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Could LED dimmable rope lighting be the next big sauna building game changer?

Every sauna built from today forward shall have this lighting configuration:

  1. LED rope light extended underneath the upper bench.
  2. Two sconce lights, one on either side of the hot room door.

Both light systems shall be controlled by dimmer switches via a dual switch box installed at a convenient height outside the hot room door, opposite of hinge side.

ADVANTAGES:

  1. Lighting underneath upper bench casts indirect light, a pleasant vibe for sauna bathers.  This light helps illuminate the path from the upper bench down to the floor, and out the door.  What was once the dark dim underbelly of the sauna hot room now becomes a soft, glowing, appealing space, making our hot rooms feel that much larger.  Thanks to the dimmer switch, we can control exactly how much illumination we want: an illumination level of our own creation.
  2. Lighting via overhead sconces casts direct light, a functional vibe for sauna bathers.  This light helps illuminate the entire hot room for cleaning, or early stages of sauna as we fire up our stoves and prep the area.  Thanks to the dimmer switch, we can control exactly how much illumination we want from our overhead sconce lights.  Often, we may set for a very soft glow to cast off from the wall sconces, which is enhanced by the light reflecting off our wood paneling.  This provides a warm feeling for the sauna bather, who may be known to remark at the beauty of our tongue and groove paneling not just as a compliment to our craftsmanship, but as a representation of nature’s beauty.  And if the sauna bather thinks more deeply, they may possibly also pay homage to the fact that trees also provide us the fuel for our sauna stoves and the oxygen for each of our breaths.

Modifications of above can include LED rope light system, also on a dimmer switch, mounted under bench in changing area.

The advance of LED rope light technology is upon us.  We now have these systems available at big box Depot stores.  We can install these systems via conventional 110v 15 amp 12 gauge wiring.

If there is a better lighting system for our saunas, I’d like to know about it.

Wisdom Woods sauna hot room

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26 thoughts on “Could LED dimmable rope lighting be the next big sauna building game changer?”

  1. I have put LED strip lights in both of my saunas and they work great! Same concept as the rope light, but instead of a dimmer switch, I use a remote control. Both are multi colored, so If Im feeling like red light suits the mood, great! If I feel like green, same! They are relatively inexpensive (under $25 for 3 meters) and are waterproof and have a sticky back so no nails are needed.

  2. After “really good heat” #2 on the list of “what makes for a good sauna?” may just be good hot room benches. Then, after that, maybe #3 on the list may just be lighting. And we can control this feature inexpensively and even after marketably (ie, I should get off my ass and run some LED lighting under my sauna benches!!).

  3. Are you running these LED lights plugged into a regular outlet installed in the hot room tied to a switch? Any special provisions for outlets in the hot room (GFCI?). I was thinking about installing an outlet under the bench with one outlet tied to a dimmable switch and the other a constant hot. Not sure what I would need the constant hot for. Thanks for the help.

  4. L – no outlets in the hot room. The LED system is hard wired through the wall, directly to switch box in changing room.

  5. Glenn, could you elaborate on why no outlet in the hot room? I was thinking of putting an outlet in the hot room on a dimmer switch that will be located in the Changing room. The reason for the outlet is it would make it easier to switch out lights for a longer strand or a different color.

    Plus I haven’t seen any rope lights that don’t have a plug – do you just cut off the plug and hardwire it?

    Disclamer – I haven’t yet read the homedept wiring book – it is at the top of my Sauna to do list.

  6. Brennan:

    Try hard to avoid outlet in the hot room. Moisture, water, 110v.. not a good mix. What you can do, and I did for the Lake Superior sauna, and it’s illustrated in the ebook, is to drill a hole down low in the common wall from hot room to changing room as a “pass through” for plug, where outlet resides in the changing room. You can plug this pass through space with a piece of insulation to keep moist air from traveling through. A bit rudimentary but works great. Good luck.

  7. while the practical hazard of running a cord through the wall in this application is nil, be aware that it is a national electrical code violation to do so. if you are building a new sauna and are getting it permitted/inspected, you’ll want to wait until after the inspector leaves before running the cord through the wall. *wink-wink*

    if anyone is hell-bent on placing a receptacle in the sauna, place it as close to the floor as possible, where it is radically cooler compared to the upper elevations. locate under a bench to keep it out of the way. use an outdoor-rated receptacle with an in-use weatherproof cover. key phrase here is ‘in-use’. an in-use cover allows for a cord to be plugged in and still be able to close the cover, maintaining the weatherproof protection. the old-school receptacles only had a cover over the receptacle face (the holes). that worked fine as long as nothing was plugged into but what is the point of a weatherproof receptacle that is only weatherproof if nothing is plugged into it?

    and note these covers are weatherproof, not water-tight. they will offer protection against falling water from above or at a bit of an angle but aren’t rated for something like, say, throwing a cup of water at it with force.

