An Easy Guide to Wood Burning Sauna Stoves (Updated 2023)
Where an infrared sauna uses infrared light to directly heat your body, traditional saunas use a heat source to heat the air inside the sauna, which in turn heats your body. This heat source is typically an electric sauna heater, but for those sauna purists out there, or those with an outdoor sauna deep in the woods, a wood burning sauna stove is the only way to go. With a crackling fire and temperatures reaching up to 200 degrees, nothing beats time spent in a wood fired sauna out in the snow.
Using a wood burning sauna stove to heat your sauna isn't the most efficient, or easy, way to enjoy your sauna. But sometimes it's a necessity, and let's be honest, it's just so much cooler to hang out in a sauna with a fire. Below are a few wood burning sauna stove recommendations for your outdoor sauna, along with some tips on how to properly use a wood burning sauna stove.
TOP THREE WOOD BURNING SAUNA STOVES
The Harvia M3 Wood Burning Sauna stove is great for smaller outdoor saunas up to 460 cubic feet. An efficient and practical sauna stove, the Harvia M3 features a tempered glass window to highlight the crackling fire, and the rest of the heater is built with cast iron and stainless steel. A durable wood burning sauna stove, the Harvia M3 is a classic heater with an updated modern look.
2. Huum Hive Wood Burning Sauna Stove. From $1,678
Along with their Red Dot award winning electric sauna heaters, Huum also offers two amazing wood burning sauna stoves, the Hive and the Wood. Featuring the same "basket" design, the Hive Wood Burning Sauna Stove is made up of a large stainless steel basket that holds between 200 and 286 pounds of stones. The stones are heated by the cast iron firebox, which gets your sauna up to over 200 degrees. With A unique and upscale look, the Huum wood burning sauna stoves are absolute showstoppers.
The Hive wood burning sauna stove also comes with an optional extended firebox. This can allow you to load wood into the firebox from outside the sauna. If you want to just pile up a bunch of wood outside close to the firebox, and don't want to lug it into the sauna, or risk getting small pieces of wood on the floor of your sauna, the "extended throat" wood burning sauna stove is an awesome feature.
3. Narvi Wood Burning Sauna Stoves. From $1,460
Narvi is one of the oldest companies in Finland, the home of sauna. Narvi simply makes some of the highest quality wood burning sauna stoves on the market. The Narvi NC wood burning sauna stoves are beefier versions of the Harvia M3, although more expensive. Built from cast iron, and featuring a tempered glass window that peers into the firebox, a Narvi wood burning sauna stove will last longer than most wood burning sauna stoves out there, and you'll probably be the only person you know that has one. New to the U.S. market, Narvi is sure to turn some heads.
HOW TO USE YOUR WOOD BURNING SAUNA STOVE
At their core, wood burning sauna stoves are pretty self explanatory to use. You put wood in the firebox, you light it on fire, wait around for 45 minutes and you've got yourself a nice hot sauna. While the basics are pretty simple, there are some pro tips that can help get your sauna running nice and over and over.
1. Always start with a clean firebox. Pull the ash tray out of the firebox and empty it and clean it before every use. This will help keep the logs you put into the firebox burning cleanly.
2. Firewood. Load your logs into the firebox. I like to use 5 or 6 logs when I start, and, using a version of the upside down fire method, I place the largest logs on the bottom, and the smallest on top, with very small fire starters, paper and kindling at the very top. As the kindling and paper burn they trickle down and get the larger pieces going.
3. Wait! Once you have your fire going in your wood burning sauna stove, let it do its thing for 45 minutes to an hour, with the damper open. This should be enough time for the wood to burn nice and hot, and for your coals to form. At this time you can throw another log on the coals, if need be, but your sauna should be around 150 to 175 degrees by this point.
4. Damper Closed. At this point you can experiment with the damper on your wood burning sauna stove, but your fire should be burning hot and closing the damper will let less oxygen in to the firebox and increase the temperature in the firebox.
When you're done with your sauna and the firebox has cooled down, rinse and repeat by cleaning out your firebox for the next sauna session!
THE BEST WOOD FOR A WOOD BURNING SAUNA STOVE
Not all wood is created equally, and that is certainly true when we're talking about heating up your wood fired sauna. All hard woods, some of the best woods we like to use in our wood burning sauna stove are:
1. Birch. Smells great and burns really hot. Downside is that it can burn quickly.
2. Fir. Easy to split, and burning hot, Douglas Fir is an underrated wood for your wood burning sauna heater.
3. Oak. Everyone loves oak. A hard wood that burns long and hot, you can't go wrong with oak in your sauna stove.
4. Apple wood. Producing very little smoke, apple wood burns long and hot. The downside is it's always available everywhere, but if you can find it it's a great option to use in your sauna stove.
5. Maple. Easy to find, this is another hard wood that burns long and hot. An easy choice for your wood burning sauna stove.
All of these woods are also great choices for the cousin of the wood fired sauna, the wood fired hot tub, by the way!
We went over some of the best wood burning sauna stoves on the market, how to use your wood burning sauna stove efficiently and our five favorite types of wood to use in a wood burning sauna stove. All that info should do the trick to get you up and running on your new wood burning sauna.
It takes more effort to run a wood burning sauna, but the payoff is worth it in every possible way. Enjoy and sauna on!
- Wes McMahon, Founder, Sun Valley Saunas