A heater is obviously an important part of a sauna. The entire sauna experience will depend upon the type and quality of sauna heater that is used. Since people use a sauna for the soothing and relaxing heat that it provides, the heating system for the sauna should be the best possible for the bathers' particular desires.
The sauna's heat and main purpose is to cause sweating and open the pores. There are two main types of sauna heaters: traditional rock heaters, and infrared heaters. Each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Traditional sauna heaters use gas, oil, electricity, or wood for fuel. These heaters are encased in steel and either mounted to the wall or set on the floor, depending upon their size. When the heater is turned on, the heating element warms a bed of rocks. These rocks in turn heat up the sauna through convection, usually taking between 30 to 45 minutes for a sauna to fully warm up.
Except for some newer types of traditional sauna heaters which are always kept ready — and very well insulated to be energy efficient — most of these type of heaters must be fenced off somehow to prevent injuries or burns. These traditional heaters allow customization of the sauna environment — allowing bathers to set the heat at humid or dry.
Some traditional sauna heaters also double as steam generators. These particular heaters provide heat but also include a steam generator, connected to a water source. This can provide more steam than simply pouring water over the hot rocks. These rocks should be strong and able to retain heat; igneous rocks are preferable.
Infrared sauna heaters are a newer form of sauna heater. These heaters were originally developed to be used in incubators, and use infrared light for energy. Infrared heaters use a zirconium tube energy source to produce a drier, low-temperature heat which heats the body from the inside out.
The disadvantage of infrared heaters is that there is no way to experience the steam that many people enjoy in saunas. There are no rocks or steam generators to create the steamy experience that can be so pleasant in a spa. In addition, infrared heat emitters must be placed all around the bathers so that bathers receive heat from all angles.
Most sauna dealers will allow customers to try out saunas with different kinds of heaters, as the only way to truly know which heater you prefer is to try both kinds. It is important to try the sauna in private, with little or no clothing, just as you would normally do, in order to get the full experience.
Written by Bronwyn Harris