Sauna Heaters

The core of any sauna is the heater. Sauna heaters are specially designed to produce a consistent high temperature. There are several types available, but the most common are electric. Wood-burning heaters are popular in rural areas, and oil or gas heaters are used occasionally also.

The heater has two basic functions which are creating heat and steam. Stones are piled on the heater to retain heat and produce steam when water is poured over them.

Electric Heaters

Electric sauna heaters were introduced in the 1930's. Before their introduction all saunas were heated by fire. Many sauna fanatics feel that fire produces the best heat for a sauna. It is described as a 'soft' heat.

Wood-burning heaters are generally not a practical choice for urban areas. This has left the electric sauna as the most popular choice in sauna heating.

Electric heaters are generally enclosed in a protective casing to ensure bathers do not accidentally touch the heater and get burned. The heater is controlled by a thermostat mounted on the outside wall of the sauna. The desired temperature is set and the heater remains on while the sauna is being used.

The sauna will be at the desired temperature in approximately 30 minutes if an electric heater is being used.

Wood-Burning Heaters

For those that live in rural settings, a wood-burning heater is a good choice for a sauna. Firewood is more readily available in these areas so the sauna can be operated at a reasonable cost. Some units have glass doors to allow bathers to watch the flames while bathing.

Wood-burning heaters are combustion chambers with controlled air flow. The amount of air flow determines the speed at which the wood burns; lower air flow makes the wood burn more slowly. Controlling the air flow also controls the temperature to some extent, but there is no way to set a wood heater to a specific temperature. Smoke inhalation inside the sauna is not a danger because it is drawn out of the heater through a chimney installed through the roof of the sauna.

Oil and Gas Sauna Heaters

Oil and gas heaters are used occasionally for saunas but less often than electric or wood burning units. They are considered to be quite less efficient, and can produce an odor from the fuel being burned. If the heater is properly vented there should be no odor present.

Stones

All sauna heaters require stones. The stones retain the heat produced by the heating unit and produce steam when water is poured over them. Sauna stones must be durable because they endure a lot of stress. They must be able to withstand severe temperature changes to endure the constant heating and cooling.

Sauna stones can be made of any type of rock, but some types are better suited for sauna use. Sauna stones should not produce an odor when heated, and should be able to withstand high temperatures without cracking.

Sauna stones should not have any cracks and should have a rough surface which releases steam faster. They also should be able to retain heat. Popular sauna stones are peridotite and olivine, which can be found at a sauna supply store.


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