How to choose the best sauna heater for your needs

You are almost done building your own sauna and now all you need is the right sauna heater before you can start enjoying all the sauna benefits.

You cannot just buy any sauna heater, there are some important factors to consider such as the size of your sauna, the power requirements, and the type of sauna heater. 

Let’s take a look at each of these factors in detail.

Differences in electric and wood-fired sauna heaters

There are two main types of sauna heaters, electric and wood-fired, there are also gas-powered sauna heaters but these are less common.

To some extent, it has become customary to use an electric heater in urban areas and a wood-fired heater in rural areas.

A wood stove is particularly suitable for smaller saunas of up to 459 cubic feet. A wood-burning stove is ideal for creating the atmosphere of a traditional sauna and is also more user-friendly as it does not dry out the air. A pleasant smoky aroma also adds to the experience.

However, it tends to have the disadvantage of a longer and more cumbersome heating period, i.e. it takes more effort and time to heat the sauna.

With an electric heater, a fairly even sauna temperature is ensured throughout the entire sauna session, as the heater’s thermostat controls the set temperature continuously and heats as needed.

With a wood-burning stove, maintaining an even temperature is more difficult, as the amount of wood and the size of the stove have to be taken into account to achieve the right temperature.

As an electric heater dries the air in the steam room, more modern stoves also come with an evaporator. This means that, with the push of a button, you can transform a conventional dry sauna into a steam sauna.

So, there are pros and cons to both types of sauna heaters. In the end, it is a question of personal preference.

If you want a more traditional sauna experience, go for a wood-burning heater. If you want an easier-to-use and low-maintenance option, choose an electric heater.

What size sauna heater do you need?

The larger the sauna room, the more powerful the heater must be, there is a simple formula for calculating the heater size.

As a general rule of thumb, you need 1 kilowatt of power for every 35.3 cubic feet of interior sauna space.

To calculate the size of your room, simply multiply the length by the width by the height. This will give you the cubic footage of your sauna space.

Once you have this number, divide it by 35.3 to find out how many kilowatts you need.

For example, if your room is 10 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 7 feet tall, it would be 490 cubic feet. This would require a 14-kilowatt heater.

Keep in mind that, for example, log walls, glass, stone, and uninsulated walls reduce the effectiveness of the heater so you may need to add extra power.

For example, a sauna room with a large single-layer window is likely to require a much more powerful heater than the formula suggests.

In order to have a small reserve, and compensate for major heat loss, most people choose a heater that is 10-20% more powerful than the minimum requirement or just add 1 kW to the calculated heater size.

Use calculators available on the manufacturer’s websites to help you determine the kilowatts needed for your sauna.

A quick tips about the maintenance of your sauna heater

Choose the right stones: Only use dark-colored stones in your heater as they can withstand high temperatures. Do not use river stones, for example, as they can explode when heated. Stones should be re-stacked and, if possible, replaced once a year.

Read more about sauna stones here.

The heater should be cleaned with warm and mild soapy water as required.

A good stove is also judged by its stone capacity – the larger the number of stones, the longer and more pleasant steam it can produce.

We hope this guide has been helpful and if you need any help building your dream outdoor sauna, don’t hesitate to contact us.


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