Wood Burning Or Electric Heat?

Wood Burning Or Electric Heat?

Wood Burning Barrel Sauna Heater vs Electric

The decision to invest in a barrel or outdoor sauna for your home isn't a difficult one to make. The benefits of a sauna are impressive: a reduction in joint and muscle pain, it relaxes the muscles, boosts your immune system, stimulates circulation to your blood system, helps metabolism, detoxifies and improves the skin, and much more!

Even with all the benefits, you'll face a more challenging problem. An electric heater or a wood-burning heater? Both are very popular choices and offer an overall similar sauna experience. What's the best option? That is not an easy question to answer. Like with most things in life, there are pros and cons when it comes to each. Your choice will come down to a matter of preference. You can't choose without the proper information; that's why you're here, right? Let's take an in-depth look at each type and help you out.

Electric Outdoor / Barrel Saunas

Electric heaters are known for convenience and cleanliness, and they're quick! UL code in the U.S. has set the maximum temperature of an electric sauna at 194℉, there are many electric sauna models that can reach that temperature in less than 10 minutes. A few models allow pre-programming, so your sauna is ready whenever you want. You may use an electric sauna more regularly because it's quick and convenient. It's worth knowing about the safety feature of an electric sauna. For example, most saunas that are for residential use won't run for more than an hour without resetting.

The main disadvantage of the electric barrel sauna - it's electric. There are a variety of electric heaters for you to buy with a range of price points for different sized budgets, but it will still raise your utility bill. Also, readers who live in the countryside or have a place at the lake or other rural areas may have difficulty finding a stable source of electricity.


Ease of Use: Electrically heated saunas are incredibly easy to operate. All you need to do is flip a switch or adjust a thermostat, and the heat will start flowing. There's no need to chop wood or tend to a fire, making it convenient for those who want a hassle-free sauna experience.

Clean and Efficient: Electric heaters produce clean heat with no emissions, making them environmentally friendly. They are also highly efficient, as all the energy is converted into heat without any wasted energy. This makes electric heaters a great option for those who are conscious of their carbon footprint and want a more sustainable heating option.

Precise Temperature Control: Electric heaters allow for precise temperature control, so you can easily adjust the heat to your desired level. This is especially beneficial for those who prefer a consistent and controlled heat in their sauna experience. Electric heaters typically come with built-in thermostats or digital controls, allowing you to set the desired temperature and maintain it throughout your sauna session.

Low Maintenance: Electric heaters require minimal maintenance compared to wood heaters. There's no need to clean up ashes, remove soot, or perform regular chimney inspections. This can save you time and effort in terms of sauna maintenance.

Safer Option: Electric heaters are generally considered safer than wood heaters, as there is no open flame involved. There's no risk of sparks, embers, or ash that could potentially cause a fire hazard. Electric heaters also usually have built-in safety features such as overheat protection and automatic shut-off, providing an added layer of safety.


Cost of Electricity: One of the main drawbacks of electric heaters is the ongoing cost of electricity. While they are energy efficient, the cost of running an electric sauna can add up over time, especially if you use your sauna frequently. The cost of electricity varies depending on your location and utility rates, so it's important to consider the long-term operating costs when using an electric heater.

Dependence on Electricity: Electric heaters require a reliable source of electricity to function. If you live in an area with frequent power outages or have limited access to electricity, an electrically heated sauna may not be a viable option for you. In contrast, wood heaters can provide heat even when there's no electricity available.

Wood Burning Outdoor / Barrel Saunas

Because of its authentic sauna experience, many prefer the wood-burning stove. Typically, they cost less, and there is a nostalgic feeling associated with the wood sauna. The added benefit of a soul-warming feeling is why many prefer the oldest type of sauna.

There's no need to have an electrician wire your sauna space for 220 volts because wood-burning stoves don't use electricity, but there is a trade-off: you'll need to install a chimney or other form of a vent. Other disadvantages need to be considered as well. There is more of a challenge to control the temperature. It takes more time to heat the room from a cold start. Finally, although they are less expensive, to begin with, in some neighborhoods wood is not cheap. If there's no forest nearby because you're living in a big city, wood can cost anywhere between $300 to $600 or more!


Availability of Wood: If you live in an area with abundant wood supply or have access to firewood, wood heat can be a cost-effective option. Wood is a renewable resource and can be a more sustainable option compared to relying solely on electricity.

Authentic Experience: Wood heaters can provide an authentic sauna experience, as they produce a soft, natural heat and steam when water is poured over the heated rocks or stones. Many sauna enthusiasts appreciate the traditional and rustic ambiance of a wood-fired sauna, which can enhance the overall sauna experience.

