Spa Vacation Articles

Sauna Heaters

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

The sauna heater has two basic functions -- creating heat and creating steam. There are stones piled on the heater which retain the heat and also produce steam when water is poured over them.

Electric Heaters

Electric sauna heaters were introduced in the 1930s. Prior to that, all saunas were heated with fire. Many sauna aficionados feel that fire produces the best type of heat for a sauna. They describe it as being a 'soft' heat.

Unfortunately, wood-burning heaters are not practical for most urban areas. For this reason, electric sauna heaters are now the most popular type of heater.

Electric heaters are usually enclosed in a protective casing to prevent burns if bathers accidentally touch them. They are controlled with a thermostat mounted outside the sauna. The desired temperature is set and the heater stays on while the sauna is being used.

It takes electric heaters about 30 minutes to bring the sauna to the desired temperature.

Wood-Burning Heaters

For those who have a house in the country, a wood-burning heater is a good choice for a sauna. Most country houses have a good supply of firewood so saunas can be operated at quite a reasonable cost. Some wood-burning heaters have glass doors - watching the flames while taking a sauna can be a soothing experience.

Wood-burning sauna heaters are combustion chambers with controlled air flow. The amount of air flow determines how fast the wood burns - lower air flow and the wood will burn slowly. Controlling the air flow also controls the temperature to a certain extent, but there's no way to set a wood heater to a certain temperature like an electric heater. There is no danger of smoke being released into the sauna -- it is drawn out of the heater through the metal smoke pipe installed through the roof of the sauna.

Oil and Gas Sauna Heaters

Oil and gas heaters are sometimes used for saunas but are less common than electricity or wood-burning heaters. They are relatively inefficient, especially when compared with electric heaters, and some people complain of the odor associated with the burning fuel. Properly vented, however, oil and gas heaters should have no discernible smell.

Stones

Every sauna heater needs stones. They retain the heat produced by the heater and also produce steam when water is thrown on them. Sauna stones have to endure a lot of stress. The constant heating and cooling means they need to have special qualities to withstand the severe temperature changes.

Sauna stones can be any type of rock, but some kinds are better suited for sauna use. Sauna stones should not give off any odor when heated, and should be able to withstand high heat without cracking.

Good sauna stones should not have any cracks, should have a rough surface (to release steam faster), and should be able to retain the heat. Popular sauna stones are peridotite and olivine, both available at sauna supply stores.


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