One of the key ingredients of an efficient, comfortable home sauna is the choice of heater. There are a number of different solutions available, but it can be difficult to judge which model will give adequate performance and offer good value.
If the sauna heater is too small, the air can be hot and dry. If it’s too powerful for the space, then the excess steam makes the air constantly damp and uncomfortable.
The following information will help shoppers find the right solution for a home sauna. Technical specifications and installations are provided, and shoppers will find recommendations for the best sauna heater to suit almost any situation.
- BEST OVERALL: Finlandia/Harvia FLB-80/KIP-80B Sauna Heater
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Vevor Electric Sauna Heater Stove
- UPGRADE PICK: Huum Drop 9.0 kW Sauna Heater
- BEST WOOD-BURNING: Harvia M3 Woodburning Sauna Heater
- BEST DIGITAL: Turku TU90WD-OD Sauna Heater
- BEST MINI: Aleko Coasts Spa Sauna Room Heater
- BEST STEAM GENERATOR: CGoldenwall 9 kW Luxury Self-Draining Steam Generator
- HONORABLE MENTION: Aleko Toule ETL Certified 6 kW Wet Dry Sauna Heater
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Sauna Heaters
While all sauna heaters are intended to perform the same function, there are differences in capacity, fuel sources, controls, etc. For those who are new to shopping for a sauna heater, these features can be confusing. In the following section, learn the key features that define the best sauna heater for different situations.
Electric sauna heaters are clean, convenient, and by far the most popular. They operate in a similar way to a kettle or oven, using heating elements that are covered with rocks. Controls can be on the electric sauna heater itself, or there may be an option to fit them remotely on the outside of the sauna. Digital models give the ability to set a very precise temperature.
Electric steam generators are another approach that can be used with a sauna or with a shower or wet room to create a sauna experience. They fit outside the space and pipe steam inside, allowing maximum room for occupants. However, they do not produce direct heat.
Wood-burning sauna heaters create a traditional atmosphere that some feel is the best way to heat a sauna. However, dealing with logs, lighting the stove, and ash cleanup afterward can be inconvenient. They can also be surprisingly expensive to run if you don’t cut your own wood.
Gas heaters are more fuel efficient than electric heaters, though the initial cost is usually high. Most are high-output devices designed for commercial spaces. None were included in the shopping recommendation list since they weren’t suitable for home sauna heating.
It is very important to have the right size sauna heater, and having one that is too powerful impacts the environment just as much as having one that’s too small. Manufacturers of electric sauna heaters provide a kilowatt (kW) rating. Many experts recommend 1 kW per 45 to 50 cubic feet of space.
Wood-burning sauna heaters usually only provide a cubic feet rating. Most electric sauna heater makers also provide this figure.
The physical size will also be a consideration. It’s worth making a simple cardboard mock-up that you can place in your sauna during the planning stage to assess the heater’s size.
Stone capacity is sometimes used to measure the power of a sauna heater. The higher the stone capacity, the more powerful the heater needs to be to raise the temperature to the required level.
While it’s a popular statistic, stone capacity is perhaps not the most accurate metric. Although specific sauna stones are necessary for safety reasons, their chemical composition can vary and, therefore, heating times may vary. As a result, kW output and estimated area are a better guide to performance. However, users who have two heaters with the same kW output but different stone capacity will find that the one with additional stones will heat up more slowly.
Stone capacity can also have an impact on how the sauna heater is installed, especially with a wall-mounted model. It’s important that the wall offers the necessary support for what can be a weight of 100 pounds or more.
Electric sauna heaters will heat a given space more quickly than a wood-fired stove. However, it is difficult to determine the precise amount of heat-up time because it depends on the ambient temperature, size of the sauna, and what the interior of the sauna is made from.
That said, for the sake of general comparison, an electric sauna heater might take 30 minutes to bring a space to the required temperature, while a wood-burning model would probably take an hour or more.
Another big advantage of the best electric sauna heaters is the ability to set a timer, so the sauna can be ready exactly when it is most convenient. However, it’s important to check the type of timer as many will simply set the length of time the sauna heater will run once started.
Ease of Use and Installation
Electric sauna heaters are the easiest to use—particularly those with remote control. Gas models also offer reasonable precision and easy ignition. Anyone who has ever used a wood fire of any kind will know that control is a bit hit and miss. However, for many, the atmosphere they create is worth it.
In terms of installation, electric sauna heaters are also the simplest. The main consideration is that the supply will almost always need to be upgraded to 220/240 volts (V). This shouldn’t be a difficult task for any competent electrician.
For safety reasons, gas sauna heaters need a flue that goes through an outside wall. This prevents the build-up of carbon monoxide, which can be very dangerous. Wood-burning sauna heaters need a chimney to let out the smoke, though this doesn’t necessarily have to vent vertically.
While many keen DIY enthusiasts will be capable of carrying out the necessary work, it is recommended to use a qualified installer if you are not entirely confident in the process.
Our Top Picks
One way of focusing on the features discussed above is by looking at some real-world examples. The following are the best sauna heaters currently available.