Potential Cost Savings: Wood can be a cheaper fuel source compared to electricity, depending on the availability and cost of firewood in your area. If you have access to a sustainable and affordable supply of firewood, using a wood heater for your outdoor sauna can result in cost savings over time, as you won't have to pay for ongoing electricity costs.

Independence from Electricity: Wood heaters offer the advantage of being independent from electricity. This can be particularly beneficial if you are in a remote location without access to electricity or during power outages. Wood heaters provide the flexibility to enjoy a sauna session even when there is no electricity available, making them a reliable option for off-grid or remote locations.

Customizable Heat and Steam: Wood heaters provide more flexibility in adjusting the heat and steam levels in your sauna. You can control the temperature by adding or removing wood from the firebox, and control the steam by pouring water over the rocks or stones as desired. This customization allows you to create a sauna experience tailored to your preferences and comfort level.

Sustainability: Wood is considered a renewable energy source, as it can be harvested from sustainably managed forests. When using wood from responsibly managed sources and employing proper wood-burning practices, wood heaters can be an environmentally sustainable option for heating your outdoor sauna.

Aesthetic Appeal: Wood heaters can be visually appealing, adding a rustic and traditional charm to your outdoor sauna. The sight of a crackling fire and the smell of burning wood can create a cozy and inviting ambiance in your sauna space, adding to the overall aesthetics and experience.


Higher Maintenance: Wood heaters require more maintenance compared to electric heaters. You need to chop, stack, and store firewood, as well as clean up ashes, remove soot, and perform regular chimney inspections. This can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, requiring more effort and attention compared to electric heaters.

Inconsistent Heat: Wood heaters can produce inconsistent heat, as the temperature may fluctuate depending on the type and quality of wood used, as well as the airflow and combustion inside the heater. This can make it challenging to maintain a consistent temperature throughout your sauna session, which may not be suitable for those who prefer precise temperature control.

Emissions and Pollution: Wood heaters produce emissions in the form of smoke, particulate matter, and other pollutants. While burning wood can be considered a renewable energy source, it still contributes to air pollution and may not be the best option for those who are concerned about environmental impact and air quality.

Fire Hazard: Wood heaters involve an open flame, which can pose a fire hazard if not managed properly. Sparks, embers, and ashes from the firebox can potentially ignite flammable materials nearby, posing a risk of fire. Proper safety precautions, such as installing spark arrestors and maintaining a clear area around the sauna, are necessary when using wood heat to mitigate this risk.

Longer Heat-Up Time: Wood heaters generally require a longer heat-up time compared to electric heaters. It takes time to ignite the fire, heat up the stones or rocks, and achieve the desired temperature. This may require more planning and patience compared to electric heaters, which can provide heat almost instantly with a flip of a switch.

Installation Limitations: Wood heaters require a chimney or flue for proper ventilation, which may require additional installation costs and considerations when building an outdoor sauna. The location and design of the chimney need to comply with local building codes and regulations, which may limit the flexibility in positioning and designing your outdoor sauna.

Sauna Maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential to help extend the life of your electric or wood-burning sauna. You can use a soft cloth with a mild cleanser that is non-abrasive to clean the steel or ceramic casing of a heater. Keep in mind most sauna rooms are made from wood. You should never use chlorine (bleach) or ammonia-based cleaners; this is because the wood colour will be ruined this way. Water with a small amount of baking soda will be the best choice for cleaning wood surfaces.

Hard water stains can be a problem in some regions: hard water contains high levels of dissolved lime, calcium, magnesium sulfates, chalk, and other minerals. A limescale residue will build up over time; pipes will clog and disrupt your plumbing. It can also leave an ugly discoloration on any surface, including the wood on your sauna! The good news is these stains can be dealt with. The common remedy to clean them in other home areas is using vinegar. Unfortunately, vinegar isn't good for wood, so you have to use another method. A slightly stronger solution of baking soda can do the trick; if that doesn't work, there's another little-known way proven to be very effective for wood covered with hard water stains: mayonnaise.

You can cover hard water stains will a layer of full-fat mayonnaise and leave it for 8 hours; after you wipe it all up, the stain will be less noticeable - it may even be completely gone. But of course, the best way of preventing hard water stains is by stopping them from happening in the first place. A regular cleaning schedule with baking soda and water will keep the stains away.

In The End…

The right choice of sauna is yours to make. Would you prefer a quick and convenient electric sauna, or do you like the idea of a traditional experience with a wood-burning sauna? No matter your decision, you'll have a sauna that will help you find peace and relaxation at the end of a long day.

Still have questions? Give us a quick call at 1-877-446-3565 or send us an email at info@backcountryrecreation.com

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