Is a sauna expensive to run?

Home saunas and steam rooms are becoming more and more popular. They’re no longer a luxury reserved for commercial premises. If you’ve got a small bit of space in your house that you can utilise, you can build a sauna room.

So, one of the things that everyone wants to know is; how much does it cost to run a sauna or a steam room per month? Well, the good news is that saunas and steam rooms have very low running costs and very little associated maintenance, so if you’re looking for something to bring about luxury and relaxation to your home but without the maintenance, a sauna might be the perfect solution for you both.

Because purchasing and installing a new home sauna can cost thousands of dollars, it is easy to overlook the actual day-to-day costs of running your sauna. While you can expect the day-to-day costs to vary according to the particular sauna, the amount of usage, and your local electric rates, it is possible to give you some idea of what your operating costs will be. 

To operate a small 2-3 person infrared sauna, it will cost approximately nine cents per session. To operate a larger 4-6 person infrared sauna, it will cost about sixteen cents.

To operate a 3 kW electric sauna heater used in a 2-3 person traditional steam sauna, it will cost approximately twenty-seven cents. To operate an 8 kW heater used in a 4-6 person traditional steam sauna, it will cost about seventy-two cents. 

Most home sauna users will consider these costs to be negligible, and with respect to infrared Saunas, they’re probably right. Still, the costs of operating a heater for a traditional sauna should not be overlooked. 

A 3kW heater is likely to run you $200 on the low-end and as much as $900 for a high-end model. Considering that daily use of this sauna heater will result in a yearly electric bill of almost $100, after four or five years, you will have spent more on the electricity than on the heater itself. 

For this reason, just as much, if not more, attention should be on finding an efficiently functioning heater which is the right size for your sauna. Additionally, it is worth the effort to make sure that your sauna is properly insulated and that the doors fit snugly so that heat is not lost. Finally, don’t buy a larger sauna than needed. Realise that a 300 cubic foot sauna requiring a 6kW heater is going to cost twice as much as a 150 cubic foot sauna requiring just a 3kW heater. 

What will it cost to run an infrared sauna?

An infrared sauna is pretty cheap to run when you consider all the factors involved. And it’s a lot cheaper compared to a traditional sauna. This is an important part of the buying process, and you want to make sure you know your average running costs. 

Of course, each sauna can vary depending on the size and the number of elements there are. But to give you an idea. They use less power because of the way they heat the sauna. The infrared heats a surface, not the air.

Infrared saunas heat up a lot quicker than a traditional sauna. A traditional sauna can take up to an hour to get to the right temps. An infrared sauna takes half that time to be ready. 

Also, infrared saunas run at a lower temperature than a traditional sauna.

Why does this matter? Lower and cheaper running cost for you. At the end of the day It all adds up.

Of course, the cost of electricity can vary from state to state, and it is hard to give you an exact number. But let’s work on some hypotheticals.

Let’s say you have an infrared sauna that is a 1000w. You run it for around an hour, 30 minutes to heat up and 30 minutes of use, you’re going to use around 1kw of power. As I said, depending on the cost of your electricity you could be looking around the 10- 14c mark. Not bad considering. 

If you take all these variables and compare them to a traditional sauna you can see how you will not only be getting the best home therapy available, but you will also be saving money at the same time, now that has to be good. 

The cost to run a sauna depends on the wattage of the sauna, how much it is used, and how much electricity costs where it is used. To calculate monthly energy costs of any sauna (conventional or infrared), multiply the wattage of the sauna by the number of hours the sauna is on per month and the cost per kilowatt charged by the electric company. We can write this as:

Monthly cost = wattage (in kilowatts) × hours used per month × cost per kilowatt-hour used

Wattage

In some cases, infrared saunas have a lower wattage than similarly sized conventional saunas, especially for smaller saunas for one to two people. Whereas 1- to 2-person infrared saunas are often designed with wattages below 1.6 kW that can be used in a standard 110 volt/ 15 amp outlet, even the smallest traditional saunas tend to be 3.0-4.0 kW saunas that require modified electrical outlets similar to those used for washers and dryers. As we can see in the equation above, doubling (or tripling) the wattage of the sauna also doubles (or triples) the cost of use even when the amount of time used and cost of electricity is the same.

