A sauna without a heater can make a nice closet, but with the right heater and the flip of a switch you’ll have all the benefits of a sauna right from home.
Electric sauna heaters are more convenient, clean, and consistent than wood burning sauna stoves, which have advantages of their own.
We’ve researched over 50 electric sauna heaters and tested over a dozen, and for the most part the market is pretty much what you’d expect. A lot of good, basic sauna heaters that get the job done.
However, we chose something a little different for top pick. We chose the Harvia Cilindro Tower Heater (buy on Amazon) as our top choice. If we’re being honest, we mostly chose it because it’s just so nice to look at from the bench. It also has a ton of thermal mass, Harvia is the best sauna heater brand, and you can control the ‘harshness’ of the steam depending on where you toss the water.
So, what is the best electric sauna heater?
Our Top Pick – Harvia Cilindro
The Harvia Cilindro is our top electric sauna heater because it’s not boring, has a TON of thermal mass (rocks), doesn’t take up much space, and looks great. The design lets you create soft steam by throwing water on the sides or a sharper heat by pouring water on top. Made in Finland! 6.8 KW, and 9 KW options.
It also helps that Harvia is the most trusted, best sauna heater brand out there.
Where to Buy:
- Low Clearances
- Sleek Design
- Flexible Loyly
- No option for very large or small saunas
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Best Classic Sauna Heater – Finlandia FLB Series
The Harvia KIP / Finlandia FLB series are built ‘Like a Rock,’ and they hold a lot of them too! They’ve been around since the early days and aren’t going anywhere. If you want to a long lasting sauna heater that you won’t have to replace every couple years, this is it.
This same stove goes by several different names because Harvia licensed the design to several manufacturers. It’s expensive for North American sauna companies to get safety certificates, so it was often easier for them to partner with Harvia.
Here’s the Finlandia FLB, Harvia KIP, and the Tylo Helo version of the classic design:
Best Value – Nature Saunas
Need a quality heater that won’t break the bank, but works just as well as the name brands? We’re going to let you in on a little secret…
No electric sauna heater is more efficient than any other. You put electricity in and you get heat out. Unless you have some really awful design flaw in the controls, there’s really no where to loose efficiency with an electric sauna heater.
A 6KW heater is a 6KW heater. Some may last longer, some may look better, and some can make the case that the quality of heat is better.
But no one can claim their electric heater is more efficient than any other without breaking the laws of physics.
So there you have it. If you’re the kind of person who wants a great value, this is it. They come in several different sizes from 2 KW to 10+ KW.
Where to Buy
Best Fancy Controls – Huum Dropback to menu ↑
Best 120v Sauna Heater For Small Saunas
110v is the standard voltage in US and Canada, so for small indoor saunas it can safe a lot of headache if you can get away with it. However, just because it’s 110v doesn’t necessarily mean you can just plug the sauna heater directly into the wall. They still need to be hardwired in most cases.
They only work for small saunas, but we’ve seen medium saunas use two of them with great results.
The best electric sauna heater for small hot rooms are typically 2-4kw. It’s only possible to have a 110v sauna heater be 2kw or less, so it’s only an option for the smallest saunas unless you double up.
Here are some good options:
We have the inside scoop on Huum Electric Sauna Heaters from Estonia that will soon be available in North America. Check out their unique design, and see how they can be App controlled here. Come back soon for Huum sauna reviews and deals for the North American market.
Is an electric sauna heater right for me?
Let’s be honest, there’s nothing like an authentic wood-burning sauna. You’d have to get pretty creative to replicate the smell and sound of firewood. However, the are plenty of good reasons why an electric sauna might be the only good option, including renewed concerns over pollution from sauna stoves.
The good news is that electric stoves can deliver all but the aesthetics of a wood burning sauna stove. Most criticism of electric saunas really comes down to BTU output and poor design. The intense radiant heat you feel from a wood-burning sauna is the same radiant heat from a physics perspective, there’s usually just more of it.
Today more than ever, electric sauna heaters are convenient, dependable, and consistent. If you’re a wood burning sauna enthusiast, it may be time to try an electric sauna heater heater again with an open mind.
If you close your eyes and drop some water on the stones, good electric stoves can fool most of us. Unlike infrared saunas, electric stoves with rocks can deliver a true Finnish sauna experience if they’re sized right.
If combustion isn’t one of your skills, you might actually get better heat and steam from a good electric stove.
