Skip to content
Infrared vs. Steam Spa: Which is Better?

Infrared vs. Steam Spa: Which is Better?

Infrared vs. Steam Spa: Comparing Benefits for Your Wellness Routine

When considering a spa experience at home, individuals are often faced with the decision between infrared and steam spas. Both types bring their own unique benefits and can be seen as valuable additions to a wellness routine. However, the two vary significantly not only in their operation but also in the health benefits they offer, the cost of installation and operation, as well as the maintenance involved.

Infrared spas use light to create heat and are well-regarded for their ability to provide a deep and penetrating warmth without high ambient temperatures. This factor contributes to a different experience in user comfort and may impact the space and installation requirements of the unit. On the other hand, steam spas generate moist heat through steam and are recognized for their hydrating effects on the skin and respiratory system. The choice between the two may also be influenced by individual user experience, safety considerations, personalization options, and the environmental impact of each spa type.

Key Takeaways

  • Infrared spas provide deep heat with lower ambient temperatures, affecting user experience and installation.
  • Steam spas offer hydrating benefits and have different space and energy requirements.
  • Safety, maintenance, and personal tastes are critical factors when choosing between spa types.

Basics of Infrared Spas

Infrared spas harness the power of infrared light to heat the body directly, offering a unique experience distinct from traditional steam spas.

What Is an Infrared Spa?

An infrared spa is a type of sauna that uses infrared heaters to emit infrared light, experienced as radiant heat. This heat penetrates the skin and heats the body from within, as opposed to heating the air around the user like a conventional steam sauna. Infrared spas typically operate at lower temperatures, ranging from 120°F to 140°F, which can be more comfortable for individuals who might find the higher temperatures of traditional saunas intolerable.

How Infrared Spas Work

Infrared spas work by producing infrared waves through specialized heaters that emit long, medium, or short-wave infrared light. The body absorbs these waves, which is experienced as a deep heating sensation. This process is known as direct light conversion, and it heats the body without significantly increasing the surrounding air temperature. The infrared waves can penetrate up to an inch and a half into the body, potentially providing therapeutic benefits such as muscle relaxation and improved circulation.

Fundamentals of Steam Spas

Steam spas, also known as steam rooms, provide a high-humidity environment for relaxation and potential health benefits. These facilities are designed to envelop a person in warm steam, offering a different experience compared to infrared saunas.

What Is a Steam Spa?

A steam spa is an enclosed space where a steam generator boils water to produce vapor. The room is typically lined with non-porous materials like ceramic or glass tiles to contain the moisture. Temperatures range from 110°F to 120°F (43°C to 49°C), with humidity levels close to 100%. Users sit in this misty environment, which can support relaxation and various purported health advantages such as improved circulation.

How Steam Spas Operate

The operation of a steam spa hinges on a steam generator, which heats water to boiling. As the water turns to steam, it is piped into the steam room. Here, a few key elements ensure the proper function:

  • Steam Generator: Located outside the spa enclosure, it's the core component that produces steam.

  • Control Panel: Users regulate temperature and steam production duration for a customized experience.

  • Sealed Environment: It is imperative for the spa to be airtight, preventing steam from escaping and maintaining high humidity levels.

By understanding the basic structure and function of steam spas, individuals can better evaluate their preferences when considering steam spas versus other relaxation and wellness modalities.

Health Benefits Comparison

While both infrared and steam spas offer numerous health benefits, they operate differently and can cater to various wellness goals.

Benefits of Infrared Spas

Infrared spas utilize light to generate heat, with the infrared radiant energy penetrating the skin and warming the body directly. This direct method of heating can result in a more intense sweat at a lower temperature than traditional steam spas.

  • Detoxification: The deep sweating can help to eliminate toxins from the body.
  • Relaxation: Infrared heat promotes relaxation by balancing the body's levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • Muscle Pain Relief: The penetrating heat can reduce inflammation and alleviate muscle soreness.
  • Improved Circulation: As the body temperature rises, blood flow increases, mirroring the effects of a light cardiovascular workout.

Advantages of Steam Spas

Steam spas create a high humidity environment filled with steam, which allows for heat transfer through convection and conduction, enveloping the entire body.

  • Respiratory Relief: The moist heat is known to help clear nasal passages and sinuses, aiding in respiratory function.
  • Skin Hydration: The steam helps to hydrate the skin, open pores, and cleanse impurities, leaving the skin feeling soft and rejuvenated.
  • Stress Reduction: The warm steam can help reduce stress and promote mental relaxation.
  • Joint Mobility: The warmth of the steam can increase joint mobility and reduce stiffness by improving blood flow to the joints.

