Saunas offer relaxation and health benefits to its guests when used correctly. To achieve the best possible experience during your sauna session, it’s important to maintain a comfortable temperature of the sauna.
To achieve a desirable temperature, it’s important to properly monitor the temperature –this will help you (or the automatic heater) determine whether more or less heat is needed. The placement of your thermometer can significantly impact your sauna session, ensuring you get the most out of it.
Depending on the style, size and configuration of the sauna, temperature measurements may be inconsistent at various locations throughout the space. Inconsistent temperature readings can make it tricky to keep it at a desirable temperature for you and any guests.
In this post we’ll assess where to measure sauna temperature. Along with that, we’ll go over the standard temperature for saunas and what to look for when getting a sauna thermometer.
Do Saunas Need a Temperature Sensor?
Saunas are typically heated with wood, gas or electric heaters. Depending on the type of sauna and guest temperature preferences, it may operate upwards of 195°F.
Since the temperature of a sauna is one of the most critical aspects, it’s recommended that there’s some form of sensor in the sauna.
Similar to household HVAC systems, many modern saunas incorporate a temperature sensor (or thermostat) as part of the heating system. The temperature sensor provides feedback to the heater to provide continuous control of the sauna temperature.
If the sauna uses a digital control panel, there is more than likely a temperature sensor either in the heater or in the general sauna room.
However, some saunas are manually operated through simple control of a heat output and time. In these instances, the temperature sensor may just be a thermometer used by guests to gauge temperature.
Many saunas also utilize a temperature sensor or safety switch that will keep the sauna from overheating. If temperature exceeds the safety limit, then the sauna automatically shuts off.
This automatic shut-off system protects not just your sauna from overly high temperatures but also you, since getting too hot may cause dehydration.
Types of Sauna Temperature Sensors
There are several types of temperature sensors commonly used in saunas to provide safety and comfort:
- Digital Temperature Sensors
- Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTDs)
- Infrared Temperature Sensor
- Bimetallic Thermometer
- Capillary tube sensors
Let’s go through each type in more detail.
Digital Temperature Sensors
A digital temperature sensor converts temperature readings into digital signals. It may use a correlation between resistance or voltage to measure the temperature –we’ll review a few common types shortly.
The signals may be displayed as a visual reference to the sauna’s users. Or, the signals may also be integrated back to the heating control system to help maintain temperature at the configured setting.
Thermocouples consist of two different metal wires joined at one end, creating a junction. The temperature difference at the junction generates a voltage, which is correlated to temperature.
Thermocouples are known for their wide temperature range and durability, making them suitable for high-temperature environments like saunas. Over time, thermocouples may drift resulting in less accurate measurement.
Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTDs)
RTDs are sensors that rely on the change in electrical resistance of a metal wire to correlate to a temperature value.
RTDs are accurate and stable over a wide temperature range. They are also less prone to drifting than a thermocouple.
Similar to RTDs, thermistors utilize resistance to correlate to a temperature value.
Thermistors are often used for temperature applications that do not exceed 260°F. Since saunas typically don’t operate much higher than 190°F, thermistors may be a suitable choice.
Infrared Temperature Sensors
An infrared temperature gun measures the infrared radiation emitted by objects to determine temperature.
This is a non-contact tool that can measure temperature from a distance. This handheld tool is suitable for manual measurement of sauna temperatures without direct contact.
A bimetallic thermometer consists of two different metals with different coefficients of thermal expansion bonded together. As temperature changes, the metals expand or contract at different rates, causing the sensor to bend which correlates to temperature.
This thermometer is usually used just for a visual indication of temperature for the user. It does not typically provide control back to the sauna heater.
Capillary Tube Sensors
Capillary tube sensors are more common in older saunas, with primary purpose for safety.
These types of sensors assess the temperature of your sauna using a special liquid contained in a thin and flexible sensor tube.
In an emergency, the liquid will expand if this sensor detects a temperature rise of more than 280°F. As a result, it presses on a switch that disconnects the electric circuit to the heater.
Manual reactivation of the heater is often needed before it can be used again.
While the sensor is great in providing automatic shut-off, its readings are not very accurate. This means an occupant in the sauna likely won’t be able to rely on it for temperature of the space.
Sauna Temperature Sensor Location
The location of the temperature sensor in the sauna is a key factor in helping to keep the sauna comfortable and safe. If the sensor is installed in a poor location issues can arise.
Temperature sensors are included in most sauna kits that often will be integrated with the heating system. These sensors should be installed during the building process, in which manufacturers of the sauna kits may specify where you should position the sensor.
While it’s always best to follow manufacturer’s instructions, here are some tips that can help you determine the best temperature sensor location.
Understand the Sauna Design
Familiarize yourself with the layout and design of your sauna. Different saunas may have varying heating elements, ventilation systems, and seating arrangements that can impact temperature distribution.
Consider Heating Elements
Identify the location of the sauna’s heating elements. These could include electric heaters, wood-burning stoves, or infrared panels.
Ensure that the temperature sensor is not placed directly above or in close proximity to the sauna heater. The intense heat generated by the heater can lead to inaccurate and excessively high temperature readings.
If the sensor is placed too close to a heating element, the heater may cut off prematurely leaving the seating area cooler than desired.
Review Occupant Locations
Determine where users typically sit or stand during a sauna session. Ideally, you want to measure the temperature at the level where people will be located.
