Dream a little dream of sauna lighting

Lighting creates mood, expresses your personality and increases comfort. Good lighting is like art. This seems to be the motto of lighting specialist Cariitti Oy. The small Finnish company installs SCHOTT glass fibers in saunas and spas in a very impressive way. The result is the dream of every sauna visitor: uniform white light on dark sauna wood, spectacular starry skies over turquoise pools or fiber optic chandeliers that look like a curtain.

Cariitti’s owner Peter Ruokonen is convinced that glass fibers are the ideal material for sauna lighting. “Cariitti has been working in sauna lighting for more than 20 years,” he says. The company specialized in fiber optics early on. “We chose fiber optics because it’s something you can use in many ways to light up wet areas safely,” he explains. “Especially in the sauna room itself.”

Glass fibers conduct light without electricity, moving it from a light source to their tips. They are, therefore, perfectly suited for applications involving water. There is no electrical risk, and the light source can be placed and maintained outside the humid area.

“In Finland, saunas are heavily regulated concerning electrical equipment,” Ruokonen adds. “If you work with conventional lights you can only install them in one or two places where it is permitted. With fiber optics, you are more or less free of regulatory boundaries and there are no limits to your imagination.”

A beautiful atmosphere with perfect lighting invites wellness fans to relax. Photos: Cariitti Oy.

Wellness to go

This creativity is reflected in the company’s projects. In addition to sauna, pool and steam room lighting, the company offers fully-equipped mobile saunas and spas. “At the moment, we are delivering a full sauna to the Finnish Pavilion for the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Ruokonen reveals. “Nobody has seen it yet.”

Cariitti also lit up a Saunaboat in Helsinki with SCHOTT fibers. This small ferry has dressing rooms, saunas and resting rooms on board and cruises through the Baltic Sea. “It is nice: You can come out of the sauna and jump directly into the sea,” Ruokonen says. The large Finnish hotel chain Lapland Hotels is also equipped with Cariitti products. “As every room has its own sauna, we lit up 180 saunas inside of the Lapland Hotel in Helsinki.”

Sauna lighting over the years

Ruokonen has worked in the lighting industry most of his life. In 2008, he took over Cariitti from his father. He has seen many trends come and go. “Cariitti was the first company that lit up saunas with fiber optics,” he says. Since then, the company has changed the sauna experience with its high-level ambient lighting.

“I think it’s quite rare that a small company like us can influence an entire industry,” Ruokonen says. “Especially when you think of the strict regulations that apply, we have made a lot possible thanks to glass fibers. Now, we can light up whatever we want: heaters, thermometers, water bowls, ceilings and benches.” The possibilities and combinations are countless.

Nevertheless, there have been changes in general taste. Whereas in the past, people used to like starry skies and many small points of light in their sauna, today they prefer even light coming from the ceiling or behind the benches. To accomplish this, Cariitti developed special glass rods that fit on glass fiber bundle ends. “They are a bit tricky to install,” Ruokonen explains. “But I’m convinced they are the best solution to achieve this effect in saunas.”

Another short-term trend were flexible LED strips. “As LEDs became more popular, many of our customers thought this was the end for fiber optics,” Ruokonen says. “But LED strips aren’t designed for saunas. They won’t last very long in the hot and humid environment.” On the other hand, light sources that are combined with fiber optics are basically maintenance-free. “I also think that people got bored by the changing colors. Many saunas looked like circuses,” he jokes. He sees white light as a classic, more traditional alternative.

The wellness industry is growing worldwide. “Nowadays, people have more private time and more money,” he says. “They want to invest in themselves.” In his opinion, people not only increasingly use public saunas and spas but also build their own private saunas. He adds: “As people spend more time at home, they want it to be a nice and comfortable place.”

Nora Cremille

September 14, 2020


Dr. Haike Frank
Lighting & Imaging