According to the International Residential Code, certain cases require bathrooms to have mechanical ventilation. While you can still get around with a window in some cases, once you introduce a shower or tub, you are required to provide one.
In this article we will discuss bathroom exhaust fans, their types, and the things to consider before buying one.
But first lets take a look at some of the best bathroom ventilation fans available today.
The 5 Best Bathroom Exhaust Fans [Comparison Table]
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links where I may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you decide to make a purchase.
Top 5 Best Bathroom Exhaust Fans in the Market Today
To help you choose the best bathroom exhaust fan for your needs, we have done a little research to compile a list of the 5 best bathroom exhaust fans available on the market today. Lets get into the list.
1. Panasonic FV-0511VFL1 WhisperFit
- Revolutionary ECM motor with SmartFlow Technology ensures optimal CFM output
- Built-in Pick-A-Flow airflow selector allows you to select your required airflow of 50, 80, or 110 CFM with a simple flip of a switch
- The lighted model incorporates one 10W dimmable LED chip panel with less than 1W LED night light for warm, long-life energy-efficient illumination (night light must be wired separately)
- Single-hinged Flex-Z Fast bracket provides flexible, fast, and easy installation
- Can be used to comply with ASHRAE 62.2, LEED, IAP, and California Title 24
The Panasonic FV-0511VFL1 WhisperFit is a ceiling-mounted exhaust fan with a built-in energy-efficient ECM motor and a minimalistic design that should go with any room.
This bathroom fan is quiet, with noise levels between 0.1 and 1 sones. In addition, you can switch between three CFM levels (50, 80, and 110 CFM), meaning that you get extra flexibility while choosing the airflow depending on the current moisture level.
One thing that stands out in the Panasonic FV-0511VFL1 WhisperFit is the ease of installation. It comes with pre-installed parts, a temporary clip, a slide, and snap-in junction box, and a duct collar, significantly reducing the time required to get everything up and running.
Finally, its Flex z fast bracket allows you to mount the unit without crawling into the attic.
- Easy to install
- Energy efficient
- Adjustable CFM
- One of the quietest bathroom exhaust fans
- More on the expensive side
- The dimensions are a little big than other fans of its kind (10.25″D x 10.25″W x 5.63″H). Furthermore, the grill width is about 13”, so you’ll need to drill bigger holes while installing it
- Doesn’t come with many additional features
2. Broan Nutone 688
- VERSATILE FAN: Ventilation fan helps eliminate humidity, tobacco smoke, and cooking odors. Install the compact fan between ceiling joists or wall studs - wherever it's needed most!
- EFFICIENT: Operates on 50 CFM and has a 4. 0 Sone rating to ensure a peaceful surrounding when in operation
- EASY INSTALLATION: Torsion springs grille mounting - no tools necessary for a quick and easy installation
- DECORATIVE: Paintable polymeric grilles allow you to ensure the fan is cohesive with your existing decor
- FEATURES: Plug-in, permanently lubricated motor with the Broan-designed polymeric blower wheel for high-quality operation every time. Motor snaps in and out for easy cleaning - no screws required. Duct Diameter: 3 inch. Removable wiring cover – make connections away from tight corners
The Broan Nutone 688 is a multipurpose budget fan that can be used in the bath and even in the kitchen to remove cooking odor and tobacco smoke. And since it has grill mounting, you can install it in both ceiling and wall studs.
The material is made with paintable polymeric grilles meaning that you can customize its design to how your room looks. Furthermore, it comes with an energy star rating, so it can help you save that extra electricity.
But do remember that the Broan-NuTone 688 has been developed mainly keeping the budget in mind- its capacity is only about 50 CFM, and it isn’t exactly quiet- the noise level is 4.0 sones.