What To Look For in an Electric Sauna Stove
The signs of a good electric stove
- Manufacturer allows throwing water on stones (Should have UL or ETL listing in US)
- Most manufacturers of the top electric sauna heaters have a background in making wood stoves. The art of creating a great steam should be inspired by wood-burning stoves, which is why they often make the best ones.
- We also like stone tower style
- Large mass of rocks are essential for smooth, high quality heat
Electric Sauna Tips
- Wash dust off stones before use.
- Place stones according to manufacturers recommendations – you don’t want to inadvertently block an air path or leave too open space. In most cases, rocks should completely covering the heating elements.
- Approximately once a year you should replace stones and remove any pieces that may have disintegrated and fallen to the bottom
- Never use saltwater or chlorinated water to create steam
- Make sure you are allowing enough ventilation through the room. Typically you’ll want an air intake behind the electric heater and a way for air to exit room low on the opposite wall. See what your heaters manual has to say about the topic.
- Most manufacturers explicated say not to install a shower in the sauna room.
- Don’t sweat it if there’s a funny factory smell at first, most electric saunas need to burn off some oils before use.
Wet Vs. Dry Sauna Heater
Wet saunas, Finnish Saunas, and Dry Saunas all use the same type of heater. A dry sauna becomes a wet sauna when water is poured on the rocks to create steam.
Sizing electric sauna heaters
Common rule of thumb – 1 KW for every 50 cubic feet.
Undersizing a sauna heater may limit your maximum bathing temperature (up to 194f), increase the time it takes to heat up, and severely limit the amount of water you can pour on your rocks. Oversizing a heater can create a harsh or unpleasant heat – especially when sitting close to the heater. Generally, oversizing is not as big of a problem as undersizing unless you really overdo it.
A good indoor sauna should be able to reach a good sauna temperature within 20-30 minutes.
Many people like to ‘size up’ to make their saunas get hotter faster. However, sauna heaters are typically UL or CSA rated for a particular size hot-room. This may have implications for home insurance policies if you oversize your heater.
Most sauna manufacturers in North America use maximum cubic feet for sizing their heaters based on the volume of the hot room. To calculate the cubic feet of your sauna, just multiply the Length x Width x Height of your sauna room in feet.
Also be aware that most electric sauna heaters have minimum ceiling heights and several other clearances that should be observed. Browse on sauna marketplace for minimum clearances or consult manufacturers manuals.
Common sauna heater sizing mistakes
- Oversizing to increase max temperature – North America UL or CSA certified electric sauna heaters have a maximum temperature regulator that will cap your sauna heat at 194 degrees f (don’t blame the messenger). If your sauna heater can reach that temperature in a reasonable time, sizing up will not make your sauna get much hotter.
- Sizing too small for outdoor saunas. Always size up for outdoor saunas in cold climates, especially cold climates or if your sauna has little or no insulation.
- Sizing too small for saunas with large windows or excessive ventilation.
- Not minding the steam factor – if you love steam, you may want to oversize your heater. Every time you pour water on the rocks there is a recovery time for the rocks to reach temperature again. The larger the heater, the faster this will happen. You will be frustrated pouring water onto the rocks in vain if your heater is too small – there’s literally nothing worse.
- Building sauna with tall ceilings – While it’s temping to have high ceiling height to accommodate stadium seating and get the bench above the heater, the sauna volume can quickly get out of hand and take a long time to heat. Ceiling height can also eat into the most important insulation space.
Electric Sauna Heater Water Considerations
Most sauna heaters are rated for pouring water on the rocks to create steam. This is how dry saunas become wet saunas – and it is essential for an authentic Finnish sauna experience.
However, there are some precautions you should take like making sure you’re using clean water. If you have a lot of minerals in your water, you will corrode and damage your heating elements with the water. Electric sauna heater water damage can usually be repaired by replacing the heating elements, but it’s best to avoid excessive or unclean water pouring on the rocks. Also, make sure you have plenty of rocks so the heating elements aren’t in direct contact with the water if possible.
Is it safe to put water on electric sauna?
It is safe to put water on an electric sauna heater. In fact, a sauna by definition involves pouring water on rocks to increase humidity. In the United States, many gym saunas have rules against pouring water on the rocks but that is not typically a safety issue.
How much is a sauna stove?
Home sauna stoves can cost anywhere from $250 to $4,000 USD. Most home saunas can find a suitable heater for under $1500.
