Lighting in a sauna

Lighting in a sauna… put some thought into this.  I have a few bright ideas that may help you.

dimmer: every sauna i’ve ever built has a light in it.  Every light is switched via a dimmer, just outside the sauna door on the changing room wall.  WHY? soft light is most preferred in a sauna.  the softer the better.  I like to nude up in a sauna and if i’m taking a sauna with guys, I don’t want the lighting to make me feel like i’m in a doctor’s office. get it?  A dimmer light allows for brighter light when reading in a sauna, and a brighter light is good when looking for a bottle opener or some product you lost under the bench.

candle: I have a good friend who has built saunas in remote areas, sans electricity.  Build your sauna with a window on the wall to the changing room (instead of a window in your sauna door).  The window sill in the changing room is a great spot to mount a candle holder.  The soft light from the candle casts a wonderful glow in your sauna room (and doesn’t melt the candle!).

window: a lot of hard core sauna nuts don’t like any light in their sauna, just a window facing the lapping shoreline on their pristine lake.  Who wouldn’t like that!!?  I have that gig at my lake sauna, and it’s priceless.  But indoor or an urban environment, a window to the changing room is the best gig.  Just imagine you’re at the lake!

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18 thoughts on “Lighting in a sauna”

  1. Hi Glenn,

    Thanks so much for your ebook and posting all this info! I have a couple of questions about lighting. I just ran my electrical for switches and lights and put in 2 ceiling lights. There is one light in the vestibule and one in the sauna itself. I’m second-guessing myself about the ceiling lights and wondering if you have any thoughts. My first worry is that since it’s a wood fired sauna, the light fixture might be too close to the stovepipe (26″ away). Second, I worry that the plastic vapour barrier around the electrical box might actually melt. I’m using rockwool & foil vapour barrier on the ceiling and walls…but by habit put the thin plastic shells around the electrical boxes. Do you have any thoughts on this? Should I omit the plastic vapour barrier in the hot room? Would wall lights be a bit less of a hazard? Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  2. Plastic vapor barrier in the hot room is yesterday’s product. Foil bubble wrap, or foil wrap, is much better suited. It reflects heat back into the hot room, is easier to work with, and with good taping around the seams with foil tape, one need not worry about infultration or melting. My (26 year) experience. Hope this helps!

  3. Hi Glenn, thanks for your reply! Unfortunately I think you misunderstood my question. Yes I WILL be using foil on all the walls and ceiling. I’m wondering specifically how do you seal around the electrical boxes. Here’s a link to what I normally use (elsewhere in my home). Wondering if you can suggest an alternative? Or do you just let the sauna steam penetrate the insulation at the electrical switches and lights & hope things dry out? https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.vapor-barrier-octogonal-box.1000176241.html

  4. don’t use those box vapor seals, they will likely melt. yes, there may be some vapor in the area around the box but not so much to be a concern. i would also recommend metal boxes in the hot room, especially if you like a real hot sauna (200+). the plastic light box in my sauna is deformed from melting. the wires are okay (or appear to be) but the box is toast. full disclosure, my light is at the ceiling elevation but pretty close to the heater (electric). so it probably gets more heat than if it was in a different corner but i still think it would melt either way.

  5. I know this is a very old post, but what’s the optimal electric light location? I’m getting ready to do electrical on an indoor sauna, about 5′ x 6′ size, where the door has to be on the short end and the benches will run the long way. Is one vapor-proof light enough? I’m thinking to put it on the wall with the door, above the lower bench, and close to the ceiling. Would you use a second light fixture, or would one be enough? FYI, I don’t have the option for a window.

  6. Hi Mike:

    Given that this is a new build, and that we build our saunas only once, my recommendation is as follows:
    1. LED rope light under upper bench.
    2. Wall sconce light on wall, adjacent to hot room door, 1′ from ceiling.

    Both lights are activated via dual switch box on wall outside of hot room, adjacent to door handle side of door. (easy access).

    Both lights are activated via dimmer switches.

    I’ve wired lights for sauna hot rooms every which way from Tuesday, and above is the optimal, greatest “ahhh”, not expensive, best, awesome-ist by a country mile.

    All fixtures can be procured at big box Depot store and are not expensive. 110v is the best. You can wire with a GFI outlet upstream and feed your sauna building with a simple extension cord or hard wire as desired.

