The Ultimate Sauna Heater Guide
Maybe wood burning?
What about gas?
We are ready to answer all your sauna heater questions so that you can quit researching and start sweating!
Hooray! You’ve decided to get a sauna. Congratulations, you are on your way to pure relaxation and innumerable health benefits. But here comes the real question: what type of heater do you need? We are here to break down not only what types of sauna heaters are available, but how to choose the right size heater for your sauna.
For all sauna heater selections, you will need the cubic measurements for your sauna space. That just means the measurement of the width of the room multiplied by the length multiplied by the height.
i.e. 8 ft (length) X 5ft (width) X 7ft (height) =280 cubic ft.
Appropriate examples of heaters for this size would be:
If your sauna measurement lands between the given recommendations of two sauna heaters, always choose a slightly larger heater as you will overall be more pleased with its performance and ability to heat the room. It is recommended that sauna ceiling height does not exceed 8 feet for most heaters. As heat rises, it can be difficult to maintain the desired temperature throughout your sauna if the ceiling height is too high.
Sauna heaters wouldn’t be the same without sauna rocks. Expect all variations of sauna heaters to have a rock tray. The purpose of these rocks is more than just decoration. They absorb and store heat which helps maintain the temperature in the sauna. Not to forget their most essential function…
Nearly all sauna heaters are manufactured to allow for the application of scoops of water on the sauna rocks. This process dispenses large bursts of steam that increase the humidity and how it feels (the temperature actually goes down) inside the sauna. This process is known in Finnish as löyly (pronounced laow-lu) and it’s a necessary part of the sauna experience.
Most heaters come with a set of sauna rocks. You can shop different colors and types if you are looking to add more or swap out existing rocks.
Electric Sauna Heaters
Electric Sauna Heaters work well and are easy to use. They are a great no-fuss option. You will see that you have the options to select the kilowatt (KW) and voltage associated with an electric heater. Kilowatts are based on the size of the room. In our example above, you would only need a 6 KW heater. (see here) Next you’ll find that you need to know the voltage associated with your sauna install. Generally speaking a residential sauna is 240 volt and a commercial unit would 208 volts. You should be able to pull enough power from a standard outlet. If you are unsure, always consult an electrician. Electric sauna heaters take about an hour to heat a room to temperature.
Now some electric heaters rock trays are designed with a grate placed over the heating elements. These trays often produce very little steam and water can eventually wear on the exposed coils. We recommend choosing an electric sauna heater with a solid stainless steel tray like the Scandia Electric Ultra Sauna Heater. This will not only prolong the life of your heater, but it will produce longer lasting, more pleasant steam over a quick burst and sizzle when the water hits the heating elements. If you want nothing but rocks, rocks, and more rocks, check out the Cilindro heaters from Harvia!
Electric heaters are the most common choice for residential saunas as they are simplest to install yourself and work well in small spaces. You’ll find different types of electric heaters that have everything from a rock tower, aromatherapy tray, and a water reservoir.
Wood Burning Sauna Heaters
Wood burning sauna heaters are favorite among sauna traditionalists as it puts off a softer, more pleasant heat. Also, the smell and act of preparing the sauna is part of the near-sacred experience that has been carried out for centuries. Wood burning stoves will take longer to heat the sauna room depending on their size. They will require a chimney for proper ventilation. A wood burning stove should be placed on a protective metal floor covering to catch falling ash and embers.
Stoves can also be interior or exterior loading-- choose exterior if you prefer to keep the wood/ash mess outside the sauna. Exterior loading does prevent you from being able to comfortably add more wood during your sauna session. However, if you have a dressing room adjacent to your sauna, the exterior feed wood heater doubles as a fireplace on one side and a sauna heater on the other. These can really create a warm and inviting atmosphere, especially during colder months.
Obvious advantages to wood burning saunas include the opportunity to build a sauna wherever you desire without the need for electricity. This is a great option if you are building a mobile sauna or a sauna for your cabin in the woods.
As for what type of wood to burn in your sauna?
Choose something that’s readily available in your area. The most important factor is that it is clean, dry wood. Among some of the most favorite woods for sauna burns are ash, oak, birch, ironbark, and maple.
Gas Sauna Heaters
Gas is an underrated, but highly favorable, sauna heater choice. For the same reasons we choose to heat our homes with natural gas instead of electricity, gas sauna heaters are more efficient and emit a softer, more comfortable heat than that radiant electric “sizzle”. Scandia offers two types of gas sauna heaters: propane and natural gas. Propane heaters can be attached to an exterior propane tank--another great option for mobile and remote saunas. Natural gas heaters can be connected to your home’s or business’ natural gas line. You will want an HVAC professional to properly install a gas powered sauna heater.
Gas heaters take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to heat the room to temperature. They initially have a higher upfront cost, but operational and repair costs are significantly lower than electric heaters. They also come with two different ignition types: a standing pilot light or a piezo. A pilot light requires a manual light via match or lighter to start while a piezo uses an electrical charge to ignite automatically. Scandia gas heaters have an oversized rock tray which creates huge billowing puffs of steam--a real sauna treat!
You’ll also find the option of venting the heat horizontally or vertically. This will depend on the design and environment of your sauna (indoor vs. outdoor, ceiling height, bench locations, etc.). Consult an expert if you are unsure.
And that’s that!
With this information, we hope you can be confident in how to choose a sauna heater to suit your needs. Whether it is a private or public sauna, the right heating element can ensure years of enjoyable use. Our professionals are always here to help and answer any questions you may have. We hope you enjoy the dreaming and planning portion of your sauna build as much as you enjoy its continued use and health benefits.