This is the perfect solution when gas is available, smoke from burning wood has to be avoided (e.g. in the case of a business in the city), or the electric power supply is not sufficient to fuel a sauna. The stove is equipped with an automated gas burner, and in all other respects, is very similar to the design of a wood burning stove. Naturally, the finest features of an authentic stone stove are preserved in the gas powered model. Even large commercial sauna stoves that require increased power supply can be powered by gas. Please note, that a gas powered sauna stove is totally safe due to the fact that the heating and bathing processes take place at different times. The gas supply equipment is fully fitted with essential safety devices.
Commercial Sauna Stoves
Now for a few words on the sauna business. You may be at the stage of considering whether to build a Russian sauna, or you may be planning to increase your profits in an existing business by extending the range of services your offer and are looking for a commercial sauna for sale. Either way, a Russian banya is a rational investment. Here’s why:
The SPA industry (Sanitas pro aqua, health through water) is by nature a retail industry because it provides services directly to the individual. Obviously, in any retail business it is extremely important to choose the right location. Why? A SPA centre infrastructure involves fixed costs such as maintenance, depreciation of equipment, etc whereas, profits depend directly on the centre's population density, i.e., consumer flow. This is the key success factor of any retail business.
The more convenient the sauna location, the more intensive the customer flow (traffic) will be. In this respect, a Russian commercial sauna installation has advantages over other services because people will always travel from far afield, like bees to a honeypot, to experience the famous light steam of a traditional Russian banya.
Profit is revenue minus costs. Fixed costs represent the format and standard of the outlet premises. When fixed costs are carelessly reduced overall service quality is affected. Customers sense the change and traffic levels may fall. In short, it turns out more expensive in the long run. To increase profits with a Russian banya we recommend focusing on increasing revenue, rather than decreasing fixed costs.
Revenue is derived from traffic levels and the average cash receipt. The average receipt depends on the number of purchases made and their individual price. Price is determined by the format and level of the service provided and the quantity of purchases made is determined by the range of additional services offered and the quality of visual advertising for the commercial sauna interior.
Traffic can be increased either through advertising or through the business' regular customers. If the sauna stove is mediocre, the customers will not return. It is as simple as that. Anyone that orders a mediocre sauna stove is doomed to pay for all their traffic with advertising campaigns. But if you order a real sauna stove, you will make a profit.
Pre-booking, or booking a banya complex for a company of guests, memberships and a flexible pricing policy dependent on the time of day and day of the week all work remarkably well as means of attracting customers. As a rule, roughly six months after a Russian banya has been opened to the public its commercial time is already fully booked one month ahead.
Why is light steam so highly prized?
Light steam is so highly regarded because it holds the secret to the health benefits the traditional sauna promises. Light steam can only be properly experienced in a traditional Russian sauna. The standard temperature in the steam room of an authentic Russian sauna is 60-80°С. Light steam is produced by splashing clean, hot water onto the stove's red hot core. In a sauna with light steam, there is no sensation of burning moisture, the air remains easy to breathe and the body warms up comfortably and harmoniously.
Authentic (classic, masonry) Russian sauna stoves are the only type of stove capable of producing light steam. Thanks to its enclosed construction design, the core of a sauna stove for a Russian banya can be heated until it is glowing red hot. Once the stones reach a temperature of between 700-900°С, there is a characteristic flapping sound as the water transforms into steam, expanding instantaneously to as much as 600 times its own volume. Light steam is exceptionally fine, so much so, that its moisture content is completely indiscernible to the steam room guests.
The thermal balance achieved in the steam room on account of the stove's heated stone mass minimises air flow avoiding the risk of hot drafts which can cause burns to the skin and upper respiratory tract.
At the same time, pure air from outside the steam room is warmed to temperature before it enters the breathing zone and the air which has become saturated with vapours is extracted from the steam room. What is created is a kind of ideal microclimate to which we stove masters must aspire.
No other kind of stove, including a Finnish sauna stove with open rocks on top, is capable of creating the little piece of heaven that light steam can because, quite simply, the stones are too ‘cold'! Hot draughts burn the skin and the heavy red hot air can trigger inflammation of the lungs. Sensible people choose a traditional Russian sauna stove tried and tested over centuries. Anything else is a poor compromise.
Factors of climate are experienced as a whole rather than separately. We feel the radiant heat from the stove, the difference in temperature at the level of the head and feet, air currents, etc all at the same time and all these factors together make up a microclimate. The question here is whether a microclimate can be assessed. Of course, on a subjective level, we immediately evaluate the comfort level of a surrounding microclimate and experience the consequences of its impact on the body but can this experience be measured objectively? Can certain climatic indicators be replicated in order to create a little piece of heaven in the steam room?