Cost Analysis

When comparing infrared and steam spas, the costs involved can be a major deciding factor for consumers. This analysis looks at the initial outlay for installation as well as the ongoing operating expenses to give a clear financial picture.

Initial Installation Costs

Infrared spas typically cost $1,000 to $4,500 for purchase, with installation fees adding another $100 to $500 depending on the complexity and location. This is often less than steam spas, which have a wider price range starting from $2,500 and can go upwards of $6,000, and their installation can add $1,000 to $2,500 more due to the need for plumbing and electrical work.

Spa Type Purchase Cost Installation Cost
Infrared Spa $1,000 - $4,500 $100 - $500
Steam Spa $2,500 - $6,000 $1,000 - $2,500

Operating Costs Comparison

Operating costs for infrared spas are generally lower; they use light to directly heat the body, which requires less energy. For example, the average cost to run an infrared spa for a 30-minute session is about $0.30 to $0.70. In contrast, steam spas heat the entire room and use more energy, making the cost per average 30-minute session approximately $1.00 to $1.50.

Spa Type Cost Per 30-Min Session
Infrared Spa $0.30 - $0.70
Steam Spa $1.00 - $1.50

Safety and Risks

Safety and risks associated with infrared and steam spas vary due to differences in temperature control and moisture levels. Understanding the distinct safety considerations for each type of spa is essential for users to minimize risks.

Infrared Spa Safety

Infrared spas operate by emitting infrared light waves, which directly warm the body without significantly increasing the air temperature. This technology generally allows for a lower ambient temperature during use, which can be safer for individuals who cannot tolerate high heat environments.

  • Overheating: The risk of overheating is lower in an infrared spa due to its mild temperatures.
  • Dehydration: Users should hydrate properly as the sweating process can lead to dehydration, albeit less so than in traditional steam spas.

Steam Spa Risks

Steam spas, by contrast, heat the air to create high humidity and temperatures that can reach upwards of 110°F (43°C). These conditions pose different safety challenges:

  • Burns: The risk of burns is increased in steam spas, both from the steam itself and from hot surfaces within the spa.
  • Respiratory issues: Individuals with respiratory conditions may find the moist environment challenging.
  • Slippery Surfaces: Moisture accumulation can create slippery surfaces, increasing fall risks.

It is critical for users of either spa type to follow the manufacturer's instructions and be aware of personal health limitations when selecting the appropriate spa experience.

User Experience and Comfort

When comparing user experience and comfort, infrared and steam spas offer distinct experiences that cater to different preferences. This section provides insights on the comfort levels and user experiences specific to each spa type.

Comfort in Infrared Spas

Infrared spas typically operate at lower temperatures than steam spas, usually between 110°F and 140°F (43°C and 60°C). The direct heat from infrared panels warms the body efficiently, providing a comfortable experience without overwhelming heat. Those sensitive to higher heat often find infrared spas more tolerable, as the environment is drier and the air easier to breathe.

  • Temperature range: 110°F - 140°F (43°C - 60°C)
  • Air quality: Dry, easier on the respiratory system
  • Heat source: Direct from infrared panels

Users also report that infrared heat penetrates deeply into muscle tissue, potentially offering therapeutic benefits and a sense of deep relaxation without causing a stifling atmosphere.

Enjoying the Steam Spa Experience

Conversely, steam spas provide a high-humidity environment with temperatures typically ranging from 110°F to 120°F (43°C to 49°C). Steam baths envelop users in warm, moist air, which can be helpful for respiratory issues and can create a sensation of total body immersion in warmth.

  • Temperature range: 110°F - 120°F (43°C - 49°C)
  • Air quality: High humidity, beneficial for skin and respiration
  • Heat experience: Enveloping, immersive

The steam can result in a more intense sweating experience, which some users prefer for the feeling of a deep cleanse. Advocates for steam spas emphasize the benefits for the skin, as the moisture helps to open pores and purify the skin.

Space and Installation Requirements

Choosing between an infrared spa and a steam spa depends heavily on the space availability and the complexity of the installation process.

Space Needs for Infrared Spas

Infrared spas typically require less space than traditional steam spas and can often be placed in rooms as small as 4 feet by 4 feet. They come in various sizes, accommodating anywhere from one to multiple people. The required clearances around the spas vary with the model, but generally, they need at least a foot of free space on all sides for proper ventilation.

Installation Specifications for Steam Spas

Steam spas necessitate a larger area due to the need for insulated steam-proof enclosures to prevent moisture damage. The installation area must be completely sealed with a vapor barrier and requires a slope to the ceiling to prevent condensation from dripping. A steam generator, which can be situated up to 25 feet away from the steam room, requires its own space and must be accessible for maintenance. Access to electrical and plumbing connections is essential during installation, which must be performed by a qualified technician to avoid safety issues.

