Jan 11, 2017

TV in an outdoor sauna? Ohhh yeah!

When I was building my outdoor sauna, I knew I wanted to have music playing during sauna rounds. I always had it in the plans to install speakers. Eventually, I bought ceiling speakers rated for bathrooms use off CraigsList.com and installed 2 in the changing room and 2 in the hot room. All wires lead in to the same junction box in the changing room. I hung a cheap stereo right next to the junction box and hooked it up to the speakers. The first few saunas we always had music, either via radio channels, CDs, or the magical AUX jack that the stereo came with. Anyone could plug in their cell phone and play any sort of music off the web. However, that ended up being short lived.

You see, I have 2 kids and no time to watch TV at home. The sauna for me is a means of warming up in the winter months, but it’s also an opportunity to get away and do what I want. And so, I started thinking about putting a TV in the sauna. I shared my idea with the guys and got a mixed response. Some said it would be good to watch sports while we sauna. Others were sure it would take away from the sauna experience and hinder conversations. I could see both sides, but could not let go of the crazy idea. After again searching for a while on CraigsList.com, I found a person selling a relatively new 24” TV with WI-FI capability for $80. So, I went ahead and bought it.

Next came the install. I wanted the TV to be visible from all corners of the sauna. It needed to hang in a place that wouldn’t get in the way, but would be visible from both the changing room and the hot room. I decided to buy a full motion TV wall mount from Walmart for under $20. This would allow me to hang the TV high and swivel it and move it any direction I needed, then, move it out of the way when not in use. It took about 30 minutes to hang the TV while the stove was warming up one sauna session and after it looked great.

A TV is a great addition to an outdoor sauna.
A TV is a great addition to an outdoor sauna.

For the next part, we needed internet. I specifically bought a WI-FI enabled TV (not all of them are) to be able to stream videos from YouTube.com. With YouTube.com, you can stream music videos, which satisfies the music fix. You can also stream some movies, live events and sports. My house is supplied with internet via a wireless WI-FI router which is only about 20 yards from the sauna, but the signal inside the sauna from that router was too weak. Furthermore, as I found out, TVs have a very weak WI-FI receiver in general. Even the cell phones have stronger receivers. While being inside the sauna building, my cell phone could connect to the home WI-FI and stream music, while the TV could not. To resolve this, I bought a cheap WI-FI Extender. It’s a small device that you plug in to an outlet and runs you about $20 used. You first need to configure it to your home WI-FI, but once that’s done, you can plug it in to your sauna’s outlet and it will pick up your home’s weak WIFI signal and amplify it-- giving you WI-FI in the sauna. VoilĂ !

So far, we have built in speakers in the sauna for sound, we have a great little WI-FI enabled TV hanging in the corner for all to see. The last step is to put the two together. Luckily, the TV had a phono (headphones) style output in the back that allowed me to hook it up to the AUX connection in the stereo in the other corner of the changing room. All I needed was to run a long phono cable from TV to the stereo. I bought a 25 foot cable at www.sweetwater.com for about $10. Once all plugged in, we had the TV streaming YouTube.com through all of the 4 built in speakers. Pretty sweet!

So in the end you may ask, who was right? Was the TV a good addition or did it kill the sauna vibe? I think the consensus is--- it’s great. At the end of 2016, we all spent an evening watching one of the heated 2016 presidential debates while taking a sauna. We discussed the event while watching and enjoyed some steam. Since then, we always have the TV going at every sauna session. Whether its watching stand-up comedy, a funny movie, a sports event or just a video of waves breaking on shore with some great music behind it while the snow is falling outside our window, the TV has really been a great addition to the sauna. It even makes for a great incentive for my kids to go to the sauna when I put on cartoons. They look forward to watching the TV, filling up on sauna snacks and warming up in the hot room.