Carbon Fiber Heaters
Use the following guide to help you determine which heater is the most suitable replacement:
Ensuring you're fixing the correct problem
Before purchasing a new heater, it's a good idea to first make sure that the problem is indeed with the heater and not with the box or the wiring. The easiest way to do unplug your sauna and swap a working heater with one that appears to have failed. After they've been swapped, if the failed heater still fails in its new position, then the problem is with the heater. If it starts working, and the heater that was working now fails, then the problem is either with your wiring or with your control box.
Determining the correct panel dimensions:
Finding the correct replacement voltage and wattage:
Method ① Look for the specifications on the heater itself - The most preferred and easiest way to determine each heater’s voltage and wattage is to simply remove the panel and look the voltage and wattage to be marked on the heater itself - typically on the backside of the heater.
When using this method, it’s important that you also make note of the voltage. This is because some sauna manufacturers chose to rate their heater wattage based on 110 volts (or 220 Volts). Most however rate their heater’s wattage based on 120 volts (or 240 Volts).
At very low wattages this difference is arguably insignificant, as it may only cause there to be a 15 watt difference if you’re only replacing a smaller panel.
This difference becomes much more pronounced however if your heaters were originally rated for 315 Watts at 110 volts and you inadvertently order the nearest 120 volt replacement at 300 watts. A 300 watt 120 volt heater is the same as a 250 watt 110 volt heater. If your three person sauna requires 6 of them, then the cumulative heat loss would be approximately 390 watts, usually resulting in much longer warm up times. As such, for optimal performance you should verify both the voltage and wattage of your heaters, matching the nearest wattage for the marked voltage.
Method ② Reference any available resources for unmarked panels - If the original manufacture is still in business, they may be able to provide you with the original panel specifications with a simple phone call. If not, but you’ve kept your sauna’s documentation, you may find the specifications listed there. Specifications can occasionally also be found online in older product reviews or sauna manuals ind PDF format.
Method ③ Use a multimeter (when all other methods fail) - If the above three methods fail, then you can usually determine the correct wattage of a failed heater when there is a working heater used in a similar capacity.
For example, if your sauna has two panels to the left and right of the door and three mid-level panels behind you, and one at your feet, then you can be reasonably confident that the panels toward the front are the same wattage. If only one has failed, you can determine it’s wattage by resistance of the panel on the other side.
Of course, since panels of like-wattages tend to fail together in short succession of each other, it’s not uncommon to find, for example, that both front panels have failed, or all three of the back panels have failed within the a month or two thereafter.
Fortunately in most cases, it’s still usually possible to determine their wattage. To do so, you’ll want to find heavy-duty sticker that’s usually metallic somewhere in the sauna showing the saunas overall wattage consumption and voltage. (This same label frequently also includes the model number and serial number.)
Suppose for example, that you have a sauna with a panel located at your feet, three rear panels, and two panels in the front. Three out of the five panels have failed - both of the front heaters are out, as well as two in the rear.
Upon locating the sticker, it states that your sauna consumes 1600 watts at 120 volts.
By measuring the resistance of the two remaining panels, you’ve determined that the bench heater is 150 watts and the one working rear heater is 250 watts.
You can reasonably assume that the other two rear panels are probably also 250 watts as well. This accounts for 900 of the 1600 watts consumed by the sauna. This leaves 700 watts left over for the remaining two panels in the front. 700 divided by two puts the two front panels at 350 watts each.
One point worth noting with regard to relying on the overall wattage consumption is that some sauna companies add in the power consumed by the power box, stereo, and other electronics. Technically, this would certainly be the most accurate. But it’s been our experience that most sauna companies do not. Fortunately the difference is negligible as the power box and other electronics only consume about 35 to 50 watts.
Procedure to measure a panel's resistance:
- ⚠ Unplug your sauna.
- Double check to make sure you unplugged your sauna.
- Dismount the panel to allow access to the backside of the heater. (This can vary from sauna to sauna in order to find the best method.)
- Once dismounted, you should see two heavier gauge wires coming from the rear of the panel that typically make their connection to powered wiring leading from the control system with common electrician's "wire nuts". Unscrewing the wire nuts should reveal the bare wires twisted together. At least one of the pairs should be untwisted and fully disconnected.
- Set your meter to measure resistance. This may be represented the letter "R" or by the Greek Omega symbol that resembles a "horseshoe”, which represents units of resistance called “ohms”. If your meter is not an auto-ranging digital meter, you will need to set the range in accordance to the following guidelines: For saunas that operate at between 110 or 120 volts (which accounts for most North American saunas), then you should set the range to measure up to 200 Ohms. If your sauna operates at between 220 to 240 volts (most saunas outside of North America), you should set the meter's range to measure up to 2000 Ohms (possibly shown as 2K on some meters.)