What is a sauna stove?
A sauna stove is the heat source of a sauna that provides heat and humidity. Depending on the heater type, they may utilize either electric heating coils, burn wood, or burn gas.
How do I choose a sauna heater?
Choose a sauna heater that is rated for your room size and uses your desired heat source. Many prefer wood burning saunas but electric saunas are cleaner and more convenient.
What is the best heat for a sauna?
The best heat for a sauna depends on humidity levels and preference. Typically the temperature plus the relative humidity equals 200 in a traditional Finnish Sauna. For instance, a typical sauna may be 180 Fahrenheit + 20 Percent Relative Humidity.
Is it OK to pour water on sauna rocks?
It is recommended to gently pour water onto heated sauna rocks to create humidity. This will create an atmosphere that heats the skin quickly and comfortably. In fact, a sauna without water on the rocks is not a sauna by some definitions.
How do you size a sauna heater?
Each sauna heater will have a range that it’s recommended for, but a rule of thumb is 1KW for every 50 cubic feet.
How long does it take for an electric sauna to heat up?
An electric sauna can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour an a half to heat up the sauna room to the appropriate temperature. You can speed this up by pouring water on the rocks when the heating coils are hot.
What do you do with the water in a sauna?
Water has three important roles in sauna sessions. Sauna should be poured on rocks to increase humidity, drank often for hydration, and used for bathing between sessions.
Does adding water to sauna make it hotter?
Adding water to sauna rocks increases the temperature and humidity in the room by creating steam that transfers heat from rocks to the sauna user.
How do you heat a sauna rock?
Depending on the sauna type, sauna rocks are either heated with electric heating coils or combustion.
Can you use a wood stove for a sauna?
It’s best to use a wood stove that was specifically made for a sauna so it’s sized correctly and has space for rocks above the fire.
Unfortunately, buying an electric sauna heater online can be confusing. There are different safety certifications, size standards, and power requirements depending on the country (we focus on the US and Canada options).
More confusing still, some heater models are sold by different brands. Many of these models aren’t cheap rip-offs, they are often identical (besides the logo) and made by the same manufacturer. So what’s going on here?
How long does a sauna heater last?
We’ve seen electric sauna heaters last for generations, but it depends on how often it’s used, how clean your water is, and proper maintenance. According to North American Sauna Society, you can expect a sauna heater to last 5-10 years.
Let’s take a closer look at the market:
Didn’t Find What You’re Looking For? Check out these electric stoves with good reviews:
Notice anything interesting?
Besides the Cilindro (cool, huh?), these electric heaters are extremely similar. Some of these ARE cheap knock-offs, but that’s not the whole story.
The electric sauna heater market is really dominated by a couple large brands, TyloHelo and Harvia Oy, whose products are licensed and rebranded by several other sauna companies. Many other popular heaters (such as Finlandia) are really made by TyloHelo or Harvia.
One of the most popular electric sauna heaters on the market that goes by three names (Finlandia FLB-80, Harvia FLB-80, and KIP-80B). We believe it is the exact same heater made in the exact same warehouse with a different name on it depending on the market. In the United States market it’s usually sold as a Finlandia FLB-80.
The double (or triple) branding is done because it’s easier for sauna manufacturers in North America to license products that are already UL and CE listed than start from scratch.
Knowing how to spot duplicate models narrows the market considerably. Luckily, TyloHelo and Harvia (and the various companies who sell their products) are solid heaters that typically enjoy excellent reviews and a long life. Any heater derived from these brands is a quality product.
We’ve seen both TyloHelo and Harvia heaters that are going strong after 15 years and look great.
Don’t be intimidated – With electric sauna heaters there’s really only one technology (heating elements). Yes, some have fancy controls, use better materials, and look better – but 6KW of heat is 6KW of heat. We recommend finding one that fits your budget, is sized appropriately, and you like.
Most sauna heater mistakes come from sizing it wrong, not from the brand or model.
So don’t get too bogged down choosing an electric sauna heater. All the top electric sauna heaters create heat the same way and will get the job done if sized appropriately. Just try to size it right, and find one that’s available, in your budget, and enjoy your sauna.
New: Electric Sauna Heater Comparison Graphic
Below is an overview of the electric sauna heater market in US and Canada. Click on the image for the full interactive version to find and compare electric sauna heaters.
Click the Image (or HERE) for our interactive electric sauna heater comparison