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Could lämpömassa become the second Finnish word to be adopted into the English language?

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It started with the word sauna, and while many act like strict schoolteachers scolding its incorrect pronunciation, there is another Finnish word, lämpömassa, that may start to resonate and radiate deep into the consciousness of English speaking sauna enthusiasts.

Lämpömassa.

Why lämpömassa?

Like good löyly, lämpömassa is something universal and egalitarian. Lämpömassa separates a very good sauna from a lame sauna. It cannot be achieved via infrared light bulbs or toaster ovens. Lämpömassa is what we are able to feel in the most traditional old saunas, well constructed newer saunas with quality sauna stoves, and savusaunas in which we may have the pleasure of experiencing.

Lämpömassa is what heating contractors whisper under their breath, while explaining Uponor radiant flooring heat vs. cheaper to install forced air furnace and ductwork.

Your cat understands lämpömassa.

Anyone who has had cold feet understands lämpömassa.

There is a moment on the sauna bench we all cherish, when the heat is intense, yet we are not rushing for the sauna door. In this moment, the humidity is balanced perfectly with the temperature. The heat envelopes and surrounds us, while at the same time, the heat penetrates through our bodies evenly, gracefully, and intensely. Our whole body is uniformly “ahhhh” (no better word for it). We can only achieve this with the Finnish word lämpömassa.

Lämpömassa makes softer, better Löyly.

Lämpömassa is not difficult to achieve. We need to invest in a quality sauna stove. And, we need to have a well proportioned amount of sauna stones atop this sauna stove. We need a well insulated hot room that is capable of enveloping heat (as well as being well ventilated).

With lämpömassa, we exit the hot room ready for cold plunge and cool downs, sometimes in the garden all misty wet with rain. Thanks to lämpömassa, our cool downs are longer and more complete. The rubber band theory of sauna is actualized through the Finnish word lämpömassa.

Wim Hof declares “cold is my warm friend.” Many sauna enthusiasts declare lämpömassa to be our friend to good heat.

As sauna – authentic sauna – becomes more popular, is it time for a second Finnish word to work its way into the English language?

  • Sauna
  • Löyly
  • Sisu

All beautiful and wonderful words (and meanings!). Yet it could be argued that all of these are possible thanks to good lämpömassa.

There is something about lämpömassa that gets right to the heart (and bones).

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14 Comments

14 thoughts on “Could lämpömassa become the second Finnish word to be adopted into the English language?”

  1. Reading this makes me wanna sauna. Hope mine qualifies, but don’t have much of a frame of reference. I sure am enjoying it!

  2. Jeff: Having enjoyed your sauna multiple times, as well as experiencing 50 saunas in Finland, I can say with great confidence that the sauna you built and enjoy has plenty of lämpömassa. Eg. I specifically like the experience after tossing a splash of water on the rock surround behind your stove, Hugely “ahhhh” and inspirational and lämpömassa goodness all the way around (and in between).

  3. Hummmmm ! Looking forward to experience lämpömassa home soon ! Although we cannot access our e-book. We bought it online from the site, but unfortunately the loading blocked due to lack of space on our Ipad (was supposed to have enough space but apparently not). Tried to download it on our “regular” computer but received a message saying we reached limit of download. Unfortunately, this limit is none as we cannot access it through the uncompleted Ipad download. Can you help? thanks ! We are sooooo looking to build our own yukon sauna !

  4. Hi Sandra: No problem, we sent you the ebook via email, with access to google doc so you don’t have to download it or find a Lampomassa detector.

  5. Now that our sauna is up and running, part of the fun for me, is the tinkering.
    Our first session was a month ago.
    We’ve used it almost every night since then – sometimes extremely hot…(with many short sessions), other nights were purposefully cooler, so we lingered in long sessions.
    We’ve tried hats, vihtas, massage and stretching, various lighting… just testing the possibilities.

    I’ve wanted to try to balance the strong radiant heat coming from the stove, with the lesser heat coming from other directions, so, last night, we experimented with five large rocks placed under the top bench to get more heat-mass under us, coupled with a heat shield in front of the stove.
    It was surprising:
    (1) The heat shield did soften the strongly directional heat from the stove, a bit.
    (2) The rocks brought up the temp of the lower sauna area a great deal, since heat was now radiating from both the stove in front and these large rocks behind.
    Since the rocks were under the top bench – the top bench was very hot to sit on, in fact everything in the sauna was too hot to touch!

    Something I learned from that experiment was how different every sauna really is – even if the temperature is the “same”.
    This month, we’ve taken several sessions around 210 degrees – (at head height, top bench), and found it very hot, but not really too hot… last night, with the addition of those five rocks, however, it was 200 degrees, but much. much too hot!
    How could that be?
    The vents were wide open, oxygen was plentiful, but heat was everywhere – even coming from the seats – there was no escape. Before those rocks, part of our bodies, facing away from the stove or pressed against the bench were cooler.
    Adding those five rocks seems like a very small change, but it was a radically different sauna experience.

