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Ventilation

Ventilation is an important but often neglected part of building a sauna. Having enough oxygen in a sauna is as important as the right number of stones on the stove or the correct height of benches. Without proper ventilation, you may feel uncomfortable and dizzy. If the ventilation system is not constructed properly, the air may be layered so that lower levels of the steam room are considerably colder than the upper levels.

Layered air due to badly planned ventilation is one of the most typical mistakes in sauna construction.

The type and construction of the ventilation system depends on which kind of stove you have. So, make sure you think about ventilation when choosing a stove for your sauna. A typical ventilation system is made up of three parts (sometimes two):

  • supply air pipe
  • exhaust air pipe
  • drying pipe

Your ventilation solution depends on whether the room has gravity-based ventilation or mechanical ventilation. In general, the supply air pipe should be positioned close to the stove at the proper height, so that the incoming colder air reaches the heat of the stove, heats up, and creates circulation in the room.

 

Choice of ventilation system depends on the stove type

Air circulation in the steam room must correspond to the particular stove. Electric stoves require a different ventilation solution than stoves that use wood. You must also consider whether the stove door (stove hearth) is inside the steam room or the stove is filled from outside the steam room.

The construction of the stove also plays a role. When planning your ventilation, it is important to know the difference between closed-sided stoves and open or net-stoves. In case of closed-sided stoves, the air circulates from bottom to top and the stones are placed on top of the stove. A very common mistake is placing the supply air pipe in the middle of the closed-sided stove where there is no air access. In this case, the incoming air is not heated properly and sufficient air circulation will not occur. And it does not matter whether your closed-sided stove is electric or wood-heated. The incoming air should be directed underneath the stove or above the stove, according to the particularities of the sauna and the stove. See below for concrete cases.

In case of a net-stove where the sides are open and the stones are situated inside a massive net with plenty of air access from all sides, the supply air pipe should be placed in the middle of the stove. This directs air to the centre of the stove where it will be heated and lifted to create air circulation in the room.

MECHANICAL VENTILATION

Mechanical ventilation systems are alike for electric stoves and stoves that are heated from the antechamber (i.e. no hearth door in the steam room). Wood-fired stoves fed from the steam room however require special attention.

MECHANICAL VENTILATIONSUPPLY AIREXHAUST AIRDRYING

NET-STOVE

CLOSED-SIDED STOVE

ELECTRIC STOVE / WOOD-FIRED STOVE FILLED OUTSIDE THE STEAM ROOM

centre stove or higher (≥40 cm from the floor)

below or above the stove (≤10 / ≥80 cm from the floor)

in the opposite wall from the stove (≤60 cm from the floor)

in the opposite wall from the stove in the ceiling or high on the wall

WOOD-FIRED STOVE FED FROM STEAM ROOM

centre stove or higher (≥40 cm from the floor)

NB: on the other side of the hearth door!

below or above the stove (≤10 / ≥80 cm from the floor)

NB: on the other side of the hearth door!

in the opposite wall from the stove (≤60 cm from floor)

in the opposite wall from the stove in the ceiling or high on the wall

First, take a look at these graphs and then see detailed descriptions below.

SUPPLY AIR

Saunas with closed-sided stoves may use two different supply air pipe solutions. One option is to construct the supply air pipe directly above the stove (no lower than 80 cm from the floor). In this case, the incoming cold air will fall onto the heated stove, heats up, and creates air circulation. The other option is to direct the incoming air below the stove where it is sucked into the hot stove.

In the case of net-stoves, the incoming air should be directed to into middle section of the stove (but no lower than 40 cm from the floor).

It does not matter whether you have a closed-sided stove or a net-stove, if it uses wood for heating the supply air pipe must be on the opposite side of the hearth door. If the supply air pipe is close to the hearth door it will exit through the hearth without entering air circulation.

If the wood-fired sauna has mechanical ventilation, it requires extra oxygen for burning.

