The first and most critical step in the steam shower buying is to determine the size generator that you need. This would seem straightforward, but it actually takes a bit of work.
Why? It’s not as simple as just calculating the cubic footage of your shower stall. You have to make adjustments for factors like overall ceiling height, the number of exterior walls, any windows, and the materials with which the shower is constructed. You first calculate your adjusted cubic footage.
Each Manufacturer has tools designed to help you choose enough generator for your specific space. It’s always best to round up if you’re unsure. A slightly bigger generator is better than too small.
The adjusted cubic footage can drastically differ from your actual cubic square footage, so we can’t stress this enough. Make sure you’re shopping based on adjusted square footage.
As an example, using the Mr. Steam calculator for 3 foot by 3 foot stall with 8 foot ceiling height, we get a simple cubic footage of 71. The tool suggests the MS 90EC1, a 5 kW model.
If we select natural stone as the material, the adjusted cubic footage jumps to 151 cubic feet. That’s more than doubled. Now it suggests the MS 225EC1, a 7.5 kW generator and an extra $700 bucks or so.
The bottom line is that measuring your steam shower for the properly sized generator this is a crucial step in the process. This steam shower sizing guide can help walk you through the exact process.
Now we jump ahead to what you might think should be the final step but we include it here for a very good reason. You have to select manufacturers, controls, and generators that support your desired features. Our detailed steam shower manufacturer guides will review each of the manufacturers on the most desired features.
Your steam shower’s extra features are the most fun part about the whole process. If features aren’t important to you, most of the manufacturers have basic steam solutions that will save you a lot of money. These extra features can really drive up the cost, but they also contribute to making your steam shower a true oasis and not just a functional part of your bathroom. In addition to price, if you are just looking for functional steam, you may want to consider how steady the operating temperature will be and the quality of the workmanship.
Once you’ve got an idea of the size generator you need and the list of features you can’t live without, you’re ready to start comparing steam shower manufacturers. But before we set you loose to go through our manufacturer guides, we wanted to go over some of the most important factors to consider and also debunk some common myths. Below we detail some of the most important features to consider when selecting a steam generator manufacturer.
This is a biggie and consistent temperatures may very well be one of the most important factors in your steam maker decision. A steam shower is a humid place and just like when it’s humid outside, your body will feel temperature differences way more acutely.
There are three main factors that affect how stable your steam temperature will be: how the steam temperature in the shower is being measured, how new water is introduced into the system, and then method the generator uses to generate and regulate heat.
First, you want to make sure that your steam shower control is able to get an accurate temperature reading. The first reason your steam shower temperature may not be right is if the sensors are inferior or not located in the right position.Your best bet in accurately hitting your desired temperature is in selecting a control system with advanced sensor technology. It’s way easier to hit the right temperature if you have a good idea of the actual temperature. Leading the charge on this front is Steamist with their dual sensor technology.
The next thing to consider is how much that temperature is going to vary once the set point is reached. You want a consistent temperature, not one that is oscillating across several degrees. Let’s explore how new water is introduced into the system. There are two methods.
Kohler and Thermasol use a simple float design (like in your toilet) to constantly trickle a little new water into the generator. This is often called constant steam. While not as accurate as some of the other approaches since there is no feedback from the steam shower environment itself, this approach reduces the impact of fresh water entering the system since it’s a constant small amount of water. Almost everyone else uses a solenoid (electromagnetic) valve to allow additional water into the generator. This allows for more control and modern generators baffle the incoming water to produce a similar in-flow to constant steam. So this is pretty much a non factor these days.
The final consideration is how the generator is designed to produce steam and maintain a steady temperature. All steam generators need to turn off and on or reduce power unless you want you actually boil. The most basic way to do this is with a single heat element that is on or off. To gain a bit more control, generators might employ two or more smaller heating elements that are off or on. Amerec uses a two heating element method to help with the temperature fluctuations. They only turn one off at a time, therefore they are always producing steam with one or the other. Some call this ‘soft steam’.
Steamist and Thermasol use a method known as proportional steam. Proportional steam varies the power of the multiple heaters utilizing the temperature of the room, set point, and complicated algorithms to quickly set power cycles using a varying proportion of the power. These steam generators behave very differently if the room is heating up quickly or too slowly. In theory, the system is never dormant (not producing steam).
This is something you’ll see almost every brand list as a feature but in actuality, it’s really just a feature of steam showers in general. It’s a fact that a steam shower uses way less water than a traditional shower or bath that it often replaces. The variation in water usage between the brands is pretty minimal.
To make a certain amount of steam, you have to boil water. The bigger your space the more water you’ll use. Also – to boil that amount of water in the same amount of time you’ll need a bigger generator. Take a longer steam shower and you’ll use more water. It’s pretty simple.
Some of the brands feature an auto-drain feature or additional options that drains the tank after usage. Since you’re dumping the unused water, you’ll have to replace it when you take your next shower. Again – no real differences between the different brands.
While not quite a myth, the time to get the steam rolling is a huge marketing factor for some of the brands but may not be that important in the long run to the home owner. There is usually a trade off as well between energy efficiency and quick steam based on the basic principles above.
There are two ways to get steam fast. The first is the traditional boiler method, just like the hot water boiler in your house. You keep a tank of water warm around. Then when you turn the steam unit on, it doesn’t take as long to heat up because it doesn’t have to heat the water up quite as much. The other method is to run electricity directly through the water which can create steam in about a minute.
