HUUM: The sauna is Estonia’s next big export success story

Demand for HUUM’s sauna heaters is being driven by the rising popularity of home saunas across Europe.

Adam Rang
Adam Rang
Nov 11 · 7 min read

Global demand for sauna heaters and sauna technology from HUUM — an Estonian company based in Tartu— rose 65% in the first half of 2019 as home saunas become more popular across Europe.

To support the company’s expansion and meet rising demand, HUUM is now raising new finance and unveiling new products for 2020.

HUUM’s crowdfunding campaign was launched on Thursday afternoon through the Estonian platform, Funderbeam, but the minimum goal of €150,000 was reached within one hour and more than €400,000 had already been raised over the weekend — thanks largely to investors based in Estonia, as well as HUUM’s existing customers around the world.

The campaign will run for one month.

The concept for HUUM’s sauna products originally came from students at the Estonian Academy of Arts and have proved popular around the world for two distinct features that sets them apart from the competition.

Firstly, their heaters and stoves have minimal metal and maximum stone capacity, which is not just more visually appealing but also delivers a superior heat and steam in line with ancient sauna building principles.

Secondly, HUUM incorporates cutting edge technology so that saunas can be operated with greater convenience and safety. This includes the use of a smart wall-mounted controller named UKU and a HUUM mobile app, which can now work through either a WiFi or GSM connection.

HUUM currently delivers electric sauna heaters in two iconic styles, named Drop and Hive, while Hive is also available as a wood-burning stove. Both are available in a variety of sizes.

The company is now unveiling new sauna heater designs named Cliff and Steel, which will be available from 2020, while also rolling out more sauna control features for its app. The new heaters are designed for smaller saunas with less power input, making them ideal to meet the surge in demand for home saunas across Europe.

Siim Nellis, the founder of HUUM, explains: “Saunas are rapidly becoming more popular around the world and not just in gyms and spas, but also increasingly in people’s homes like we are used to in Estonia, as well as many other interesting places. We just received an order from an English Premier League football club, for example, that is building a sauna with a HUUM stove alongside their training pitch.

“We are building on Estonia’s reputation for cutting-edge technology, but also literally building the hardware too using sleek and affordable Nordic design. We strongly believe the sauna can be Estonia’s next big export success story. We already have supportive customers around the world helping us spread the word about HUUM further and we are particularly honoured to receive investment interest from existing HUUM users as this is the ultimate positive customer feedback.”

The story of HUUM

The founder of HUUM, Siim Nellis, comes from a family of sauna stove builders over several generations in Estonia. Following years of technical development, Nellis turned to the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2011 and challenged students there to help design a more efficient electric sauna heater that combines traditional Estonian sauna building knowledge with modern design and smart technology.

The best design was a wall-mounted heater that ensured the stones contained within it would be the central design feature for any sauna. This was chosen for development as HUUM’s first product and — due to its unique shape inspired by a water droplet — it became known simply as Drop.

Since then, HUUM has expanded its product range to include a free-standing heater known as Hive, which is also available as a wood-burning stove.

Crucially, HUUM has also invested heavily in smart technology so that saunas can be controlled more conveniently and safely through a wall-mounted controller known as UKU and a HUUM mobile app. This enables HUUM users to heat their saunas from anywhere so it is already hot by the time they arrive home. In addition, smart safety features include sensors that detect overheating or an open door. New features are currently under development for the app, including a calendar for booking shared community saunas, such as in apartment blocks.

This year, the company added the option of a WiFi connection for its electric heaters, which eliminates the annual fee previously required for the use of mobile data in order to control the sauna. This has greatly added to demand for HUUM sauna stoves from around the world.

We even installed one too:

HUUM is based in Tartu, although the production process is surprisingly complex and takes place across Estonia — partly because the design is too creative for automated process lines so skilled handwork is required. Most of the raw materials are imported, like the stainless steel and electronic components, then different partners across Estonia are responsible for different stages of the production before final assembly of the heaters takes place in Tartu, while the assembly of remote controls is in Pärnu. The technical development for the remote controls and mobile app also takes place in Tartu.

The main export destinations at present are Finland, Sweden, and Germany, although they’ve also been delivered as far as Mexico, South Africa and Australia.

HUUM saunas around the world

HUUM design and technology from Estonia can increasingly be found in saunas around the world. Here are some of the most eye-catching examples.

TransferWise office, London

Forget ping-pong tables. Estonia’s unicorn money transfer service, TransferWise, put a sauna in their London startup office with an electric Dop stove by HUUM. It’s now used regularly, including by the company’s lunchtime ‘RunWise’ running club and for after-work employee social events. You can read more about the saunas of TransferWise here.

Red Hot Sauna, New York

A fire rescue truck in New York has been given a new lease of life as a mobile sauna with a wood-burning HIVE sauna stove by HUUM. Owner Mairo Notton rents the sauna out to sauna enthusiasts in the US and recently opened it up for the city’s Estonian Cultural Days, in which the public was invited to enjoy his sauna in the middle of a busy New York street. You can read more about Red Hot Sauna here and follow them on Facebook here.

Porky Beach Retreat, Tasmania

The furthest a HUUM heater has travelled is to King Island in the Australian state of Tasmania. That’s where Porky Beach Retreat has been created as a secluded luxury get away. The main attraction is the sauna, which has a HIVE wood-burning burning stove by HUUM inside and stunning views overlooking the vast Indian Ocean outside. You can book your stay at Porky Beach Retreat here.

Sauna Gondolas, Geneva

A creative German company, SaunaGondel, has transformed ski lifts from the slopes of the Swiss Alps into cozy saunas using electric Drop heaters by HUUM. These novel saunas can be easily located anywhere where bathers can enjoy 360 degree views. Last winter, for example, a restaurant in Geneva installed them around its outdoor seating area so that each table had its own sauna too. You can buy your own SaunaGondel here.

Thanks for reading

The Estonian Saunas blog is run by Anni and Adam. You can follow our own adventures exploring and exporting Estonian saunas on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. You can also join our Facebook group for fans of Estonian saunas.

Full disclaimer: We are big fans of HUUM. We have a HUUM sauna heater at home ourselves and also distribute their products across the UK through EstonianSaunas.co.uk so we understand why they are proving so popular. We’re also advising HUUM on their fundraising and are the joint largest investors (so far) because we believe HUUM has so much potential and want to help it grow even more.

As this is an equity fundraising campaign, all the usual caveats apply. This article does not constitute investment advice, any capital invested is at risk so don’t invest more than you can afford to lose, and don’t invest in anything you don’t understand.

You can see HUUM’s fundraising pitch and get involved here: https://www.funderbeam.com/syndicate/huum.

Estonian Saunas

We explore and export Estonian saunas.

Adam Rang

Written by

Adam Rang

Explorer & exporter of Estonian saunas. Previously Chief Evangelist at Estonia’s e-Residency programme.

Estonian Saunas

We explore and export Estonian saunas.

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