- Easy installation
- Doesn’t have many features
- Isn’t very quiet
- Only suitable for smaller rooms
3. BROAN NuTone SPK80L Bluetooth Fan
- FAN COMBO: Exhaust fan with built-in Bluetooth High-Fidelity Sensonic Speakers is powerful for rooms (including bathroom)
- WIRELESS STEREO: Brilliant audio performance concealed behind your fan grille allows audio through most Bluetooth-enabled devices
- EASY INSTALLATION: Easy to install fan fits 2"x 8" ceiling construction and tapered, polymeric 4 in. round duct fitting for easy, positive duct connection and no metallic clatter
- RELIABLE: Permanently lubricated AC motor is engineered for continuous operation at 2.5 Sones and 80 CFM for your convenience
- THREE YEAR LIMITED WARRANTY: Backed by a three year limited warranty for your convenience
The BROAN NuTone SPK80L is made for people who are very serious about enjoying music when taking a shower. It has high-fidelity speakers that have excellent audio quality and they are compatible with most smart devices with Bluetooth.
The noise level of this fan is 2.5 sones, and with 80 CFM, it is suitable for most small to medium-sized bathrooms. It’s made with alloy steel and plastic, and there’s three years warranty on the parts- which just shows how confident the manufacturer is about the material.
Do remember that while 2.5 sones can seem loud, it shouldn’t really matter because you will probably play music at higher levels than that. Furthermore, there is also an LED light bright enough to illuminate most small rooms.
- Bluetooth connectivity and high-fidelity speakers
- Decent power performance
- Lower price when compared to products in the same range
- Powerful LED lights
- Above-average noise levels
- No heater or humidity sensor
4. Broan-NuTone 9093WH Exhaust Fan, Heater, and Light Combo
- BATHROOM COMBO: Exhaust fan with heater and light combo powerful enough to heat rooms up to 65 sq. ft. Housing Dimensions- 13-1/4 x 13-1/4 x 7-1/2 inch
- EASY TO USE: Four-function wall switch included so you have the right switch to control all functions right out of the box
- QUICK INSTALLATION: Easy to install and/or replace an existing product for DIY'ers with included pieces
- STRONG PERFORMANCE: 1500W heating element and 70CFM ventilation fan provide optimum performance at 3.5, so you can have a touch of heat just when you need it without disturbing the whole house
- DECORATIVE AND EFFECTIVE: Bright 100-Watt incandescent lighting provides clean, even light for pleasant surroundings and enough light to focus on the details. The 7-Watt nightlight provides a soft glow to light your bath during those nighttime visits. The white enamel grille is a suitable match for any decor, no matter how many times you change the paint color!
The Broan-NuTone 9093WH is more than an exhaust fan with a heater and light. It’s so good at doing all of its functionalities that even the manufacturer had to call it a combo rather than giving it a tag of a specific device.
This ceiling-mounted product has an exhaust fan that can circulate air at 70 CFM. Furthermore, it has a 1500 W heating element that can effectively warm rooms up to 75 sq ft.
Even the lighting is impressive- the 100-Watt incandescent lighting can replace the main lighting of the room, and the 7-Watt nightlight can help you relax and bath in the dark without putting much stress on your eyes.
Finally, with some practice, you should be able to install this product by yourself, and the outer material is paintable.
- Many functionalities
- Easy to install
- Good fan speed
- Four-function wall switch for each fan, heater, light, and nightlight
- On the loud side (3.5 sones)
- More expensive
5. Homewerks 7136-02HW Bathroom Vent Fan with Automatic Humidity Sensor
- Sensor detects humidity level in the room to turn bath fan on/off
- 140 CFM is perfect for rooms up to 140 sq. ft. and provides powerful airflow
- Exhaust fan operates quietly at only 1.0 sone
- Fan starts automatically when the fan is in humidity sensing mode
- Red and green LED indicator lights to show humidity control and speed modes
With a maximum CFM of 140, the Homewerks 7136-02HW Bathroom Vent Fan has been exclusively designed for larger rooms. Still, for smaller room owners who want to avail of this product’s humidity sensor, there are lesser CFM options ranging from 50 to 110.
Many devices with humidity sensors have been criticized as not being accurate or too expensive. However, that’s not the case with the Homewerks Homewerks 7136-02HW Bathroom Vent Fan. It’s affordable and performs exceptionally well- and all of this is complimented by the quietness of the appliance. The noise levels are just 1.0 sonnes.
