Choosing recreational equipment for your home can be a confusing experience. If there is a high quality retailer near you – like Black Pine Spas – you can go in, look around, touch the products, sit in them and see what feels comfortable (you can also view our sauna showroom online). But if you don’t live near a store, shopping online is your only alternative, and this can be more of a challenge. To help you, we’ve put together this buying guide to help you know which type of sauna will be a good fit for your lifestyle and budget.
If you are ever unsure or just need some help deciding, get an in-home consultation. It’s free and easy to setup, talk to any of our experts at 425-771-5774 about the consultation or any other sauna questions. We also ship to anywhere within the continental US!
Considerations Before You Buy a Sauna
Traditional or Infrared? Infrared is the latest technology (also known as FAR) and is more efficient, uses less power and heat the small space more efficiently. However, many people prefer traditional rock and water experience because they appreciate the aesthetics, the hiss of steam and feel that it’s a more natural experience.
Because the infrared technology uses light waves that penetrate the skin, the detoxing effect may be more profound. FAR also gets the same results at lower temperatures and so may allow you to relax for longer without risking your health. If you choose infrared, be sure to opt for a spa with an LED control panel on the inside and on the outside so you can make adjustments without opening the door – built-in digital timers for auto shut-off are a plus.
Our Recommendation: Go with infrared
Indoor or Outdoor Sauna?
You can install either a traditional or infrared sauna indoors or out. You can buy prefabbed units or have one custom built. The main difference is the wear and tear of weather on an outdoor structure. The wood, hardware and electrical components will need to be weatherproofed to get the best results and ensure a long life span for your equipment.
If your home is modest sized, you may worry you don’t have room for an indoor, but single person units can fit in surprisingly small spaces. But if you’re a fan of the outdoors, this location may suit you better.
Our Recommendation: Go with your preference
What Wood is Best for a Sauna?
There are a number of options, and you’ll want to make your choice based on the look, smell and whether you’ve decided on indoor or outdoor.
- Cedar is darker colored and the most traditional wood choice. This wood works well for traditional or outdoor facilities because of its natural moisture and mildew resistant properties. Cedar has a unique aromatic smell but is also one of the most expensive wood materials currently on the market.
- Hemlock is a lighter colored wood and is considered a hardwood. It has natural mildew and stain resistant properties. It is also the best wood if you have allergies or sensitivity as the wood’s natural aroma isn’t as strong as cedar because it has less resin in it.
- Aspen Wood is a light colored wood that has almost no odor similar to Hemlock. This is another good wood choice if you have allergies or sensitivity to smells.
- Basswood is light colored and considered a soft wood. It has a significant amount of oil or resin in it which gives it natural moisture resistant properties. Basswood is odorless and a good choice for people with allergies or sensitivities.
- Poplar is a lighter colored hardwood that is also considered a hypoallergenic wood.
Our Recommendation: Hemlock is the best all around choice from a hypoallergenic, cost, moisture resistance and overall aesthetic standpoint.
We offer some great financing for saunas to make it easier to get what you want!
What About Sauna Size & Shape?
Unless you want to invest in a custom build, you’ll need to choose from industry standards which typically are: 3’x3’, 3’x4’, and 4’x5’. A 3’x4’ sauna with one bench should fit two adults comfortably while a 4’x5’ with a longer bench should fit three to four adults comfortably or allow one person to lie down and stretch out. Shapes can vary as well.
Standard shapes are square, rectangular, round (barrel) and corner shaped. Figuring out where you want to install it in your home will help you figure out the best size and shape for you.
Our Recommendation: Before you start shopping, measure the available space so you’re sure to get one to fit.
Infrared Carbon or Ceramic Heater?
Carbon heaters are more costly but are far superior technology. They have a larger heating surface, provide a more even distribution of heat leaving no cold spots. Carbon heaters are safer because they won’t burn you if you come into physical contact with them. Carbon also heats faster, is more energy efficient and has a much longer life span than a ceramic heater – as much as four times as long!
Some manufacturers use a blend of both types of heaters, to seem they are giving you the best of both worlds, but there’s no upside to mixing. Just make sure there is enough power to heat the space and look for a long warranty (it’s a sign of quality).
Our Recommendation: Go with carbon heaters every time!
Sauna: Form or Function?
When you invest in something, you want to know it will last and deliver the relaxation and health benefits you want. Something to consider are glass and windows in the design. These can look nice, but are poor insulators and will diminish effectiveness – skip the windows. Paneling should be tongue and groove and all wood should be kiln dried to allow expansion and contraction. All walls should be double paneled and well insulated to deliver faster warm-up times, better heat retention and optimal energy efficiency. Look for heavy duty hardware that will stand the test of time rather than decorative less-substantial accoutrements.
Our Recommendation: Choose stylish performance over pretty but potentially problematic.
What Design Should You Keep in Mind? There are some aspects that you may not think about because they go unseen after your sauna is installed, but that are very important. Any glue used should be water-based and non-toxic to keep you healthy. Buckle assembly design is preferred because it offers a strong joint with no tools required – don’t get talked into a magnet joint design – these offer poor structural integrity.
Bolt and screw assemblies are structurally strong, but not as common and can damage parts if disassembled and reassembled multiple times. Many purchasers choose to assemble their own kits, but you can always bring in a pro if you’re not confident in your skills.
Our Recommendation: Always choose quality – it will pay off in the long run!
What’s in a Warranty?
Warranties are very important and are typically broken down into heater and construction components. Most reputable manufacturers will offer a lifetime warranty on their heaters but they can be as short as 90 days. Carbon heaters will generally offer a longer warranty term. The construction part of the warranty is usually against manufacturer’s defects in the wood walls and hardware that hold the saunas together and can range from one year to a number of years.
The best arrangement is one where your dealer will offer local customer service and support in addition to support from the manufacturer. Find out before you buy if there is a travel fee or deductible for a service call. Find out how much labor rates are as well since warranties usually cover parts but not labor.
Our Recommendation: Buy from a specialty dealer that offers local warranty and customer service support.
How to Get the Best Sauna Price?
The same make and model can vary from dealer to dealer because one dealer may do more volume and therefore get deeper discounts from the manufacturer. Some dealers have less overhead or are willing to take a lower profit margin and will offer lower prices. The quality of materials and heaters and the choice of wood will also drive the price. This is a significant investment for equipment you will use for decades.
Quality should be your foremost consideration. We don’t recommend buying from a big box store like Costco, Wal-Mart or Home Depot because you won’t get decent service should you have any issues.
Our Recommendation: Buy in person or online from a reputable specialty dealer that specializes in saunas.
Contact Black Pine Spas for expert advice on all of your recreational needs. We invite you to come in to talk about your needs, call us for a free in-home consultation or browse our online store and call us with any questions.