Installing a Steam Bath - Part Two
For your very own steam bath you need the proper sized steam generator. Most manufacturers provide guidelines for choosing a steam generator which take into account the size of the steam room and the materials used to construct it. Steam generators are usually rated by the number of cubic feet of the steam bath, but additional capacity must be added if your steam bath is constructed of heat absorbing materials such as glass, concrete, or marble.
Once the proper steam generator has been selected, you have to decide on an installation location. The steam generator should be installed in a low traffic area. Possible locations include bathroom vanities, bedroom closets, or insulated attics or basements. The steam generator should not be installed outdoors or in a cold location.
Most steam generators can be installed up to 20 to 40 feet away from the steam bath, which gives you plenty of options when choosing a location. Besides being in an insulated spot, it also needs access to electricity and water. There should also be a drain close by.
The electrical connection probably has to be 240 volts and the water supply can be either hot or cold. The line from the steam generator to the steam bath should have a slight slope and avoid any gullies that could trap condensation. Pockets of condensation could prevent the proper flow of steam resulting in a dangerous build-up of steam pressure.
One final consideration about where to install the steam generator -- make sure that it is accessible for servicing. Although most units are quite dependable, you don't want to be tearing open walls if your steam generator stops working.
Even though either hot water or cold water can be used to feed the steam generator, hot water is preferable because it will create steam faster. To make a connection between your hot water heater and the steam generator you must first turn the water heater off and drain it. Cut the pipe from the water heater in two places to install a tap. After the tap has been soldered into place, run a line from it to the steam generator.
With the steam generator in place, make the connection from the hot water heater to the generator and solder it. The steam outlet is now connected to the steam bath with ½ inch copper pipe. The pipe is run from the generator to the steam head in the bath. The steam head should be installed low to the floor - between 6 and 24 inches from the shower floor.
As noted above the steam pipe needs to have a slight downward slant and must be free of gullies or turns that could trap condensation. Once it is in place and the connections soldered, wrap the steam pipe with insulation.
With all the connections soldered properly you can turn the water heater back on and allow it to fill with water. As the water is re-heating, connect the controls to the steam generator. The control panel can be placed either in the steam bath or on the outside wall, but it must be installed away from the steam head. Follow the manufacturer's directions for making the connections between the generator and the control panel.
Plug in the steam generator and test it by using the control panel to turn it on. If everything is connected properly the unit should light up. Don't use the steam bath right away, however. Wait at least 24 hours to allow all the connections to dry properly.
This is a job that can be handled with anyone with moderate plumbing skills. If you have not done this type of work before, you may prefer hiring a licensed plumber to install a steam bath for you. If you decide to do the work yourself, it may be worth while to hire a plumber to inspect your work before using the steam bath.
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