Basic Sauna Instructions
These instructions will help you understand how to choose and use your sauna equipment properly. 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 wet or dry. However, when installing one in your home, you'll need to know the difference between the two. Common questions are: "Can we have water on the heater rocks?" Backcountry Recreation offering of heaters is tested and approved by C.S.A. (Canadian Standards) and approved for water use. However, there are important points to consider:
- WHERE THE SAUNA IS BEING USED- Will the heater be in a residential or a commercial setting? This question is asked because 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.
- WATER USAGE- Water should always be used in 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."
- APPLYING THE WATER- Proceed cautiously when pouring water onto the hot rocks. You risk steam rising, which 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
On our website, you will see a chart for choosing the right heater. In addition, instructions will help you determine the volume of the room (cubic room size) found there. Please refer to the 'SAUNA HEATING AND ELECTRICAL SPECIFICATION' chart to find the heater for the room where the sauna will be used in.
- 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, 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!
- 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 sauna's top bench and get the heat's full effect. 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. Remember, the maximum room temperature that 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 the 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 reflective vapor barrier 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 air tightness. Ensure the vapor barrier is draped loosely between the studs and in the corners. The perforations through the vapor barrier must be 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.
This is one of the options to help with air ventilation that is usually installed through the wall. Backcountry Recreation can make sauna doors with the proper airspace (1/2" to 3/4) from the bottom of the sauna door and the floor. There should be enough space under the door so that additional holes don't have to be cut under the heater. This will also help circulate the air in the sauna. Remember that doors with glass panels, upper vents, are not available.
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 from seeping through the wall cavity.
With our standard vent doors, an adjustable exhaust vent is already installed near the top of the door. This feature is shown in the brochure and on the Backcountry Recreation website. This means that you will not need the through-wall exhaust vent.
As you know already, the sauna heater's size depends on the size of the room. This means that the wire and breaker required are determined by the amperage and volts of the sauna heater. Please refer to our website for your heater's wire sizing and breaker capacity heating requirements.
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 be a costly fix. If you have difficulty 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 with a 6-1/2' to 7' ceiling, it will be placed horizontally over the heater with an inch of 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 a 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.
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 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 within the sauna heater. This switch shuts down the heater if it's operating under abnormal conditions.