by Paul Sanders
If you've ever enjoyed the luxurious heat of a sauna or steam room at your local health club, you can appreciate the appeal of having your own steam shower at home. Sauna and steam technology have been improved and miniaturized for residential use. You can install a steam shower in your home with little more space than is required for a typical shower. Here are some facts about steam shower technology and installation.
Steam showers and saunas: The difference between a steam shower and a sauna is the humidity. A steam bath tends to be more humid, but you can adjust the level of steam and the temperature in both. In Northern and Central Europe, temperatures can get up to more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit in steam showers. Many prefabricated systems will have a maximum operating temperature.
Construction: Steam shower construction can vary, including materials like wood, acrylic, tile, stone, and fiberglass. Lightweight materials are ideal for residential units. Units can be built to accommodate from two to several people. Prefabricated steam showers will require a certain amount of floor space as well as a location for the steam generator.
Steam creation: Residential showers will typically use a steam generator. When the shower is turned on, the generator will use electric elements to heat water into steam for the shower, delivering it to the shower. The steam generator heats water on demand, so it may take a minute or two for the steam shower to warm up. The higher the wattage, the faster the steam generator can produce steam. You can learn more about steam generators in our guide.
Water use: A steam shower uses much less water than a typical bath or even a low-flow showerhead. A 20-minute shower will use 20 to 40 gallons of water, but a steam generator will provide a 20-minute steam shower using just two gallons. The energy use of a steam shower will increase your energy bill, depending on the frequency of use, but that can be offset somewhat by water savings.
Installation: Multiple steam shower sizes are available to fit different sizes of rooms. Measure your space before you start shopping for your steam shower. Most units don't require plumbing fixtures beyond what a typical shower requires. You may also want to install a bench, so you can relax while you enjoy the steam; look for one made of a material that does well in warm, moist rooms, like teak.
Aromatherapy: Steam showers are perfect for aromatherapy, as the warm air helps the healing fragrance disperse easily. If you need help relaxing, look for lavender steam scents. If you have trouble with congestion, look for eucalyptus steam scents.