What About Extras

Make sure you do your research when buying an infrared sauna. You need to make sure you know what’s included and what’s not. What some might consider as standard others might look at them as extras. This will be the case when you’re comparing cheaper options with the top of the range. images

What you might think will be standard, like heating elements, can actually be classified as an extra in some of the lower-cost models, so please for your sake keep this in mind.

If your budget allows, there are some extras that you can add to your sauna to really make your sauna sessions a wonderful experience. They can vary from company to company. 

This can be anything from sound systems, although the better and newer models usually already have them. You can get air purifiers and other aromatherapy dispensers and other similar extras.

Most of the newer models should have everything you need. But at least it’s something to think about. You can always add them on later if you want them.

You can also get custom add-ons, not something I’d worry about but its an option if you want to go down that path. 

hot sauna stones

Calculating the Cost of Electricity Used By a Sauna Heater

The electricity consumption of a sauna heater (or any appliance) is measured in kilowatts (kW) per hour. The average cost of electricity in the USA is 12 cents per kilowatt per hour. To determine the cost of an individual sauna session, you must simply multiply the number of kilowatts per hour by the amount of time the heater is running.

For example, a typical traditional steam sauna session might last 15 to 30 minutes. Additionally, the heater will have to be run for approximately 30 minutes to preheat the sauna. While the heater will be on for a full hour, like a standard furnace, it will heat continuously until the room reaches the desired temperature, then it will switch itself on and off to maintain that temperature. For this reason, even though the heater may be on for a full hour, it will likely only be consuming electricity for 75% of that hour. As a result, a typical sauna session will be approximated as follows:

kW (of the heater) multiplied by .75 (percentage of time that heater is consuming electricity) multiplied by .12 (the average cost of electricity in the USA)

Costs for electricity

The effect of doubling costs will be felt more by users where energy is expensive than where energy is relatively cheap. Electric companies charge per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This price can be very low in places like Idaho that rely primarily on hydroelectric power, and very high in places like Hawaii that rely on imported crude oil. While average consumer prices across the United States range from 9 to 34 cents per kWh, the average is around $0.12 per kWh.

It is important to remember that if using an infrared sauna to directly heat the body rather than heating the air in the sauna first, the energy costs are reduced primarily by reducing the amount of time the heater is on. In a conventional sauna, users tend to leave the sauna on for 30 minutes to an hour prior to use to heat the air from ambient temperature to sauna temperature (typically 160 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 70 to 100 degrees Celsius). Outdoor saunas used during winter months might be combating below-freezing temperatures and need to heat longer than that. Infrared saunas are more commonly used indoors and can effectively heat users in just 10 minutes. Hence, for the same price, a user of an infrared sauna can use their sauna twice as much as the user of a conventional sauna.

Installation cost

Installation costs will depend heavily on the type of sauna that you buy, the size of the sauna, and whether it requires wiring into mains power or can simply be plugged into a convenient power point. It will also depend largely on you – do you have the muscles and extra helpers required to do most of the installation work yourself, or will you need to call in someone to do the whole job from start to finish? Quotes can vary from area to area, but expect to pay at least $1,000 for the installation – keeping in mind that the larger your sauna, the more work required to install it. We recommend that you browse our saunas, decide on the model that you want, and then shop around your local tradesmen for installation quotes – this saves you being surprised after you buy!

Infrared saunas tend to be a lot cheaper to run than their traditional (wood- or electrically-powered) counterparts. For a start, they use less power because they primarily heat surfaces, not the air. But for this reason, they also have lower preparation time. Where a traditional sauna can take an hour or more to heat up to ‘sweating’ temperatures, an infrared sauna can be ready for use in less than half an hour – meaning that you end up running the sauna for less time, as well as more cheaply.

Obviously, electricity costs will depend primarily on how much you pay per kilowatt-hour of energy use on your current electrical plan. However, as a general guide, you can look at the energy requirements of your infrared sauna and figure out how much electricity it will use. For example, a 1000W sauna, run for one hour, will generally use 1 kWh of electricity – in the USA, this will cost you around 12c.