  8. Hello,
    Could anyone share what LED rope alights they are using? If you ask salesman at the store, if those would be okay in sauna, everyone say no.

    Thanks

  9. How did you ‘hard wire through the wall, directly to switch box’? Can you elaborate a bit on your approach? I’m a novice, at the electrical stage and am not finding lighting I like. The rope / strip light under the seats sounds great, but I’m unclear as to how to proceed. And, as with Andrew, I’d like to know what’s worked best for others.

    As for overhead lighting, has anyone come up with anything better than those caged sconces? I’d love recessed LED’s but googling doesn’t give me satisfactory answers to its feasibility. I see them in upscale builds, so it must be possible. Anyone?

    Thanks.

  10. My lighting plan is to use salt blocks and backlight them. The sauna heater I am looking at has a light output so the light turns on with the sauna. I would like to use LED strips, but I am having a hard time finding inexpensive ones that work in temperatures above 122° F. At this point I am planning on hardwiring some oven light sockets and using oven-rated bulbs. If anyone can point out the brand of these LEDs I would appreciate it.

    For the salt blocks, I’m just using salt block cooking tiles you can find on Amazon for anywhere from $20-$40 each.

  11. I assume it is not a good idea to run LED lights closer to the ceiling due to the ambient temperature. Do you know if there are any LED rope/strips that can withstand high temperatures such as in sauna?

  12. Alexei:

    LED mfrs. produce lighting systems for overhead in hot room, so it is possible. I’m not sure if the off the shelf LED lighting systems are that heat tolerant, which is another reason why we set them under bench.

  13. Hi Glenn – It sounds like you aren’t aware of LED brands that produce direct/hardwire strips that are outdoor/wet-rated. Is that correct? Happy to buy the handbook if it shares this information:) Already spend 30+ minutes on the hunt!

    Thanks, in advance, for your help.

    Liz

  14. LED technology advances at rapid speed. The ebook does not detail specific LED that you outline above.

    I have a buddy who is all dialed in on what’s new. I know you can go to big box (Depot/Lowes and purchase off the shelf kitchen under cabinet rope lighting that works for sauna.

    Hope this helps.

  15. Hi Glenn,
    Unfortunately, neither Lowe’s nor Home Depot has LED wet-rated lighting that is direct wire. All the direct wire LED is for indoor applications only. If your buddy knows of a brand, please let me now. I’m coming up empty-handed. Surprised it isn’t easier to find/readily available given the sauna love in the US.

    Thanks,
    Liz

  16. For those who it might help. I found a product on the jungle store (A-zon), that allows hardwiring. is waterproof, and dimmable. The brand is Enersystec.

    Glenn: Do you have a strong preference for light sconce placement at the door in lieu of by the benches? I’m leaning toward each side wall right in the corner at the bench side, with a corner cedar shade similar to what can be found online. I’m thinking this will be better for reading, and not sure if the lights at the door would bother me since my door is not perfectly centered in the wall.

  17. Wow. Nice find, Todd! Thank you!!

    And, thank you, Glenn, for providing a venue for information exchange.

  18. Hi Todd:

    Thanks for the info on the hardwire light.

    My backyard sauna in Minneapolis has a light sconce placement in the corner much like you describe. Built in 2003, and working fine. A simple Jam Jar light you can get at Depot/Lowes/Menards. It was $4.99 back then and probably still under $10 today.

    The key is dimmer, as you know. And to complement, the under bench rope light solution is a great one two punch for infinite illumination vibe-ation, (IIV). (though cobbler’s kids shoes: neither of my saunas have under rope LED. They were built before this technology and have their own souls).

  19. Hi Gabe,

    This seems like a great find and a lot cheaper then what I have been seeing. Can you tell me, is the touchscreen module that they have pictured what comes with it? Does this screen have the control for the color selection or is it something different that does that? Any pictures of the module would be great, I am trying to find the instructions and cannot. Thank you!

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