In ancient times, sauna heaters were nothing more than shallow fire pits dug in the ground covered by two or three layers of stones to heat the sweat huts.
The first wooden sauna cabins were built in Finland in the fifth to eighth centuries. Since then, the sauna stove has evolved from wood-burning fires, to modern electric and gas heaters, and even to futuristic infrared technology.
When evaluating the many options available in sauna heaters, the first consideration for you will be the cost, followed by functionality. If you can’t operate a wood-fired heater in your sauna, you have a few other choices.
Let’s take a brief look at the different sauna stoves:
1. Wood-Fired Sauna Heater
Many people prefer wood stoves as the only true and traditional sauna experience. They are for outdoor saunas only, unless your indoor sauna has an approved insulated chimney and it is permitted by your home owner’s insurance.
If you can use a wood-fired heater in your sauna, find one that has a glass front so you can enjoy watching the fire as well as the heat and steam from the rocks.
2. Electric Sauna Heater
Electric heaters are the most popular and readily available design. The volcanic rocks sit on the top tray just like on the wood burning sauna stove and you can pour water directly on them for the steam effect.
The stove is encased so there’s no chance of any electric shock by water getting to the heating elements. This heater can also be used without water for a hot dry air sauna experience.
3. Propane or Gas Stoves
A natural gas or propane heater is similar in hook-up to your gas fireplace. Although it is more costly to buy than an electric heater, it is less expensive to operate and it will heat up the sauna faster.
A gas stove will require a licensed electrician and HVAC professional to hook it up to the gas line but if your home already uses gas heat, this is the way to go.
4. Infrared Heating Elements
Far infrared ray (FIR) sauna heaters have some health advantages over traditional steam saunas, and they are even less expensive to operate than a gas fired sauna stove.
Instead of one large heater with hot rocks, this technology involves several small heat emitters located strategically around the room, and the sauna operates at a lower temperature. One drawback though is that the löyly - the steam created by throwing water on the hot rocks - is not possible in a 100% infrared heated sauna.
Many sauna purists believe that the löyly is essential to the sauna experience, and therefore do not feel that infrared saunas should be classified as saunas at all.
One thing you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for residential sauna heaters is the warm-up time. A sauna stove can take as long as 40 minutes to warm up, which is one reason so many sauna users opt to get a far infrared heater, which will heat up to the correct temperature (up to 140° F) in as little as 10 minutes.
There are pros and cons to each type of heater, so it is best to take some time to educate yourself about sauna heaters. With a little knowledge you’ll see how easy it is to select the best possible stove for your home sauna as well as your budget.
Swedish Sauna Stoves Made by Tylo - Outstanding safety features include a thermo-safe design that offers a low surface temperature.
Polar Sauna Stoves - Gentle Heat and Steam - Beautiful red enamel exterior makes these stoves very attractive.
Heat Your Sauna with a Vico Propane Sauna Heater - Less costly to operate and lasts substantially longer than an electric heater.