Wood or Electric Sauna Stove?

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Wood Heat vs. Electric Heat

Have you ever cooked with a cast iron pan vs. a thin teflon pan? All quality restaurants use thick heavy cast iron pans. The food cooks evenly. The heat is more controlled. “The food tastes better.” Those into food can tell the difference.

Thermal Mass Through Radiant Heat

For those of us in cold climates, we know the difference in our homes. Baseboard electric can heat a room, but it’s a different type of heat than, say, heat created by radiators. Why? Radiators radiate heat, baseboards heat air. WTF does this mean?

Why is it that when your feet are cold as you get into a cold car in Minneapolis, your feet are still cold by the time you get to Duluth, but the inside car thermometer says 70 degrees the whole way?

Thermal mass

For those of us fortunate enough to have radiant floor heating in our homes, we understand that when we put our shoes on, our shoes are warm. And we understand that we are benefiting from an “even heat.” Everything is warm, not just the air. We feel this kind of heat in our bones, not just on our skin.

Uponor, inc. is probably the leading international provider of radiant heat products in the World. Their North American headquarters is in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Though they purchased the Swedish company Wirsbo, they smartly keep the name as Wirsbo as known as radiant heat much like Kleenex is known as bathroom tissue. Uponor is traded on the Finnish stock exchange. If their corporate headquarters has a sauna, I’ll bet their sauna stove is a wood burning sauna stove, and that senior executives sit on the bench with staff employees and discuss the advantages of radiant heat through thermal mass.

Installing radiant heat is a big deal, and costs more. Running PEX pipe and pouring over with concrete is the “A” job. The cement slab becomes the radiator. (Thermal mass).

But those on a budget usually cross this option off and go with forced air. Ductwork is cheap, after all. But the homeowner will feel the compromise of their decision every day thereafter. Same with sauna.

Installing a sauna stove, an electric sauna stove heater can be pulled out from the box and carried into position with one hand. An electric sauna stove heater can be hung on the wall with two screws. A wood burning sauna stove, however, is a beast. The Kuuma stove needs to be wheeled into position on a cart, and with two people. A wood burning sauna stove needs to sit on a patio block. The Kuuma stove is a beast and this is before installing the 100 pounds of firebrick that come in a cardboard box that can easily rip apart (but Daryl Lamppa reinforces the cardboard box with duct tape). And don’t forget the 100 pounds of sauna rocks collected along the way.

But those that “don’t want to mess with wood” usually cross this option out and go with an electric stove. Flipping a switch is easy, after all. But the sauna user will feel the compromise of their decision every day thereafter.

“Don’t be a Jerk, My Sauna Has an Electric Heater, and it Works Just Fine.”

I know. I know. This is dangerous territory. An electric sauna stove heats rocks. Rocks create thermal mass. Löyly (steam created from water being tossed on sauna rocks) is nice, you get a good sweat, so what’s the big deal? Well, those that are WAY into sauna understand their bodies throughout the sauna process. We feel the heat warm our bodies, not just our skin. We understand that the time to leave the hot room is when the thought of a cold plunge or an ice cold shower is “about the best idea you’ve ever heard.” (copyright, Clint).

The positive effects of sauna are greater realized when the entire body is heated. Evenly. Throughout. Thermal mass makes this happen. Folks can publish studies on the positive effects of sauna, and this is wonderful, yet the positive effects of sauna are improved with a better hot room experience and better cool down. The rubber band theory of sauna is realized through this process.

Some of us have taken sledge hammers to their infrared light bulb closets, at best a gateway drug to good heat. In places where wood burning sauna stoves are not practical, we understand. There are decent electric sauna stoves. Ones that do a good job of heating rocks, creating thermal mass. That said, as you consider your own sauna build, think again about a wood fired sauna stove.

You build your sauna one time. Most people cook with teflon frying pans. Most people heat their homes with forced air. And most people want to flip a switch with an electric sauna stove. Are you most people? That’s ok.

Wood vs. Electric Sauna Stove

In Defense of Electric Heated Sauna Stoves:

  • Easy to use: Flip a switch, or use the programming device.
  • Easier to install, no chimney stack.
  • No red tape with insurance company or fidgety building inspector.
  • Sauna stoves heat rocks, who cares how they’re heated?
  • Cleaner, easier to maintain.

In Defense of Wood Heated Sauna Stoves:

  • Authentic, natural way to heat.
  • Brings forward the ‘up north’ cabin vibe.
  • Promotes the outdoor experience and the concept of escape.
  • Negative ions are realized through wood burning.
  • Wood burning saunas vent better, more naturally.
  • More radiant heat for better “ahhhh” loyly production.

I didn’t list that electric sauna stoves heat quicker, as I can personally attest that my wood burning saunas (all three) heat up about the same time as electric sauna stoves, maybe even less time. Nate’s Firestarters help, custom made by a Barton School student. They are so easy, an 11 year old can do it.

The Bottom Line

There is a whole pile of opinion both ways on this subject but here’s the bottom line: a wood heated sauna stove makes for a better sauna than an electric sauna. Why?

  1. Wood heat penetrates deeper, electric heat can feel like sitting in a toaster oven. (my opinion, supported by others).
  2. Wood heat offers a fresher sauna. A fire needs oxygen to burn. As a wood fired sauna burns, it cycles fresh air into the sauna room.
  3. Wood fired sauna stove accepts water on the rocks (löyly) better than an electric stove. Wood heats with thermal mass, where electric coils in an electric stove tend to burn hot and thin (see toaster oven, above).
  4. Wood heat contains negative ions. This is mumbo jumbo for some future post/discussion.
  5. Wood heat is free and off the grid. Plus, with an efficient wood burning sauna stove like a Kuuma Stove, you can burn efficiently and clean.

Choosing the Right Type of Sauna Heater that Best Fits Your Lifestyle

For many, the decision whether to go with a wood fired sauna or electric heated sauna comes down to a simple preference: Dials or draft?

Dials refer to the control panel mounted on the outside of our hot room, similar to a control panel for heating our house. Newer technology allows for wifi access, such that one can “fire up” their sauna remotely. Some take great satisfaction with their sauna heater “app:” being able to tell their sauna stove to heat up while driving home from work, or out at a bar. “Who wants to take a sauna?” and with a couple swipes, viola, sauna is heating.

Draft refers to the manual damper on a wood fired sauna stove, a simple manual lever that controls the amount of air entering the fire box which allows the user to control the burn rate of the fire in the firebox. The physical, tactile control of the burn offers many a joyous feeling (in an ever increasing tech driven world).

Dial or Draft as a Representation of One’s Values and Lifestyle

As sauna becomes more popular, it is interesting to see people’s preferences – dial or draft – as a representation of one’s values and lifestyle. Those into “apps” and gadget technology take comfort and pleasure in looking at a screen when it comes to thinking about their upcoming sauna session. Those more into axes and analog technology take comfort and pleasure in looking at their woodpile when it comes to thinking about their upcoming sauna session.

In rural areas, like island cabins or rural hunting retreats, wood fired saunas are the essential choice. On the edges of the grid, wood is plentiful, electricity is still relatively novel and often is still unreliable, as it comes and goes with the wind. In urban areas, like apartment buildings and rooftop hotels, electric sauna heaters are preferred.

Serious sauna enthusiasts will “wrestle to the ground” rationale as to why wood heat as a better heat than electric heat. Regular listeners to the podcast Sauna Talk have heard this sentiment from the voices of sauna experts like Risto Elomaa, President of the International Sauna Association and Jarmo Lehtola, a lifelong sauna enthusiast. Those that have taken thousands of saunas in hundreds of different saunas develop a deeper understanding of how heat works as a function of raising body temperature to induce sweat. Good sweat not from toaster oven heat, but dense penetrating heat.