Measure at Different Heights
Use a thermometer to measure temperature at different heights within the sauna. This includes head level, bench level, and floor level.
Depending on the air circulation in the sauna, you may find that head level is hotter than floor level. Understanding temperature variation will help you identify the most representative spot for accurate readings.
Consider Ventilation and Airflow
Take into account the sauna’s ventilation system.
Placing a sensor near an air vent or a drafty area might give you readings that are not reflective of the sauna’s overall temperature. Doorways are also a source of draftiness which may lead to cooler temperature readings.
Test Multiple Sessions
Conduct multiple sauna sessions while taking readings with a thermometer at different positions.
Observe how temperature readings change during the heating-up phase, as well as throughout the session. This will help you identify consistent temperature patterns.
Choose a Central Location
Opt for a central location within the sauna where the temperature is relatively stable and representative of the overall environment. This location should offer a good balance between the heat source and the area where users sit or stand.
If you have a larger sauna, temperature variations can be more significant. In such cases, more than one temperature sensor or thermometer may be useful.
Advanced heating systems may allow for control from multiple temperature sensors to help ensure even distribution of heat in the space.
Even if the heating system is only controlled by a single temperature sensor, it may be worth considering the addition of multiple thermometers in a large sauna. This will allow occupants to choose a location that matches their temperature preference.
Make sure the sensor is not obstructed by sauna accessories, such as towels, water buckets, or seating. Clear the area around the sensor to prevent any interference with accurate temperature readings.
Once the general location of the temperature sensor is finalized, exact positioning can be established.
It should be installed in a location that won’t be prone to direct contact with users, which could result in damage to it.
Where Should the Sauna Thermometer Be Installed?
While temperature sensors often are integrated with the sauna’s heating system, standalone thermometers can also be useful.
Thermometers provide visual indication of the temperature for a sauna’s occupants. They can be used to help a sauna’s user to maintain a steady temperature through manual control of a heater.
To get a proper reading of the heat’s measurement, a thermometer should be placed in an area that is representative of the sauna. It should also be easily viewable to the sauna’s guests.
While the aforementioned tips can also be used to determine optimal thermometer location, a fairly common practice is to place it on a wall at least three feet away from the heater and door, and twelve inches below the ceiling.
It may also be useful to place a thermometer within eyesight of a window. This can allow users to ensure the sauna has reached temperature before entering.
Ultimately, since a thermometer generally is not integrated with the heating circuitry, its placement is often less important than that of an integrated temperature sensor or thermostat.
What to Consider When Getting a Sauna Thermometer
Sauna thermometers play a significant role in your experience, much like sensors. They’re there so you can see when the sauna is ready or when it’s too hot, which could cause dehydration or overheating.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of factors to consider when looking for a sauna thermometer. They’re the ones listed below:
- The thermometer should be easy to read.
- The thermometer must be watertight and designed to withstand the heat of a sauna.
- The measurement should be in a format that you’re familiar with, either Celsius or Fahrenheit (or both).
- It’s also preferable, but not required, for your thermometer to include a built-in hygrometer for measuring humidity inside the sauna.
Standard Temperature for Saunas
Since you now know where to measure the temperature of the sauna, you must also learn what the standard temperature is. This enables you to get the most out of your sauna and achieve the best results.
While there’s a standard temperature for saunas, the most important factor is still your personal comfort. Some users may desire warmer temperatures, while others may prefer cooler temperatures.
It’s also important to note that there are different types of saunas, and the ideal temperature range for each of them may vary.
The following are the most common types of saunas found in homes:
- Wood-burning sauna
- Electric sauna
- Infrared sauna
- Steam sauna
A wood-burning sauna is also known as a traditional dry sauna. It works by burning wood and heating stones, which will then heat the interior of the sauna.
The ideal temperature range for a wood-burning sauna is 150–190°F.
An electric sauna is similar to how traditional saunas work, except that it uses electricity to heat stones instead of fire. You can also pour water over the stones if you want to create steam.
The ideal range of temperature for an electric sauna is also around 150–190 °F
An infrared sauna heats the body directly rather than the sauna’s interior. It employs infrared light, which can either detoxify you or increase your sweating.
It may not be preferred by most sauna purists, but it provides similar benefits as traditional saunas because it’s less hot and more tolerable.
The standard temperature range for an infrared sauna is 100-150 °F.
A steam sauna is also called a steam room. It uses boiling water, which releases steam and heats the air.
Because of this, a steam sauna may feel hotter than other types of saunas, but the temperature is actually lower.
The best range of temperature for a steam sauna is around 90–120 °F.
Determining where to measure sauna temperature should often start with the sauna manufacturer’s recommendation. A proper temperature sensor location will help ensure that the heating system provides consistent performance to keep the sauna safe and comfortable.
Additional factors such as the sauna design and temperature distribution can also affect where to install the sensor.
A standalone thermometer is also useful to provide occupants with a visual indication of the temperature. These standalone thermometers have more flexibility in their placement since they do not control the heating system, and are simply used for reference by guests.
Beyond temperature measurement, the most important aspect is the comfort of everyone inside the sauna. Personal comfort should be prioritized beyond just a temperature reading on a thermometer.
Husband and father of three (actually, four if you include the pool). I’m an avid DIY-er and weekend warrior that enjoys taking up new projects around the house to help us maximize leisure right at home. I enjoy researching and sharing various tips, tricks and knowledge to help others make their home an oasis.