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Clear the Steam Ep. 2 – A Blast of Heat from the Past

A Sauna Blog by Robert Furlong

Savu Sauna Heaters

I recently came across an interesting find at a ReStore, by Habitat for Humanity. It was an old Savu Sauna heater, a model that has not been manufactured in over 30 years. This heater is typical of many older heaters produced during that time. It is very much an older design, that has been replaced by more modern wall-mounted designs. The heater itself was designed by Bert Jalasjaa, the same individual who wrote our book, “The Art of Sauna Building”. It even came with an ancient time-stained brochure showing how people ordered sauna kits back in the day. You can read a scan of the brochure here. The red enamel design is sharp, but these days stainless steel is preferred. These heaters will not pass code these days, but I have spoken to someone who had one of these units working perfectly for over 35 years. Ultimately, the brand name Savu Sauna fell out of use, and was changed to something that North American customers would recognize.

History of the “Savu Sauna”

As the sauna industry continues to evolve, changes have been made to make home saunas an affordable option for consumers. One such improvement was the ability to hang heaters from the wall, freeing up valuable space in the sauna room. The word “Savu Sauna” refers to a traditional Finnish smoke sauna, which was used for centuries before the development of electric heaters. These saunas typically had over a ton of rocks, with a fire built in the middle. Once the fire is extinguished, the room is cleared of smoke, and the bathers enjoy the radiant heat from the large mass of rocks. Here is a link to the Voromaa smoke sauna in Estonia, which was recognized as an UNESCO representative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. You can read another article about sauna rituals on the North American Sauna Society’s website blog, written by Kate Hazell.

Modern Award-Winning Designs

Many sauna builders want to return to the traditional design of Savu Saunas, and one feature in demand is the high rock capacity. While extra rocks will increase the warm-up time, they will retain the heat and radiate it outwards for a longer period of time. While many people prefer the convenience of a quicker start-up time, the higher rock capacity brings the sauna heater one step closer to the traditional sauna enjoyed for centuries. Below are some images of modern heaters that incorporate the larger rock capacity.

While the Savu Sauna brand has become a relic of sauna history, it is neat to take a look back at how saunas were designed in the past. There are many lessons we can learn from history, to help us improve our sauna rituals today!