To that end, one should build an additional heating supply air pipe close to the hearth. Please consult the cross-section of the air inlet provided by the stove manufacturer.

EXHAUST AIR

The exhaust air pipe should be constructed to the opposite wall from the stove. It should be no more than 60 cm from the floor, just behind your feet. However, since the air is circulated mechanically its height is not too important — the exhaust air pipe can also be below the supply air pipe.

 

Drying

 

All saunas must have a drying pipe. As its name suggests, this pipe is used for drying the sauna after use. This can be opened if the sauna has too much moisture or lacks sufficient oxygen. If possible, though, the drying pipe should be left for drying the sauna, not for fixing other problems. The drying pipe should be closed during the sauna session because the heat in the room may get layered and leave your feet cold. The drying pipe should be located away from the heat source, in the ceiling or high on the wall.

 

Installing mechanical ventilation requires a professional

 

It is recommended to consult a professional when planning, installing or adjusting the mechanical ventilation system. If installed or maintained improperly, a mechanical ventilation system with a wood heater may cause low air pressure and generate dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO). Mechanical ventilation systems may be installed in different ways. The entire ventilation system of a building must function as one.

GRAVITY-BASED VENTILATION

It does not matter whether using an electric stove or a wood-fired stove filled from the antechamber, the logic of the gravity-based ventilation is the same. Having a wood-fired stove filled from the steam room, however, the gravity-based ventilation follows a different logic.

GRAVITY-BASED VENTILATIONSUPPLY AIREXHAUST AIRDRYING

NET-STOVE

CLOSED-SIDED STOVE

ELECTRIC STOVE / WOOD-FIRED STOVE FILLED OUTSIDE THE STEAM ROOM

centre stove or lower (≤40 cm from the floor)

below the stove (with air access) or above the stove (≥80 cm from the floor)

in the opposite wall from the stove, at least 20 cm higher than the supply air pipe (≤60 cm from the floor)

in the opposite wall from the stove, in the ceiling or high on the wall

WOOD-FIRED STOVE FED FROM STEAM ROOM

center stove or higher (≥40 cm from the floor)

NB: in the other side of the hearth door!

below the stove (with air access) or above the stove (≥80 cm from the floor)

NB: in the other side of the hearth door!

the stove acts like an exhaust pipe

in the opposite wall from the stove, in the ceiling or high on the wall

SUPPLY AIR

Electric stove or wood-fired stove in the antechamber

 

In case of a closed-sided stove with gravity-based ventilation, the supply air pipe should be constructed close to the floor, at the height where air can access the stove from below, heats up, and generate air circulation. The other option is to construct the supply air pipe just above the stove (no lower than 80 cm from the floor).

In case of a net-stove, however, the supply air pipe should be constructed roughly in the middle of the stove (no higher than 40 cm from the floor).

 

Stove with hearth door in the steam room

 

Using an ordinary closed-sided stove, the supply air pipe should be constructed at the height of the lower air circulation zone. It is important to note that the supply air pipe must be on the opposite side of the stove from the hearth door—otherwise the incoming air will exit the steam room without generating circulation. The other option is to construct the supply air pipe just above the stove.

In case of a net-stove, the supply air pipe should be constructed in the middle of the stove or higher (no lower than 40 cm from the floor).

EXHAUST

With an electric stove or wood-heated stove filled from the antechamber, the exhaust pipe should be constructed to the opposite wall of the steam room. It should be at least 20 cm higher than the supply air pipe, but not higher than 60 cm from the floor.

Stove with hearth door in the steam room does not require a separate exhaust pipe as the stove itself acts as an exhaust.

Drying

 

All saunas must have a drying pipe. As its name suggests, this pipe is used for drying the sauna after use. This can be opened if the sauna has too much moisture or lacks sufficient oxygen. If possible, though, the drying pipe should be left for drying the sauna, not for fixing other problems. The drying pipe should be closed during the sauna session because the heat in the room may get layered and leave your feet cold. The drying pipe should be located away from the heat source, in the ceiling, or high on the wall.

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