Finlandia is arguably the best-known name in sauna heaters. They are made by the Finnish company Harvia which produces a variety of high-quality electric and wood-burning models. This one is rated at 8 kW, with an effective area of up to 425 cubic feet.
Much of the construction is stainless steel, which won’t rust in the humid sauna environment. There are front-mounted controls for temperature (basic minimum to maximum) and an 8-hour timer, but there’s no remote control option.
The required 45 pounds of sauna stones are included, which is often not the case. There is a cut-out to prevent overheating, and it is interesting to note that although made in Europe, the Finlandia is safety rated to U.S. standards and is ETL listed (meaning it has been tested and complies with national safety standards).
- Power: 8 kW
- Area: Up to 425 cubic feet
- Stone capacity: 45 pounds
- Durable stainless steel components
- 8-hour timer
- ETL safety listed
- Premium price
- No remote control
Get the Finlandia sauna heater on Amazon.
Owners of small home saunas may want to consider this Vevor electric sauna heater. It comes with a very budget-friendly price tag, it’s well made with a durable painted steel casing, and it has rust-resistant stainless steel heating coils. The power is 2 kW, which only requires a 110 V power supply, so installation is easier. The Vevor sauna heater can heat up to 106 cubic feet of space.
As is common with electric sauna heaters, controls are front-mounted. The temperature dial is quite basic, but that can be true of premium brands as well. There is a timer, but only for how long the heater runs (up to an hour), not as a preset.
While this model only has a modest capability, Vevor does produce larger, equally budget-friendly models. However, those do need a 220/240 V supply. Sauna stones are not included and, while these are not expensive, it does make a difference to the overall cost.
- Power: 2 kW
- Area: 70 to 106 cubic feet
- Stone capacity: 35 pounds
- Robust construction
- UL listed for safety
- Modest capability
- Stones not included
Get the Vevor sauna heater on Amazon.
Most electric sauna heaters are boxy units that are functional but not particularly attractive. The Huum Drop breaks the mold with a stylish, contemporary appearance that won the honorable mention award from the internationally recognized Red Dot design competition.
It doesn’t just look good; underneath the stones, the construction is durable stainless steel. It produces 9 kW of power, which is capable of heating up to 530 cubic feet.
There are no visible controls because the Huum Drop is WiFi-enabled. It works either via an easy-to-use handheld unit (available in six different finishes) or a smartphone app that allows control from virtually anywhere.
All this style and technology does come at a price, although the substantial weight of sauna stones is included. The Huum Drop is intended to be wall-mounted, and while this isn’t difficult, the supporting wall will need good structural strength to hold the weight.
- Power: 9 kW
- Area: 290 to 530 cubic feet
- Stone capacity: 132 pounds
- Attractive contemporary design
- Stainless steel construction
- Wi-Fi control
- Needs substantial support
Get the Huum Drop Sauna Heater on Amazon or at Wayfair.
For some, there is no substitute for the atmosphere created by a wood-burning sauna heater. This high-quality Harvia model is elegant and compact, with a glass door that provides the visual appeal of a real flame.
It is impossible to accurately predict the actual output from wood-burning sauna heaters because it depends on the airflow and the type of log being burned. While they may not generally be the most efficient space heaters, this wood-burning model is rated as suitable for saunas from 159 to 459 cubic feet.
As with all wood-burning sauna heaters, a chimney is needed, although no power is required—which will go some way to offsetting the cost.
- Power: N/A (wood-burning)
- Area: 159 to 459 cubic feet
- Stone capacity: 100 pounds
- Traditional sauna feel
- Glass door provides view of flames
- Stones included
- Regular cleaning required
- Chimney kit extra
Get the Harvia sauna heater on Amazon.
Those looking for an affordable sauna heater that still provides high performance may want to take a closer look at the Turku, which produces 9 kW and is capable of heating spaces of up to 450 cubic feet. The case is constructed from aluminum alloy, which is relatively light and won’t rust. The heating elements are coated in Teflon to prevent corrosion.
The key feature of the Turku is the remote control, designed to be mounted on the outside wall of the sauna. The digital display allows much more accurate settings to be made than with the normal front-mounted controls, although these are still fitted to the unit itself. For safety, a built-in sensor will shut the unit down if it detects overheating.
It is fair to say that the Turku sauna heater is not the most attractive unit, and the display panel looks particularly dated. However, while the stones are extra, the Turku still offers excellent value for money.
- Power: 9 kW
- Area: 250 to 450 cubic feet
- Stone capacity: 35 pounds
- Remote digital controller
- Elements are Teflon coated to prevent corrosion
- Competitive price
- Dated design
- Stones not included
Get the Turku sauna heater on Amazon.
Small home saunas for compact living spaces are readily available, and this Coasts heater from Aleko is an ideal way to heat them. The construction is mostly galvanized steel, which is strong and much more resistant to corrosion than painted metal surfaces. The heating elements themselves are made from stainless steel, which is rust-resistant.