Time to heat sauna

In some cases, a similarly-sized conventional sauna and infrared sauna might have the same wattage. Still, when the infrared sauna is used to heat bodies without first heating directly all of the air in the sauna, the hours used per month for an infrared sauna are likely to be lower than hours used per month for a conventional sauna. Infrared saunas tend to have heaters directing infrared waves directly at surfaces that come in contact with users (such as the floor and benches) as well as at users’ bodies rather than relying on a single source of heat as in a traditional sauna. Hence, an infrared sauna can be ready to use just 10 minutes after turning it on. In contrast, a traditional sauna usually needs at least 30 minutes and often an hour to heat to usable temperatures. For a user who wants to spend half an hour a day in their sauna, that means their infrared sauna would be on for 40 minutes a day, whereas their tradition sauna might be on for 90 minutes a day, more than doubling their energy costs.

Example costs calculations

Let’s work out an example to estimate the cost of running an infrared sauna and a conventional sauna for one month. Let’s assume both saunas are rated as 6000-watt (W) saunas. As mentioned above, we usually talk about electricity usage in kilowatts (kW), so we should divide the wattage by 1000 to determine the sauna’s wattage in kilowatts. In our example, 6000 W divided by 1000 equals 6 kW.

The more that the sauna is used, the more that differences in the cost to run one sauna versus another will add up. Using our example of the user who wants to enjoy half an hour a day in their sauna, we will calculate their energy costs for both an infrared and traditional sauna.

For the infrared sauna, the sauna will run for 40 minutes per day (10 minutes heating the sauna, 30 minutes using it). For a 30-day month, that is a total of 1200 minutes. Dividing 1200 minutes by 60 translates this to 20 hours. We multiply this time by the 6kW required by the sauna to get 120kWh used per month. At the average cost of energy, a consumer might expect to pay 0.12 dollars/kWh x 120 kWh = $14.40 per month to spend half an hour a day in the sauna.

For the traditional sauna, the sauna will run for 75 minutes per day (45 minutes heating the sauna, 30 minutes using it). For a 30-day month, that is a total of 2250 minutes. Dividing 2250 minutes by 60 translates this to 37.5 hours. We multiply this time by the 6kW required by the sauna to get 225kWh used per month. At the average cost of energy, a consumer might expect to pay 0.12 dollars/kWh x 225 kWh = $27.00 per month to spend half an hour a day in the sauna.

In a place where the energy costs are higher at $0.30 per kWh, the infrared sauna would cost $36.00 per month to use this way, whereas a traditional sauna would cost $67.50. A lower wattage infrared sauna that is compatible with standard 110-volt outlets would cost less than a third of this price to use.

Other factors

Now, that’s all average. It depends on a few factors. If you have a larger heater, or if you’re planning on only using it once or twice a week, then you can adjust this formula. Of course, this is an indication for domestic saunas, and if you’re commercial, then you’re likely going to be running your sauna for between 12 and 16 hours a day. The prices will vary quite dramatically.

You can still use this formula if you have all those figures to hand. Apart from this cost, saunas are low maintenance, and they have relatively low running costs. There are a couple of other things that you might want to consider when you’re thinking about getting a sauna.

The cleaning is fairly simple in a sauna. The sauna has such high temperatures that most people probably don’t bother to clean up. If you do want to clean it and you can use a wood cleaner. Saunas are simple to clean. It’s not really something that you’re going to spend a lot of money on. It’s probably just going to be the course of your standard household cleaners.

Maintenance and Repair Costs

Infrared saunas are extremely low maintenance but still need regular cleaning. You should wipe the wall and bench in your sauna with filtered water or vinegar. You should not use harsh chemicals or ammonia on your sauna. If you use your sauna daily, then you should wipe the areas where you sit after each session and wipe it down the entire sauna weekly.

The wooden walls and benches of a traditional sauna should similarly be cleaned with vinegar. You should remove your sauna rocks and clean them with soapy water. Then before returning the rocks, you should clean any debris or dirt out of the heating element.

Once a year you should sand the benches of your sauna with fine sandpaper. You should check to see if there are any loose screws and tighten where appropriate. Finally, if you ever see any mould, you should immediately take action to clean and disinfect with bleach. 

It costs on average $350 to $500 for a technician to repair your sauna or sauna heater. Often it is cheaper just to replace your sauna heater.

