The Difference Between Saunas and Steam Rooms

While many people use the terms “sauna” and “steam room” interchangeably, they are actually two different types of enclosures with two completely different environments.

A steam room, sometimes called a steam shower, is not a sauna. A sauna is constructed from porous material (usually high grade cedar), while a steam room is constructed of something completely nonporous, such as plastic, tile or glass.

Steam rooms use steam generators, which directly heat the water, filling the enclosure with clouds of condensed water vapor. In an environment such as this, the humidity exceeds 100 percent, and the temperature is typically in the range of 115 to 120 F.

In contrast, a sauna heater heats the air in an enclosure, with humidity levels as low as 2 or 3 percent and temperatures as high as 190 F (at least within 6″ of the ceiling). These heaters also heat a compartment of sauna stones onto which water can be poured to create a “wet” sauna experience. Even in this type of environment, however, the humidity is still only at 10 to 15 percent.

The difference between a sauna and steam room is a matter of preference. Both are relaxing, and surprisingly enough, both have the very same well documented health benefits.

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Commercial Steam Generators VS Residential Steam Generators

There are basically two types of steam generator designs – those that employ a pressurized boiler system and are suitable for the constant duty of a commercial application, and those that simply produce steam on an open line under no pressure (also known as “low pressure”) and are mostly for residential use.

Residential generators may cost less than commercial ones at the start, but given the fact that they constantly require repair after just a couple/few years of use in a commercial setting, in the long run they cost more than a pressurized boiler system in parts, service, and especially downtime.

If you think about the way these generators operate, the reason for the difference should become more apparent. On steam generators that make steam on an open line, each time the thermostat calls for steam, the entire circuit is powered, and each time the steam room reaches the desired temperature the entire circuit is shut down. In such a manner, the main circuit and all of its internal switches likely operate dozens of times per hour.

In a pressurized, commercial grade boiler system, constant steam is maintained under pressure in the steam tank. The thermostat simply operates a solenoid valve on the steam line, opening and closing as needed. The main power circuit only operates to maintain the required pressure in the tank – only a fraction of the number of times that the main circuit is switched in a residential steam generator.

Another side benefit of the commercial system is that the steam is always “on demand” right behind that steam solenoid valve, ready to flow instantly.

Many companies make only non-pressurized generators and claim that they’re suitable for use under constant duty. From our parts sales and nearly three decades in this business, we’ve seen the proof countless times that this is simply not true. To view our full line of both Mr. Steam and Tylo steam generators please visit the Steam Generators page on our parent site (http://www.almostheaven.net/aho/steamgen.htm).

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