of any covers made in China, as the materials and workmanship are clearly substandard. If you’re going to go through the trouble and cost of getting a new cover, wouldn’t you want it to fit your hot tub exactly and last many years? On http://www.almostheaven.net/aho/covers.htm you can see the options and pricing for our covers. You can give us your hot tub’s exact dimension, and we’ll make you a cover that is exactly the right size and shape.

Hope to hear from you soon!

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Should ozonators be used on indoor hot tubs?

When it comes to hot tub (and pool) water maintenance there are many choices, some better than others. Here at Almost Heaven we believe that using a metallic ionizer is far superior to ozone and halogen sanitizers (chlorine and bromine), especially when a hot tub or pool is installed indoors where the fumes from ozone and halogens can quickly create an unsafe environment.

We haven’t heard many people disputing the dangers of chlorine and bromine, especially in a gaseous form, but the same can not be said of ozone. Many people believe ozone is perfectly safe, despite a plethora of information to the contrary.

It’s a well known fact that high levels of ozone in the air are dangerous. The EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone is a maximum 8 hour average outdoor concentration of 0.08 ppm. You can see this on their own website at…

http://www.epa.gov/air/caa/title1.html#ib

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workers not be exposed to an average concentration of more than 0.10 ppm for 8 hours. You can see this in a CDC document published here…

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/81-123/pdfs/0476.pdf

At the following link, which is about using Ozone as an air cleaner, the EPA states “…ozone is an irritant gas that reacts with lung tissue and can cause asthma attacks; coughing; chest discomfort; irritation of the nose, throat, and trachea; and other adverse health effects. As ozone reacts with chemical pollutants, it can produce harmful by-products.”

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/residair.html#Ozone_Generators

Now with all that said, what do you think happens when a hot tub is placed indoors, in an enclosed area? The fumes from the ozone used would gather in the enclosed space. How would you measure the exact ppm of ozone to ensure it wasn’t exceeding the standards set by OSHA and the EPA? Is it any wonder that there have been rumors of banning ozone used on indoor tubs and pools?

Do your own research and we’re sure you’ll come to the same conclusion. Using ozone on an indoor hot tub or pool can be very dangerous for the respiratory health of yourself and those you love.

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Do Saunas Make People Happier?

Do sauna baths make the bathers happier? Though it’s a question without any hard scientific proof, a new study seems to back up the idea that lifestyle choices such as regular use of a sauna (or steam room) does indeed make people happier.

The Washington Post recently published the results of a 2010 Gallup Poll about the world’s 15 happiest countries. In this study, Finland is in a tie for number five, and Denmark and Sweden tie for the number one spot. It’s interesting to note that these three Scandinavian countries have a culture where the regular familial use of the traditional Scandinavian sauna is widespread.

With the already well known benefits of saunas such as increased circulation and relaxation, and the new possibility of increased happiness, what would stop you from indulging in a sauna bath?

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Sizing a wooden hot tub

When purchasing a wooden hot tub, size should be one of your first considerations. Too often people allow the space they have available or their current budget to dictate the size of their hot tub vessel. This can often result in the purchase of a hot tub that is much larger than needed. Keep in mind that a hot tub requires constant, daily heat, and it costs the same energy to heat it whether it’s one, two or ten bathers that regularly use it.

When it comes to wooden hot tubs, 8′ diameter tubs account for less than five percent of our sales, even though many people contact us thinking this might be the size they want. The most common size for a wooden tub is either a 5×4 or 6×4 and well over ninety percent of all wooden hot tubs sold are either 5′ or 6′ in diameter, 4’ high.

One of the reasons that people prefer wooden tubs over their acrylic counterparts is because of the much greater depth, and 4′ high tubs are on average already a foot deeper than the plastic spas. It’s the depth we sell most often.
Not accounting for diameter, 5′ high wooden hot tubs amount to less than five percent of our sales, again with good reason. While it’s true that the actual inside depth is only about 4.5′ in a 5′ tub, you spend most of your time in the tub being seated, and for people of short stature and especially children, this depth can be too much.

The exception would be if you plan to do some sort of aqua-exercise in the tub, in which case we could understand the choice of a 5′ high tub. Aside from a full-blown swimming pool, there’s no better vessel for exercise than a nice deep wooden hot tub.

Just keep in mind that with an inside depth of 54″, if it’s filled all the way to the top, such a tub might have water that’s over the head of most youngsters. If children are involved, that’s one good reason to think about buying a tub no deeper than a 4’ model.

If you’re unsure about what size tub you want, you can always call, e-mail, or chat with us. It would be our privilege to help you decide what size tub would best suit your needs.

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