Basic Indoor Sauna Room Instructions

Basic Indoor Sauna Room Instructions

Basic Sauna Instructions

These instructions will help you understand how to choose your sauna equipment and use it properly. In order for you to enjoy your sauna thoroughly, follow the simple steps below.

Wet or Dry Saunas?

When you go into a sauna at your local spa or gym, you probably don't think about whether it's a wet one or dry one. However, when it's time to install one in your home, you'll need to know the difference between the two. Common questions that are asked are: "Can we have water on the heater rocks?" Backcountry Recreation offering of heaters are tested and approved by C.S.A. (Canadian Standards) and are approved for use with water. However, there are important points to consider:

  1. WHERE THE SAUNA IS BEING USED- Will the heater be in a residential or a commercial setting? The reason this question is asked is that a homeowner is more likely to care for the heater than a commercial owner. This is because the commercial owner can't control the users of the public sauna if they throw water on the rocks. However, most or all public places have signs that say "THIS IS A DRY SAUNA-NO WATER ALLOWED". With that sign, you can trust that users will read that sign and respect the space.
  2. WATER USAGE- Water should always be used in a small amounts when the rocks are hot. If a lot of water is used, it'll cause spillage onto the floor and cause issues with the heater. This means damage, so remember the motto "More is not better."
  3. APPLYING THE WATER- Proceed with caution when pouring water onto the hot rocks. You risk steam rising that can burn your skin. It's better to use a spray bottle or a ladle, where you can control the amount of water safely.

Choosing the Right Size for Your Heater and Room

You will see on our website that there is a chart for choosing the right heater. There are instructions that will help you determine the volume of the room (cubic room size) that is found there. Please refer to the ‘SAUNA HEATING AND ELECTRICAL SPECIFICATION' chart to find the heater for the room that the sauna will be used in.

  1. Size of the Room- It's relatively common that customers will exaggerate the dimensions of their room so that they can get the largest residential heater. The largest residential heater is 240 volts, 1 phase, which is called a "HSH 9'. This is 9000 watts, so this heater can fit into an 8' x 8' floor area with a 7' ceiling, which equates to 448 cubic feet. If the room is larger, use 2 heaters. The largest commercial (208 volts, 3 phase) heater that we have is 15 kilowatts. The most common residential room sizes are 5' x 6' x 7' high, 6'x6'x7' high; and 7' x 6' x 7' high, but don't fret, we offer many other sizes as well. If you need a custom size done, we can do it for free!
  2. Height of the Ceiling-With residential ceilings, the sauna room's ceiling heights are at least 6 1/2 feet to 7 feet. This way, a smaller heater can be used. It may seem small for a residential heater, but because the heat rises, it lets the bather sit on the top bench of the sauna and get the full effect of the heat. If the ceiling is too high, some users can complain that it's too cold because the hotter air is "pooling." A higher ceiling will also lead to issues with the heater because it wasn't designed for that room. Keep in mind, the maximum room temperature that's can be reached is 90 C (194 F). C.S.A. Standards will not allow a sauna room to go above this temperature for obvious safety reasons. The thermostat bulb on the heater can sense temperature in the room. With this in mind, the average sauna temperature (top bench) is about 80 to 85 C.

What makes a sauna room?

Insulation & Vapor Barrier

There is a minimum of R-12 of fiberglass batts for the walls and ceilings in the sauna room. It will provide enough insulation that the room needs. The vapor barrier, which is reflective, has an insulation value of R-2.64. The barriers are applied with the reflective side that is facing into the room. You'll want to ensure that all vapor barrier joints are sealed with aluminum duct tape to ensure airtightness. Make sure that the vapor barrier is draped loosely between the studs and in the corners. It's essential that the perforations through the vapor barrier are kept to a minimum.

Ensuring proper ventilation

Ventilation is important in sauna rooms. If there is no ventilation, it may feel suffocating. Make sure that it's properly ventilated so that the sauna room can be enjoyed.

Intake Air

This is one of the options to help with air ventilation that is usually installed through the wall. Backcountry Recreation can make sauna doors that have the proper airspace (1/2" to 3/4) from the bottom of the sauna door and the floor. The reason there should be enough space under the door is so that additional holes don't have to be cut under the heater. This will also help circulate the air in the sauna. Keep in mind that doors with glass panels, upper vents, are not available.

Exhaust Air

This is another option that involves having an adjustable vent on the opposite wall. It'll need to be on the same level as the top bench, diagonally with the intake vent. It's important not to over ventilate as it will make the heater work too hard and could cause a malfunction. If you get the adjustable doors on our wall vent kit, the airflow can be controlled while you lay on the top bench in your sauna room.

With the through-wall vent kit, you'll want to ensure that a plywood sleeve fits perfectly with the vent. The plywood sleeve will help prevent the humidity from the sauna seeping through the wall cavity.

With our standard vent doors, there is an adjustable exhaust vent that is already installed near the top of the door. You will see this feature shown in the brochure and on the Backcountry Recreation website. This means that you will not need the through-wall exhaust vent.

Electrical Hookup

As you know already, the sauna heater's size depends on the size of the room. This means that the wire and breaker required is determined by the amperage and volts of the sauna heater. Please refer to our website for the wire sizing and breaker capacity heating requirements for your heater.

Sometimes, there are issues when a wire has too light of a gauge. This means it wasn't the right wire size wasn't used and can end up being a costly fix. If you are having a hard time finding the information, contact us and we can send you the required information.

You'll want to ensure that the thermostat is in the right position, and you have the right size. The capillary length is 12' long. If the thermostat is placed in a room that has a 6-1/2' to 7' ceiling, it will be placed horizontally over the heater with an inch space from the ceiling. If placed anywhere else, there will be issues with the heater.

G.F.I. (Ground Fault Interrupt) Breakers

Customers shouldn't install the sauna control near a pool or spa because it will interfere with the G.F.I. circuit. Often, G.F.I. breakers and sauna heaters don't mesh well because of the "nuisance" tripping of the breaker. It's also very expensive having certain breaker systems. If a G.F.I. breaker is needed, the electrician may use an alternative system that uses 120V G.F.I. breaker. All sauna heaters have their own circuit system, so it doesn't need to be on a G.F.I. breaker system.

Replacement Heaters

Backcountry Recreation provides replacement heaters from time to time, especially the ones in public spaces. Sometimes there is a problem that wasn't dealt with from the beginning. If a heater is pre-1982, it has to be replaced. This is because UL and C.S.A. standards have changed in 1982. The most noticeable change was the reduction in sauna room temperatures. It went from 120 C (248 F) to 90 C (194 F). As of 1982, you can manually reset the high temperature limiting switch, which is within the sauna heater. This switch shuts down the heater if it's operating under abnormal conditions.


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