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How does a Barrel Sauna do in the Winter?

Almost Heaven is here to answer your questions about barrel sauna performance in the winter!

Barrel Sauna in the winter weatherAlmost Heaven saunas are built with the finest materials — hand-crafted in West Virginia and held to high quality standards. The staves — whether they are rustic fir, rustic cedar, or clear red cedar – are 1 ⅜” thick, which serves as an excellent insulator. The barrel saunas are designed with efficiency in mind. Together, the materials and conscious design help ensure that your Harvia heater will have the sauna up to temperatures of 190°F in about an hour.  However, sometimes Mother Nature throws snow storms and negative wind chill into the mix, which can really put your sauna to the test. The big question is: how does a barrel sauna do in the winter, with the cold weather and snow? We spoke to some customers who live in the more frigid parts of the US. They clear up these questions for you and we offer some helpful winter sauna advice below!

For Winters that are Wet and Cold

Dustin M. Barrel Sauna, New York resident. 

How hot does your sauna typically get? 170°F.

What is your typical winter like? Cold and wet.

What difference do you notice with your sauna in the summer versus the winter? None really. It does take a little longer to heat up and the heat doesn’t distribute equally at the bottom of the sauna. It still gets up to around 170°F, but it takes slightly longer.

How do you help heat distribution during the winter?

Despite the cold temperatures, Dustin’s overall sauna experience is much the same in the winter as it is in the summer. Here’s what to do if the cold air is hindering air circulation in your sauna: 

  1. Check that your sauna is set to reach the maximum temperature. This checklist will help.
  2. Remember that in any sauna, the floor will be cooler than the ceiling. 
  3. Use a towel to wave the warm air around. This encourages the heat distribution.
  4. You may need to turn your sauna on again after it times out at an hour. It’s working harder in the cold, and may just need a little encouragement!

For the Snowy Winters

Erik O. Barrel Sauna, Vermont resident.

How hot does your sauna typically get? 200°F.

What is your typical winter like? Gets to 0°F outside, lots of snow.

What difference do you notice with your sauna in the summer versus the winter?  Haven’t had it for the summer yet. However, condensation can freeze at the door frame or floor and it can take up to an hour to melt. 

What do you do about condensation in a barrel sauna?

A little condensation and a lot of snow isn’t holding Erik’s sauna back — it gets up to 200°F in the winter and he hasn’t even tested it in the summer! While freezing condensation is a rare event (think prolonged sub-zero temperatures and a lot of snow), here’s what to do if you notice any:

  1. Use a baster with water to melt any snow or ice. Just like how the door to your home might freeze in extreme temperatures, your sauna may experience the same thing.
  2. Turn your heater on every day to dry out the sauna — this way the leftover condensation from pouring water on the rocks or snow that may have been tracked in cannot freeze. 
  3. If you are able, tighten the bands and add filler staves. The temperature fluctuations will cause your staves to expand and contract, which could result in a loose seal on your barrel. The staves are thick enough that heat will not seep out, but the porous nature of the wood will let some moisture in.
  4. If you notice a lot of condensation on your door after a sauna session, we recommend using a squeegee to remove it from the door. This preventative measure will help in the long run!

For the Winters that Ping-Pong

Ed K. Wood-burning Barrel Sauna, Illinois resident.

How hot does your sauna typically get? 150°F-170°F. The hotter it is inside, the more we’ll end up stepping outside to cool off.

What is your typical winter like? Winters in Chicago go from sub-zero to around 40 degrees. I’ve gotten pretty good at determining how much wood to put in the Harvia stove based on the outside temperature. In the middle of winter, the ground is usually covered with snow.

What difference do you notice with your sauna in the summer versus the winter? Not much difference inside the sauna based on the season. In the summer I won’t get it as hot inside as I do in the winter, within the previously described range. We always add an oil to the löyly water – my favorite is birch tar oil.

What about barrel saunas with wood-burning heaters?

Ed’s sauna heat source is from a Harvia M3 wood-burning heater. It’s important to note that while Ed enjoys his sauna at the 150-170°F range, with enough wood and care, you can get the sauna room to temperatures surpassing 200°F! If you are considering a wood-burning heater for your sauna, read our blog about it!

There you have it! Three customers detailing three different experiences with their barrel sauna in the winter. What other questions do you have about how the sauna holds up in colder temperatures? We want to hear from you! If this blog hasn’t convinced you, we invite you to chat with one of our customer service representatives at 888-355-3050. Check out our specials page to see which sauna is right for you.

February 24, 2020 •