    Great sauna lighting need not be fancy to be really versatile and wonderful and functional. Dim it down and chill! Crank it up and clean!

  7. Any new lighting options for remote locations without electricity? For instance a sauna appropriate LED rope with a battery?

  8. Yes! 12v is a great solution, especially with a little solar gig atop our sauna building.

    It’s insane how efficient 12v. LED rope lighting is. Especially mounted underneath our upper bench, with a dimmer switch just outside our hot room.

    Now, there is a counter to all this thinking. For remote locations, it’s best to embrace being without electricity. There’s something magical about off grid locales with just a flashlight to show us the matches that light our candles. There’s a closer connection to Nature, and the quiet solitude can be a welcomed friend, a scarcity in our busy, overstimulated lives.

  9. Thank you for the great suggestions. I am going with LED rope lighting under upper bench and a wall sconce by the door. Do you have specific suggestions for a wall sconce? I bought today a metal unit with LEDs and plastic diffuser. The specs on the website said glass diffuser, but clearly is plastic.

  10. Hi Reed: Wall sconce: I’ve had great results with the simple $5.49 jam jar wall available at Depot and other big box.

    Was just looking at my cabin sauna, built in 1996 and the light is as good as the day I installed it. Hope this helps.

  11. Ben: My hunch is too thick, (as you suggest). I have used the foil bubble wrap for decades, now a stock item at big box. It works great and is readily available. Some use the non bubble foil faced, much easier to install cedar paneling, yet i’ve had no issues with the foil bubble product as long as you don’t overlap.

    This double bubble product may be double trouble in terms of a nice surface for installing cedar paneling. But lemme know how you go, and how it goes!

  12. Hi, Glenn!

    Reading this thread regarding lighting. Building mine meant for simple wall sconce mount. I see your suggestion for the jam jar, which seems way simpler than the 10 hours I’ve spent researching!

    I’m seeing that lighting should be “vapor tight” or “vapor proof” or “suitable for wet locations” (does that in itself mean that it is at least “vapor resistant”?)

    Should the description state that the glass is “high-heat resistant”?

    I’m looking at the bulkhead-style, but wondering if that’s not “safe” enough.

    I’m also looking at the vapor-proof jar style (about $65), and am wondering if that’s overkill.

    Like everything else, I am likely overanalyzing this thing and am hoping you can provide a safe & simple suggestion.

    As always…thank you!

  13. Right on Mark, and I think you are your best critic.

    I’ve built saunas using the under $10 jam jar fixture, and have only had to replace the lightbulb after decades of heavy use.

    Apply a strip of metal tape to seal off where the Romex comes into the light box. If your $10 jam jar fixture doesn’t hold up, well, it’ll be ok to replace with something more fancy/sauna suitable, but like I say, I’ve had great results with it.

    HOT TIP #7″: Control the wall sconce light with a dimmer switch (located at a good height, just outside the hot room door).

    Sauna on Mark!

  14. Hi Glenn—as so many have said before me, thank you so much for all the time and thought you put in on this website, and for your book. It’s so helpful! Just a quick question about sauna lighting. We’re doing a new build (electric heater, 6×8), and need to decide on lighting. I just read online somewhere that LEDs shouldn’t be used in a sauna, and that the high heat would cause problems and early burnout. But I see above you that you recommended LED strip lights under the top bench. Just wanted to make sure led strip is still okay? If so, is there any particular type of strip that you’d recommend, or is any big box store type okay? Any special installation requirements? Is an led strip okay under a closed bench? (Or do you recommend not doing closed benches?). Lots of questions after all! Again, thanks so much. You’re an invaluable resource.

  15. Hi Victoria:

    Thanks for the kind words. LED in hot room: I have had great success. The concept of running LED rope lights under the upper bench is a good thing as it:
    1. helps illuminate the dark area under benches.
    2. provides passive lighting vs. in your face lighting.
    3. illuminate where it makes sense, the lower bench, so that you can safely come and go.
    4. is a little cooler under the bench, vs. up high.

    LED’s have held up very well for me, and we like hot sauna with lots of löyly. I have used christmas tree LED lights, and ran the plug through the wall to a switched outlet outside the hot room. I have installed the off the shelf LED solutions sold at big box. Most of these are used in kitchens for under cabinet lighting.

    All switches and junctions outside the hot room.

    Sauna on Victoria!

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