Barrel Saunas

The Ultimate Guide to Barrel Sauna Heaters: Comparing Electric, Wood-Fired, and Propane Options

barrel sauna heaters

Investing in a barrel sauna is an affordable way to get all the wellness benefits of sauna right at home. Choosing between barrel sauna heaters has to be decided in the early stages of planning your outdoor sauna, as it will impact everything from placement to budget.

In this article, we’ll break down the three primary barrel sauna heater options: electric, wood-fired, and propane. We’ll also explore the key features of top electric heaters – Harvia KIP and HUUM Drop, wood-fired heaters – Harvia M3 and HUUM Hive Heat 12, and the top propane heater option, Scandia-Vico. This comprehensive guide aims to help barrel sauna buyers make informed decisions when selecting their perfect heater.

Electric Barrel Sauna Heaters

Electric sauna heaters are popular for their convenience, ease of use, and minimal maintenance requirements. They can be installed both indoors and outdoors and are subject to fewer regulations than wood-fired heaters. Electric barrel sauna heaters are an excellent choice for those who prefer a more modern, hassle-free option.

We often have customers who are surprised to find that electric heaters are cheaper to install even if they have to run power and hire an electrician. That’s because with an electric barrel sauna, you don’t have to cut a hole in the roof, install a chimney, or buy additional safety shields and platforms.

They also take up less space in the barrel.

Top Electric Heater Options for Barrel Saunas: Harvia KIP and HUUM Drop

Harvia KIP

Our top recommendation for an electric heater is the Harvia KIP with built-in controls. The built-in controls simplify the installation process and reduce material costs, saving you up to 50% on the total heater purchase and installation.

Key Features:

  1. Easy installation and operation
  2. Built-in controls save money and simplify installation by around 50%
  3. Trusted design without as many reports of heating coil failures as HUUM.

Buy a Harvia KIP here.


For those seeking a more technologically advanced option, the HUUM Drop electric sauna heater is an excellent choice. The HUUM Drop is more expensive than the Harvia KIP, but it comes with the added benefit of Wi-Fi control for ultimate convenience.

The HUUM Drop in particular has had premature heating elements which are not always covered by warranty. HUUM is addressing the problem and we are working offer a protection plan so you don’t have to worry about the cost of replacing elements.

Our customers have avoided the problem by carefully placing stones according to instructions. If you choose HUUM Drop for a barrel sauna heater, plan on spending some extra time and photographing your installation if there are problems later. That’s always a good idea anyway.

Key Features:

  1. Modern, stylish design
  2. Wi-Fi control for remote operation (optional)

Buy a HUUM Drop HUUM Drop Electric Sauna Heater here

Wood-Fired Barrel Sauna Heaters

Wood-fired sauna heaters provide a more traditional sauna experience, producing a natural, radiant heat source and emitting a delightful aroma from burning wood. They are often preferred by sauna enthusiasts who value authenticity and ambiance. Wood-fired barrel sauna heaters are perfect for those seeking a classic, immersive experience.

Barrel saunas without panoramic windows or lights are dark places, but a wood-burning stove with glass window sets the ambiance just right.

Keep in mind that wood-burning barrel saunas are significantly more complicated installs, even though you don’t need an electrician most of the time. The chimney assembly requires cutting a large whole in the roof, and oftentimes additional safety shields and platforms are required.

That said, nothing beats the ambience and aroma of a wood burning sauna.

Top Wood-Fired Heater Options for Barrel Saunas: Harvia M3 and HUUM Hive Heat 12

Harvia M3

Experience the gold standard in sauna performance with the Harvia M3 Wood Fired Sauna Stove. Designed to be durable, energy-efficient, and reliable, this stove boasts a sleek and modern look that adds to the beauty of your sauna. The M3 is the best-selling sauna stove in the world and offers a traditional sauna experience with a natural heat source and delightful aroma.

Key Features:

  1. Suitable for small and medium wood-fired barrel saunas.
  2. Efficient air circulation for a pleasant sauna experience
  3. Glass door for a traditional sauna ambiance
  4. Graphite black and stainless steel design

HUUM Hive Heat 12

If you’re looking for a more high-end wood-fired sauna heater with a unique design and excellent thermal mass, consider the HUUM Hive Heat 12. This stylish and efficient heater is a popular choice for smaller saunas due to its clean-burning process and strong flame.

Key Features:

  1. Unique structure for a strong flame and clean burning
  2. Efficient burning with no wood gas escaping the chimney
  3. Cast iron furnace door for durability and easy maintenance
  4. German standard compliance (BimSchV II)
  5. Treated only with natural oils, without the use of chemicals

Propane Barrel Sauna Heaters

Propane sauna heaters are an excellent option for those who want a convenient and efficient heat source that doesn’t rely on electricity or wood. These heaters are often used in commercial settings and are built to last. Propane barrel sauna heaters are ideal for those who prioritize ease of use and efficiency.

Top Propane Heater Option for Barrel Saunas: Scandia-Vico

Scandia makes the only gas heater manufactured in the United States. If you aren’t buying Scandia, you aren’t buying American. This heater is a gas-fired floor-mounted sauna heater with a design that blends both style and comfort making this heater the centerpiece of your sauna. The beautiful design is something you’ll want to show off. Their 40K Gas heaters are available for liquid propane or natural gas with a standing pilot light or a piezo ignition system.

Barrel Sauna Heaters – Safety Considerations

Always read the manual and check out safety clearances before purchasing a barrel sauna heater. Most wood stoves, including the Harvia M3 will require heat shields in the barrel sauna to prevent fire risk. We also recommend talking to your building department and city ordinances if you want to make sure you don’t have any issues with neighbors.


When deciding between electric, wood-fired, and propane barrel sauna heaters, consider your personal preferences, space constraints, and desired sauna experience. Electric heaters offer convenience and minimal maintenance, while wood-fired heaters provide a traditional, authentic experience, and propane heaters combine efficiency with ease of use. By comparing the Harvia KIP and HUUM Drop electric heaters, the Harvia M3 and HUUM Hive Heat 12 wood-fired heaters, and the Scandia-Vico propane heater, barrel sauna buyers can make an informed decision for their sauna heater needs. Each option offers excellent performance and unique features, ensuring a high-quality, enjoyable barrel sauna experience.