How Does a Steam Generator Work?
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How Does a Sauna Steam Generator Work?

How is steam for a sauna generated and what is required for the efficient, and safe, production of steam?

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It should be pretty obvious that without steam there would be no steam bath.

Smart, huh?

Pop Quiz: In a sauna, where does the steam come from?

How is it generated and what is required for efficient production of steam?

This article will take a look at steam generators and everything that is needed to make steam.

Steam generators for residential use are usually specially designed electrical units that can be installed almost anywhere. One thing some find surprising is that they do not have to be close to the steam bath, and can actually be located up to 40 feet away? Basically, all they require are an electrical connection and a water supply. Some steam generators will also require a drain.

Steam Generator Components

The steam generator icon unit consists of a tank for holding water, a connection for incoming water, and an outlet for the steam. There is an electrical element at the bottom of the water tank for heating the water, and the size and the electrical rating of this element is an important factor in determining how much steam the unit can produce.

The water tank will need to be airtight which will allow steam pressure to build up.

Caution, steam pressure can be a powerful force - after all, it can be used to run a locomotive! In order to withstand the pressure of the steam buildup, the water tank needs to be very strong. For this reason, they are usually made of welded steel.

As a particular safety precaution, the water tank also needs to have a pressure release valve in case the steam pressure becomes too high.  The safety valve is an absolute necessity.  Exploding tanks can cause a great deal of damage and even death.

It does not matter if the incoming water supply is either hot water or cold water. Feeding hot water into the steam generator icon allows the steam to build up more quickly, but most generators can use a cold water feed and still provide steam in a reasonable time.

To control the amount of the water in the tank, some sort of water level probe is connected to a valve which turns the water on or off automatically. The valve is powered by electricity and uses a solenoid to control water flow.

Before the water passes through the solenoid valve, it first passes through a master shutoff valve. This is a simple mechanical valve and can be used to cut off the water supply to the steam generator when it needs to be serviced.

As the steam builds up pressure, it passes into a pipe which is connected to the steam bath. The steam then passes through the steam heads which are controlled by either an on/off switch or a timer. The on/off switch causes the steam head to protrude from the wall of the steam bath, allowing steam to come out. 

Optional timers can also be used to limit the amount of time that steam is generated and to turn off the steam generator automatically.

Despite the apparent simplicity of a steam generator icon, it is still important that it be installed professionally. If steam pressure builds up unexpectedly and cannot be released through a properly connected release valve, a very dangerous situation can be the result. Usually, though, a licensed plumber can do the work for you properly and guarantee a safe steam bath.

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How Does a Steam Generator Work
Page Updated 1:03 PM Wednesday 9/16/2015