Almost all the brands in their top models have a method to produce steam fast. If you’re looking for economy steam then this might be a feature you can live without. Amerec has the warm start option which is an additional charge. The MS series by Mr. Steam has the Express Steam as an option, similar to Instamist by Steamist. We think this might be a feature that is important to some but not all.
Quiet Operation is something we all want but it may be of particular concern if audio is part of your ideal steam shower oasis. The steam itself will produce a modicum of noise but what you’re really likely to hear are any mechanical components in the generator design. The most common being related to the valve that allows water to move into the generator or between chambers.
The quietest is Thermasol which features an old fashioned mechanical float. While this can be less reliable than other solutions, it is the quietest. Everyone else uses a solenoid to control the flow of water. The newer solenoids are still very quiet. Some of the generators using older solenoid technologies can have an audible noise.
Choosing the right steam shower manufacturer is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during your steam shower buying process. All manufacturers listed here are solid choices but differences exist between reliability, cost, and features.
|Where to buy||Website Dealer Locator includes Plumbing Distributor Showrooms, other Kitchen & Bath Showrooms.||Buy direct through elitesteam.com||Website has separate locators for “Find a Professional” and “Find a Store”.||Website Dealer Locator includes Plumbing Distributor Showrooms and other Kitchen & Bath Showrooms||Website Dealer Locator includes Plumbing Distributor Showrooms, other Kitchen & Bath Showrooms.||Website Dealer Locator includes Plumbing Distributor Showrooms, other Kitchen & Bath Showrooms.|
|Steam Generators||AX Generators AK Generators, with "soft steam" feature.||Generators are sold as a complete package, including basic steam control, steamhead and Installation Cable. Stainless Steel tank.||Invigoration Series come with Fast Response Steam & Power Clean. Controls sold separately. Stainless steel tank.||eSeries, with AutoSteam, which assures a continuous flow of steam. Stainless Steel tank.||SM Plus Series TSG Total Sense Series, with Instamist and SteadySteam. Stainless Steel tank.||AF Series with FastStart Pro Series with FastStart and SmartSteam. Stainless Steel tank.|
|Spa Options||Chromatherapy Aromatherapy||Oil well in the Steamhead for manual aromatherapy.||Spa options available with DTV Package||AromaSteam MusicTherapy ChromaTherapy||AromaSense AudioSense ChromaSense ShowerSense||“Serenity Module” with Light, Sound and Rain Shower Head. Oil well in the Steamhead for manual aromatherapy|
|Controls||A6 Touch surface or recessed mount. Works with Phone A3 shows power on, time, temp and lighting. K69 Basic Time Temperature||ES-150 Time / Temp ES-120 optional On / off||Controls Power Clean Invigoration Series with Digital Clock DTV+ controls Steam, Chroma, & Music||I steam 3 – Modern Design Controls Aroma, Chroma & Music Options. AirTempo I Tempo - 2 User Time/Temp User settings SteamLinx Wi-Fi remote option||550, 450 and 250 Digital Controls All available in multiple designs All available in multiple designer finishes All equipped with dual-sensor technology 550 and 450 operate all spa options.||ThermaTouch 7” screen Touch Screen Control Can control light, color, music and the new Tranquility Scenes that feature nine relaxing imagery and sound themes from nature. Micro Touch series Signature Series|
|Warranty||Limited Lifetime on Steam Generators 5 Years on Controls & Accessories||Limited Lifetime on Steam Generators 2 Years on Controls & Spa Options||3 year Limited, Repair or Replace 5 Year on Controls||Limited Lifetime on Steam Generators 2 Years on Controls & Accessories||Limited Lifetime on Steam Generators 2 Years on Controls & Spa Options||3 year in-home warranty to original purchaser. Return to Factory for Limited Lifetime Warranty.|
|Other Residential Products||Saunas, Folding Seats||None||Extensive line of plumbing products for kitchen & bath||Towel Warmers Folding Seats||Saunas, Shower Valve, Folding Seats||Saunas, Folding Seats|
|Positive Comments||Basic reliable generators and controls Designer Finishes Available Good Customer Service||Easy ordering Simplified production selection Owned by Steamist Value-priced offering from an industry-leading manufacturer||Kohler is an established company with an excellent reputation for quality and design. Widely distributed throughout North America Easy purchase process Lots of finish options||Basic, reliable generators and controls Good choices for control options and finishes Attractive bundled add-on packages Updated product design Good Customer Service||Steamist claims SteadySteam and patented dual-sensor technology provide industry’s most accurate temperature control and most consistent user comfort. ShowerSense Spa Option allows installation of three separate shower options with one control. Only manufacturer that allows seamless operation of all 5 spa features through 1 control||Basic, reliable generators and controls Good choices for control options and finishes Largest display Quiet Operation.|
|Negative Comments||Controls appear somewhat dated in design Expensive compared to competition. Extra features like aroma and audio lag competitors.||Limited choice of control finishes No Spa Options No proportional steam||Warranty voided if not purchased through an authorized dealer Systems can get expensive when adding spa features No Aroma Therapy option No proportional heat||Systems can get expensive when adding spa features No proportional steam||Systems can get expensive when adding spa features||The most expensive when comparing feature for feature No automatic aroma therapy options|