Here, traditional equipment used in meteorological research comes to our aid, such as Vernon's globe thermometer (Horace Middleton Vernon, British physiologist and researcher of labour conditions, 1870-1951). In Russia, this instrument is used to produce an environmental thermal load index (ETL). The environmental thermal load index, a composite indicator expressed in °С, characterises the overall impact of microclimate components on the human body (temperature, humidity, air flow speed and heat radiation). Outside of Russia, the globe thermometer is used to determine the so-called WBGT-index (Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature), which also illustrates the effect of a microclimate on the body. ETL index values are so important that they lie at the core of government norms for working conditions, sanitary and construction standards. The globe thermometer characterises human heat transfer in which heat is dissipated into the environment directly via radiation from the skin and by convection (cooling of body heat by air surrounding the body).
So, in our studies, we measured the temperature in the steam room with a dry, a wet (soaked) and a ball thermometer at the level of the floor, the benches and the ceiling, and then, by taking all the parameters into account we arrived at an ETL value (WBGT), a specific "comfort temperature". So what affects the ETL value to the greatest degree? Naturally, it is the temperature of the wet rather than the dry thermometer because this reflects the ease of the body cooling process that takes place when we sweat. As we know, high humidity levels make sweating more difficult and uncomfortable. The least influential factor is the basic room temperature.
When measuring the ETL at different heights from the floor upwards, we averaged out the values obtained. The smaller the temperature difference, the more comfortable it is to spend time in the steam room. To avoid the risk of burns, hot air flow has to be reduced to a minimum.
During our research we took WBGT index measurements in several traditional Russian steam rooms, 'banyas' with huge multi-ton furnaces ('Ussachevsky banyas', 'Gorky 10', spa hotel ‘Zhukova 2', Spa-boutique Sante de la Russie on Mosfilmovskaya St., Moscow and in a private banya in the town of Zheleznodorojhny) as well as in a public sauna equipped with a Finnish electric stove of a well known brand.
The higher the WBGT index measurement, the more pleasant the experience of the steam room. Below are some of the characteristics of the steam rooms we researched:
- Private sauna in the town of Zhelesnodorozhny, dimensions approximately 3x4x2.7 m. The Russian banya stove takes up an entire corner of the steam room. The stove's heating time lasts for approximately 5 hours in winter and 3.5 hours in summer. Once temperature has been reached, the steam room can be used for up to four days when set to family regime. WBGT - 56°C.
- In the Zhukovka-2 spa hotel sauna, all steam room processes are managed by a sauna virtuoso with 35 years experience. The sauna creates a unique steam, in which 110 degrees celsius is barely felt at all and you find yourself never wanting to leave the steam room. The stove was built in 1982 and is gas-fuelled. It has an iron core 3 tonnes in weight. WBGT - 57.5°C.
- 'Ussachevsky banyas', Moscow (10, Usacheva Street). Before our session, the steam room was prepared by a team led by one 'uncle Sasha'. Many regular sauna goers come here because of uncle Sasha's famous steam. The crowded steam room and applause that rings out when customers enter it is testimony to his skilful art. We were able to record the equipment's indicators whilst the clients were applauding. WBGT - 52°C.
- A usual sauna with an electric heater produced in accordance with modern Finnish technology. The physical sensations experienced in the steam room are characteristic of this kind of facility. WBGT - 33.7°C.
Fundamentally different technologies
An authentic Russian steam room has reached thermal equilibrium once the steam session begins, i.e. all the internal surfaces have reached their same steady-state temperature. A sauna stove mainly heats the steam room and the people in it via radiant heat. There is no air flow inside the steam room. The solid stove creates the right conditions to gently and harmoniously heat the body; the absence of free air flow guarantees physical comfort and the red hot stove core produces the lightest steam possible. Light steam is emitted, the temperature in the steam room increases but there is no sensation of moisture in the air because the steam is so light.
Electric heaters. In this case the elements heated to a temperature of 300°С or more, transmit thermal energy into the air, which warms the steam room surfaces and the human bodies in it when it circulates inside the room. A significant temperature fluctuation (as much as 50°C) is noted between the floor and the ceiling, corresponding, according to GOST R ISO 7243-2007, to one of the signs of heat stress in harmful production environments. No light steam is produced. In an attempt to increase the WBGT the stove is often over-heated which results in drying out the air in the steam room. To mitigate the problem, an artificial steam generator is installed creating a source of heavy humidity. The maximum measurement that can be achieved with this type of gadget is WBGT 35°C - an uncomfortable condition to say the least.
- It is possible to create a little bit of heaven in a steam room when the WBGT value is around 55° c. In these conditions, everyone is happy and the guests clap in approval;
WBGT 55°C can be achieved by installing a traditional, authentic, masonry sauna stove. This kind of stove guarantees light steam, soft heat, no air flow in the steam room, and excludes the likelihood of experiencing any discomfort during the steam session.
No other 'heating device' can create these conditions although they are quite capable of causing harm to the visitors to the steam room.