Finally, there’s an energy star certification and a three-year limited warranty. And the design is minimalistic that doesn’t stand out too much but will go with any room decor.
- Affordable for the quality and features
- Humidity sensor that turns the device automatically off when humidity levels are more than 60%
- Powerful fan and comes in various options
- No other features, including Light and BlueTooth
- Has been criticized by some users for having a cheap plastic material
What is a Bathroom Exhaust Fan?
A bathroom exhaust fan is a device that helps to remove the moisture, odor, humidity, and other pollutants from the bathroom. It is ducted to the house’s exterior and sucks out the impure air from the indoors.
Benefits of a Bathroom Exhaust Fan
1. Reduced Odor
The bathroom is a breeding space for odor. Apart from the bacterial overgrowth caused due to human waste, clogged drains, dead skin cells, wet fabric, pieces of soap, dirty water, and other debris can cause a foul smell, which can grow over time and even transfer to other rooms.
A bathroom exhaust fan removes the air that smells bad and replaces it with fresh air. And as it does so, you may also be able to save costs on air fresheners.
2. Better Quality of Air
These days, toilet cleaners consisting of very aggressive chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite or hydrochloric acid are becoming popular. And while they help keep the bathroom clean, they also degrade the air quality and cause damage to skin, eyes, and throat.
A bathroom exhaust removes many harmful chemicals from the indoor air, helping your family to be healthier.
3. Removes Humidity
Humidity does a lot more damage than a foggy mirror. Excessive moisture is associated with conditions including dehydration, fatigue, muscle cramps, fainting, and even heat stroke.
In addition, mold can grow in highly humid conditions, damaging your bathroom hardware and even inviting pests like roaches and mites.
According to the EPA, the Relative Humidity inside a room should be between 30 to 50%, and an exhaust fan helps you to achieve that number.
Different Types of Bathroom Fans
Bathroom exhaust fans are available as ceiling and wall-mounted models. While both of them do the same thing, they have their own advantages and downsides:
As the name suggests, ceiling fans hang over the ceiling of bathrooms. There’s a vent on the ceiling, and the fan is directly above the vent. Moreover, the vent is connected to the exterior part of the roof.
The fan carries air out of the bathroom by creating a vacuum, eventually pushing the air through the vent to the outside of the walls. Often ceiling fans include lighting that can help brighten bathrooms or replace overhead lights.
- Easy to install
- More effective since hot air and steam rise directly to the ceiling
- Less noisy
- Requires more ducting during installation
- Can accumulate more dirt
- Since you need to put the vent on the roof, it’s more likely to be damaged by rodents or nesting birds
A wall-mounted fan hangs on the external wall of the roof and is generally used in cases where ceiling fans can’t be used, for example, on a second-floor bathroom.
Wall-mounted fans are preferred in mostly cold places. Since the vent is on the walls, it’s less likely to be damaged by the snow than when it’s on the roof.
- Can be ducted directly to the wall of the house
- Birds or other animals won’t be able to damage it easily
- Accumulates less dirt and is easy to clean
- Installation is straightforward and cheap
- Not as effective as a ceiling fan for the same amount of power
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Bathroom Fan?
Now that you know the basics of a bathroom exhaust fan, we’ll look at the things you should consider before buying one:
1. Airflow Capacity
The airflow capacity is the volume of air moved by the fan at a given time. For an exhaust fan, it’s measured in Cubic Feet per Meter.
According to the Home Ventilating Institute, rooms smaller than 50 sq ft. should have a fan with at least 50 CFM, while rooms between 50 to 100 sq ft. should have a CFM equal to the area of the room. For example, for an area of 75 square feet, you’ll need a fan with 75 CFM.
Similarly, for any bathroom wider than 100 sq. feet, you will need to choose the CFM depending on the fixtures in the bathroom. Refer to the table below:
|Jetted Tub||100 CFM|
For example, if the room has a shower and two toilets, you should provide: 50+(50×2)=150 CFM.
