Saunas have long been recognized as a way to relax and to reduce stress. They can also alleviate muscle and joint pain and provide a general sense of well-being. Other claimed benefits include detoxification, increased cardiovascular health, and improved resistance to illness.
There is no doubting their popularity. There are hundreds of models available, from individual steam baths to outdoor timber saunas for the whole family. However, the range of different sizes, materials, and the use of either steam or infrared technologies can make choosing difficult. The following article investigates the various options and focuses on finding the best home sauna for a variety of aesthetic and practical needs.
- BEST OVERALL: HEATWAVE Radiant Saunas 2-Person Hemlock Infrared
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: SereneLife Full Size Infrared Home Spa | One Person
- BEST 2-PERSON SAUNA: Dynamic Infrared 2-Person Indoor Bluetooth Compatible
- BEST PORTABLE SAUNA: Durasage Oversized Portable Steam Sauna Spa
- BEST DOME SAUNA: 1Love Sauna Dome Premium Far Infrared Sauna Therapy
- BEST SAUNA BLANKET: Cocoarm Portable Steam Sauna Spa Folding Tent Body
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Home Sauna
Home saunas come in a host of different styles, from one-person steam tents to permanent structures that might add value to the home. Modern infrared models offer a number of benefits, and there are several other details that need to be explored. The following section highlights the key considerations.
Types of Saunas
The traditional image of a sauna is often that of a pine room where water is poured over hot rocks to create steam. Often referred to as a Finnish sauna or steam bath (though this term is also used for Turkish baths where bathing is involved), these types of saunas are very popular. Another form of steam bath, and often a very affordable option, is the individual cabinet or fabric enclosure that’s fed by a steam-generating tank.
The term “dry sauna” has historically described models where rocks are heated as in a Finnish sauna, but moisture is not added. Those who have skin problems that react badly to humidity, such as acne or heat rash, might find dry saunas appealing.
There are also infrared saunas, which don’t heat the air like steam or dry saunas do; they heat the person within the space. Often called FAR (far infrared), the rays penetrate the outer skin layer, providing deeper heat without causing irritation or harm. Infrared saunas are usually ready to use more quickly and more energy efficient.
Size and Location
Home saunas can be sizable outdoor structures or small interior rooms. Two-, three- and four-person saunas are common, though larger models are also available. There is also a wide variety of one-person saunas, some of which can be folded down and stored when not in use.
Portable saunas are also available and can be used in just about any location. Personal home saunas can be moved around relatively easily to a suitable space, including outdoors temporarily if the weather is pleasant. Other styles and designs can fit into an existing room or be a stand-alone structure. In truth, the only real limit on size or location is the budget.
All home saunas require a solid base. This might be concrete poured specifically for the purpose, or it might be the floor of an existing room. Several models can be positioned on top of carpet. Outdoor Finnish saunas that use a log fire for heating rocks will require space for log storage as well as a means of ash disposal.
Home saunas are typically made of wood, with hemlock and cedar being popular choices. They offer good durability, and designs are often easy to assemble. Toughened glass panels may be included in some models. With personal saunas, polyesters and polyurethanes offer fairly durable surfaces that are easy to keep clean, though sharp objects that can cause tears should be avoided.
Traditional Finnish saunas use hot stones over a log fire to create steam. While it is still perfectly possible to build this kind of steam room, most modern versions use an electric heater. Steam saunas often generate more heat than infrared models—up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit in some cases. They can take 30 minutes or more to warm up.
Infrared heaters have either carbon or ceramic elements. Carbon tends to be more durable, while ceramic heats up more quickly. The penetrative nature of infrared rays means these saunas operate at lower temperatures. They tend to hit a maximum of about 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in around 15 to 20 minutes. There has been some concern about the electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by infrared saunas, but these are usually described as either low or ultra-low and present no health risks.
Additional Features and Safety
Extra features can enhance the sauna experience.
- Lighting: Standard bulbs or LED lights can be enhanced by the use of color following chromotherapy principles. This is a form of complementary treatment that claims to improve the body’s balance and energy using harmless light rays in the visible color spectrum.
- Controls: Some models feature digital controls, which make adjusting the temperature easy and accurate. This also makes the temperature easy to read and monitor. Some models allow the user to set the temperature to either Fahrenheit or Celsius.
