The Heat is on with this ESP8266 Controlled Sauna

We’ll be perfectly honest: sitting inside a heated box sounds just a bit too much like torture for our tastes. But if we did somehow find ourselves in possession of a fancy new sauna, we’d more than likely follow in the footsteps of [Al Betschart] and make the thing controllable with the ESP8266. After all, if you’re going to be cooked alive, you might as well do it on your own terms.

The sauna itself was purchased as a kit, and included an electric heater controlled by a thermostat. As explained in his detailed documentation, [Al] integrated a Sonoff TH16 into the original heater circuit so he could control power to the coils remotely. The TH16 also includes support for a thermal sensor, which allowed him to get a reading on the sauna’s internal temperature. The new electronics were mounted in a weather-proof box on the back of the sauna, complete with an external WiFi antenna to help get a good signal back to the house.

At this point the project could technically be done if all you wanted was remote control, but [Al] wanted to create a replacement firmware for the Sonoff that was specifically geared towards the sauna. So he came up with some code that uses MQTT to connect the heater to his home automation system, and allows configuring things like the maximum temperature and how long the sauna will run before turning itself off.

Interestingly, the company who makes these saunas thought the work [Al] did to integrate their product into his home automation system was so impressive they actually interviewed him about it and put it up on their site for others who might be inspired by his work. We’ve covered a lot of hacks to consumer devices here at Hackaday, and it’s exceedingly rare for a company to be so supportive of customers fiddling around with their products (especially in a case like this where there’s a real chance of burning your house down), so credit where credit is due.

The last time we brought you a sauna hack it was quite literally in a van down by the river, so the addition of an ESP8266 certainly brings this more into our comfort zone. Figuratively, if not literally.

[Thanks to Jon for the tip.]

Creepy Van Parked Down the Street is a Nomadic Sauna

Sometimes you need a good sweat and if you’re like [JoeCMorgan] you can’t be bothered travelling to a sauna, it needs to come to you. He took care of that problem by building the SaunaVan.

Many moons ago, SaunaVan started life as a Vauxhall Combo van. At some point it was abbreviated from a Van to a trailer. You can’t tell from the picture above but this van no longer has a cab up front. Like many trailers, it eventually became a storage unit, which is how [Joe] found it. He cleaned out the old tires, tents, and detritus, and started planning out a mobile sauna. The van’s interior was already stripped, so the first order of business was to cut a hole in the front wall of the van. The hole became a steel “nose” which housed the chimney. All this allowed [Joe] to place his 1920’s Husqvarna stove as far forward as possible.

The van’s gas tank was cleaned out and became a water reservoir, complete with a pump that is safe to use with water. A shower placed outside allows for a quick cool down after a hot sauna. The biggest job was building the interior. [Joe] measured out the wheel wells and cut panels to form the interior walls of the van. Some fiberglass insulatisauna2on between the wood and the outside wall ensured the van would stay nice and toasty. [Joe] put in some pre-finished flooring and added benches to cover the wheel wells. The benches hide storage for wood, and the wiring for the van’s sound system. Speaking of which, your sweaty friends won’t be happy without some tunes so [Joe] added speakers and a radio. Check out the video after the break to see it all in action. This thing is just begging to be parked next to the Carpool DeVille.

One thing [Joe] didn’t mention was a fresh air intake, which is vital on a setup like this. We’d also add a carbon monoxide detector just to be sure combustion gasses don’t build up inside the van’s body.

The first firing of the antique stove was a complete success. The newly christened SaunaVan’s temperature got up over 90°C (194°F)! That might sound hot to some, but it’s not far outside the norm for a sauna. The low humidity helps keep things comfortable, but we wouldn’t recommend staying inside for more than a few minutes.

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