When designing your sauna, it’s important to consider all aspects of your project.  From the overall size of your sauna, to the benching layout, and to choosing the desired species of wood, it is all very relevant.  One of the most important decisions that must be made is which type of sauna heater to install.  Think of it as the engine in your car.

Just like the diversity of the sauna users themselves, there are many different types of sauna heaters to consider.  Let’s begin with the three main types of sauna heaters.  Those are electric, gas and wood-burning.  We’ll briefly discuss each.

 Electric Sauna Heaters

Electric Sauna Heaters are a relative newcomer to the sauna scene.   Brought on by the widespread availability of electricity by the 1950’s, Electric Sauna Heaters quickly became the top choice among sauna enthusiasts.  Because of their ease of use and cleanliness, this type of sauna heater was the obvious choice in most residential and commercial environments.

Fast-forward to today, where electric sauna heaters outsell all of the other types of sauna heaters combined.  While today’s electric sauna heaters are very similar to their predecessors, they now offer a number of refinements over the original ones.  These include compact designs, lighted controls, built-in heater fences, digital controls, and more.  There is even a heat-storage sauna heater that stays ready to go instantly with the opening of its lid.  These cost more up-front, but are relatively inexpensive to operate.  They are ideal for those who use their sauna 3 or more times a week.  Electric sauna heaters vary in price, depending on the heater and control options you desire.  When deciding which heater to choose, it’s important to consider how frequently your sauna will be used.

Another consideration is the desired rock capacity.  Many enthusiasts feel that electric sauna heaters with larger rock capacities produce softer heat and better steam.  Sauna heaters with large rock capacities are generally designed for the rocks to be placed within the heating elements.  Other sauna heaters with smaller rock capacities tend to have more of a “fry pan” design, where the stones are located above the elements and are heated indirectly.

Wood-burning Sauna Heaters

For the sauna purist, wood-burning sauna heaters are an excellent choice.  Many long-time sauna users cherish the smell of wood smoke, which is held in their earliest memories inside of a sauna.  Wood heat is also toasty-warm.  Those who still heat their homes with wood will tell you how much warmer wood heat is than electric.  The same can be said for wood-burning sauna heaters.  This type of sauna heater works better in medium to large sized saunas, as the heat can sometimes be a bit more difficult to regulate.  Wood-burning sauna heaters are also very popular in outdoor saunas.  These sauna heaters are also ideal for cabins, or in areas where there is still no electricity available.   Many also come with optional hot water tanks, giving your sauna heater a dual use.

In recent years, off-the-grid living has made a resurgence.  This has revived the popularity of the wood-burning sauna heater.  Most wood-burning sauna heaters are relatively inexpensive for their size, however it is important to consider the shipping costs are more, as most are heavy come with at least 100 – 150 lbs of stones.  Before making the decision on which type of sauna heater to choose, consider the many benefits of wood!

Gas Sauna Heaters

Gas Sauna heaters
Gas Sauna Heaters

   The final type of heater on the market today is gas sauna heaters.  Like wood-burning sauna heaters, gas sauna heaters are ideal in areas where electricity is limited or unavailable, but where natural or LP gas is available.  Due to their higher cost and limited availability (only one manufacturer in the United States producing them at this time), they are usually not the first choice for homeowners.  Like wood-burning sauna heaters, these too are not meant for small saunas.  Besides being costlier to ship due to their size, they also require a gas plumber or heating and air conditioning technician to ensure that gas lines and venting are installed properly.  They are more prevalent in larger commercial saunas, as found in hotels, spas and gyms.  In these environments it is not uncommon to have a 12-24 hour per day demand.  In this type of setting, gas sauna heaters are effective and cost-efficient.

   Now that we have briefly covered the types of sauna heaters out there the choice is up to you.  A little bit of research on the front-end will make your finished sauna much more enjoyable.  Also remember to always consult a sauna professional who can offer you a wealth of sauna knowledge!

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