How To Make Your Sauna Hotter! (And Enjoy It Safely)

Are you a heat aficionado and your sauna just isn’t making the cut? As long as you stay within a safe temperature range, there are definitely ways to make your sauna hotter.

To make your sauna hotter re-pile your stones, adjust the vents, add water to increase perceived heat, recalibrate the thermostat, put in new insulation, and fix maintenance issues. If your sauna isn’t reaching temperature, you need to troubleshoot common failure points one by one.

Don’t worry, this extensive guide will walk you through increasing the temperature of your sauna. Keep reading to learn how to make your sauna hotter!

How hot should a sauna be (ideal temperature)

You may be wondering if there is a magical temperature that will maximize the health benefits of your sauna session and provide the ultimate relaxation. Unfortunately, we don’t have a clear-cut answer for you.

Each kind of sauna has a different range of ideal temperatures. It’s important to learn this information for safety reasons. There is no such thing as a universal perfect temperature – while there are recommended ranges, it’s up to you to experiment and find what you like best.

In general, saunas should fall into this temperature range:

  • Traditional dry sauna: 150-175°F
  • Infrared sauna – 115-135°F
  • Steam room – 110°F

Let’s dive a little deeper into the worlds of traditional dry saunas, infrared saunas, and steam rooms so you have a better idea of what each kind of sauna has to offer.

You prefer a traditional dry sauna experience, but what temperature should your sauna be?

The recommended temperature range for traditional dry saunas is 150-175°F. As long as you are within that range, you will get many health benefits from your traditional dry sauna, such as (but not limited to):

If you’re not a fan of the high temperatures of a traditional dry sauna, you should try out an infrared sauna, which is not nearly as hot as the traditional sauna but is just as effective.

This is because, instead of heating up the air around you, infrared lamps use electromagnetic radiation to directly warm up your body.

It is recommended to start your infrared sauna session at 85-95°F and let your body warm-up along with the sauna as you increase the infrared sauna temperature up to between 115 and 135°F.

Not many large-scale studies have been done on the effectiveness of infrared saunas. Most studies are as small as only having 10 participants. At the very least, infrared saunas will help you relax.

But there are no known negative effects of infrared saunas, besides the general precautions you should take with all saunas. If precautions aren’t taken, you should become overheated or dehydrated. There is also a risk of the heat exacerbating existing medical conditions so you should talk to your doctor if you have heart disease.

If you enjoy how humidity feels, you’ll probably find steam rooms the most relaxing out of all three sauna types.

Steam rooms are typically around 110°F and are heated with boiling water in a generator.

Because the air is damp, the health benefits differ from those of a traditional sauna.

Steam rooms are known to:

  • Open pores to improve skin health
  • Loosen stiff joints and muscles
  • Reduce congestion

What if your sauna isn’t getting hot enough?

The point of the sauna is to be in a hot environment. But what if your sauna isn’t reaching ideal temperatures?

If your sauna isn’t getting hot enough, you won’t get the potential health benefits that saunas offer. Your sauna needs to be hot enough to induce relaxation, as well as make you sweat a good amount in order to detoxify, increase your athletic performance, help sore muscles repair themselves, and more.

There are many reasons your sauna may not be getting hot enough, including, but not limited to:

  • Improper use of ventilation
  • Failing heating element
  • Broken thermostat
  • Incorrect settings
  • Poor insulation
  • Old or incorrectly piled stones

Some of these problems can be trouble-shot through some DIY and handy YouTube videos, while others require a professional to get the job done right.

For example, you may just have to look up what the right settings are for your sauna and your problem will be fixed, or re-pile your stones as recommended.

But you’re running into a sticky situation: if there are so many reasons your sauna may not be getting as hot as you’d like, how do you know what to fix?

Your best option is to start with simple home fixes and go from there. Begin with checking your settings – you can either find the correct settings in an owner’s manual or online. Then re-pile your stones. Next, consider the insulation of your sauna and replace it if you know-how.

Slowly increase the complexity of each fix to rule things out until you find what the problem is.

Is a hotter sauna a better sauna?

You might assume that hotter saunas provide more health benefits. More heat means a more intense session, right? Luckily, you have options besides burning up.

Hotter saunas are not necessarily better. Your comfort level is the most important factor in deciding the heat of your sauna. As long as you’re sweating, you’re getting health benefits from a sauna. A longer session at a lower temperature will produce the same amount of sweat as a shorter session at a higher temperature.

If you are in a cooler sauna for a longer (yet still safe) amount of time, you will sweat just as much as if you are in a hotter sauna for a shorter amount of time, hence getting the same health benefits.

How hot is too hot for your sauna?

It’s important to stay within a safe range when using your sauna.

How hot is too hot for your sauna depends largely on cultural norms. In America, the hottest saunas typically get is 194°F. In other countries, such as Finland, saunas can get as high as 220°F (although the highest temperature recommended by the Finish Sauna Society is 212°F).

In the old days, traditional saunas were temperature controlled by feeling, not by a thermostat. It’s unknown precisely how hot saunas used to be before temperature gauges were used.

Now it is important to follow safety precautions such as only setting your sauna as high as is recommended, only staying in for a safe amount of time, having a sitter, taking breaks, etc.

How to make your sauna hotter

So now let’s get to the meat of the question: how do you make your sauna hotter?