There are technological implications such as negative ions and fresh air ventilation that come into play via different heat sources to heat our sauna hot rooms. And we aren’t talking infrared light bulbs, we are talking about sauna: an external heat source that heats stones which allow for water to be tossed on these stones to create steam.

Some like the tactile, analog relationship with cutting, splitting, stacking wood. Others consider this drudgery and would rather flip a switch. Some can be blindfolded and let into a sauna hot room and can immediately feel the difference of wood heat vs. electric heat (thermal mass via radiant heat). Good heat is easily felt, but harder to understand because Lampömassa can be subtle yet very powerful. Others may think this is gibberish.

Finally, there is a deal breaker for many who choose to go with a wood burning sauna heater for their sauna project. The traditional “old school” consideration is that sauna is both a noun (the place) as well as a verb (the experience). Sauna (the place) is often a separate structure, no electricity whatsoever. When we sauna (the experience), a simple candle illuminates the room, and we welcome the warm dancing flame across the wood lined walls and the crackling of fire from the sauna stove, which we created ourselves from firewood, the heat source harvested and created ourselves with our own two hands. This contributes to the relaxing nature of sauna, a place to completely reset, restore and rejuvenate.

For many, the chopping of wood for fueling our sauna heaters and the carrying of water to our sauna for bathing and löyly (steam) is an indescribable benefit to enjoyment and fulfillment. The health benefits of sauna, from the experience of making heat as much as the practice of enjoying heat.

From the Mailbag: Should I Get a Wood Fired Sauna Stove or an Electric Sauna Stove?

11/19/2017

SaunaTimes reader says: Hi Glenn, I ordered your e-book a couple of years ago and am finally (hopefully) getting started on my sauna build. I am converting a stand alone shed that is on the edge of our yard. My question is on the use of an electric versus a wood sauna. Without a double I love the thought of a traditional wood fired sauna. My fear is that the time to build and tend the fire to get it up to temperature will be a deterrent from daily use.

I like to paddle on Puget Sound early in the morning and end my paddle with a swim in the cold sea water. I can’t think of a better way to end this ritual than with a sauna. My thought is that with an electric sauna, I could simply turn it on and have it be warm when I get back. With a wood fired I would have to spend some time tending the fire before I leave. The same would be true when I get home from work before bed.

With a wood fire, once I lay the fire and light it, do I need to come back and damp everything down or can I light it and leave. Any thoughts on this?

I say: I appreciate your situation and can relate. The thought of a morning paddle and swim in cold sea water, then sauna: sign me up. Wellbeing with a capital W. I am pleased that you are advancing with your own sauna build. Just because Dylan made the decision to go electric doesn’t mean you have to.

I have taken more than my share of saunas in both wood and electric, and I am awaiting the day when there is more “clinical evidence” as to the virtues of wood fired vs. electric. I don’t subscribe to the theory that “heat is heat.” I am biased.

Let me share with you two equivalents to your Puget Sound paddle scenario. At my cabin, on an island in Northern Minnesota, as afternoon settles in, I fire up the sauna stove then hike our island trails for an hour or so. When I return, the stove is hungry for another log, and the temp is North of 140f. I pull the coals forward, toss on a fresh log, tune down the damper, then head up to the cabin to change and grab a water, I come back to the sauna, and it is well up to serving temperature: 160f and climbing.

At my house in Minneapolis, I have the virtue of working from home. I am thinking fondly of those winter days when the local news is aghast with “a winter storm warning is in effect.” It’s amazing how accurate weather forecasting has become. I look out my office window and get giddy as the first snowflakes start to fall, right on time.

As I work away in my wool socks, outside is quickly turning into a winter wonderland: inches of fresh snow. If I really want to rub it in, before closing down my work computer, I will make a quick visit to the Minneapolis/St. Paul traffic cam website, click on a couple live highway webcams just to see the mess on the roads.

I’ll change into my cross country ski gear, step outside into the winter wonderland, out to my backyard sauna/garage to fire up the sauna stove. I may wax up the skis or shovel the sauna deck for a couple minutes. Then, I will head back into the sauna, making sure that I have a good fire going in the sauna stove, adjust the damper to “stun” (80% open), click on my skis and venture out my backyard, down the unplowed streets into our neighborhood for a ski on fresh snow. Those out snow shoveling always seem to give me a smile and a nod. That affirmation of “when life gives you lemons..”

Returning from a ski, retracing my tracks back to my backyard, the vibe is not dissimilar to your vibe from paddling the Puget Sound. We have created the endorphin rush and satisfaction of exercise. We are cold and sweaty at the same time. Our bodies are tired yet rejuvenated from our exercise in Nature. It is hard to describe the added level of satisfaction from exercise in nature, especially knowing that our sauna stove is clicking away, rising to temperature, back at our ranch.

Knocking off the snow from my ski boots, I step into my sauna. The stove is hungry for another log, and the temperature is North of 140f. I pull the coals forward, toss on a fresh log, tune down the damper, then head into the house to change and grab a water, I come back to the sauna and it is well up to serving temperature: 160f and rising. It is one thing to “hit the sauna” after a workout at a health club, but it is an entirely different thing to settle into our own backyard sauna after a workout in nature. Everything is better. The heat is better.

Heat is Not Heat

Chefs use cast iron pans vs. aluminum pans. Heavy wood fired sauna stoves create more thermal mass. Those committed to 240v and a turn of a dial drink a different Kool-Ade, but as the heat starts to penetrate naturally into our bodies (unlike from *gasp* an infrared light bulb closet), blood starts flowing to all our extremities. Natural wood heat envelopes us like a warm blanket.

The Company is Better

Maybe we are alone, or maybe we have a friend or so join us. Either way, we are miles beyond a deadbeat health club sauna. We have recreated nature and we are taking a sauna in our sauna. No yahoos join our hot room stretching in their work out gear with Lady Gaga blaring out of their headphones. We set our own vibe. Maybe some music in the sauna to pour more into our “flow state.”

The Steam is Better

We toss water on the rocks and take it in. ‘ahhhhhhhhh.” Could this be the greatest advantage of a wood burning sauna vs. electric? Is steam steam? Finns call steam from a wood burning sauna stove “soft löyly.” Could this be the best moment of our sauna session? It is hard to describe the feeling of good steam that is created from water being tossed on sauna rocks. Soft steam, not spicy. We understand how some people don’t like sauna, when their exposure to sauna is from a health club sauna after some yahoo douses the electric stove with water. The steam bites and hurts. Not so in my own sauna. We take in the steam. When we surrender, we win.

The Cool Down is Better

Where do we go after a sauna round if our sauna is not in nature? With our own backyard sauna, nature follows us. We see our own landscape from an entirely new light, as we exit the hot room, steam billowing off our bodies. After a jump into a cold lake, a cold shower, snow angels, avanto, or a simple dump of ice cold water over our heads, we are hit head on with euphoria.

“Oh, I could never do that” is only something said by someone who has become a tropical fish in their own environment. What a shame.

Temperature extremes open up all kinds of goodness. Thanks to Wim Hof, studies are in the works providing the world the clinical proof that exposing ourselves to cold has major health benefits. Until then, because we don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, we authentic sauna enthusiasts are left to our own empirical knowledge of how awesome it feels to hang out in the garden all misty wet with rain, after a cold plunge, between sauna rounds. The best part? We get to repeat this all again. And again. 3 sauna rounds. As we settle into round 3, we can pull the coals forward in our sauna stoves, harnessing all the BTUs from our burn.

