Sauna enjoys a semi-religious status in Finland — there are over 2 million saunas in a country with a population of 5,3 million. Choosing details of your own sauna is therefore not a joking matter. There are several schools of ‘proper’ or ‘right’ Way of Sauna in Finland, and a passionate (or even heated) discussion can ensue when competing views collide.
I have a pretty typical sauna in the cellar floor of our house (rintamamiestalo house type in Finnish). It had been recently renovated and I had no intention of changing ventilation or lauteet (the seats or platforms). But our kiuas (the stove, or heater) was an old Narvi electric kiuas, which was small and apparently also partly broken: it would only heat the room into c. 60°C in an hour. Probably there was problems in the heating resistors. I could have tried to get the old kiuas fixed, but it made more sense to try and get a better model.
I ended up with Harvia Figaro FG90 model. It suits our particular demands which actually fuse two sauna cultures or styles: the slow and mellow, and the hot and aggressive style. Since Iki Kiuas introduced their massive stoves, the mellow school of löyly (steam or ‘spirit of sauna’ that you evoke by throwing water to the hot stones) has been gaining in popularity. I personally like a bit hotter löyly though, which has also some ‘kick and punch’. So we tried to find a kiuas that would scale from massive-and-mellow löyly up to the hot ones.
Our sauna room is 2,30 m x 2,10 m x 2,05 m in size, which means c. 9,9 cubic meters of space to heat. But you need to take into calculation also the cold stone or concrete walls and glass walls or doors (we have both) that leak the heat, rather than work as insulators. FG90 is a 9,0 kW model, so it specs say it fits 8–14 m3 saunas.
My first test run today was principally positive. At the start of the evening Figaro behaved like a slow, massive kiuas (we loaded it with c. 80 kg of stones). After another hour with the settings in the maximum, FG90 put the room into 122°C temperature, which was as far as I wanted to push it this time. That was more than what I needed anyways; 90-100°C is mostly hot enough for me, and for a slow and mellow family bath, 65-75°C is probably the optimum range.
I like the design, too. It is not as fancy as a ‘full tower model’ like Iki Kiuas or some of its clones would be, but you get a rather compact stove that is flexible in its use range, and while installed in a small to medium sauna, it shows towards you a long flank of dark Finnish stone, packed behind bars of stainless steel.
More of Harvia Figaro (in Finnish) from here: http://www.harvia.fi/products?lang=fi&gid=991.