To make your sauna hotter, you can adjust the settings, investigate your thermostat, add insulation, add water to increase humidity and perceived heat, exercise beforehand, adjust vents, replace or re-pile stones, or replace your heating element. Some of these fixes can be made with a little DIY sweat while others may require professional help.

Here are the best ways to make your sauna hotter:

  • Adjusting the settings
  • Investigate your thermostat
  • Add insulation
  • Add water to increase humidity and perceived heat
  • Exercise beforehand
  • Adjust vents
  • Replace or re-pile stones
  • Replace heating element

Now let’s go over each step more in-depth so you can learn how to make your sauna hotter!

Adjust the settings

Knowing how to use your settings correctly will help make your sauna hotter.

To adjust the settings on your sauna, double-check that your heat is set to your desired temperature and allow to preheat. If you just turn on the heat and then immediately sit in your sauna, it won’t be very hot. Most heaters take around 45 minutes to heat up fully, at which point your sauna will be hotter.

Make sure your heater isn’t any higher than 5-7 inches off the floor. Otherwise, it will only heat the air above you.

Investigate your thermostat

There are two main things that might be wrong with your thermostat: its position and its calibration.

To make your sauna hotter, you may have to adjust your thermostat. To adjust your sauna thermostat, check if your thermostat sensor is positioned properly and check that it’s calibrated correctly.

Your thermostat sensor should be on the wall, one to two feet from your heater and one inch from the ceiling.

If your thermostat is miscalibrated, either recalibrate it or replace it.

All thermostats calibrate differently, but here is an easy way to calibrate most thermostats:

  1. Put your thermostat within six inches of the ceiling, next to a meat thermometer. When the meat thermometer reaches 150°F, it’s time to calibrate your thermostat.
  2. Use heavy gloves or an oven mitt to handle the thermostat, as it will be very hot. There will likely be a slit in the back of the thermostat where you can insert a screwdriver. Turn the screwdriver either clockwise or counterclockwise until the temperature reading matches the meat thermometer.

If your thermostat continues to be a problem, you may need to replace it.

Add insulation

The heat of your sauna may be escaping through poorly insulated walls. You can either DIY new insulation if you know how, or hire a professional.

Adding insulation to your sauna walls will make your sauna hotter by preventing heat from escaping and keeping the hot air in your sauna. You can add insulation yourself or hire a contractor to do it for you.

It is vital to add a foil vapor barrier to your insulation in order to:

  • Keep water vapor from reaching the insulation.
  • Reflect heat back into the sauna.

One sure-fire sign that you need to insulate an outdoor sauna is if you can feel the heat when standing next to it.

Add water to increase humidity and perceived heat

You know those days that just feel so hot, and then you check the temperature and it’s only 80 degrees? That’s because of perceived heat due to humidity.

Adding water to increase humidity and perceived heat will make your sauna feel hotter without actually changing the temperature of the sauna. Increased humidity also has health benefits such as opening pores and clearing the sinuses.

The heat index – often called the humiture – is how hot it feels compared to how hot it actually is.

For example, a temperature of 100°F will feel like 136°F when humidity is 40%. This calculator and graph will help you understand how much hotter it feels with increased humidity.

The perceived heat index carries the same risks as the actual temperature, so do your research and have a spotter when increasing the humidity of your sauna.

Exercise beforehand

Working out before a sauna has many benefits, including enhanced recovery. But can it make your sauna feel hotter?

Your sauna will feel hotter after a workout because your body is already warm. However, your sauna session should be shorter than usual after a workout because you will already be sweaty and dehydrated.

Exercising before hitting the sauna will already have your blood pumping. Your typical core temperature is around 98°F, but it can exceed 104°F during a workout, which is about the same core temperature as you’d reach during a sauna session.

Adjust your vents

Most saunas come with vents. But how do you use them properly?

Opening your sauna vents while your sauna heats up will avoid setting off the high-limit sensor early. Closing your sauna vents after that will keep all of the heat in your sauna, but will also decrease airflow.

Most saunas come with one vent beneath the heater that pulls in fresh air, and another vent near the ceiling to exhaust air.

If your vents are open while your sauna heats up, the airflow will ensure that your high-limit sensor isn’t triggered too soon. The high-limit sensor automatically turns off your heater when your sauna reaches a certain temperature.

Closing the vents after that will keep the now-hotter heat in. Once your sauna gets too stuffy, open the vents for a bit and close them back up when the air feels fresh again.

Replace or re-pile stones

Your sauna stones are your first line of defense to keep your sauna nice and toasty. Let’s go over how to pick out sauna stones and pile them correctly.

The first step you should take to make your sauna hotter is replacing or re-piling your sauna stones. Sauna stones are vital to making your sauna hotter because they retain heat. They also increase humidity, which can in turn increase perceived heat.

When replacing sauna stones, there are certain things to look for, including:

  • Dark color
  • Medium size
  • Rough texture
  • No cracks or crevices

To re-pile your stones, you should:

  • Rinse them first
  • Use medium-sized stones first and fill in crevices with small stones
  • Use the whole container space
  • Allow just enough space between stones for airflow, but avoid big gaps

Replace heating element

When all else fails, it might be time to replace your heating element.

If your sauna isn’t getting hot enough, your sauna heater may need to be stronger. Generally speaking, sauna heaters need 1 kW of power to heat up 50 cubic feet.

If your sauna heater is theoretically strong enough to heat up your sauna, then investigate all other causes before replacing your heater.

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