Thanks to our consciousness and understanding of the principles of fire, we get to know our wood burning sauna stoves and maybe because we have taken ownership to the process of creating heat, we enjoy the heat that much more. Maybe.

Is Heat Just Heat?

I don’t think so. Is wood heat better because we want it to be? I don’t think so. Does wood fired pizza taste better because we saw it being made by a pizza operator holding a long handled wood peel? I don’t think so.

I will go down swinging promoting wood fired sauna stoves. My sauna stoves get up to serving temperature just as fast as electric. Faster in winter. The trick, like with any fire, is honing a system that includes proper kindling and dry seasoned wood. We ignite our wood fired sauna stoves, let them rage for 5 mins or so (as we lace up our hiking shoes or ski boots), close down the ash pan, and let the stove do its work. The trick is to come back at the right time (when there is still fuel in the fire box) to pull our coals forward, reload, and let the stove do its work. The trick is, like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, to understand our sauna stoves and appreciate their mechanics.

A wood fired sauna stove? Yes. Hands down.

87 thoughts on “Wood or Electric Sauna Stove?”

  1. Electric 20 mins to sauna. Always On, never have wet wood to worry about. Simple, Fast, EZ install. Can be set on timers to be Ready when u R. Da Lazy Man’s Sauna for sure !

  2. Electric vs. wood is like comparing charcoal to gas BBQs. One is much quicker & convenient than the other. If you are busy & only want a quickie, go for electric. Though I prefer the crackling of wood to the sometimes buzz or ticking you hear from electric saunas.

  3. Electric Sauna
    Pros
    Clean, convenience (flip a switch)Good choice if installing sauna in basement, and lastly cost is less.
    Cons
    Suited to small Sauna, if you like steam from splashing water on the rocks it may not be able to keep up with large amounts of water.

    Wood fire Sauna
    Pros
    Large steel stove, with 75 lbs of rock will radiate heat to a large room and handle water being splashed for great steam.

    Cons
    Finding a wood supply, storing of wood, and disposal of ash.

    Best suited for a stand alone or garage sauna

  4. Got to go with wood – better smell, better heat. Better for my psyche. It is more hassle, but how much of a chore is it to cut wood and prep for a suana?

  5. I think one of the main issues here is location. Glenn – You’re the only city dweller I know who has a wood burning sauna. I LOVE it but it implies a few different things:
    1. You have the space to chop and store wood.
    2. You have the time.
    3. You have room either in your garage or yard for a wood sauna (Homeowners insurance doesn’t quite see eye to eye with wood burning saunas in the home…)

    I have an electric sauna in my garage but a wood sauna at my cabin so I feel that I get the best of both worlds. When I pull into the garage I flip the switch and a half hour later I hop in around 150 degrees (I can easily get it over 200 if I want). At the cabin (or your place Glenn), I can get my traditional fix because in my opinion wood burning is the most satisfying experience overall. I would rank setups as follows:

    1. Wood burning in garage.
    2. Stand alone wood burning in yard (changing room necessary).
    3. Electric in garage.
    4. Electric in house.

    Infrared never.

    Cheers!

  6. I wanted to add one other thing about negative ions. From what I’ve read, wood burning saunas produce a tidal wave of negative ions, which apparently account for part of the refreshed feeling you get from them (also explains the feeling you get from waterfalls) Modern electric stoves can do the same but I’ve read that it depends on how they’re grounded and how much of the rock is in contact with the coils. Infrared rooms do not produce negative ions at all 🙁

    I wish I knew more about this – if someone can comment that would be great!

  7. I am in the process of building a sauna that is attached to my home and I chose a wood burning sauna stove. I did this for several reasons, perhaps the most important reason for me is that I like the process of chopping the wood and firing the stove. I also belive that a wood burning stove has a more organic heat. I also know that I will be able to heat the stove to any temperature that I desire whether if be 160 degrees or 210 degrees by adjusting the burn of the wood. Can you control the temperature as easily on an electric stove?

  8. In my experience it has been easier to control the temp on an electric stove. The wood at my cabin varies a bit (hardness, moisture content)and thus burns a little differently all the time. My electric stove has a temperature know that works great. Sometimes I want 180+ for a quick blast, sometimes 150 because I want to read for awhile. I’d still choose wood if I could, but yes, mine is very accurate.

  9. All of the above postings have merit. There are pros and cons to each and location is an important part of the equation. Having said that, the essence of the sauna experience can only be felt through the deep heat penetration of a wood fired stove. Tradition, aroma, preparation and overall duration are all the proper pairings for the transcendant journey, but it is the feeling of the wood heat with it’s ability to deliver dry, wet and everything in between that make it unapproachable.
    Laying in bed afterward in wintertime releasing stored thermal heat when most nights you are either shivering or layered up is an added bonus.

  10. I like the metaphor that “Moses” made. Is that guy’s name really “Moses”? Anyway, I think the metaphor of comparing electric to wood burning stoves to gas vs. charcoal BBQs hits the nail on the head. I went with electric because I really need the convenience. My sauna gets used up to five times per week by multiple family members at different times. If I had a wood stove, it would only get used once weekly. What the sauna manufacturing industry needs to do is to listen to these debates and produce a duo stove (gas & electric). I recently bought a BBQ and am very pleased with it. Its called the Chargriller Duo – one side is gas and one side is charcoal. On the weekdays, I use the gas grill. On the weekends, I use the charcoal grill. See: http://www.chargriller.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=29

  11. This site is awesome!!
    Thanks for all the effort, it has further inspired me to build a sauna in my back yard and would love any advice on plans and the possibility of buying a Kuuma stove in the UK?

    Keep up the good work and thanks a million!
    Best wishes, Tom

  12. Tom: Glad you dig the site. Why not come to MN for an authentic sauna tour? We’ll take some sauna measurements and send you back on the plane with a Kuuma safely stowed in its upright locked position. Cold, rainy English days offer perfect sauna weather! ahhhh..

    I hope to have a comprehensive “build your own” sauna book available in a month or two. Stay tuned!

  13. A 200 degree room is a 200 degree room. In terms of health benefits, it makes no difference whatsoever whether that room was heated by a wood or electric sauna stove.

    Furthermore, wood burning stoves are simply out of the question for many people. Adding one to an existing structure while living in town (legally, of course) can be quite difficult. Used wood burning sauna stoves are almost non-existent, so you’re looking at spending over $1000 for a new one. After the chimney and labor you’d be looking at close to $2500 just to get the stove up and running. This is something that the average person absolutely cannot do without professional help.

    Is a wood burning sauna a wonderful experience? Absolutely. Is it better than electric with all factors considered? Definitely not. I have a wood burning sauna at my cabin, and an electric one at my home in town. I wouldn’t install a wood burning one in town even if the stove and all labor were free. I can turn my sauna stove on with my phone. If we’re out to eat with friends and they want to hit the sauna, I just flip it on from my pocket. It’s ready to go when we arrive at my house. The experience is seamless.

    My setup is absolutely perfect for the city dweller. I wouldn’t change a thing.

