How to Heat a Sauna (Steps + Video Guide)

how to heat up a sauna

Heating a sauna is pretty simple, but not very obvious for someone who is doing it for the first time. You may be wondering, how to heat up a wood-burning sauna and how to light a fire in the sauna stove. Or you may be looking at the dials and buttons in an electric sauna wondering what they do.

In this guide, I will show you step-by-step how to heat a sauna. Whether you have an electric or a wood-burning sauna, you will find the instructions on how to heat up your sauna!

How to Heat a Wood-Burning Sauna

I recorded a quick video guide on how to heat a wood-burning Finnish-style sauna. See the video below:

How to Heat a Wood-Burning Sauna

In short, to heat a wood-burning sauna, you need to open up the air vents and the smoke damper, collect kindling and firewood, and make a fire. It will take between 30-45 minutes to preheat the sauna.

heating a sauna

Total Time Needed :



Steps to Heat a Wood-Burning Sauna:

sauna smoke damper
Step 1 – Open the smoke damper and air vents

For safety, it is very important to always open the smoke damper and air vents when heating a sauna. If the smoke damper is not opened, smoke may come to the sauna instead of going to the chimney. This can be very dangerous.

The smoke damper is usually located above the sauna stove, but it may be located also outside the sauna, depending on where the chimney is.

Opening the air vents will also allow replacement air to flow into the sauna room.

sauna firewood and kindling
Step 2 – Collect firewood and kindling

Collect firewood to build a fire in the sauna stove. It’s best to use smaller logs first to build the fire, and later add bigger logs. Birch and other hardwoods are best because of the longer burn time and hotter flames.

For kindling, collect bark, wood shavings, and smaller sticks that light up easily. You can use small amounts of paper or a fire starter, but avoid burning excess amounts of paper and cardboard in the sauna.

firewood in sauna stove
Step 3 – Stack the firewood in the sauna stove

Stack the wood and kindling in the sauna stove. It’s best to use smaller, dry logs at first because they light up easier.

light the fire in sauna
Step 4 – Light the fire

Light the fire by lighting the kindling first. If the fire is not starting, you can add a small amount of newspaper or other clean paper.

preheat a wood burning sauna
Step 5 – Preheat and add more wood as needed

You should add more wood every 10-15 minutes as the logs burn out. Typically, it takes 30-45 minutes to preheat a wood-burning sauna, but a very small sauna room might be ready faster. You should preheat the sauna until the temperature reaches at least 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit (45-50 degrees Celcius)

How to Heat an Electric Sauna

Electric sauna is very easy to heat up.

The electric sauna heater has usually only two switches:

  1. Time switch to set for how long the sauna is on
  2. Temperature which or a thermostat to control the temperature

The switches are located in the bottom of the sauna heater and they typically look like this:

In some cases, the switches may be located outside of the sauna room next to the door. Typically this is the case in shared saunas, spas, and gyms. But even in those cases, there are typically only those same two switches for the time and temperature control.

Steps to Heat an Electric Sauna

  1. Set the temperature. Usually, the switch has numbers from 1 to 10. Start with 7 or 8 and adjust it based on your preference.
  2. Set the time. When you turn the timer switch, you should hear a little “click”. This means the sauna is on. Set the timer to 1 hour, which is usually enough time to preheat and do a session in the sauna.
  3. Preheating. It usually takes between 20-30 minutes to preheat an electric sauna depending on the power of the heater and size of the sauna room.
  4. Switch off the heater after you are done. When you are done, switch off the sauna heater. You can do this by turning the timer switch counter-clockwise until the timer goes to 0.

Was this guide helpful or do you have more questions? Let me know in the comments below!

Jussi Yli-Korhonen

Jussi is an online marketing expert, an entrepreneur, and the founder of Jussi is a sauna-loving guy from Finland, the birthplace of saunas. The traditional wood-fired saunas are his favorite but he's visited dozens of different types of saunas in over 20 countries.

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