by Divine Saunas Team August 14, 2022 9 min read
While you might expect heating for an indoor sauna to rely on the home’s primary electrical and perhaps heating ventilation system, an outdoor sauna is a whole other story. Entirely disconnected from the house, outdoor saunas must depend on separate sources for heat to provide the spa experience.
In this guide from Divine Saunas, you will learn the answers to questions like ‘How are outdoor saunas heated?’ and ‘Does the heat source change the experience?’. Let’s dive in.
Outdoor saunas are disconnected from the main building on the property.
In the United States, it is not uncommon for individuals to run new connections to their sauna to experience the best of both worlds, however, outdoor saunas are built to function standalone from the property.
The most common method of heating for the outdoor sauna is the wood-fired stove in true Traditional Finnish style.
Electric heaters are not uncommon to find in outdoor saunas, especially in areas that don’t have common access to firewood. These heaters must be hard-wired into the electrical box, or additional installations made by a professional.
A central, wood-burning fire traditionally heats outdoor saunas. Hot rocks surrounded these fires and would provide steam if you poured water over them.
This method has been in use for over 2,000 years since the invention of the first sauna, where it would often take up to half a day to tend the fire and prepare the sauna for use. (1)
“To maintain a consistent temperature, you will need to prepare and stoke the fire in a wood stove. In turn, that heats the stones that control the temperature of the space.” –Forbes
Today, traditional Finnish wood-burning saunas still provide an authentic feel, but the wood-burning stove is often enclosed to prevent potential burns. It also includes an easy-start thermostat to expedite the heating process without any fire tending.
The traditional Finnish sauna method, with a wood-burning stove and additional firewood storage, is the most common way to heat outdoor saunas in the United States.
A dry sauna is a unique experience that does not include moisture. There are two methods of heating a dry sauna, and the first is the same wood-burning method without so many rocks to generate moisture.
A ladle and water bucket may be included as a part of the dry sauna experience to prevent the heat from becoming excessively dry. You can also monitor the level of humidity in the room with help from a hygrometer.
The other way to create a dry sauna experience is to heat the sauna with an electric heater. This will be much drier than the wood-burning method and does not require ladling any water onto the rocks to prevent the heat from becoming too dry.
In this method, the electric stove heats the rocks directly, so the heat is evenly distributed throughout the room. The only downside to this method is that it must be connected to a source of electricity to function.
Initially introduced in the 1960s, infrared saunas are a relatively new technology consistently refined to keep up with more advanced technology. Instead of heating the air around your body, infrared saunas use low EMF – infrared light – to warm your body directly.
This light penetrates deeply into the body, encouraging a vigorous sweat without the high temperatures in the room. If you are a heat-sensitive individual or someone with health conditions exacerbated by heat, this lower-temperature sauna might be the right one for you!
These saunas use infrared light to create a more relaxed experience, without as high temperatures in the room, hence you can stay in the room even longer than with other methods of heating. These saunas will not provide a traditional experience, but they can be placed outdoors with the proper wiring installation.
The short answer is YES! Not only do saunas work in the winter, but their traditional construction is perfect for the cold weather that comes with it.
For many, winter is when everything slows down, from your workout routine to your time spent outside. General feelings of malaise and uncomfortably numb fingers and faces are reason enough to stay indoors.
If you have access to outdoor saunas in the winter, however, these feelings associated with the cold weather soon go away.
Traditional Finnish saunas were created especially for the winter months, as working in these months was the most challenging. Two thousand years ago, they still needed to go out and work to provide food, firewood, and shelter.
So a warm, steamy room where you could cleanse away the grime of the day was the perfect solution to keep the winter cold out of your bones!
No, outdoor saunas do not need electricity, though you can connect them to an electric heating source. If you choose to have your sauna exclusively heated with wood, however, you will need to have a chimney or ventilation shaft installed to prevent the build-up of smoke on the inside of the sauna.
These traditional Finnish-style saunas are perfect for secluded areas or individuals who want a more authentic sauna experience. Suppose you choose to power your outdoor sauna with infrared or electric heating.
In that case, you will need to have an electrician hard-wire the sauna into your electrical box, equipping your property to handle the additional usage.
Most sauna heaters require 220v of power to operate safely, though larger heaters that produce 4.5kw or 6.0kw of power often require installing a more substantial or dedicated breaker.
The maximum temperature of your sauna depends on a few factors, such as the type of sauna and the heat source.
If you have an electric or wood-powered Finnish sauna, you can expect the temperature to reach anywhere from 160° F to 190° F. Reportedly, some saunas can reach 212° F, but most people can tolerate a safe maximum of 195° F.
Steam rooms which some people mistakenly call steam saunas commonly reach a maximum temperature of 120° F, the lowest on the scale.
This steam room will not get nearly as hot as an outdoor traditional steam sauna (meaning a traditional sauna with steam) or infrared sauna, as a steam room focuses on adding moisture to the room, raising the perceived temperature, and preventing your body from sweating as effectively. Lowering the duration of your stay in a steam room is also recommended versus other methods.
