The life expectancy of your sauna is going to depend on: what type of sauna it is, the quality of the materials it’s made from, what type of heating element it has, how well it’s maintained and if it’s installed indoors or outside. Generally speaking, a high quality sauna and heater that are well cared for can last upwards of 30-50 years.
Different Types of Saunas and Heaters
There are three main types of saunas: traditional, infrared and hybrid. A traditional also know as a Finnish sauna is a wood lined room heated by either a wood burning stove or an electric heater and steam can be created by pouring water over hot rocks. Electric sauna heaters are clean, convenient, and the most popular. They operate similar to an oven, using heating elements covered with rocks. While electric heaters can easily be installed in or outside, you’ll need access to electricity.
Wood burning saunas require proper ventilation which can be more complicated for an in- home installation. Wood burning heaters create a traditional atmosphere that some feel is the best way to heat and experience a sauna, however you’ll be dealing with logs, lighting the stove and ash cleanup afterward which can be inconvenient. A reasonable lifetime for both types of sauna heaters is 20 to 30 years.
Infrared saunas are also wood lined rooms but use infrared technology rather than a heater covered with rocks. Instead of heating the air in the room, infrared light waves warm your body from the inside out. The two most common heaters are ceramic and carbon. Ceramic is an effective material with a high emissivity rating, meaning it produces a lot of heat but with a shorter wavelength which isn’t as easily absorbed by the body. Carbon elements are more efficient with better heat distribution, are thin and light and can last up to 50 years.
Indoor and Outdoor Sauna Lifespan
The major benefit to building or installing your sauna indoors, is its longevity. With no exposure to wind, rain and snow, or the sun beating down on the exterior, it will likely last longer and require less care and maintenance than one built outdoors. You will likely have easier access to electrical outlets indoors but will need a proper foundation for it to sit on and adequate ventilation especially if there will be smoke or steam.
Depending on the climate, you’ll want to install an outdoor sauna somewhere with as much protection from the elements as possible. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause the exterior wood to fade, crack and then leak; if you can’t install it out of the sun, you can protect it with a cover. Venting is much easier for an outdoor sauna, but if you choose electric heat you’ll need access to outdoor electricity.
Regular care and maintenance is the easiest way to ensure the longevity of your sauna regardless of where it’s located. Try to enter your sauna with clean feet, sit on a towel while you’re bathing, and take a few minutes to wipe down the interior surfaces when you’re done. You’ll also want to leave the door open if possible to vent fresh air in and speed up the drying process. Outdoor saunas will likely require care, especially if not cared for properly, while indoor saunas will only need cleaning and possible interior restoration. Be mindful that hard water can be tough on your sauna so you may opt for distilled water that doesn’t cause mineral buildup.