  14. Glenn have you to read about negative versus positive ions and the health benefits? If not, check out the link: http://www.cyberbohemia.com/Pages/saunahealth.htm#Anchor#5, here Mikkel Alands writes about his research on the history of steam baths and research they have done in Finland. Wood saunas generate more negative ions which are beneficial to the body whereas electric stoves give off positive ions.
    regarding costs, 2 years ago I bought a new Harvia WB20 (wood burner) for about $700 from Sauna Pekka in Canada, they import from Finland. Electric sauna stoves generally cost more around $1,000, then you need the controls, wiring, panel upgrades, cost of electricity, maintenance costs, etc. To get the same output as wood you will need 3 phase power (the WB20 puts out 24.1 KW). If you live in rural northern parts of the country power outages are a come occurrence but a wood fired sauna will work without power. If you don’t want to have a masonry chimney you can get an insulated stainless steel chimney. Wood heated is more work than an electric but so is a home cooked meal versus a microwaved tv dinner; both will feed your appetite but which one would you prefer?
    Regarding the argument on wood versus electric and the costs for the average person versus professional help, if you building your sauna legally you will need to hire an electrician and have local officials perform inspections and receive the signoffs if you want your homeowners insurance coverage. Here in the States a wood fired sauna in a separate structure is easier to permit with the local officials versus one in an existing structure. If you are in a urban setting the electric may be a better choice as far as space and access to firewood. Electric and wood saunas have there pros and cons.

  15. No one seems to consider the obvious problem of Teflon coated heating elements. ALL electric sauna heating elements are coated with Teflon. Think your doing yourself a favor while sitting in a sauna with an electric heater? Think again.

    EXAMPLE:
    The TURKI (9KW, 240V) residential sauna heater is possibly one of the best heaters on the market. It’s a stainless steel wet and dry sauna that is built to last. It has high grade Teflon coated heating elements that can heat up a sauna room up to 450 cubic feet.

    Teflon has been found to release one or more of 15 different toxic gases when heated to certain temperatures. Which chemicals are released depends on the temperature. This out-gassing can be fatal to pet birds and can cause “polymer fume flu,” also known as “Teflon® flu,” in humans.

    Teflon® flu creates flu-like symptoms of chills, headache, fever and nausea. Usually, symptoms subside within a few days, and chances are many people who have experienced it mistook it for the flu. However, there are also more serious risks.

    Teflon heated to 400 – 500 degrees is when it starts to let off the toxic fumes. The heating elements of a sauna heater can reach a temperature of 1400° F.

    It is said that Teflon pans start to overheat at temperatures at 500 degrees Fahrenheit and above, as smaller chemical fragments are then beginning to be released, and DuPont, inventor and manufacturer of Teflon, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D., agrees that 500 degrees is the recommended maximum temp for cooking with these items. However, other findings show that the coating begins to break down and release toxins into the air at only 446 degrees. The next question is how fast will a nonstick pan reach 446 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit? What was found is that it only takes 2-5 minutes to hit these temps, and for non-stick cookware to emit at least six toxic gases.

    During some nonstick cookware lab tests, the results were surprising when showing how quickly some pans got too hot, and at very high temperatures. At 660 degrees Fahrenheit and above, these pans can significantly decompose, emitting fumes strong enough to cause “polymer-fume fever”, a temporary flu-like condition marked by chills, headache, and fever. These fumes won’t kill you, but they can kill pet birds, whose respiratory systems are more fragile. After about three to five minutes of heating, when the pans reach 680 degrees, they release at least six toxic gasses, including:

    Two carcinogens
    Two global pollutants
    MFA, a chemical deadly to humans at low doses

    The manufacturer of the leading non-stick cookware brand, claims that the coating does not cause a problem under “normal use.” with significant decomposition of the coating occurring only when temperatures exceed 660 degrees F, and say that these temperatures are well above the normal cooking range. However, results from a study conducted by a university food safety professor that found a generic non-stick frying pan reached 736°F in three minutes and 20 seconds when heated on a conventional, electric stove-top burner. And the temperatures continued to rise after the test was stopped. The leading non-stick cookware rose to 721°F in five minutes under the same conditions, and if you heat non-stick cookware to 1000°F, the coatings will break down into a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, that is a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene. So your best friend in the kitchen may actually be your family’s worst health enemy.

  16. Glenn, would you rather wait up to another year to use your home built sauna, or build with the idea of wood in mind but install a free, professional grade electric stove for use in the meantime until we can afford the quality wood stove?

  17. Audrey: Being a wood sauna stove evangelist, you’d think i’d encourage you to wait a year, until you’re ready to invest in your own wood sauna stove. That said, if you have a free electric sauna stove AND can easily run 240v to your sauna, I would go this route and start taking saunas sooner vs. wait-er. TIP: As you build your sauna, frame for and install your chimney and stove pipe into ceiling. Stuff cavity with some insulation. Once you’re wood stove is ready, you can muscle it into place and you’ll be off to the races. More here: https://www.saunatimes.com/building-a-sauna/stoves/converting-a-sauna-from-an-electric-stove-heater-to-a-wood-stove-heater/

  18. Hi Glenn, for me it’s “no sauna” vs “sauna with electric heater”. Which one would you choose? I choose electric. If I could use firewood one at the place where I live, I wouldn’t think twice.

  19. I am set on getting a small outdoor rustic all wood sauna.
    The Allegheny sauna with wood stove is like having a little cabin in the woods since it has a rustic look and tiny fireplace in it.
    Looks like a great place to hide and meditate!
    Not cheap though…but I figure I might be spending a lot of time in it so probably worth it.
    Wondering about how bad the fireplace fumes might be to my health in that confined cabin verses just getting an FAR infrared sauna…
    Anyway it sure is fun shopping for one!?
    Tamara

  20. Tamara: Nice work. Fireplace fumes may be bad, but there are no fumes emitted from a good wood burning sauna stove. The concept is that smoke is contained within the fire box. BONUS: When a quality wood stove is burning at full, efficient mode, a sauna bather with towel wrapped around them outside, with steam billowing while breathing in the fresh air, may look up to the sky and after realizing how beautiful this is, they may then gaze up at the chimney stack and may have a hard time noticing if the stove is actually burning. The reason for this phenomenon is that quality wood stoves burn so efficiently because of gasification, where smoke gets burned off inside the fire box, emitting more BTUs from smoke combustion. The intended/unintended benefit from this is that neighbors need not freak out from jealousy or any smoke emissions.
    We sauna bathers benefit in numerous ways, detailed throughout this website.

  21. Does anyone have experience with the electric Harvia heaters that have a lot of stones, such as the kivi or legend? Does the heat compare more to a wood burning stove? Im also wondering about the Ions. I have read that when electric heaters heat up rocks thoroughly that they also produce negative ions just like wood burning stove.
    I normally prefer wood burning stoves, but i like that i can put the electric heater on a timer. We will be renting out cabins and want to build a sauna for guests, we will be using it ourselves in the off season only.
    The sauna will be about 17m3, does anyone have an idea how long it will take to heat up a (relatively) large sauna space like that with an electric vs wood sauna stove?

  22. Hi Glen:

    I just donated to the sauna cause and am looking forward to receiving all your sauna knowledge in one place! I am building a 4 x 6 by 7 foot tall sauna in my house as part of a bathroom remodel. I am going to purchase the Harvia Virta model heater (maybe overkill but I want it hot!). I did have two quick questions

    — If I can’t afford cedar for the walls is there an alternative? Something easier to install and less costly (see pricey heater above)?

    — I have seen a few great looking saunas with glass doors. Is that practical?
    Thanks!
    Michelle — Santa Cruz, CA

  23. Hi Michelle:

    Cedar: Yes, cedar is expensive, yet we build our saunas only once. I am a big fan of #2 grade knotty tongue and groove (vs. clear). The look is natural and rustic and the feel is less pain to the wallet. Also, a guy (or girl) can get creative and use durarock and cultured stone generously around the sauna stove thereby cutting down on cedar square footage. Also, glass or transom windows look great and cut down on the cedar square footage needed in the hot room. Lastly, a guy (or girl) can get inventive with the type of wood that goes under and behind the sauna benches. Though there is a solid argument that using less expensive Pine, for example, will save a buck, it is less long lasting than cedar and more prone to decay, if one is vending their sauna well, the pine material will be fine.

