Since the first saunas built in the US by Finnish immigrants, through the broader mass-introduction of Finnish saunas during the last half century through health clubs, hotels, and homes, the sauna has enjoyed growth in popularity; however saunas remain misunderstood with regard to use, to misuse, to health benefits, and to what IS a sauna. TyloHelo Inc. has partnered with the North American Sauna Society, a not-for-profit organization, with the goal to educate sauna bathers about the sauna experience and proper sauna design, and to foster continued interest in sauna traditions. TyloHelo Inc. is the US subsidiary of the TyloHelo Worldwide Group, manufacturer and distributor of industry leading global sauna and steam brands, including Amerec.
When the first Finns came to the United States, they brought with them the tradition of sauna. Though an important part of Finnish culture, the sauna remained relatively unknown to the rest of the United States. In the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, the sauna was highlighted as a key training tool for the Finns. When the American athletes returned home with reports of the Finnish Sauna and its use in athletic training programs, the United States received its first lesson on the Finnish tradition. By the 1960’s, several manufacturers were established in the United States to bring saunas to US consumers. Since then, annual sales of saunas have steadily grown. Eero Kilpi, Chairman of the North American Sauna Society reports there are now well over one million Finnish saunas in the US. Kilpi added, "While the popularity of saunas continues to grow, there remain many general misunderstandings of what a sauna is and how it is to be used.”
For an education and recommendations on what a sauna is and how to use a sauna, visit the North American Sauna Society, but for a brief lesson continue reading. What is a sauna? The term "sauna” has become a confusing term, as it has been applied to traditional saunas, steam rooms, infrared heat therapy rooms, and even to sauna suits, sauna belts, and facial saunas. For our purposes, we will discuss sauna rooms, starting with traditional Finnish saunas, moving to steam rooms, and ending with infrared heat therapy rooms or infrared saunas.
A traditional sauna is a wood lined room in which a heater, fueled by wood, gas, or electricity, heats a collection of stones which radiate heat to the rest of the room. By heating the rocks, the heat is "softened” to allow for an enveloping heat that is comfortable even at temperatures exceeding 180 degrees. There is dual benefit in heating the rocks is it allows for humidity to be added to the room for added enjoyment. By sprinkling water over the rocks, the water turns to steam adding pleasant humidity to the sauna room. Kilpi further explained, "The Finnish Sauna is the only bath in the world where the user controls both temperature and humidity.” If desired, essential oils can be added to the water for aromatherapy. What is often misunderstood by homeowners and commercial establishments is that water can be and should be used on the electric sauna heaters, as the loyly, or steam, is essential to a proper sauna. Sauna heaters that are safety listed in the US by either UL or ETL have been tested to safely allow for use of water. A bucket and ladle are provided with most sauna kits. Bather comfort is a function of temperature and humidity. As a general rule of thumb, TyloHelo uses its "Rule of 200”that simply states the maximum combination of air temperature and humidity combined should not exceed 200. It’s totally up to user preference to find what is comfortable. For example, if the air temperature is 150°F, then the humidity should approach 50%, or less. If the air temperature is 180°F, then the humidity should not exceed 20%.
A steam room, sometimes referred to as a "steam sauna” or "wet sauna”, is constructed of tile, glass, or acrylic. As the name "steam room” suggests, the room is heated by supplying steam to the room. The average temperature ranges between 105-120°F, and the humidity level is 100%. Though the bather may have control over temperature by way of a thermostat—which increases heat by introducing more steam—the bather cannot control the level of humidity. Like a sauna, aromatherapy can be used in a steam room by adding a few drops of essential oils to the dimple on top of the steam head, though one must be careful to not approach the steam head while steam is being dispersed. Except for being a heat bath, a steam room does not share other defining qualities of a sauna, and therefore, a steam room should not be referred to as a "steam sauna” or "wet sauna”.
Infrared Heat Therapy Rooms or Infrared Saunas, introduced into the US in the mid-80s have become increasingly popular, particularly in regard to holistic health enthusiasts. Many users are attracted to IR saunas because of their ease of assembly, quick heat-up times and lower operating temperatures. Most IR saunas can be plugged into 120v household outlets. In an infrared sauna there are no rocks, and, thus, no water and steam are part of the sauna bathing experience. The heat is transferred from the in-wall heaters directly to the bather’s body—causing perspiration at lower temperatures than in a traditional sauna. In a traditional sauna, the rocks are heated, which in turn heats the air and the air heats the room and the bather. While there has been some resistance to the term "Infrared Sauna”, it has been accepted and used by the worldwide sauna industry. Today, the most common use of sauna terminology differentiates the two types as Traditional Finnish Saunas or Infrared Saunas.
To learn more about saunas and the deep traditions of sauna bathing, visit the North American Sauna Society’s website. If you are a traditional sauna owner, consider donating $35 for a plaque indicating you own a traditional sauna. The proceeds help to continue sauna education. If you are interested in learning more about installing a traditional sauna, steam room, or infrared sauna, visit your local Amerec dealer or call 1-800-331-0349.