Saunas are an ever-growing trend in the past few decades. There are now a ton of models that you can choose to enjoy from the comfort of your own home. If you’ve decided to make your own sauna, however, you will have to pick some of the best sauna heaters for it. Changing the old heater of your current sauna is also a good idea if you want improved performance. Modern sauna heaters are more efficient, warm up quicker, and are far more convenient to use.
In this guide, we will take a look at the different heaters out on the market currently, discuss the advantages of each type of sauna heaters, and then go through the different features they can all be compared with. First, let’s take a look at some of the top models of this year that I’ve selected for you…
Sauna Heaters Comparison
Best Overall – Finlandia FLB-80 Sauna Heater
The most well-rounded model for this year is without a doubt the Finlandia FLB-80. You might have already seen this electric sauna heater in local spa centers or small private saunas. This is due to its powerful nature and the ability to heat up rooms up to 425 cubic feet or around 55 square feet. It is an 8KW heater that can work in both wet and dry saunas with its stones on top.
At the base, there are two controls that let you adjust the time and heat setting. It has a 1 to 8 hour presets which can delay the start of the heater. This is ideal for people who want to set a time later in the evening in which they will have the time to enjoy a sauna session. In terms of its temperature range, it can easily get a sauna anywhere between 160 and 190 degrees, depending on your preferences. The design of the heater is fairly practical and everything from the outer shell to the internal components is made out of stainless elements.
The main disadvantage of this heater is its price. Even though it is quite powerful for an electric model, it still costs more than almost all the other heaters on this list, making it hard to get for the people on a tighter budget.
- Stainless design
- Great for small to medium-sized
- Semi-compact design
- Comes with a 1-8 hour delay feature
- The sauna stones are included
- Extremely expensive
- Not ideal for large saunas
Best Electric Model – Turki TU90WD-OD Wet & Dry Sauna Heater
The Turku TU90WD-OD is another electric sauna heater that is quite capable of handling medium-sized saunas and is also far more affordable than the Finlandia FLB-80. While the construction and material quality here isn’t quite on the level of Finlandia’s heaters, there are more than a few features to make up for that.
For starters, this heater works at 9KW making it slightly more compatible with larger rooms, although the recommended square feet are practically the same with Finlandia’s FLB-80 heater. The TU90WD-OD is also meant for both wet and dry usage but is a bit smaller in its footprint than most other electric alternatives. The star of the show here is the external control panel which can be mounted away from the heater. It allows you to control the delayed start feature, as well as the temperature. The heater only works at 60 minutes at a time and can be set anywhere between 104 and 194 degrees Fahrenheit. The heating elements are Teflon-coated and have a back-up overheating protection system that will cut off the power if it detects abnormally high temperatures.
- Teflon-coated heating elements
- Overheating protection system
- Remote control panel
- Well-sized footprint
- 9KW heater suitable for medium-sized saunas
- Works for wet and dry saunas
- Doesn’t come with stones
- Not a great price-to-value ratio
Best Wood Burning Model – Harvia M3 Woodburning Sauna Heater
The Harvia Legend 240SL is the only wood-burning heater on this list. If you are after the ultimate sauna experience, this heater is a must, even though it costs an arm and a leg. While that is its biggest disadvantage over any other heater here, it still is the most powerful and commercially-capable heater on the list. With its 450lb stone capacity, this heater can heat up a sauna up to 900 cubic feet or around 85-95 sq ft. That is more than twice what some of the most powerful electric heaters can pull off.
The large number of stones this heater packs ensures that even if it dies down a bit, there will be a good amount of temperature radiating from it for a long time. That is, in fact, another benefit of having a wood-burning heater. Also, this won’t require electricity, so it is also perfect for anyone that is looking for a heater for their remote outdoor sauna.
This heater also has smaller safety distances from its back and sides which will allow you to position your sauna benches freely around it, as long as they aren’t directly in front of it. The stove comes with adjustable legs and an interchangeable door opening direction. It does weight around 180 pounds, however, so make sure you prepare a solid platform for it to stay on.