Although this brand does not provide coverage figures, the output is 3 kW and similar models are capable of heating spaces from 120 to 140 cubic feet. There is no reason this wouldn’t be the same. Controls are the usual basic temperature dial and a run timer. The latter is factory set to a maximum of 45 minutes.
Stones are not supplied with the Coasts sauna heater, but it is nevertheless a very affordable choice.
- Power: 3 kW
- Area: Up to 130 cubic feet (estimated)
- Stone capacity: Not supplied
- Durable galvanized steel construction
- Stainless steel heating elements
- Very affordable
- For small spaces only
- Sauna stones are extra
Get the Aleko Coasts sauna heater at Amazon, Wayfair, or Walmart.
The CGoldenwall is not a typical sauna heater in that it does not provide direct heat. However, within a few minutes of turning it on it can produce steam at up to 131 degrees Fahrenheit and at enough volume for a space of up to 300 cubic feet.
Steam generators can be used with saunas but can also turn appropriately sized showers and bathrooms into steam rooms. This unit can be fitted in any convenient closet, vanity unit, or directly on the wall. It has a digital control panel that can mount inside or outside the sauna or steam room.
Plumbing for the water supply and drain is required, though once fitted the device flushes excess water automatically.
- Power: 9 kW
- Area: 300 cubic feet
- Stone capacity: N/A
- Ready in 5 minutes
- Produces steam from 95 degrees Fahrenheit to 131 degrees Fahrenheit
- Separate controller
- Does not provide direct heat
- Plumbing required
Get the CGoldenwall sauna heater on Amazon.
The Aleko Toule is a midrange electric sauna heater made from durable, corrosion-resistant stainless steel with a highly polished finish on the outside. It also comes with the benefit of a wall-mounted digital controller, though there are no dials on the unit itself.
Apart from the 6 kW power output, technical details are limited. Aleko says the Toule is capable of providing heat for a sauna of three to six individuals. Similar models would be rated at 300 cubic feet. Likewise, there is no stone capacity provided, and the sauna stones are not included. It’s fair to estimate around 40 pounds would be required.
The Aleko Toule is a very affordable sauna heater and meets strict ETL safety standards. However, while it’s understood that safety labeling is necessary, several bright red and yellow warning stickers are plastered across the front, rather spoiling the appearance.
- Power: 6 kW
- Area: 300 cubic feet (estimated)
- Stone capacity: 40 pounds (estimated)
- Accurate digital control
- ETL safety rated
- Very competitive price
- No controls on the unit
- Prominent warning signs
Get the Aleko Toule sauna heater at The Home Depot or Wayfair.
The Finlandia sauna heater is the best overall because it is powerful and reliable, plus it comes from a brand with a reputation for high quality. However, it is quite expensive, particularly as it doesn’t offer remote control. The Vevor model is a great value for small home saunas, and is one of the few options that don’t require a 220/240 V supply.
How We Chose the Best Sauna Heaters
Having previously researched the best home saunas, we already had some useful background information. For this article, we looked at the leading manufacturers and their current products, assessing both performance and reliability.
We tried to find as wide a variety of sauna heaters as possible, so there is something in our list of top picks that will suit virtually all needs.
We are well aware of the importance of price but wanted to avoid cheap sauna heaters. These seldom live up to expectations and can often be a poor value as a result. While some of the brands may not be well known, each has an established reputation within the industry.
We’ve explored the factors to consider when choosing a sauna and provided a variety of high-quality examples from leading brands. Although we have already answered many of the questions that might crop up in the search for the best sauna heater, we will address other general questions in this section.
Q. What is the best way to heat a sauna?
The best way to heat a sauna depends on several factors, which are discussed in detail above. Personal preference is also a factor. Some prefer a traditional wood burner while others favor the ease of use of an electric sauna heater.
Q. Do I need to use sauna stones?
Sauna stones are usually needed to absorb heat and produce steam. You shouldn’t normally use a sauna heater without stones. It’s important to use proper sauna stones rather than just any rock because the latter can crack or even explode.
Q. Is it safe to put water on an electric sauna?
Water can be safely added to all of the electric saunas on the list above. However, always read the operating instructions carefully in order to know how to add water—and how much.
Q. How much does a sauna heater cost?
The cost of a sauna heater can vary considerably, anywhere from around 100 dollars to a couple thousand. The list above offers models to suit a wide range of budgets.
Q. Will a sauna heater increase my energy bill?
Yes. Regular use of a home sauna is bound to have some impact on your energy bill, though how much will depend on performance. The higher the kW, the more expensive it is to run. Of course, wood-burning saunas don’t directly impact your energy bill, but the wood still has to be paid for.
Q. How long do sauna heaters last?
According to the North American Sauna Society, with regular maintenance, the best sauna heaters can last up to 20 years.
Q. Can a sauna heater break due to hot and cold air changes?
Hot and cold air changes should not be a problem if the sauna heater is installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and has been maintained correctly. The owner’s documents may offer troubleshooting tips, but if a problem persists it is a good idea to call in a suitably qualified technician.