Why we love a barrel sauna more than a regular sauna cabin
Outdoor barrel saunas are the perfect addition to any garden, cabin, deck, backyard, or pool.
Barrel sauna kits can be shipped almost anywhere and assembled in an afternoon, and can deliver an authentic (not infrared) sauna experience with rolling heat, true ‘löyly’ (the steam that rises from sauna smoke), and a variety of options. They’re extremely efficient both in terms of energy and materials.
What is a barrel sauna and why do we love it so much?
If you’ve ever tried a sauna, you’ll know how relaxing and therapeutic it can be, with some great physical and mental health benefits. Well, thanks to barrel saunas, you can relive that experience in your own back garden. Outdoor barrel saunas are a great way of adding a touch of uniqueness to your back garden design.
From a structural point of view, barrel saunas are ingeniously designed. They get their cylindrical shape through a number of wooden planks that are assembled in connection with each other, and two circular walls at each end. It’s also possible to have an indoor barrel sauna. Many barrel saunas are designed to be both indoor and outdoor barrel saunas. The method comes from Finnish immigrants who built wooden water towers. Some ‘coopered’ barrel saunas have bent staves resembling wine barrels.
Barrel sauna benefits
Because they use a single layer of wood that acts as the interior and exterior surface, they don’t have much insulation to keep in the heat and keep out the cold. The barrel sauna overcomes the lack of insulation by its efficient use of space and convection to rapidly and evenly heat up.
First, a barrel sauna has 23% less space to heat than a cabin-style sauna of the same size. This is a huge advantage, and goes a long ways to compensating for its lack of insulation, but that’s only part of it.
The signature circular design keeps heat from settling at the top of the barrel. The hottest air inside is constantly being created at the heat source (either a wood stove or electric heater and, due to convection, the hot air rises to the top. The less dense air at the top of the sauna circulates back to the bottom where it becomes hot again. The circular design of a barrel sauna means that the hottest air is constantly in motion, resulting in a steady, efficient heat throughout the interior space.
The wood expands as it heats up, creating a better seal to keep moisture and hot air from escaping through the staves.
1. A barrel sauna heats up faster
A circle will fit into a square, but a square will not fit into a circle. Use this comparison when thinking of a barrel shaped sauna versus a square sauna. There is extra, but unused, space in a square sauna, and the heater is forced to heat that space. A barrel sauna has less unused airspace, but an equal amount of usable air space, allowing the same sized heater to get the room hotter faster. Actually it can reach optimum heat levels in 45 minutes.
2. The circular design results in a more even distribution of heat within the sauna.
Since heat rises, the top of the sauna is always hotter than the lower parts of the room. In a square sauna room the heat gets trapped at the top, beyond the reach of a user who wants to experience the heat. In a barrel sauna the curvature of the room allows the upper heat to be pushed down the sides and back into the sauna as new heat rises from the heater. This brings the higher temperatures lower into the sauna and allows the heat to flow evenly throughout the room.
3. A barrel sauna is extremely efficient
Thanks to the efficient use of air space there is less energy used to heat the room. Plus the thick red cedar staves are excellent insulators, allowing the exterior of the sauna to remain cool to the touch even at the top of the sauna. It is most likely that you will not experience a noticeable affect on your utility bill with any regular use of your barrel sauna.
4. It is an ideal outdoor design that requires no maintenance
The barrel sauna is an outdoor sauna. It is ideal for outdoor use because it naturally sheds water. The structural integrity also permits the sauna to handle a substantial snow load with no affect upon the structure of the sauna. The polymer support cradles allow the barrel to sit on any flat surface, and the Western Canadian Red Cedar is naturally resistant to water and insects. There is virtually no ongoing maintenance required for your sauna.
5. Ball-and-socket profiles allow the wood to move with temperature changes.
The high temperatures in a steam sauna continually cause the wood to expand and contract. It is important that the construction of the sauna not impede the natural expansion of the wood. Excessive use of nails, screws, and bracing can cause the wood to split and separate in these intense temperature fluctuations. A barrel sauna is designed for temperature changes, and the wood staves will expand and contract within the confines of the steel bands rather than fight against multiple fasteners. A longer lifetime is what anyone should be able to expect from the best sauna, and the barrel sauna is also superior in this area.
So, in conclusion, barrel saunas are perfect because:
- No foundation required! Just place the cradles on some pavers, blocks, a deck, or a concrete pad.
- Less area to heat, can get to full heat in 45 minutes
- Rolling heat and humidity
- Inexpensive, minimal materials
- Easy to transport and assemble
- No vapour barrier needed (it can ‘breathe’ outwards)
- Rounded roof makes it exceptional at handling heavy snow loads
But there are disadvantages to barrel saunas which you may want to consider.
- No insulation besides one layer of wood.
- Exposed to the elements.
- Can leak without additional roofing material.
- Loses a lot of heat when the door opens (solvable with a changing room).
- Feet can get cold (happily it’s not the experience of most barrel sauna owners).
Barrel sauna tips
There are a few tips to keep in mind when you are in the market to buy a barrel sauna. Below are some quick buying tips to remember.
- The first thing you need to consider when looking for a barrel sauna is what type of heater it has. There are wood-fired, gas, electric, and infrared heaters; you need to keep in mind the fact that the type of heater you need for your sauna also depends upon where it is going to be located.
- A wood-fired sauna heater is almost always used for an outdoor sauna. If you are looking for an economical heater then the gas heater is more suitable; however, these do require some additional installation.
- Smaller electric units use a 120V outlet; however, the larger freestanding saunas will require a 240V outlet power source. Additionally, you are going to require a hard wire breaker as well as the services of an electrician to install it safely and correctly.
- The next thing you need to consider when looking to purchase a barrel sauna is the size. Are you looking for something portable and small for just a few people? Or are you looking for something much larger to host several people? Barrel saunas come in pre-built kits that are rather simple to assemble, requiring very few tools or specialised knowledge.
- Another buyer’s tip to consider is that you should buy the largest sauna you can afford. Even if it is only to be for the two of you, wouldn’t you rather be able to fully stretch out and enjoy the benefits of a sauna that is just a little larger than a two-person sauna?
Is a barrel sauna assembly difficult or time-consuming?
The beauty of saunas that have been designed especially for the home is that assembly is intended to be simple and straightforward. One or two people can quickly assemble any size of sauna in a matter of a few hours. In fact, you could receive your disassembled sauna in the morning and be ready to enjoy it that night!
We love and stand by the saunas we offer and we’re 100% confident you will love yours! Pick out the perfect barrel sauna for yourself HERE.