- Perfect for large saunas
- Long-lasting heat
- 450 lbs stone capacity
- Adjustable legs
- Requires no electricity
- Smaller safety distances on its sides and back
- Very bulky and heavy
- Extremely expensive
- Takes some time to heat up
Best Infrared Model – Northern Lights Group Infrared Sauna Heater
The Northern Lights Group Infrared Sauna Heater is the only infrared model on this list. Infrared panels are hard to find and are far rarer than electric or wood-burning sauna heaters. They are, however, cheaper and more economical in the long run. Infrared light is also far more beneficial for your health than the dry heat of traditional saunas. Another benefit is that this heater will heat up your body almost instantly from the moment you turn it on, leaving no waiting times and won’t make the sauna surfaces too hot to the touch after continuous use.
The panel measures 30 by 22 inches and uses 300 Watts to power its infrared heaters. It is UL certified allowing it to be sold in the USA. As a whole, the only downside to infrared panels like these is that they typically can’t raise the heat more than 120-130 degrees and they require some work to be installed, especially if you are already done with your sauna. Still, if something happens to the heater, there is a lifetime warranty that covers it.
- Fairly cheap
- Cheap to run
- Brings all the infrared light benefits
- UL certified
- Heats up instantly
- Covered by a lifetime warranty
- Requires a bit of work to be installed properly
- You might need more of these for a larger sauna
Best Gas/Propane Model – Vico Ultra Gas/Propane Sauna Heater
Even though people generally avoid having Gas/Propane heaters, they do offer quite a few benefits. For once, they feature a very basic construction that has a gas heater on the inside and a solid metal construction on the outside. The top of the Vico Ultra Gas Sauna Heater features a tray where you can place your sauna stones. Both the tray and the rest of the heater’s elements are made of stainless steel.
For the gas installation, there is a through-the-wall flue cap venting, as well as a detailed guide on how to set it up. If this is your first time dealing with gas-powered heaters, I suggest using a technician to set it up initially. Once it is set up, the 40,000 BTUs it has will quickly heat up most saunas up to 80 sq ft. In terms of safety features, it has a built-in thermal cutout that protects the heater from overheating.
- 40,000 BTUs
- Excellent for medium and large saunas
- Heats up fast
- Maintains high temperatures
- Stainless steel body
- Some people don’t like having gas-powered heaters in their homes
- Requires gas installation to run adding to the initial costs
Best Budget Heater – VEVOR 2KW Sauna Heater
Last but definitely not least on this list is the Vevor 2KW Sauna Heater. I avoid playing favorites but this model is just too good of a deal. While it isn’t the perfect heater for a medium or large sauna, this 2 KW heater is more than enough for most small saunas. It is rated for sauna rooms up to 105 cubic feet or around 22 square feet. That is this heater’s main appeal – it is affordable and good for most home saunas.
The body of the heater is made out of stainless steel which adds to the longevity of the model. The heating coils are made out of 316 stainless steel as well, which has excellent thermal properties. It heats up fast making this heater very power-efficient. The coils are also treated with a plating surface which doesn’t allow them to react with the air inside the sauna and oxidize it.
The Vevor heater also features a wall-mounted design, adding to its practicality and overall convenience. There are two control knobs that let you adjust the temperature and the timer.