    Saunas with glass doors: For sure! Especially as you are building a sauna within your house, a door with full glass is a very doable feature, though now you’re talking big money, vs. building your own sauna door as detailed in my ebook. Either way, it’s great you’re getting into the authentic sauna game here.

  24. Maybe a little late to the game on this one, but……I am planing my sauna build and going through the traditional stove vs electric debate.
    The most true statement is ‘the best sauna is the one you will use more’. So here is some food for thought, put both stoves in. Or at least allow space for both i.e. a central door with a stove either side. Put the electric on a smart switch, able to be controlled by a smart phone.
    Use the electric when I want a quick sauna or preheat the room. The wood burning when I want traditional with a higher heat.
    That is my plan. I know it will cost a pretty penny, but I am only going to build this thing once.

  25. Nick:

    In the parallel universe department, I am RIGHT NOW building a sauna on and island in Northern Minnesota whose owner is waffling with EXACTLY what you are conceptualizing – dual stoves. I applaud all your thinking and encourage you to advance. One caveat: document your sauna build. Email me 4-5 pics of your build so we can share with others here on saunatimes. I plan to do the same with my current build. In the mean time, send me an email with your plans (sketched on napkin is fine), and I will do the same. We are looking at 7’4″ x 6′ hot room. Benches along 7’4″ wall. 24″ upper and 12-16″ lower – slideable, on a track (as detailed in my ebook).

    PS: Regarding: ” I know it will cost a pretty penny, but I am only going to build this thing once.” I completely agree. And to add to that: what is money for if we can’t invest it in our health and wellbeing?

  26. Wood heat heat everything, central air heats air. Wood heat is constant , central air works intermediate. Wood heat radates, just turn you hair dryer on an hold it 6 inches from your hand. Next set your cooking stove to 140 (most hair dryer temps ) and hold your other hand 6 inches from that. The difference is undeniable. Rad heat is the way to go.

  27. I am with you Glenn. I used your e-book to build my sauna and have the exact same stove as in your picture(Kumma). I love the wood heat. It has “soul”. The reflection of the flames on the walls only add to the feeling of warmth and relaxation.

    As far as how long it takes to heat up?…….I fire up the stove, which is a really “romantic” ritual in my book, I have a wireless barbecue thermometer that I hang inside the door and I bring the receiving end into the house and I deal up a game of cribbage.

    My wife and I can’t get through even half a game before it’s time to go out! The world is too fast paced to worry about the sauna heating up any faster than that!

  28. Hell of a post, Glenn. Two Dylan references, the “hungry for another log” statement, a Kuuma testimonial, and the written visuals make me want to play hooky and head North for some steam. Well done.

    And, yes to all of the above. I’ll allow that for some, an electric is the only option, but if you can make wood work, call Tower, MN and get your stove into production. You won’t be sorry. With dry, small pieces of split birch, one could argue that 45 minutes is enough time to be “at sauna temp.”

    Cheers!

  29. The true test of wood vs. electric in terms of heat up times is best realized during a cold MN Winter’s night.

    Having taken literally thousands of saunas, i adhere to the 45 min. rule for getting my wood fired sauna up to “serving temp.” I have been in electric stove saunas that after 45 minutes feel hot to the skin but the walls are cold.

    One of these days, Upinor (Wirsbo) will join our ranks with a guest post on “thermal mass” and our debate will be put to rest. Until then, fire it up!

  30. one comment on wood is that there is a ‘learning curve’ to working a wood fire, for those that are not familiar with wood stoves. no doubt, the necessary skills can be acquired but it takes practice/experience to dial it in. wood type, size, moisture content, damper position, when to stoke, when to add, etc. all play a part in the equation. also, if you plan on letting others use your sauna when you are not around, consider their skill sets as well. this is one advantage with electric, it is somewhat idiot-proof to get the thing going and maintain temp.

    not at all trying to push electric over wood, just some food for thought…

  31. If you have access to firewood and there are no burn restrictions where you live, choose wood! You will not regret it.

    While it’s more “work” than the electric, for me the work is meditative and relaxing. Also, if you can afford it, get a stove with a window so you can look at the flames while you are sitting in the sauna. It is so amazing and relaxing to sit in a sauna at night where the sole source of light is your fire.

    Rick

  32. I’m curious about the new Harvia Cilindro as it has 220 lbs of stones. Anyone have any experience with this?

  33. I also want to comment on fire limitations. While it may not apply to Puget Sound, down here in San Francisco Bay Area we have too many no burn days, especially, on the cold days, so electric sauna is way more practical. My electric sauna is at 180-190F in 25 minutes – it is a small 5’x7′ with 8kW heater. This simplicity and quickness allows me to use it without any preparation or planning.

  34. I’m with Miller, there is a learning curve with the type of stove and the wood you burn. Size of room, location, chimney, all have a small affect on it. I found that I enjoyed learning the in’s and out’s of what worked best. Now I can throw in two larger pieces and a few smalls, light it, set the drafts and walk away. Within three minutes it’s burning clear and 45 minutes later it’s sauna time. Of course if it’s 0 degrees in the sauna when you light it, it will take somewhat longer. I’ve been in some nice electric saunas before I was ever in a wood burner one and there is a difference, love the wood.

  35. I’m a fan of wood, and just completed the interior of a wood burning Sauna – exterior to be finished in the spring. We’ve been using it for a week. Love it.

    Having said that, a buddy of mine built a wood burning Sauna about five years ago. He kayaks on the lake for several hours before returning home. He wants to be able to jump right into the Sauna on returning, but feels that he can’t with a wood sauna. He wants to replace the wood stove with an electric one with a timer, so that he can get into a hot Sauna as soon as he gets back home.

  36. Sam Plett: I recently bought a Harvia Cilindro and am currently building a sauna with it but still have a month or so to go so can’t say how it works yet. The 10.5kW version was only $35 more than the 9kW version so I ended up going for that one– that one actually takes 260lbs of rocks as thermal mass. I am expecting good things.

    Regarding wood vs electric, honestly I think most of the discussion is convenience vs tradition. Those who find comfort in traditions or things they’re familiar with will never consider electric a superior option, because there is a “right way” to do everything. Those who value convenience and reliability will never consider wood a superior option. I find most of the arguments pretty weak for one over the other and a suspect it comes down to defending one’s own personal preference, whether or not it is held for rational or emotional reasons.

    The one advantage of wood I do really agree with is the magnetism of fire. Love the red flicker of flame. If you don’t get to have campfires or have a fireplace or wood stove to heat your house, then a wood-fired sauna is a great way to tick that box.

    Me, I heat my house pretty much exclusively with a wood stove for 4-5 months a year so get plenty of fire enjoyment (and/or drudgery), and I am really looking forward to setting a timer for 2 hours, going for a ski and coming back to a perfect temperature sauna waiting for me, even if I took a lot longer than I expected. Or if it’s 9:20pm and I had a busy day I can still get a decent sauna session in before 10…

  37. This kind of reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother several years ago. She was a lady who was in her 90’s and had been a school teacher in the one room school houses. She was always reading something and didn’t understand why people would read a book on a Kindle or table instead of holding a book. I finally had to tell her that the important thing is that they are reading. So weather we have electric or wood the important thing is that we sauna. Thank you Glenn for this website.

  38. re: “it comes down to defending one’s own personal preference, whether or not it is held for rational or emotional reasons.” i could not have said it better!

