A relaxing hour spent in the sauna can refresh the mind, relax fatigued muscles and help the body to sweat out toxins. With modern electric alternatives to more-traditional saunas heated by wood-burning fireplaces, you can enjoy a steamy spell in a sauna installed and built into your own home.
However, if you're planning to install an electric sauna in your home or anywhere else, be sure to comply with relevant electrical codes and regulations. You may need to consult local ordinances, as well as relevant residential, electrical and building codes.
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When installing a sauna in a home that is already completely built, you'll need to provide additional electrical wiring to satisfy the sauna's power demands. You cannot use a circuit already devoted to other appliances. Instead, furnish the sauna with a dedicated 240-volt, 40-amp circuit with GFCI protection. Contract a professional to install it and ensure that all details of the new circuit comply with relevant local codes.
Sauna doors must open outward, away from the heated room. They cannot have any latching mechanism, either inside or out, that requires lifting or turning in order to open the door and exit the sauna. The door may have a brass-plated "roller latch" that opens the door by simply pushing or leaning.
Although specific requirements may vary according to relevant local codes, the rough opening for a sauna door frame is typically at least 26 by 78 inches.
Hot and Dry Saunas
Depending on the type of sauna experience you prefer, you may build either a dry or wet sauna. Code for a dry sauna does not require any water taps within the sauna. In addition, the electrical code specifically prohibits placing a tap immediately above the electrical heater.
Most commercial electrical sauna manufacturers encourage you to use saunas as dry units. Some dry saunas can also be used as wet units; consult your sauna's homeowner's manual before assuming that your dry sauna can also be used as a wet unit. Remember that the high moisture level of wet saunas can decrease the lifespan of an electric heating element.
Additional Local Requirements
In addition to the national code requirements for saunas, statewide building and electrical codes may determine the specific regulations for a sauna's installation and function. As a general rule, look for electric sauna stoves that bear Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification. If installing a sauna for a commercial location open to the public, check that your sauna's specifications also meet with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) for full universal access.
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