- Stainless steel elements
- Wall-mounted design
- Very affordable
- Perfect for small home saunas
- Heats up fast
- Not strong enough for anything larger than a small sauna
Sauna Heaters Buyer’s Guide
When building your own sauna, the heater should be the centerpiece of your DIY project. With ready-made saunas it is also a crucial component, so paying attention to its type, features, and specifications is going to be important to your sauna’s future performance. Before we dive deeper into those said features, we must go through the different types of heaters, what they are best for, as well as their advantages and disadvantages compared to one another…
Types Of Sauna Heaters
There are three main types of sauna heaters which are most commonly used in modern saunas. There is also a fourth kind but we will talk about it briefly at the end. The three main ones are:
- Electric sauna heaters
- Wood-burning sauna heaters
- Infrared sauna heaters
Electric sauna heaters
One of your first and biggest dilemmas will be whether to get a wood-burning or an electric sauna heater. Electric heaters are far more convenient than the wood-burning ones and their temperature is easily controlled from their control panel. They can also be set up to start and stop at a certain time of the day so that you sauna is ready before you get into it. They are also slightly cheaper and require much less maintenance.
Wood-burning sauna heaters
Wood-burning heaters, on the other hand, bring an unmatched authenticity to your sauna experience. They create a nice warm atmosphere inside and depending on the wood you’re burning can make you feel like you’re in a real old-school Finnish sauna. As you might have guessed, however, they are very hard to maintain and you will need to work hard to get the sauna to the right temperature. Still, once the heater is hot, it will maintain the temperature easily and will provide a decent amount of heat for quite some time.
The other important factor people are often ignoring is the fuel type. If the wood is easy to come by, then wooden heaters are much more desirable since you won’t ever rely on electricity. That is even better for outdoor saunas that are far away from your house.
Infrared sauna heaters
While saunas are undoubtedly beneficial for you, infrared light also has its proven health benefits that definitely take things a step further. Infrared heaters are harder to come by but they are almost maintenance-free and will give you all the sauna benefits without having to endure 160-degree temperatures. These infrared heaters are often built into the walls of the sauna and can be easily removed or swapped. They are also not that power-hungry meaning it is an economical decision all-around.
The last kind of heaters is the gas/propane one. Gas heaters are typically quite powerful and can heat up to huge temperatures in a relatively short amount of time. They are also fairly cheap to run and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to buy. Compared to their traditional alternatives, they are a bit rarer but if you find a good deal on one and you don’t mind going through the gas installation, this is a solid option for a high-temperature sauna.
Features To Take Into Account
Good sauna heaters are typically a combination of a well-thought design, affordability, practicality, and performance. Still, knowing how to distinguish two heaters based on their core features is something you should learn before choosing the right model for your sauna. Here are all the features that we will talk about here:
- Control panel
- Heat-up time
- Set up & Installation
- Accessories and additional features
In short, a good sauna heater will be the one that fits your needs the best and is convenient enough for you to use it on a constant basis. Nevertheless, going through all of the features of each potential heater you want to buy is a good way to rule out the bad ones and ultimately make the correct choice. Let’s take a closer look at all of those features now…
As we already discussed, there can be four types of sauna heaters, with three of them being widely popular. If you have an outdoor sauna that is far away from your house, a wood-burning heater is definitely a decent alternative to all the electric models. If you’ve managed to get electricity to the place, then a suitable in size electric heater will do the job just fine. Just pay attention to the size of the heater relative to the space you want to heat up and the space you’ve designated for the heater itself. We will talk more about that in a moment.
The capacity is pretty much relative to the size of the heater. A bigger heater will always handle a big sauna easier. Wood-burning heaters can cover large saunas without an effort but they will need a lot of wood to feed them, especially if you are preparing the sauna for a long session or two.
Electric heaters typically have lower capacity but most are geared for medium-sized saunas around 500 cubic feet.
One of the often-overlooked aspects of electric and infrared heaters is their control panels. A good heater will have the option for a delayed start as well as the option to program different temperatures, times, and intervals. While wood-burning heaters will require a lot of preparation and heating up, electric models with delayed start can have your sauna ready to go whenever you program them to heat it up. That is one of their biggest conveniences and advantages and is also the reason why most people are opting for them.
Heat-up time is important if you’re on a tighter schedule or want to quickly heat up your sauna in order to use it with your friends. Wood-burning models will maintain the temperature easier and for longer on a single heat-up, but electric models typically heat up much faster. However, this is where infrared heaters truly shine. They have almost no heating up time and are ready to go as soon as you turn them on.
