SaunaTime® blog


Woodburning or Electric Sauna Heater? - by Craig Lahti

348_resized_kids running from sauna

To sauna enthusiasts, the unique environment of the sauna bath welcomes them to enjoy a time-out from the rest of the world.  To many, the type of heater used can further enhance the enjoyment.  Which heater is right for you?  Woodburning or electric?


Let us begin with woodburning stoves.  Woodburning stoves provide the pure sauna experience.  From collecting the firewood to building the fire in the stove, the sauna experience has begun before the rocks are heated.  The heat is soft, as the fire in the chamber below the rocks brings the rocks and the room to temperature.  When water is sprinkled over the rocks, the water hisses and sizzles as it dances on the rocks.  The smell and sounds of wood crackling as it burns in the heater complete the transition from a hot room to a sauna

Woodburning stoves are the dream of many.  With advances in design, the woodburning stoves heat more efficiently than they used to, and they are more accessible to both urban and rural settings, though you will want to consult your local building code before beginning.  Because a chimney needs to be installed with the woodburning sauna heater, most woodburning saunas are built outside or in a separate garage or pole-building.  With some design assistance, a woodburning sauna is a great addition to your home or cabin.  The requirement of a UL or U.S. safety listing can hamper other woodburning heater installations, particularly when part of or attached to the home.  Due to the relatively low volume of woodburning heater sales (compared to electric) none of the major sauna manufacturers offer a UL listed woodburning heater.  While the heaters they build are safe, especially when compared to regional or local welded models, the manufacturers (including Finnleo) still only offer the European version.

Coanda Effect

For those who do not have the space to build a woodburning sauna or who prefer a more hands-free approach, electric sauna heaters provide a great sauna bathing experience as well.  Finnleo has designed their heaters to maximize the amount of rock mass in the heater to replicate the large rock mass of woodburning heaters.  Today, there are many options from which a sauna enthusiast can choose.  For those wanting a simple sauna, heaters with built-in controls allow for great ease of use.  Many bathers enjoy separate controls, which are usually mounted on the wall just outside the sauna.  These controls range from simple dial controls to the latest digital offerings.  Some controls can even be wired to SmartHome technology.  Still, there are many people who enjoy the soft heat and massive rock capacity of woodburning stoves but enjoy the convenience of electricity, and for them, the heat storing Saunatonttu sauna heaters or heat-as-you-go Pikkutonttu series heaters provide the convenience of electricity with an excellent steam experience due to the huge rock mass equal to or greater than a woodburning stove.


Through the years, I have spoken with many customers who have chosen to install an electric stove for their primary residence and a woodburning stove for their cabin.  Since our daily lives are more demanding of our time, the convenience of an electric stove allows them to make time for a sauna several times a week.  When they go to the cabin for a relaxing weekend, they have time and can enjoy the full experience, and if a water jacket is installed on the heater, the sauna can serve as a bath for the cabin.  There are instances of others who actually install both in their outdoor sauna.  They often find they use the electric 80% of the time and woodburning 20% of the time when time and ritual allow.

To learn more about heater options and sauna designs, contact your local dealer.  For a full sauna brochure, click here.  For information regarding woodburning stoves, click here.


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Etta ( wrote:
Glad I've finally found someithng I agree with!