- Audio systems: Various types of integrated audio systems are also common. These systems are frequently Bluetooth-compatible so the user can play music from a mobile device or other source. It’s important to note that mobile devices should not be brought inside a sauna, as temperatures get too high.
- Add-ons: Some personal saunas include a folding chair, while others include things like foot-warming pads for extra comfort.
If used sensibly, saunas are inherently safe. Most people will start to dehydrate after 20 minutes, so a half hour is a common limit. Although saunas can be very relaxing, it is not safe to sleep in one. Timers that turn the sauna off after a set time period are especially helpful if you think you might doze off.
A number of safety certifications are possible, usually related to electrical systems. ETL and UL are independent organizations recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Some sauna manufacturers comply with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS). CSA is one of the leading Canadian safety organizations, while CE is the European safety standard. Although all reflect a commitment to current requirements, certification is largely voluntary. Some manufacturers may choose not to test because of the costs involved.
Our Top Picks
While having an understanding of the technical and physical aspects of home saunas is certainly valuable, it is no substitute for looking at real-world examples. The following represent some of the best home saunas available in various categories.
Two-person saunas are very popular, and this solid hemlock model from Heatwave exemplifies why. With a competitive price and a host of user-friendly features, including soft-touch digital controllers, an FM radio/CD player with an auxiliary input, a magazine rack, and towel hooks, this easy-to-assemble option offers comfort and convenience. The six infrared heaters provide all-around warmth and can raise the interior temperature up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Chromotherapy lighting and an oxygen ionizer complete the package.
The Heatwave infrared sauna plugs into a standard 15 amp outlet. Despite the impression of more space than many corner units, interior size is very similar to competitor models and would not be described as spacious.
- Heating elements: 6
- Power: 1,725 watts
- Extras: Built-in audio, chromotherapy, oxygen ionizer
- Preinstalled heaters for rapid assembly
- High-quality audio built in
- Very competitive pricing
This portable infrared sauna from SereneLife offers those with smaller budgets a way to enjoy a regular hot sauna at home. It is easy to put together, and with a footprint of just 36 square inches, it can be accommodated in even the smallest of spaces. The fully enclosed cabin provides privacy and leaves hands free for a book or a refreshing drink.
The sauna plugs into a standard wall outlet. A 1,300W overhead infrared heater is powerful enough to raise the temperature to 140 degrees Fahrenheit but still economical to run. An electric pad keeps feet warm, while a wired controller provides easy control of the temperature and timer.
At under 40 pounds it’s a breeze to move around, though it takes around 20 minutes to assemble, so a semipermanent setup site will probably be preferred. The collapsible seat is convenient, though not especially supportive.
- Heating elements: 1 plus foot pad
- Power: 1,300 watts
- Extras: Folding chair
- Affordable home sauna
- Compact and lightweight
- Handy wired controller
- Chair could be more supportive
- Occasional quality control issues
Two-person home saunas are a popular choice. Many are compact and competitively priced while still offering the features of larger models, and this two-person infrared sauna is a fine example. Made from solid hemlock, the seven carbon heating elements in the walls and floor are 30 percent larger than those made from ceramic, making for more efficient, evenly distributed heat. Soft-touch digital control panels are located both inside and out and can be adjusted from 68 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Both panels include a timer for added safety. Audio speakers pair with MP3 or Bluetooth devices, while the lighting provides chromotherapy effects.
Assembly requires only modest DIY skills, and all that’s required for electrical supply is a standard household outlet.
While the 4-foot by 4-foot-2-inch exterior footprint means the Dynamic Infrared sauna can fit in even relatively small homes, interior dimensions of 3 foot 7 inches by 3 foot 9 inches make it a bit snug with two adults inside. That said, most competitors suffer the same challenges, so this is not unique to the Dynamic Infrared. It is a very pleasant environment when used by one person at a time.
- Heating elements: 7
- Power: 1,650 watts
- Extras: Bluetooth, MP3, chromotherapy
- Attractive solid hemlock construction
- Plug into any standard outlet
- Competitive price
- Basic interior
- Not spacious
The Durasage portable home sauna provides the traditional benefits of steam in a lightweight, low-cost package. Despite the budget price, there are several useful features, including a timer and two external pockets for storing a phone or reading material, which can be easily accessed thanks to zippered openings. The ½-gallon tank can provide steam at around 110 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 60 minutes—more than enough time needed for a safe sauna session.