If you want to learn what the perfect temperature and humidity are for the various types of saunas, head over to my full article on the topic!
Set up & Installation
The set up of most wood-burning models is pretty straight forward, assuming you’ve already made the necessary adjustments for them, such as a chimney, hard floor surface for them to step on, and so forth. Electric models are a bit trickier to install since you will need a good electric installation prepared for their consumption. Infrared heaters are also tricky to deploy, especially if you have already finished building your sauna. As a whole, make sure you follow the instructions for the model or simply hire a technician to do the installation for you.
Accessories and additional features
While it isn’t common for companies to include additional accessories with their heaters, it is always a welcome gesture. If your heater has stones on top, it is nice to get the stones complimentary to the heater purchase. Also, make sure that the heater comes with all the parts needed for its installation. In terms of additional features, most of those can be found in electric models with various heat programs and detailed controls.
If making your sauna has turned into an expensive DIY project, you might want to keep things in check with the heater. Getting a bigger heater than you actually need will not only cost you a lot but might make using the sauna uncomfortable. This is why you need to stick to a pre-determined budget and understand proper heater sizing. Let’s talk about that now…
Choosing The Correct Size
There are two things that you have to consider when choosing the size of your sauna heater – the space you have and how powerful you want the heater to be. In terms of the space, make sure you pick a heater that will actually fit into the designated area for it. You don’t want the heater to be too close to the nearest person sitting next to it. A distance of around 4-5 feet from the first person is typically good enough for most electric and wood-burning heaters.
In terms of the power of the heater, for electric models, you need to look at their KW (KiloWatt) metrics. a 10KW heater will be enough for a 500 cubic feet or more. Some smaller 2-3 KW models like the VEVOR sauna heater I mentioned earlier in the product reviews, can heat up effectively saunas around 100-120 cubic feet. The heater type that can heat up the largest rooms is the wood-powered ones. They can easily heat up an 800 cubic feet sauna.
With Gas models, you will have to look at its BTU numbers. The British Thermal Unit is a measurement of power in gas-powered models. A heater with more than 30,000 BTUs will be strong enough for most sauna sizes.
Infrared heaters have the advantage of not needing any additional internal space, as they are built into the walls. No matter how far away you are from them, if you’re inside the sauna room, you will feel their effect the same way as some who is closer or further from them. That is why people get them for smaller saunas since space is valuable there. Now, let’s answer a few frequent questions regarding the topic!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do sauna heaters cost?
Typically, a good sauna heater will start around 150$. Electric models are slightly cheaper compared to large wood-burning units. Infrared heaters are the cheapest but they are also the least potent when it comes to raising your sauna’s temperature. They can raise the temperature to around 120-125 degrees which is enough for an infrared sauna but is nothing compared to the 150-165 degrees of a proper traditional sauna.
Are sauna heaters safe to use?
Sauna heaters are very safe as long as you follow all the instructions. Electric models come with a few safety features compared to the wood-burning ones but as a whole, if you keep the heater properly maintained and don’t push it too far, it should be issue-free ownership. Still, for added safety, you can get a metal plate to put the heater on if your sauna floor is made out of wood.
What are the differences between electric and infrared sauna heaters?
The main difference between these heaters is that electric models can raise the temperature quite higher than infrared ones. They also heat up the whole sauna, while infrared heaters primarily heat up your body’s surface without heating up the air too much. This is why infrared saunas work at around 120 degrees but you often feel as hot in them as you would feel in a normal 160-degree sauna with stones.
When it comes to choosing the best sauna heaters, you will want to base all of the models upon their most important features. Those are the size, the heater type, how easy it is to control, how quickly it heats up, and most importantly – does it fit your sauna budget? If a model checks all the boxes for you, then it is safe to say that it is the right choice. If you cannot make your mind up, you can always take a look at our suggested models and pick the one that fits your bill.