- Ensure that your meter has a working battery and is powered on.
- If your meter has removable probes, and there are only two jacks, then you can simply plug them into those two jacks. If there are three jacks, then you should plug the black probe into the black jack, and plug the red probe into either of the remaining jacks and tap the ends of both probes firmly together. This should cause the meter to read 0 Ohms or very close to 0 Ohms. If there's no response, then move the red probe to the other position and tap the probe ends together again and you should get a response. If not, then you may have a faulty probe or a bad fuse in your meter. For any other issues please consult the documentation included with the meter.
- If your meter does not show 0 Ohms, when the leads are tapped together, it may need to be calibrated for accurate results. This is usually very simple, but can vary between meters. For this reason we recommend looking through the meter's documentation to determine the correct procedure.
- Firmly tap one probe to the one of the bare wires coming from the panel.
- Firmly tap the other bare wire coming from the panel and read the value displayed on the meter.
- Using the calculator below, find the wattage for nearest resistance value to what was shown on your meter:
When ordering more than one heating element, please check the wattage for all of the panels you intend to replace as many saunas may have more than one type. For example - a sauna might have four mid-level 350 Watt "primary" panels, and one or two 100 Watt "secondary" panels in the floor or near the feet.
Dispelling five common myths about ceramic heaters
◆ Myth #1: There are some who will claim that you should always replace all your panels together as a set. This is partly true. There is a reasonable argument to be made (and our experience has shown) that panels of like wattages should be replaced as a set because they tend to fail in short succession of each other. This is not unlike when you replace three 100 watt light bulbs in a room, and a few months later they all burnout at almost the same time. This is because they all were likely manufactured in the same factory, under the same conditions, and with the same materials, and used under the same conditions. It's for similar reasons that panels of like wattage in your sauna will tend to fail as a group. If however your sauna has, for example, four 300 watt panels, and a 150 watt floor panel, and one of the 300 watt heaters goes out, then the other three 300 watt panels are probably not too far behind. It's reasonable however to assume that the floor panel may not need replacing at that time.
◆ Myth #2: An online YouTube video prominently makes a claim that you can determine if a sauna heater is good with a multimeter using a continuity test. The creator of this video has even marked his multimeter prominently with a sticker of a large “C” to make sure he always remembers the correct position to set it to when testing elements.
Unfortunately almost everything stated in this video is false, and likely has been the cause of several poor unsuspecting sauna owners replacing all their heaters unnecessarily.
Testing for continuity is intended to determine if there is a direct electrical path with “near-zero” resistance between two points. Unfortunately, there is no agreed upon standard that the test equipment manufacturers adhere that establishes what “near-zero” resistance means.
Most working heaters and panels of any type *should* always present enough resistance into the circuit to fail the continuity test of most meters. If it passes a continuity test, then the meter’s continuity testing circuit has an unusually high threshold for the maximum allowed resistance in the circuit before it considers it a “fail”.
The only way to properly test a panel is to measure the resistance in ohms using a multimeter set to the appropriate range, and determine if it matches the anticipated resistance for that specific voltage/wattage combination.
◆ Myth #4: A failed panel can also cause a failure of the control system, power box, keypads or vice versa. There is simply no evidence to substantiate this or claims like it. It’s really no different than making the suggestion that a failed lightbulb might cause the light switch to fail. A common reason that this myth is perpetuated stems from misdiagnosed sauna problems. If a sauna fails, and a box is replaced or repaired, and the system is still not working, then this claim creates a false narrative to explain why the sales person wants you to shell out several hundred dollars more after you just repaired your control box, or vice versa.
◆ Myth #5: An online video makes the claim that you can use any wattage heater as a replacement, and can be chosen in accordance to your own personal preference should you desire that your sauna be hotter or cooler. Not only is this false, but can also is extremely dangerous for a variety of reasons when higher wattage heaters are installed.
The fact is that’s it’s very important that you choose a voltage combination rated no higher than the heaters installed by the manufacturer. There are several reasons for this…
For starters, a higher wattage heater or panels will not increase the temperature of your sauna. It will only shorten the length of time to get to the temperature you’ve set. This is because the temperature is moderated by the control system.
Second, is that everything in your sauna is designed and spec’d to accommodate heaters of the wattage included in the original design. This includes fuses, the maximum sustainable current load of the relays, the wiring between the power box and the heaters, etc.
Lastly, increasing the heater wattage can sometimes even cause cosmetic damage and charring to the wood surface above where they’re mounted.
We hope this guide is able to help you find the correct heater replacement for your sauna. Feel free to ask any questions as we're happy to help with any additional guidance in making the proper selection or if you should have any further questions when replacing your heaters.