The whole kit weighs just under 16 pounds and consists of a tubular PVC frame that supports a padded polyester tent, separate steam generator, and folding chair (which has a weight limit of 220 pounds). It is easy to move and compact for storage. However, while the PVC tubes are adequate to support the cover, care should be taken not to damage them. The same is true of the tent, which could tear or puncture if caught on a sharp edge.
- Heating elements: 1
- Power: 800 watts
- Extras: Folding chair, exterior pockets
- Efficient one-person steam sauna
- Under 16 pounds, including chair
- Compact storage
- Care needed to avoid tears or punctures
- Chair weight limit is 220 pounds
With its combination of a heated floor mat and infrared dome, the 1Love sauna provides 360-degree coverage while allowing the user to lie down for maximum relaxation. An insulated curtain and pillow complete the comfort experience.
Each of the two dome sections and the mat can be independently controlled between 77 and 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Embedded within these areas are therapeutic infrared stones that store heat.
In total the 1Love Dome sauna weighs 67 pounds, but each of the elements is light enough to be moved easily and stack into a compact space. Unfortunately, a mat length of 71 inches means those over 6 feet tall may not get the same relaxing experience those of shorter stature might.
- Heating elements: 3
- Power: 1,200 watts
- Extras: Germanium and tourmaline stones, pillow
- Three independent heat zones
- Solvent-free PU “leather” cover
- Compact storage
- Limited to those 6 feet tall or under
- Health benefits of germanium and tourmaline stones are unproven
Those wanting to benefit from the relaxing effects of a sauna whenever and wherever should check out the compact Cocoarm sauna blanket. The waterproof PVC interior promotes sweating, while the polyurethane exterior is soft and comfortable. Infrared heating elements are designed to flex with the material.
The Cocoarm sauna blanket can be set up and ready to go in just a few minutes. Two independently adjustable heat zones can reach a maximum temperature of 176 degrees Fahrenheit, and a 60-minute timer ensures the user doesn’t overdo things. However, the blanket is only 5 foot, 9 inches long, so those who are taller will not be able to use it.
- Heating elements: 2
- Power: Not stated, though similar devices are 450 to 600 watts
- Extras: None
- Unrivaled portability
- Folds for compact storage
- Among the most affordable options
- Some durability issues
- Not for taller people
The HEATWAVE sauna comes from a highly regarded manufacturer and highlights many of the best features of home saunas. The SereneLife model may not be something you would show off, but it delivers infrared sauna technology for a fraction of the cost.
How We Chose the Best Home Saunas
The time we spent evaluating the best home saunas focused on the way the heat was generated, the overall quality, and ease of assembly or use. We also looked at how each model responded to the needs of different users.
Though some of the brands may not be well known, each of our choices comes from a manufacturer that is widely recognized within this market. When choosing more budget-friendly options, we avoided those that were inexpensive but had no proven track record.
In selecting our top picks we endeavored to represent the majority of the possible home sauna configurations, as well as costs. With wooden saunas, if the specification appeals but the size is unsuitable, the manufacturer typically offers a larger or smaller model that will satisfy the buyer’s needs.
The sections above will have provided a good deal of valuable information, but you might still have some unanswered questions. Read on to learn the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about home saunas.
Q. How do I install a home sauna?
Without knowing the model and where it is to be installed, unfortunately it’s impossible to offer advice. Many are within the abilities of DIY enthusiasts. Others may need the services of a professional. It’s important to fully investigate the requirements of the chosen sauna at the outset.
Q. Which type of sauna is better, infrared or steam?
A steam sauna creates sweat on the skin’s surface, whereas the heat from infrared penetrates further. Some claim this provides better muscle relief and detoxification. However, medical opinion does vary, and for some people nothing beats a traditional sauna experience. Claiming one is “better” is difficult to justify, so it is very much a decision for the individual.
Q. Does a home sauna need ventilation?
Not necessarily. However, many are ventilated to improve airflow, which in some designs creates a more effective heating environment.
Q. How much power does a home sauna use?
Electrical power is measured in watts (W), and whether steam-generating or infrared, each sauna should have a rating that tells you its power consumption.
Q. Are home saunas expensive to run?
Not typically. To work out costs, multiply watts by hours used, then divide by 1,000. This gives you kilowatt hours (kWh). Your utility bill should tell you how much you pay per kWh, so some simple math will give you a figure. As a rough guide, using a sauna for a half hour per day is likely to cost between $15 and $30 a month.