Ceramic Heaters (rod)
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 ceramic length
When sold by online vendors, ceramic heaters are sometimes sold based on the entire length of the heater from end to end. We’ve chosen to deviate entirely from this practice, as it’s proven to be very inaccurate and tends to cause a lot of confusion. This is because the length of the clip mounts and the terminals can frequently vary between heater manufacturers.
The single most important measurement that you can have confidence in when finding the correct heater replacement length is that of the ceramic itself. If you properly measure and match the length of the ceramic, the replacement will fit just fine.
⚠ Important: Please be especially discerning when determining if you need a 20.5 Inch or a 21 Inch heater. The 20.5 inch ceramic length is less common and specifically intended as a replacement for the heaters used in most LifeSmart, Royal Sauna, SaunaGen branded saunas. (These are the brands we've identified, but it's possible that this size may apply to others as well. Please measure carefully.)
Finding the correct replacement voltage and wattage
Method ① - preferred for most saunas with ceramic heaters:
The preferred and easiest way to determine each heater’s voltage and wattage is to simply remove the heaters and look the voltage and wattage to be marked in the clip mount at either end.
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 single bench heater.
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 - for saunas manufactured by FederationTech:
Look for a gold sticker with black lettering located in your sauna that indicates the voltage and wattage of the heaters.
Method ③ - reference any available resources for unmarked elements:
f the original manufacture is still in business, they may be able to provide you with the original heater specifications with a simple phone call. If not, but you’ve kept your sauna’s documentation, you may find the heater specifications listed there. Specifications can occasionally also be found online in older product reviews or sauna manuals ind PDF format.
Method ④ - using 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 heaters to the left and right of the door and three mid-level heaters behind you, and one in the bench, then you can be reasonably confident the the heaters toward the front are the same wattage. If only one has failed, you can determine it’s wattage by testing the heater on the other side.
Of course, since heaters of like-wattages tend to fail together in short succession of each other, it’s not uncommon to find, for example, that both front heaters have failed, or all three of the back heaters have failed within a month or two.
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 shows the saunas overall wattage consumption and voltage. Frequently this also includes the model number and serial number.
Suppose for example, that you have a sauna with a bench heater, three rear heaters, and two heaters in the front. Three out of five heaters 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 heaters, you’ve determined that the bench heater is 150 watts and the working rear heater is 250 watts.
You can safely assume that the other two rear heaters are 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 heaters in the front. 700 divided by two puts the two front heaters 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.
Similarly, if one or two of the rear heaters have failed, you can assume with near certainty that the others will be the same.
Procedure to measure your heater's resistance:
- ⚠ Unplug your sauna.
- Double check to make sure you unplugged your sauna.
- Remove the screws for the heater cover and set the cover aside.
- In some styles the ends of the heaters are accessible at this point. If this is the case, go to step five. In other styles you may find that the reflector must first be removed from the sauna first before you have access to the ends of the heater. If the latter, you'll need to remove the screws that mount the outer housing and the reflector containing the ceramic element to the sauna itself, and gently pull it out.
- Remove the insulating end caps covering the terminals at both ends of the heater where the power wires are connected.
- Unscrew the nut and disconnect the power wire on at least one of the heater being tested. (Only one side needs to be removed for proper testing, but you may wish to remove both depending on the heater's location and how much available slack there is on the power wires leading up to the heaters.)
- 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 metal terminal at one end of the heater.
- Firmly tap the other probe to the metal terminal at the other end of the heater 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:
Sauna Heater Wattage Calculator
When ordering more than one heating element, please check the wattage for all of the elements 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" heaters, and one or two 100 Watt "secondary" heaters in the bench 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 heaters together as a set. This is partly true. There is a reasonable argument to be made (and our experience has shown) that heaters 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 heaters of like wattage in your sauna will tend to fail as a group. If however your sauna has, for example, four 300 watt heaters and a 150 watt bench heater, and one of the 300 watt heaters goes out, then the other three are probably not too far behind. It's reasonable however to assume that the bench heater may not need replacing at that time.
◆ Myth #2: An online YouTube video prominently makes a claim that you can determine if a 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 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 heater 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 #3: This is another gem pulled from the same series of videos that brought us Myth #2, stating that one color of ceramic heater is cheaply made and should be avoided, while the other is a much higher quality. This is false, and was likely either spun to influence buyers toward a specific range of products carried by that vendor at the time, or to just give the impression of having some sort of secret or authoritative “insider knowledge” that most wouldn’t make the effort to otherwise challenge.
◆ Myth #4: A failed heater 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 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 also cause 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.