    Something else I learned for me personally, was that the variation in temperature – (hotter skin that’s facing the stove, vs cooler skin facing away), is actually more interesting than even heat all around – it’s what feels natural around a campfire, “as it should feel”, perhaps.
    But on those nights when I want the heat to more evenly surround me, I can just add some big rocks under the bench!
    I like how much we can change things up, depending on our mood or how many people are in the sauna.
    (We have a Wood-burning Kuuma – very versatile).

    I’m curious what other people are experimenting with.
    Ken

  6. We experiment a lot! Part of the enjoyment for me is experiencing new and different varieties of sauna. I am actually spending the weekend in upstate New York discussing that with a friend in the industry who shares the passion. We experiment with different kinds of bench designs, different ventilation techniques, lighting, different woods; and in the future different types of heat. I’d love to build a traditional log sauna with a huge stone wall at an awesome location.

    Sauna On Ken.

  7. Hi Glen
    Finished my finish Appalachian sauna cabin and lamppa stove. It is great. But now I am looking for an accurate thermometer and where in the sauna is the best place to locate it in the sauna?
    Looking forward to your reply.

  8. Thomas:

    Can you hang tight for about a month? If so, i’ve got something extremely cool to present to you: Saunömeter. The most accurate sauna specific sauna thermometer out there. And it’s super cool how a sauna bather will be able to document their sauna session.. happy to share more about this in about 30 days..

  9. Perhaps a small addition. Lämpömässä is the ability of a sauna to store the heat from heating. For example, smoke saunas usually have a large amount of sauna stones, i.e. a large amount of lämpömässä, which can store the heat. The walls are also important.

    It’s not just about insulation, but also about the ability of the walls to store heat. If the walls are thick, they also have a large thermal mass > Lämpömassa. In the sauna where I work in Finland, the walls are about 50cm thick and even the stone floor stores the heat generated during heating. There are also about 1.5 tonnes of sauna rocks. So you not only feel the radiant heat from the heater or the heat sensation from the löyly, but also the indirect heat that comes from the walls and all directions. That is Lämpömassa. If a sauna has no Lämpömässä, you only feel the heat very superficially. Greetings from Finland…

  10. Right on Alexander!! When you feel good heat, it’s all over. I am sensing that the sauna where you work may be running all day? If yes, this is a key difference between a backyard sauna that gets fired up, for example, from everything cold 2-3 times a week and for two hours a crack.

    Here we want to balance the choice of materials to store heat, as you mention, yet are also not using so much mass that it take forever to heat up. in the case of too much mass, no matter what the heater or source, the kiuas is a little engine that can’t. That’s where we get the wet noodle effect.

    In Every Direction. Exactly. A great song by Junip, also. And that would be a great soundtrack for a 1 min. video showing your sauna over there in ‘ye ole country. Let’s do it! I can feel the good heat from here.

  11. The sauna is preheated every other day for about 6 hours or more, but because the lämpömassa in the Kiuas is so big, you can even get jälkilöyly the next day without heating. If the Kiuas can’t get enough heat into the walls, it’s usually too small 😉

    A large sauna, like the one I work in, is of course different from a small backyard sauna. Nevertheless, there are a few tricks to having enough lämpömassa and not needing too much time to heat up. Perhaps it’s also a bit of a question of attitude, but I understand that sometimes you just want to go to the sauna quickly. I feel the same way.

    Perhaps an interesting tip… If you install a heater that is one size larger or more than recommended (you should always do this anyway), and use Kerkes sauna stones for the first two layers. The heat will then be transferred more quickly to the stones above, as Kerkes heats up quickly (but also loses the heat again quickly). Above the Kerkes you can then use sauna stones with a higher density (peridotite, olivine diabase or the best > aluminium-zirconia silica ceramic, which store the heat for longer. A sauna stone sandwich, so to speak. This principle works quite well for smaller saunas. The heating time is reduced and you have more thermal mass / lämpömassa.

    Or you have two saunas in the backyard. One that you can heat up quickly for every day, and one for Sundays and special occasions / guests with lots of lämpömassa. For me, heating up the sauna is part of having a sauna and I really enjoy doing it. Even if it takes many hours in winter.

    Another option would be to have 2 heaters in the sauna. One that heats up the sauna faster with enough stones and good löyly, and then another with a higher stone mass and heavenly löyly that takes longer to heat up for special days. Now I’m a bit geeky, which is probably because it’s been almost 24 hours since my last sauna session. Time to go to Löyly… but once you’ve experienced a sauna with excellent Lämpömassa, there’s no going back. Only in a sauna with a lot of Lämpömassa does Löyly have “dimension”. I can’t think of a better word for it.

  12. Alexander. Love the Kerkes tip and the sauna stone sandwich! is there a chance that we are related? What do you think about us making a T shirt together?

    “Dimension.”

    Exactly. Thank you for your comments, keep them coming as you see fit.

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