  39. After proof reading, I typed it from work and in a hurry, I see I screwed up tablet and whether. sorry

  40. The wood-heated sauna will help you revel in the real, actual Finnish sauna way of life. harvia combines the best steam of the wood-heated sauna variety to the all-embracing, uncompromising sauna know-how in the manner to make your sauna entire. harvia offers a complete range of merchandise for the wooden-heated sauna. the Harvia M3 comes equipped with a glass door, allowing the warm glow of the fireplace to supplement the sauna ecosystem. the shade of the range is fashionable graphite black and it has a chrome steel air-flow spoiler. the Harvia M3 stove may be ready with a pipe model water heater.

  41. Do the electric heater units in most older saunas (the box with the rocks) give off harmful electromagnetic waves/forces that I should be concerned about or is this just the infrared saunas that give off high emfs?

  42. Great info- thanks. I’m building a sauna near a cedar tub for cool dips between rounds, but will also use it as a hot tub on occasion. The Kuuma stoves have a copper coil option to heat water. Would that be effective for heating a 4’ deep 6’ wide tub? Likely take a long time, right? I’d like to go with a wood stove, and if it could serve as sauna and tub heater, that would be great. I imagine a ball valve in the copper line could block hot water circulation when you want to keep the tub cold and heat just the sauna. … Any insights on killing two birds with one stove? Thanks

  43. Joel: Applaud the thinking. I’ve often stared at the ceiling before bed, instead of counting sheep, conceptualizing how to utilize the Kuuma stove copper coil option (hint: radiant floor heat!). It would surely take a long time to try to heat your hot tub from the sauna stove My 40 gallon side tank takes about an hour or so. And then, it’d be difficult to control the temp. for when it’d get too hot, possibly. That said, I could see a T valve whereupon a guy could heat the hot tub via conventional external hot water heater, and toggle it over to the line from the Kuuma wood stove for supplemental action. This could work, but it’d take some engineering to have the system stop circulating if too hot. This is when we could divert that flow, via manifold, over to a radiant floor heat system for more recycling of BTUs. Hows all this for crazy (good) thinking?

  44. Electric sauna stoves with stones are suitable for throwing löyly too.
    Ask any other Finn if you do not believe me.

  45. Glenn. I have read your response to Puget Sound several times now and you make one hell of a compelling argument pro woodstove. I simply love the narrative of your experience of skiing and sauna “…the stove is hungry for another log…” good stuff!

    I feel I have the perfect location to build my outdoor sauna building, with deck, not more then 15 feet from the back door of my house. This spot I rationalize is less distance to walk in depths of winter, close to bathroom, and can double as a guest suite of sorts from time to time. I figure i will use it more frequently if it is less work. That was until I read Puget Sound and your response. I am not shy about the great outdoors, in the winter time, as i have spent hundreds of hours tromping around in the woods as a land surveyor. I badly want a wood fired sauna. I relish the thought of splitting wood in preparation for winter sauna months. However fire code here in Ontario means i must site the sauna building a minimum of 30 feet from the main house. If i go with wood then I have to place sauna building somwhere between 50 to 80 feet further back in my yard due to obstacles and proximity of house.

    My wife has a disability which makes walking on snow and ice treacherous at times but she manages. This is certainly provides a strong argument to keep sauna close to house. She is definitely on board with the sauna building idea but I haven’t broached the idea of putting it much further back in yard. Possible strike 1 against wood sauna.

    At first I was convinced I had to let go of wood fired dream for reasons above, practical or otherwise, but I keep circling back to it over and over again. It seems I am becoming more energy conscious as I get older. The idea of forgoing a lovely natural fire for expensive Ontario hydro, to power an electric unit, simply makes me sick thinking about it. I feel I need to supply some heat to this building to make it comfortable for changing and/or lounging whether 15 feet or 70 feet from house. What do other people do? Do they keep external sauna building heated in depths of winter? Naturally, using electric base board heaters would run contrary to what i am trying to do here; cut down hydro use. That being said, I figure i want power to structure for basic lighting and safety so it would likely be in place no matter what. What do other people do? I suppose the very act of lighting stove begins warming of building but what about reezing and cooling of structure if zero heat?

    While taking a piddle at the side of my sauna building would be easy for me I know my wife would not appreciate this or take such barbaric actions. Possible strike 2 against wood sauna. Since she simply cannot physically make a dash for the house when nature calls I fear this might be a show stopper.

    I am fairly certain my wife would never bundle up, get the stove going, return to house and then go back out to sauna on her own. If she is going to use it, it will be with me which I would greatly look forward to. I can already picture us planning a whole Saturday evening around using the sauna on a 30 below night in January. I am concerned that the extra 50 to 70 feet to walk to sauna in -30c weather will mean she simply won’t want to use it. I would be hopeful that the experience would be so wonderful that she wouldn’t think twice about it again.

    I guess I am hoping that you, or some of the other contributors, can share some thoughts or experiences to settle my restless mind.

    Kevin

  46. Eric, sorry as I don’t know about infrared and EMFs. It’s an area I’m staying a few body lengths distance from, safely and intuitively.

  47. Kevin:

    Very good of you to bare your sauna soul here, and i’ll to my best to offer thoughts of practical encouragement for a sauna build that makes sense with your situation. (and encourage input from others reading this). Lots to unpack,
    1) heat beyond the wood. I hear you about the feel good feeling of BTUs being provided by your own labor of wood production and burning. I have installed radiant heat systems, both electric and fluid. You could consider a small solar roof panel with 110v electric radiant heat system for your changing room. This could help create an ambient temp. in your cool down room, more pleasurable for your wife. And this could be off grid system.
    2) proximity to house. To be in compliance with wood, you’d be needing to be further from your house. Got that. Given your wife’s physical situation, maybe you could be bold and create a substantial walkway, LED lighting, motion sensed, that is the best walkway known to man. A show of love and appreciation and practicality.
    3) nature calls (peeing). Maybe with a little encouragement, in privacy of your own space, your wife could adapt to this freedom factor. I can’t speak for you or for her, so forgive, but I will say, peeing outside need not have to have just the male gender attached to it. I think that’s all I have for that point.
    4) general feeling: I often say, we build our saunas once. This is our chance to invest in our health, wellbeing, and create something worthy of our enthusiastic smiles for the rest of our lives. My general thought is to imagine you had unlimited resources, financially and otherwise, and ask yourself “what would I create?” Dream. Then work backwards to what is realistic.

    Along these lines, consider a mobile sauna with a dual heater, electric and wood. Consider being able to fire up the electric stove while tucked in tight to your house, then consider a simply powered system to extend the sauna out to the legal perimeters for when you choose to fire up your sauna in the wood heated realm. This is not too out of reach, nor opulent or crazy. Click here for a starting place for this idea, Kevin, and by all means, let’s document this wonderful project to share the celebration of your sauna dreams with others.
    https://www.saunatimes.com/building-a-sauna/for-sale/custom-mobile-saunas-wants-you-to-have-your-own-authentic-sauna/

  48. Hi Glenn, thanks so much for the encouraging feedback and ideas. Will definitely track and share this sauna journey. Cheers K

  49. “ALL electric sauna heating elements are coated with Teflon”
    Based on my research, this isn’t true. I realize the comment has been here since 2016, so I’m surprised that nobody else has commented. Maybe you’re all being polite.

  50. David:

    Respect to your question, yet, any stove that you can pick up with one or two hands, in my experience, is not a sauna stove. What makes a sauna a sauna is thermal mass. Otherwise it’s just a toaster oven.

    We build our saunas one time. We should invest in a sauna stove one time. We get to enjoy our decision every time we step into our hot rooms.