How can I reduce my sauna and steam room running costs?

Although running costs are already low, it’s always good to see where you can save money on ongoing costs. And try to keep our carbon footprint down in the process. 

Yearly or 6-monthly service is an expense at the time. But we usually find that people who invest in ongoing services, avoid unexpected repairs. And in the long term, save money.

There is also the option from Tylö to install a WI-FI controlled sauna stove or steam generator unit. These are great for controlling the sauna or steam room in a domestic setting and offering the convenience of switching it on and controlling the settings, all without having to move from the couch. And the Wi-Fi units are very popular in commercial settings as they allow full control and customisation of the settings to account for high and low bather usage times. But the best part is that you can customise the temperature settings, and set a timer. Letting you take advantage of the energy savings features. The Tylö stove or steam generator is at the high end of the market so it will cost you more during the installation of the sauna or steam room.

Portable Infrared Sauna

The portable infrared sauna comes in pretty much one size. They are designed for a single person. Great for what they do and they work really well. The design used to be in the shape of a tent where you stick you head out the top, but recently they have expanded into making them into a full-size sauna without the cost. 

When it comes to the price of a portable sauna, you are looking at the following.

  • The lower end, basic model, approx $100
  • The high-end model approx. $550
  • The average price would be in the $200-$300 range.

Side Note. There is a portable sauna over the $1000 mark. But in my opinion, you can get a solid 1-2 person stand-alone infrared sauna for the same price. 

1-2 Person Infrared Sauna 

This would be one of the most popular sizes infrared saunas for home use, purely on the fact that it’s an all-rounded sauna that covers most bases, budget being one of them. It’s a good size that would fit in most households, in my opinion, would be one of the best infrared saunas for home use. 

When it comes to costs. 

You’re looking anywhere from 

  • $900 for the lower end model, 
  • $1500 for a top-quality infrared sauna. 

3-4 Person Infrared Sauna 

Now we’re into the big saunas. Meaning these are the type of saunas for family use or commercial use. Or if you want a little extra room to move, this size sauna might be your thing. 

There’s a lot of variation in this size model, and you have a lot of choices to make. It can come down to style and look for some, and for others, it can be price. 

When it comes to the costs, you’re looking in the range of.

  • The lower end approx $1800 – $2300
  • Top-end average, approx $3500 – $4500

Although you can go even higher than that for a more specific model and the absolute best you can buy.

5 + Person Infrared Sauna

Again very similar to the 3-4 person saunas in regards to their use. There are some great saunas to buy in this size if you are on the hunt for one this big. Of course, the cost of these infrared saunas are higher, and they can range anywhere from

$3000 up to $6000 and higher, depending on what you want. 

wood fired sauna

What about wood-burning saunas?

Sitting next to the glowing crackling fire of a wood-burning sauna heater is probably the ultimate and most authentic sauna experience. Still, the higher cost of using wood and the inconvenience of bringing in wood, waiting an hour for the sauna to heat up, and then having to dispose of ashes make a wood-burning sauna less practical for daily use. 

A cord of good firewood will cost between $200 and $300. This is a lot of wood, and unless you plan to use your sauna daily, you’ll probably be just fine keeping a quarter of a cord on hand. You will need 15 to 20 pieces of split firewood for each sauna session, depending on the size of wood pieces.

Unlike wood furnaces and fireplaces where a slower prolonged burn is desirable when using a sauna, you will be seeking a shorter higher temperature burn. This means you will want a harder wood like Ash, and you will want the wood split into smaller pieces so as to increase the surface area of the wood. 

Sauna and steam rooms are very low maintenance options. So if you are looking for something to help you relax and add a little bit of luxury to your home, without spending lots of time or money on upkeep, then a sauna or steam room may be the solution for you. 

The cost to run a sauna and steam room will be approx. £10 – £30 per month. But this will vary depending on a few circumstances. And it’s best to work out your average running costs based on the size of your stove, electrical unit rate, average duration time and the number of days the sauna or steam room will likely run per month. 

On top of monthly running costs, you may need to factor in some other expenses, including routine maintenance, and possible maintenance parts. But overall, sauna and steam rooms have comparatively low running costs and ongoing maintenance costs.

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