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Wood Burning vs. Electric Heat: Choosing the Right Sauna for You

In the world of relaxation and wellness, few experiences compare to the rejuvenating warmth of a sauna session. Whether you’re looking to unwind after a long day or reap the health benefits associated with sauna use, the decision to invest in a sauna is just the beginning. One of the primary considerations you'll face is whether to opt for a traditional wood-burning cedar barrel sauna or a more modern electric heat alternative. Let's dive into the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision.

Wood Burning Cedar Barrel Sauna


1. Authentic Experience: There's something undeniably primal and satisfying about the crackling sound and earthy aroma of burning wood. A wood-burning cedar sauna offers an authentic sauna experience that connects you with nature and tradition.

2. Enhanced Aesthetics: A cedar barrel sauna exudes rustic charm and natural beauty. The rich, warm tones of cedar wood add a touch of elegance to any backyard or wellness space, creating a visually appealing focal point.

3. Ease of Use: A wood fired sauna can be easier to operate as no dials to turn or instruction manual to follow. Just simply start a fire and wait for it to heat up. Then during use you can pour larger amount of water on the rocks to increase humidity and achieve a wet sauna experience.

4. Sustainability: If sustainability is a priority for you, a wood-burning sauna offers the advantage of being powered by a renewable resource – wood. By using responsibly sourced firewood or wood pellets, you can minimize your environmental footprint.


1. Maintenance: Operating a wood-burning sauna requires more exterior maintenance compared to its electric counterpart. You'll need to regularly chop or purchase firewood, monitor the fire to maintain optimal temperature, clean out ash residue and resurface the stove as rust will form on the stove.

2. Temperature Control: Achieving and maintaining the desired temperature can be more challenging with a wood-burning sauna. Controlling the intensity of the fire and adjusting airflow to regulate heat levels may require practice and experimentation.

3. Installation Challenges: The installation of a wood-burning sauna may be more complex than that of an electric sauna. Proper ventilation and safety considerations are crucial including ensuring the sauna site is made of proper materials (concrete or the like) as well as positioned minimum 10' from trees or structures.

Electric Heat Sauna


1. Convenience: Electric saunas offer unparalleled convenience. With the push of a button or the turn of a dial, you can easily control the temperature to your liking, eliminating the need to tend to a fire or monitor wood consumption.

2. Consistent Heat: Electric saunas provide consistent heat levels throughout your session, ensuring a predictable and comfortable experience. This reliability makes it easier to achieve and maintain the desired therapeutic benefits.

3. Ease of Use: Operating an electric sauna is straightforward and user-friendly, making it an excellent option for beginners or those who prioritize simplicity. With minimal setup and maintenance requirements, you can spend more time enjoying your sauna sessions.

4. Space Efficiency: Electric saunas typically have a more compact footprint and may be easier to integrate into indoor spaces or smaller outdoor areas, making them suitable for a wide range of environments.


1. Dependency on Electricity: Electric saunas rely on a steady power supply to function, which may be a concern in areas prone to power outages or for off-grid installations. Additionally, ongoing energy consumption can contribute to utility costs.

2. Lack of Traditional Appeal: For purists seeking an authentic sauna experience, the lack of wood-burning ambiance and aroma in an electric sauna may be perceived as a drawback.

3. Initial Cost: While electric saunas may offer operational efficiency, they often come with a higher upfront cost compared to wood-burning models. Increased costs include hiring an electrician, permits, changes to electrical panels, trenching electric wires, and the like. In addition, maintenance costs including replacing damaged elements are common.

4. Dry Heat: Electric saunas have specific instructions to allow for proper heating and use. They require specialty sauna rocks and can tolerate a small amount of water to create humidity. Excess amounts of water poured over elements that are not fully heated can damage the elements and cause need for replacement.

Ultimately, the decision between a wood-burning cedar barrel sauna and an electric heat sauna comes down to personal preference, lifestyle factors, and priorities. If you value tradition, ambiance, and the sensory experience of tending to a fire, a wood-burning sauna may be the perfect fit for you. However, if convenience, consistency, and ease of use are paramount, an electric sauna could be the ideal choice. Whichever option you choose, investing in a sauna is a decision that promises years of relaxation, rejuvenation, and well-being.

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