    A sauna stove is an area where you will get what you pay for. And consider how much that stove is per pound, compared to say, this stove, and you’ll see what I mean.*
    https://www.saunatimes.com/product/kuuma-wood-burning-sauna-stove/?attribute_pa_sauna-stove-size=small-kuuma-stove

    *DISCLAIMER: I now sell the Kuuma Stove. I have used this sauna stove for over 25 years. I have built many saunas using this stove. I have taken hundreds of saunas using other sauna stoves. Even in Finland, where I experienced 50 different saunas in 12 days, I can tell you that this is a kick ass sauna stove. My two Kuumas will outlive me, and I use the heck out of both of them (cabin and backyard sauna).

    Three times the price of a toaster oven, produces amazing heat, and will outlive you. This is value worth investing in.

  51. We are planning our outdoor sauna at our current home in Montana. After having a sauna at our previous home in Northern MN, with a Kuuma wood stove, we are considering both a Kuuma wood stove and possibly an electric or propane (for the ease of use) in our new sauna. Just wondering how the “dual fuel” saunas came out and if the owners appreciated both sources of heat? If we had to choose one source, it would probably just be wood fired. Our building will be 8 x 16 on the deck for both the hot room and change room. Thank you in advance for the feedback.

    Corinne from Montana

  52. Hi Corinne:

    I am working on a sauna project right now that incorporates both an electric sauna heater and a wood fired sauna heater. I don’t have an update as to the performance, but my first bit of recommendation is to not over-space the hot room (ie. cubic foot economy).

  53. Hi Jeremy:

    For an 8×7 hot room, well, you’re right on the edge. If you’re going with a well insulated structure (R38 in ceiling, R13 walls) and a changing room – critical in our climate – i’d suggest the small. You can search “8 12” and see some information about a great layout for a 6×8 hot room, which may get your right brain going.

  54. Nelson,

    So glad my ebook has been helpful. I wrote it for people just like you (and me), so that’s great that it’s helping you. Re: wood sauna stove: I could imagine you and your energetic boys growing into the wonderful practice of wood splitting, etc. but if I tried to convince you too much and it didn’t work out, you’d be swearing at me, and that’s not good! :). So, it’s your call. You can tell my feeling, based on this article above, where i took the poetic license to get all philosophical on you.

  55. Hey Glenn

    I live in S Minneapolis too. I’m building a Sauna in my backyard and was pretty much settled on electric, but still have second thoughts – seems like I am unsure about mist decisions until the moment I have to make them, I have downloaded and read your guide. It has been very helpful. Still toying with the idea of wood but as a single dad with two 8 year old boys I think the convenience of electric is the way to go. I’m still open to persuasion though!

    How to run a few other things by you some time,

    Nelson

  56. I’m interested in buying a Kuuma stove for a sauna I’m planning to build in the SW suburbs of Minneapolis. The hot room will be 8’x7′ – do you recommend a small or medium Kuuma? When I order one through the saunatimes shop, when would I be able to pick it up locally? Much thanks.

  57. Hi Glenn – ordered the book, was thinking it was in eBook format? I got a file with word, pdf, and photos. Am I missing something.
    Thanks much!
    Tim Pazier
    Snohomish, WA

  58. Hi Tim:

    No, you’re not missing anything. The sauna build ebook is in the format you describe. Word, pdf, and photos. It is roots and DIY. We keep the photos separate as many print off the words and content from the ebook (saving ink and paper).

    After reading through, you can use the search bar on saunatimes if you have any questions, and if that doesn’t help, please follow along with format to email me (listing/numbering your questions). I’m excited for your sauna build. So many kick ass authentic saunas going up around N. America these days, and we’re becoming a more connected, healthy, happy tribe.

  59. Glenn –
    I”m in Northern California and in Sauna building planning stage. As well mentioned in many comments, your book has been most helpful. Thank you.

    Question: have you (and any of the readers here) had experience with connecting a Kuuma (or other) wood stove/hot water coil to a hydronic/radiant heating system?

    I’m planning a small pool house (10×12 on concrete pad) adjacent to the sauna. I’d like to redirect some of the sauna heat toward a pool house for radiant heating (PEX in pool house concrete pad foundation). Pool house within ≈10′ of sauna. Pool house design is open walls (think Hawaiian Lanai), so heating objective is just taking chill off concrete pad and not heating to “room temp” (say 70 degrees).

    There would be a dedicated heater for the radiant system, as pool house may be used when sauna not in use.

    I’m aware the Kuuma stove has a hot water coil which would most likely be used in this application.

    Thanks for any ideas! I’ve so enjoyed the site. Thank you for the gift to the community

  60. Andy:

    Thanks for the kind words and glad that you are enjoying saunatimes.com.

    Now, onto your radiant heating concept. Absolutely!! and love it. We are shipping out another Kuuma to someone in WA area who is looking to do something similar. He wants the Kuuma hot water coil to help heat his hot tub. This is doable. Now, the plumbing is beyond my pay grade as you’ll need a “T” system to divert for when your dedicated heater is heating your concrete pad, and then a way to divert over to the Kuuma hot water coil for when you’re rockin’ with your sauna.

    So, it’s just a matter of mechanics (and collaborating with the right helper/contractor).

    But promise me one thing: let’s document your project for a guest post on saunatimes. This is the type of project that gets me very jazzed up. You described it very well and I’m very happy for you. You can order your Kuuma through me, and I’ll send you an email and we’ll get your stove in the production cue.

    Awesome.

  61. Hi, thanks for this resource. I am building a lockdown project Sauna and your podcast has been amazing to listen to and keep my enthusiasm up! I live in south Africa and there are almost no sauna stoves available here. I want to use wood burning but I can find one. I have thought of making on or getting one made but scared it doesn’t work. Would one of those small closed combustion fireplaces work? My room is very small, 6ftx4ftx6ft.
    Would really appreciate your opinion on this, I’ve scoured the internet and can’t find a definitive answer.
    Thanks so much.

  62. Hi Robin:

    There are a couple problems with using conventional wood burning stoves, one is that if made from cast iron it will rust and it’s hard to get a place to load rocks. And there’s other things limiting but what you could do is lock into a network of farmers who do their own welding and maybe one farmer welds his own stoves and you can get him into the sauna stove business in S. Africa. Or we can ship you a Kuuma. We just sent one to Sweden. It’s all possible, and happy for your project… send us pics!

  63. Glenn –

    Firstly, yes to documenting my design/build process and crafting a post. I’d be honored.

    I am a fan – and meager practitioner – of iterative design. Meaning, box it out with the darn carpenter string, and let it sit for weeks (months?) as I ponder. A Russian River IPA helps deep think. We share this perspective, ya?!

    And after 20 years, I’ve learned that nothing saps the spousal connection as me demanding design approval – in the next 10 minutes, pls – because I‘m renting the backhoe tomorrow.

    So…

    My design is evolving. I now see one structure (12’x20’), sauna inside (8 x 12), with covered shed roof 8’ depth extending from the 20’. In our climate, much time is spent outside from April to October. Having the covered area with radiant slab heat (cozy feet) extends that yumminess into the shoulder seasons.

    Think “box inside a box.”

    As to radiant: thank you for the insight. Yes, I’ll be working with plumber to spec out more tightly. Boyle’s law. Yikes!

    More to come!

    Andy

  64. Glenn,

    I’m in the process of building a back yard sauna and was hoping you could email me a quote on a medium Kuuma wood stove with an ash pan and 8″ throat extension. I shouldn’t need delivery. Sorry to make the request here but I failed in my attempt on the “products” page. If you could just shoot me an email that would be great!

