When it comes to creating the ideal atmosphere inside a sauna, lighting is just as important to consider as the textures, sounds, and smells. A well-lit sauna will enhance the overall experience, promoting peace of mind, relaxation and wellness. Poorly designed lighting can be a distraction, an irritation, and even a safety hazard. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about creating the perfect light environment for your sauna.
- Proper positioning is vital
- Safety should be top of mind
- Not all lights are created equal
- There are many options to suit your taste
- For practicality, LEDs are the way
Best Practices For Sauna Light Position
When designing your lighting, it is important to carefully consider the exact position of the lights. Thoughtful planning is essential for creating the most relaxing, safe, and practical lighting setup.
When designing your sauna lighting, there are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Soft, dim light is the most relaxing for the actual bathing.
- Put your lights on a dimmer switch so you can control the exact brightness that you need. You might want the lights brighter when pre-heating the stove and otherwise prepping or cleaning the room.
- Illuminate the room, not the bathers. Position the lights to light up the floor, and any points of interest, but avoid shining light on the occupants themselves.
- It’s okay to see the light fixture, but it’s not okay to see the light source. Utilize reflected or diffused light to create a softer light scheme that is easier on the eyes.
- Place the light switch and dimmer on the outside of the sauna room, on the side of the door opposite the hinges. This is the most predictable location to look for a light switch and will always be easy to reach.
- Do not place lights directly above or close to the sauna stove where the lights will overheat.
The Special Requirements of Lighting in Hot Humid Places
Sauna lighting requires special considerations due to the high temperatures and humidity levels in the space. Lights must be able to withstand these conditions without becoming damaged or posing a safety risk.
Temperature and Humidity in different types of saunas:
70-90°C or more
5%-15% rising briefly only after water is poured over the hot stones
It is crucial to use lights with proper protection classes to ensure they are suitable for use in these environments.
Thankfully, there are rating and specifications in place that you can look for to know whether a particular light is suitable for use in a sauna.
Ingress Protection (IP) Ratings
One standard for knowing how suitable a fixture is for use in moisture is the Ingress Protection (IP) rating. You may have seen these rating such as IP45 on various electrical devices. The first digit in the rating represents the component's level of protection against solids, such as dust, tools, or fingers. The second digit represents the protection from liquids, such as water, or mist. You can read more about IP ratings here.
There are typically 3 different moisture zones in a sauna, choose the right IP rating for each one:
The first zone is near any source of water (faucets, shower head, wash areas etc.). There is very high humidity, and water can enter in any quantity and direction. The water protection class should be at least 5 (IP 45, 46, 56, etc.).
The second zone is roughly 24 inches from the water source. Here, water is less likely to get caught, so the sauna lights can have a 4th protection class.
The third zone is relatively dry, so protection class 1 is sufficient. This would be in your change room, for example.
To be extra safe, we recommend the lights in your sauna room end with an IP rating of 5 or 6. This provides extra protection to the fixture even from low to high pressure jets of water.
In addition to making sure your light is safe from water, we also must consider the difference in temperature from normal lighting needs. The temperature is highest near the ceiling of the sauna so it’s often a good idea to position your lights lower in the room to avoid the issue of extreme heat.
Check the specification sheet for any lights that you're looking to purchase and confirm they're rated to operate in the temperature range you're expecting to get. Common faults in this regard would be lights with plastic lenses or housings.
Due to the heat, it's also helpful to note that the expected lifetime of light bulbs and LEDs is generally lower when installed inside a sauna. Think ahead and design your fixtures to be reasonably accessible for bulb or LED strip replacement.
It is important to check with local codes to ensure that everything is legitimate and up to code. It is also crucial to make sure that all electrical work is carried out by a licensed electrician to ensure the safety of the occupants.
How should I choose my lighting?
After considering the safety precautions, the largest factor in how you decide to light your sauna is the look and feel that you’re going for. Play around with the different lighting options keeping in mind the best practices that we outlined above.
Popular Light Source Types
Let’s look at some of the options available to us.
There are several types of light sources that are commonly used in sauna lighting:
- Bulkhead: These lights are easy to come by and have an industrial look.
Image from Superior Saunas
- Fiber Optic Light: These can be used in high-temperature and humid places, and although they don’t illuminate a ton, they look super cool.
Image from Fibre Optic Lighting
- Spotlight: These are great for lighting up points of interest, such as the stove, walkways or the thermometer and timer on the wall.
Image from Dark Tools
- Recessed Downlight: These are flush with the ceiling and create a subtle glow.
Image from Sauna From Finland
- Wall Light: These can be used to create a soft, warm glow.
Image from Sauna Shop
- LED Flex: Great for hiding under benches or behind features. These require a separate power supply that is located outside of the sauna room.
Image from Dark Tools
- Vintage Bulbs (Filament bulbs): These can be used to create a cozy atmosphere.
Image from Desineo
- Candlelight: A classic choice for off-grid saunas. Build a small window between the sauna and changerooms. Place a candle on the changeroom side of the window for soft flickering light in both rooms without melting the wax.
Image from Sauna Times
- Woodstoves with glass doors can act as a light source. It's hard to beat the warm glow of a roaring fire.
Image from Club Piscine
- Natural lighting with windows or skylights: This can create a beautiful and natural atmosphere by letting the sun or moonlight in.
Image from Modscape
Brightness and Color of Lights
For practical purposes, having enough light to see is all that's needed. However, the exact brightness and color of the lights are also important to consider. Saunas with darker colored walls will absorb more light, so brighter lights will be needed to compensate. The use of softer, warmer colored lights can create a more relaxing atmosphere. Bright, white lights can be harsh and may cause eye strain or discomfort, while warmer colors such as orange, red, and yellow can create a cozy and inviting ambiance. For these reasons, it is recommended to use LED lights as they can provide a variety of color options.
Our Favorite Sauna Lighting Option: LED Strips
If you don’t already have a particular look in mind, then we suggest going for a simple strip of LEDs hidden beneath the top bench and backrest.
This will light up that often-dark cavity under the seats, adding more visual depth to the sauna. The reflected light will illuminate the floor and walls allowing for safe movement to the door, while avoiding direct light on the bathers.
Completely waterproof LED strips can be purchased by the foot to accommodate whatever length you need, and you can also purchase LEDs that give full control over the brightness, or even color of the light. They can be wired up to work on a wall switch, or a remote control.
Most LED strips require an external power supply which you will locate outside of the steam room. This modular design is a great feature for sauna installations, since you can replace the LED strips separately if needed.
For those on Solar Power, LEDs are also a great choice for their limited amp draw.
Because of these benefits and the ease of installation, many people are opting to use LEDs in their sauna.
Here’s a beautiful example of a sauna using that lighting design:
Sauna lighting is an essential aspect of creating the perfect atmosphere for relaxation and wellness. It is crucial to consider the positioning, protection class, and type of lights used, as well as the safety precautions necessary for hot and humid environments. By following best practices and selecting appropriate lighting options, you can enhance your sauna experience, longevity and overall enjoyment.
Thanks for reading! I hope you learned a thing or two, and maybe have a better idea of which style of lighting is right for your taste. Let me know which style is your favorite in the comments below.
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