2. Noise Level
The unit for noise level is sones. The lower this number, the quieter the fan is while operating.
For reference, a quiet refrigerator is about 1.0 sones, and the noise level in a normal office environment is 2.0 sones.
The quietest bathroom exhaust fans have a noise level of about 0.5 or less. In this case, you won’t notice the fan running.
Fans with a rating of 3.0 will be as loud as a normal conversation. Finally, the loudest ones can be up to 6.0 sones.
Note: Some people may prefer noisier fans for extra privacy in the bathroom.
3. Energy Efficiency
Highly efficient bathroom fans come with an energy star certification. And energy star-certified devices are known to consume less than 70% of electricity than normal fans, allowing you to save heavily on operating costs.
But remember that fans with more features such as lighting and heaters can consume more electricity despite their energy star rating.
4. Installation Complexities
This can be overlooked, but the ease of installation is crucial for a good bathroom exhaust fan. As you can see, sometimes, the labor charge for installation can cost more than the fan itself.
Installing bath fans is complicated, as you will have to work with vents, wires, ducts, switches, and whatnot. This means you’ll need to hire professionals who have experience with everything, and it may take between four to eight hours for them to get everything ready for you.
Now, you can consider doing the installation yourself, but you’ll have to be careful if you don’t have prior experience- you may damage some components.
5. Duct Size
Apart from the fan itself, you should also need to know how to size the duct. Fans with more CFM need larger ducts since they’ll need to circulate more air. But it would help if you didn’t make the duct bigger than needed since you will only end up wasting space.
Most fans under 50 CFM fans will run well with a 4-inch duct. You will need at least 5 to 6 inches duct as you go higher. This also depends on the state requirements.
Remember, the duct size also affects the noise level. With bigger ducts, more air can circulate, putting less strain on the fan and making it quieter.
Finally, your fan’s design should complement your bathroom decor. In other words, you should buy a good-looking device that effortlessly blends in with the rest of the room and doesn’t stand out as an anomaly.
These days, many decorative exhaust fans are available that resemble light fixtures. Furthermore, multiple colors are available within the same model to match different room decors.
In this case, there’s no wrong answer- you’ll just have to get a fan you think is attractive and one that matches the current room design.
7. Additional Features
In addition to doing their usual task of removing moisture, some fan models may come with extra functionalities, including:
- Integrated lighting (overhead and night lighting) that can even replace the main lighting system of the room
- Built-in heater to add warmth
- Automatic humidity sensor, which opens the fan when the room is very humid
- Separate wall switch with controls customized specifically for the fan. This may consist of timers, condensation sensors, etc.
- Bluetooth to play music
- Motion sensor, which turns the fan automatically on when there’s a person in the room and turns off when the individual leaves the room.
How to Make Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan More Effective?
Finally, here are some other things to keep in mind to improve the effectiveness of your bathroom exhaust fan:
- Turn on the fan as soon as you start showering. Depending on the airflow capacity and the vent size, you may need to open your fan for up to 15 minutes after bathing to let the moisture escape completely.
- Clean the fan regularly (a couple of times a year) to remove any dust or grime from the duct or the motor. Remember to shut the electrical circuit while doing so.
- Remove puddles from the bathroom even when the fan is on to ensure that the floor dries up quickly and doesn’t accumulate mold or mildew.
- Ensure you don’t close the curtain or the door when the fan is open. As the moisture goes out of the room, it needs to be replaced with fresh air from the outside.
The Best Bathroom Exhaust Fan: Our Verdict
With many bathroom exhaust fans on the market, choosing one may be ‘exhausting’. Hopefully our list above provided you will some helpful information in selecting the right exhaust fan for your needs.
If budget isn’t an issue, we recommend you go for the Panasonic FV-0511VFL1 WhisperFit. It has excellent performance and can fit any bathroom size.
On the other hand, for budget options, both Broan Nutone 688 and Homewerks 7136-02HW can be great, with the latter more suitable for a large bathroom.
Finally, if you are looking for luxury options in terms of features, the Broan-NuTone 9093WH and BROAN NuTone SPK80L are the best of their kind.