Powered by a steam generator, the 100% humidity in the steam room can be stifling for many people, so these are not commonly used compared to the traditional wood-burning saunas or electric heated saunas.
Dry heat methods of heating the sauna can safely reach much higher ambient temperatures but will increase how much you sweat. Staying hydrated is an important part of safely using either type of sauna.
In a traditional sauna without applying water on the rocks, it will only give "dry" heat. If that is a little boring, doing Löyly (Finnish word for the steam given off by the heater rocks) will give you control over your sauna experience. Not hot enough? Throw some löyly! So wet heat can be achieved by adding water into the stones–the humidity rockets closer to 100%, just temporarily. Not hot enough? Throw some löyly! Overdid it and it got too hot? No worries, again it's very temporary!
Historically, old Finnish saunas would take up to 4-6 hours to heat up as the fire had to be well-tended and die down to a sustainable, even heat before use.
Modern technology has expedited this process, fortunately, and now all saunas take less than an hour to preheat properly. A traditional Finnish sauna powered by either an electric heater or a wood-burning stove now takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to preheat.
A steam sauna takes only 30 minutes, while the award for the least amount of preheating time goes to infrared saunas, which only need 10-15 minutes to preheat.
With a loose control of the temperature, the sauna can get very hot very quickly. Monitoring the temperature and humidity is accomplished by using a thermometer and hygrometer, respectively, and is highly recommended.
If the sauna temperature gets out of control, adjust the heat source to output a lower heat and slowly work your way back up to what is comfortable for you.
Keep in mind that humidity levels also play a role in increasing or decreasing the perceived heat, as the body is less able to sweat at higher levels of humidity.
The higher the humidity, the lower the temperature should be. If needed, turn off the sauna and take a break to cool off and rehydrate.
When choosing your outdoor sauna, it is essential to consider what you want from the experience as well as the construction of your sauna.
Suppose you are looking for a traditional experience. In that case, you should choose a sauna with wood-burning capabilities, as well as any additional amenities and accessories such as a porch or changing room.
Your sauna’s construction is another critical consideration that can impact its overall lifespan and your enjoyment of the space. For example, the walls should be made of a material like cedar to ensure it remains cool to the touch and resistant to heat and moisture from frequent use.
Saunas powered by electricity or infrared heat should also emit a low EMF – or electromagnetic field – to lower your overall exposure to these frequencies.
Many people also consider a timer with automatic shutdown capabilities a must-have, especially for those who are prone to falling asleep in warmer temperatures or forget to monitor their time in the sauna appropriately.
At Divine Saunas, we choose only the top manufacturers of saunas like Dundalk Leisurecraft, Thermory and Health Mate to provide buyers within the USA with the quality craftsmanship and expertise they expect in a luxury product.
Yes, it is safe for a healthy individual to use the sauna daily.
As a safety precaution, public areas that include saunas within the facilities will recommend that you do not use the sauna more than 3-4 times per week.
If you choose to use the sauna daily, it is best to allow your body to acclimate first, increasing the frequency of use over several weeks. If you do not feel any ill effects from using the sauna more than 3 times a week, you can safely begin using it 5-7 times a week.
When using the sauna daily, it is essential to follow any recommended guidelines and leave the sauna if you begin to feel faint. Moderate the temperature and the time spent in the sauna to ensure it does not exceed the recommended amount. (2)
“People who are dehydrated or have low blood pressure may feel dizzy or faint in saunas, and drinking alcohol beforehand is not a good idea” –Huffpost.com
Additionally, you should remain hydrated and avoid alcohol before or during the trip to the sauna.
There is some debate about which type of sauna is the healthiest, and while there is a range of saunas on the market with different heating methods, they are all considered safe for use as long as you follow recommended guidelines.
Controlling the temperature and amount of steam, as well as moderating how long you stay in the sauna each session is crucial to maintaining optimal results.
For individuals who are sensitive to heat, it is better to choose a sauna that achieves the same results with a lower temperature. In this case, infrared saunas are the clear winner, as the light penetrates deeper into the body to achieve a deeper sensation of warmth that causes the body to sweat in a milder environment.
If you are seeking a traditional sauna experience, a wood-burning sauna is the best choice. You can manually control the temperature and steam in this sauna by turning up the heat and dispersing only a certain amount of water over the stones.
The wood-burning sauna is the most popular choice of the heated sauna by far, as the manual control helps you remember how long you have been in the session. Also, if you aren’t keen on managing fire and steam levels, you can invest in a dry sauna with an electric heater.
Now that you understand how heaters play a critical role in outdoor saunas, it makes the experience all the more novel.
Saunas are a time-tested way to relax and come with a myriad of mindful, stress-relieving health benefits.
Interested in trying a sauna out for yourself? Shop our collection of outdoor saunas from the best brands today.
The team at Divine Saunas, brings years of combined expertise in the sauna industry and in creating helpful customer experiences online. With our unique perspectives we work together to help our customers fulfill their goals in creating a wonderful sauna oasis and spa. We do the research of high quality products, information and solutions and deliver that to you.
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