    Thanks,

  65. Hi Glenn, there seems to be a lot of differing opinions on if a flue damper is needed or not. I didn’t see a blog on this, maybe a future topic. What is your opinion? I have a Kuuma and did not add a flue damper per the instructions. The only gain I can imagine is to slow the exhaust flow as its a straight shot. Thanks!

  66. Hi Dan,

    I Like the topic. I’ve built a few saunas with dampers, and many more without dampers. All with the same small Kuuma. The bottom line is that I can’t tell any performance difference.

    In my Sauna Talk interview with Daryl Lamppa, the designer and builder of the Kuuma stove, he explains that the damper’s main purpose is to shut off fire from the chimney, in case of a chimney fire. Valid. But other than that, it is a redundant feature to the damper within the stove.

    And if a chimney fire is a concern, I’ll just say that I pointed a flashlight down my chimney stack at our cabin sauna a few years ago. We installed our Kuuma there in 1996. So this inspection was after a good 20 years of heavy sauna use. And I noted virtually zero creosote build up. I could eat off the metal. Jk.

    We burn good wood up there. Birch mainly. No pine.

  67. Hi Regina,

    As far as electric stoves go, there is a theory of “get a bigger hammer” ie, more KW’s than what is recommended by the mfr. Eg., a 9KW possibly, in your case. But i’m talking out of my you know what, so, instead, please read Jeff’s posts. He’s an electrical engineer without a horse in the race (not working for a sauna stove mfr.), and he geeks out on the electric stove options here.

  68. We are having a sauna built by a contractor (my brother). The size will be ~7’9″x4’5″x7’9″ (244 cubic feet). We want to get the heater (electric) and possibly programmable. What do you recommend for a sauna this size and a brand recommendation please. Thanks and really enjoy your website. We intend to be sauna junkies in the near future.

  69. Hi Glenn,

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the site and have found both the site and the ebook tremendously helpful.

    I’m looking to build a sauna in Central Saskatchewan, a ways North-West of you, and was wondering if you could make some recommendations on a few points:

    1) for a hot room size of 6’X7′ with 7′ ceilings, would the small or medium sized Kuuma be more appropriate in my climate? Average temperature during the winter is 14°F but we see sustained periods around the -22°F mark throughout Jan/Feb. I’m planning for 2″X6″ wall construction, insulated and foil barriered per the guides on this site.

    2) Do you have any experience with Finnleo wood burning stoves? I ask because there’s a local distributor that I could work with that may avoid some of the headaches associated with importing such a product.

    Feel free to email if you like, and thanks for all the great information!

    GS

  70. Edit: I read in an installation instruction for a Finnleo stove I found online that these stoves are manufactured by TyloHelo. Not sure if that is actually the case or not but thought it was relevant to add.

  71. Glenn, have you ever used a gas sauna stove?

    I’m warming to the idea of a gas stove for my new sauna to get more of the real flame benefits. Sure there isn’t the ritual of burning wood, but regarding quality of heat, do you think gas would be closer to wood than electric?

  72. Hi Todd:

    Yes, i have used a gas sauna stove. Scandia makes one that is certified. They are pricey.

    If we believe that the purpose of a sauna stove is to heat rock, then this stove does the job, and probably more effective than an electric and not as effective as wood.

    Yet, I’m just not all there about gas in a small, contained area. Ventilation would be critically important, and even then, well, I’m just a bit guarded on the CO2 bit. It’s a cognitive bias, and probably a bit over board.

    Keep in mind that many commercial banyas are gas fired. And the heat is friggen awesome. These banyas are set up to cycle gas heat onto the rocks throughout the night, is shut off during operating hours. The lämpömassa radiates that fabulous “aaaahhh” all day and evening long.

  73. Right on, and appreciate all your diligence. Electro’s are getting much better. Let’s be mindful of a few things with electric sauna heaters, including the “lipstick on the pig” effect of stone surrounds and whether all the stones produce löyly or if most are there for sure. And another thing, many electric sauna heaters are cheap bullshit toaster ovens. Poor lämpömassa producer tin cans.

    We feel good heat in our bones.

  74. Hi Glenn

    I looked into the Scandia stove and the combustion chamber is sealed. So the air in the sauna doesn’t directly mix with the combustion air (maybe indirectly depending on venting). I also have that apprehension with gas, even with a sealed chamber, but maybe a high quality gas detector would provide some comfort.

    I’m still left thinking gas should be the holy grail for an indoor sauna. I mean, real flame, fast startup, burns the cleanest, lasts a long time, etc. Sure it costs more upfront, but it’s cheaper in the long run if you sauna regularly.

    Here’s the problem, the only certified stove in the US is the Scandia stove and it receives poor reviews. It only has two reviews on Amazon, both 1 star. One of those reviewers discussed the details on Reddit. Both Amazon reviewers complained of a smell (one said they were coughing), which sounds like a terrible sauna experience.

    On the Scandia, Inc. BBB page, they only have two complaints, and they’re BOTH about the gas stove. A Scandia rep hits back complaining that the complainers didn’t use a licensed installer. That could be true or false, but it sounds like poor customer service too. The rep doesn’t address any of the glaring issues mentioned.

    Another Reddit owner of the stove (not one of the complainers in Amazon or BBB) said it was very difficult to get anyone at all to install it. He said the Scandia list of contractors ALL refused to install it and didn’t know how they got on Scandia’s list. He said HVAC people don’t want to touch it due to liability.

    Of all the reviews, I’ve only found one decent review. He had complaints too, mostly about build quality and sharp edges, but I’ve replied and asked his thoughts 6 months later.

    Anyway, I wanted to follow up since the findings don’t look good. I still really like the idea of a gas fired sauna, but I don’t think I’m willing to take the risk with so many poor reviews of the only consumer gas stove available in the US. Maybe it’s a sign and I’ll reluctantly have to go electric (wood is not allowed in my area).

  75. I am interested in purchasing the large sauna stove with the following accessories. For the large stove to be in a corner do I need two heatshield with one for each side? D
    ×
    Glass Viewing WindowGlass Viewing Window
    1 × $345.00
    ×
    Heat Coil BottomHot Water Coil
    1 × $370.00
    ×
    Heat Shield BackHeat Shield: 21″ side
    1 × $100.00
    ×
    Ash PanAsh Pan & Insert
    1 × $195.00
    Subtotal: $1,010.00

  76. Hi Jeff,

    Yes, you want two sides and one back heat shield.

    The large is a beast, and primarily for boy scout YMCA camps and commercial establishments. General rule: small- up to a 7’x8′ hot room, medium – up to a 8’x10′ hot room.

  77. Glen, I’m building a sauna in mn, recently bought the book and am excited to get the puppy up and running. Question about cedar boards against the aluminum vapor barrier. I got a huum drop heater and in its instructions it says there should be a. 0.4 gap between cedar board and vapor barrier and cedar… I’ve seen this before in other places too. Any thoughts on this? What’s your experience say?

  78. Hi Cole:

    For sure. An air gap between the wall paneling and foil is recommended. It helps the foil reflect heat back into the room. Further, the air gap concept was developed in the ‘ole country, where hot room paneling tends to be less moisture resistant species (than cedar). If using basswood, aspen, etc. it’s important to allow this paneling to dry out, and the air gap allows for this action.

    Keep in mind, in the cobbler’s kids shoes department, my cabin sauna, built in 1996 with 2×4 framing, batting, and cedar paneling has zero (0) air gap between the paneling and vapor barrier. There is zero (o) degradation of material and zero (o) compromise of heat/performance. So there you go!

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