Fairfield’s Redwood in the Round has been selling saunas for 35 years. But 2019, owner Steve Schmidt reports, was the best year it’s had yet. Saunas, it seems, are becoming quite the hot commodity here in Connecticut. Interested in heating things up a bit in your own home? We asked Schmidt and some fellow experts for their insight and advice on the latest and greatest in saunas — and we think you’ll be surprised to hear just how easy it’s become to turn up the temperature at home.

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Go ahead, pour some water on those rocks and make it steamy. 

Let there be light

A traditional Finnish sauna (which you should pronounce “sow-na” if you want to be one of the cool kids) typically employs an electric heater to warm the body by heating the air around said body to 170 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, Schmidt says. Infrared (also called far-infrared, with “far” referring to infrared’s location on the light spectrum) saunas on the other hand, which just so happen to be one of the hottest wellness trends around, use light to warm the body from the inside out and only require a set temperature between 120 to 130 degrees. “It’s a much less intense heat,” Schmidt says, which makes it all the more attractive to those who can’t tolerate a traditional sauna.

Location, location, location

Want to keep it easy-peasy to start? Small, four-by-four “plug-and-play” saunas that fit just about anywhere (basement, home gym, master bath …) are now available in both traditional and infrared models. William Jacques, owner of Shoreline Hot Tubs & Saunas in Orange and Westbrook, recommends Finnleo’s traditional HM44 in its Hallmark series or the S-820 in its Infrared S series. Best news yet: You can plug either of these babies into a regular 15-amp, 120-volt outlet. And because infrared units do not require water, no pipes or vents are needed.

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You look marvelous

When Schmidt began selling saunas in 1985, his entire brochure was just eight pages; today it is 87 pages — and that doesn’t include a separate 32-page brochure covering infrareds. “Clearly,” Schmidt says, “we’ve come a long way from a wooden box.” Kalevi Ruuska of Joco Inc., which specializes in sauna design and construction, speaks of saunas of all shapes and sizes with design options like fixed or removable bench configurations, curved ergonomic backrests, unusual angles, sleek combinations of Nordic spruce, Canadian hemlock and Western red cedar, and an increased use of glass, whether all-glass front walls or multiple sidelight windows.

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No water needed in an infrared unit, which heats you up from the inside out.

I feel good

Heat feels good, that we know — especially this time of year. And, oh my, yes, time spent in a sauna is certainly relaxing. Emerging evidence recently published by the clinical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, however, suggests that sauna use just might offer a multitude of health benefits that go far beyond the purpose of pleasure. In fact, regular sojourns in a traditional sauna may be linked to “a reduction in the risk of vascular diseases like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and neurocognitive diseases; nonvascular conditions such as pulmonary diseases; mortality; and the amelioration of conditions such as arthritis, headache and flu.” Hmm. And the line to volunteer for upcoming studies starts where?

Just add water

The humidity in a sauna has traditionally been controlled by the amount of water a user ladles over heated rocks by hand (oh, the exertion). Finnleo, however, is streamlining the process, Jacques says, via a select group of heaters that employ what it calls BioWater Technique (BWT). The Finnleo Himalaya, for example, whose handsome tower holds 210 pounds of rocks, also contains an integral water reservoir mounted in its core that delivers constant soft steam and humidity when set between 140-175 degrees. Prefer a dryer sauna? Forego the water and keep things toasty at 175-190 degrees. The point is: You have a choice.

Ready and waiting

SaunaLogic2, North America’s first sauna control with “true worldwide mobile functionality” is being hailed as one of the most exciting new products and technologies to have been introduced at the International Pool/Spa/Patio Expo in November. What this means, Jacques explains, is that sauna devotees can now turn their saunas on from anywhere cell service or Wi-Fi is available (i.e. on the car ride home after a long day at the office). This is key, he explains, since a traditional sauna takes at least 30 minutes to fully heat up — and who wants to wait that long when, baby, it’s so dang cold outside?

 

This article appeared in the January 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.