Energy Efficiency and Environmental Impact

When considering energy efficiency and environmental impact, it is important to compare the specific power consumption and ecological footprint associated with infrared and steam spas.

Infrared Spa Energy Considerations

Infrared spas typically consume less electricity than steam spas. They require an average of 1.6 to 1.8 kW per session, depending on the model and usage duration. Because infrared heat is directly emitted to the body without heating the entire room, energy utilization is optimized. This efficiency translates to a smaller carbon footprint as less energy generation is required.

Steam Spa Environmental Considerations

Steam spas often necessitate more energy, approximately 2 to 4 kW per average session. The requirement to first heat water and then transform it into steam leads to a higher consumption of electricity or gas, depending on the heating source. Additionally, the diffuse nature of steam means that energy is used to heat both the room and the user, which can lead to greater environmental impact in terms of emissions. Steam spas also consume water, with an average usage of 2 gallons per 20-minute session, which should be factored into environmental considerations.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Proper maintenance is essential for both infrared and steam spas to ensure longevity and optimal performance.

Maintaining an Infrared Spa

Infrared Spas typically require less maintenance than steam spas. They need regular surface cleaning to prevent bacteria build-up. It is important to:

  • Wipe down the inside with a damp cloth after each use.
  • Check heaters for any signs of wear or damage monthly.
  • Inspect the electrical components annually by a professional.

Caring for a Steam Spa

Steam Spas demand more frequent and comprehensive maintenance due to moisture levels. They require:

  • Daily ventilation to reduce mold and mildew growth.
  • Descaling the steam generator from mineral build-up every few months, varying with water hardness.
  • A deep clean of the seat and walls weekly to maintain hygiene.

Personalization and Aesthetic Appeal

The choice between an infrared and steam spa often extends beyond health benefits to include personalization and aesthetic appeal, where individual preference and interior design play pivotal roles.

Customizing Your Infrared Spa

Infrared spas can be tailored to fit various personal tastes and space requirements. Sizes range from compact, one-person units to larger models that accommodate multiple people. They often come with wood finishes like cedar or hemlock, and consumers can choose from a selection of color therapy lights to enhance their experience. Customization options may also include the addition of Bluetooth speakers, digital control panels, and ergonomic backrests.

  • Infrared Spa Customization Options
    • Sizes: Single to multi-person
    • Wood finishes: Cedar, Hemlock, etc.
    • Additional features:
      • Color therapy lights
      • Bluetooth connectivity
      • Digital controls
      • Ergonomic features

Design Options for Steam Spas

Steam spas, also known for their customizability, cater to a range of aesthetics from classic to contemporary. The choice of tiles and fixtures can dramatically alter the appearance of a steam spa, with options including porcelain, stone, or glass. The door styles and lighting options further contribute to the spa's ambiance, while built-in seating can vary in material and form to suit different design schemes.

  • Steam Spa Design Options
    • Tiles: Porcelain, Stone, Glass
    • Fixtures: Varied styles and finishes
    • Door styles: Framed, Frameless, Custom
    • Lighting: LED, Adjustable settings
    • Seating: Material and design variety


In comparing infrared and steam spas, one must consider health benefits, convenience, and personal preferences.

Final Thoughts on Infrared vs. Steam Spas

Infrared spas are known for their ability to provide deep tissue warmth without high ambient temperatures, which can be more comfortable for individuals who prefer a drier heat. They often require less setup and maintenance, and are believed to offer a range of health benefits including improved circulation and relaxation of muscles.

Steam spas, on the other hand, offer a traditional experience with moist heat that can be especially beneficial for respiratory issues. The humidity in steam spas is ideal for cleansing the skin and respiratory system. They may require more upkeep due to the moisture involved, but for those who enjoy the sensation of steam and the associated ritual, it can be a rejuvenating experience.

Each spa type has distinct features:

  • Infrared Spas:

    • Dry heat
    • Lower ambient temperatures
    • Deep tissue penetration
    • Minimal maintenance
  • Steam Spas:

    • Moist heat
    • Higher ambient temperatures
    • Respiratory benefits
    • Regular maintenance required

The decision between an infrared or steam spa should be based on individual health considerations, personal comfort preferences, and maintenance commitment. Both spas provide therapeutic benefits and can enhance one's quality of life through relaxation and stress relief.

When choosing between the two, potential users should weigh the specific advantages each offers to find the best match for their lifestyle and wellness goals.

Previous article Steam Spa Installation Costs and Budget Planning
Next article Waterproofing Tips for Steam Spa Showers!

Compare products

{"one"=>"Select 2 or 3 items to compare", "other"=>"{{ count }} of 3 items selected"}

Select first item to compare

Select second item to compare

Select third item to compare