Thinking about installing a hot tub or a sauna in your home, but can't decide which would suit you best? In this article, we'll cover the pros and cons, costs, health benefits, and experience of each—everything you need to make an informed decision.
- The basics: hot tubs vs saunas
- What do hot tubs and saunas have in common?
- What benefits do you get from hot tubs but not saunas?
- What benefits do you get from saunas but not hot tubs?
- What kind of people are better suited to each?
The basics: hot tubs vs saunas
Yep, we're starting out simple. Feel free to skip this section if you're already au fait with the definitions.
What, exactly, is a hot tub?
Although hot tubs come in many different forms, they are essentially large tubs filled with heated water, often aerated with jets, and used for relaxation or physical therapy.
They're especially popular with families and are a good year-round activity—even in cold climates.
Okay, so what's a sauna then?
Saunas are small rooms or cabins heated to a high temperature with very carefully controlled humidity.
Did you know? Saunas can only have such high temperatures due to their low humidity. If you tried to run a steam room at the same temperature, the moisture would be so hot that it would be too dangerous for humans to enter.
Usually equipped with multiple tiers of wooden benches, saunas can also be a social occasion, or simply for quiet relaxation. They're used to cleanse and refresh the body through causing it to sweat.
What do hot tubs and saunas have in common?
Hot tubs and saunas actually have plenty of similarities when it comes to benefits.
Physical and emotional relaxation
Both provide heat to soothe tired muscles and aching joints, and increase circulation. Both induce sweat, clearing pores and allowing oxygen and nutrients to nourish your skin. As a result, both can give you relaxation.
Heat can help to ease muscle tension, making either a great choice for quicker workout recovery or decompressing after a stressful day at the office.
What's more, if you're hoping to lose weight, you could incorporate a hot tub or sauna into your weight loss program, as studies show passive exposure to heat could have some of the same benefits as exercise.
Better sleep quality
Research shows that soaking in a hot tub or relaxing in a sauna before bed could increase sleepiness at bedtime, slow wave sleep, and stage 4 sleep, which will be a welcome benefit to anyone who struggles with insomnia.
The price of both saunas and hot tubs depends on various factors like size, brand, and quality. To give you a general idea:
- The average sauna installation costs between $3,000 and $10,000
- A hot tub installation costs $2,000 to $16,000 on average
Although installation costs can look quite similar, it's worth considering that a sauna requires less energy to run compared to a hot tub. That's largely because you only need to turn them on when you use them, whereas hot tubs are generally designed to stay up to temperature all the time.
What benefits do you get from hot tubs but not saunas?
Ease of installation
Installing a hot tub is easier than a sauna because they generally come as an assembled unit. All you need is a 220V power outlet and a supportive flat base, and help from some hot tub movers to maneuver it into place.
Most people place hot tubs outdoors in their backyard. Conversely, installing a sauna means either taking up space inside your home, or assembling the sauna from its individual parts outside. Once assembled, the footprint of space each takes up is similar.
There's just something about that gently swirling water with lights and fountains that adds an unmistakeable elegance to a home. Your hot tub could be a central point of attraction in your backyard.
From rustic wooden tubs to fancy modern acrylic spas, you can find a hot tub that matches your home design as well as your personal aesthetic.
Saunas, while they can look very inviting, can also have more of a shed aesthetic in a backyard, depending on the model of course.
Hot tubs are the winner when it comes to spending quality time with people that you love. They're associated not just with parties and get-togethers but also quality time with your partner, or the whole family if you have children.
Saunas, on the other hand, are less well suited to the fun and games of social events. It isn't good for kids to use saunas as their bodies can't handle that much heat, but they can use the hot tub as long as the temperature is kept low enough.
Most hot tubs have the added benefit of built-in massagers in the form of jets. That's something you won't get in a sauna. The bubbling noise of the water also adds to the soothing nature of a hot tub, for a full sensory experience.
Hot tubs are especially popular among those with arthritis, as the ability to sit or float submerged in the water provides a temporary break from the effects of gravity—taking the strain off of sore joints.
What benefits do you get from saunas but not hot tubs?
Saunas have an edge over hot tubs when it comes to maintenance. With a hot tub, you have to test the water and make sure it has the proper chemical balance on a weekly basis. Hot tub filters (which remove contaminants) need to be cleaned and changed once a month.
In contrast, maintaining a sauna is easier and less costly compared to a hot tub. Saunas don't require many repairs or cleaning, beyond basic care for the wood, plus occasional vacuuming, sweeping and wiping down benches after use.
Sitting in a tub of water shared by multiple people does not appeal to everyone. If you're someone who finds the idea icky, then go with a sauna. Keeping a hot tub properly sanitized and balanced is a lot of work, and if you aren't able to get the maintenance correct, you risk getting a range of itchy skin problems.
Potentially greater safety
If you have mobility issues, climbing into and out of a hot tub could be a challenge, or even dangerous in some cases. Saunas, on the other hand, just require getting through a door and sitting down on a bench.
While it's possible for a sauna to cause harm, this is generally due to excessive heat exposure, which can be managed by carefully controlling the temperature and time you stay in. Hot tubs present more slip/fall risk in addition to heat exposure.
Many people love essential oils, and saunas let you safely use them (like this Aromatherapy Mist) as part of the experience.
Although there are specially designed hot tub scents available, you must never use essential oils in a hot tub, as they are not water soluble and can damage the equipment.
What kind of people are better suited to each?
Both hot tubs and saunas are great for anyone who's busy, stressed, and in need of a way to unwind (so, pretty much all of us these days).
For insomniacs who struggle to get to sleep, or athletic and active people wanting muscle recovery, either one of the two would be a perfect fit.
That said, if any of these are you, you might be better suited to a sauna:
- You'd only use it (either a hot tub or sauna) occasionally
- You don't have the time or willingness to keep up with a regular maintenance schedule
- You struggle with mobility
However, if this sounds more like you, a hot tub would be an excellent choice:
- You are more of a social person and love to entertain
- You want to spend more quality time with your family away from screens
- You have arthritis or joint pain
Beyond your lifestyle and physical needs, you also have to consider the space available for a hot tub or a sauna in your home. If you don't have much space outdoors, or if you have limited access, a sauna could be the better choice. But if you have a large patio and want an eye-catching focal point, consider a hot tub.