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You may be accustomed to a foggy mirror after a shower or bath, but this isn’t a good sign. It means that there is condensation on other water-sensitive surfaces like paint, drywall, cabinets, and wood trim.
A moist bathroom also provides the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to grow. The air quality is also poor, which can trigger or worsen pre-existing respiratory problems. But there’s a simply way to combat this: a bath fan.
We have prepared an extensive review of the five best bathroom exhaust fans. We scored each model on airflow capacity, noise level, energy efficiency, controls, smart features, and price to rank our top 5 list.
I used to work in the plumbing department of Menards while I was in college, so I know a thing or two about bath exhaust fans. Read on to learn why I love each of these models and things I believe you should consider when buying one.
Helpful Link: What Does CFM Mean?
If you are doing a major renovation or new construction, the Panasonic WhisperFit EF FV-0811 VF5 comes highly recommended. WhisperFit isn’t just an exhaust fan.
It’s super quiet and allows you to choose one of two CFM settings. You can also install the exhaust fan above or below the drywall, making it adaptable for home renovations or new construction.
This Panasonic allows you to choose between 80 CFM or 110 CFM. The unit is perfect for medium-sized to large master bathrooms.
Panasonic WhisperFit is one of the quietest fans on the market. It is rated at 0.8 sones when operating at 110CFM and a whisper-quiet 0.3 sones while operating at 80 CFM.
Please note that the sones ratings are based on a 6-inch exhaust pipe with no bends. It may be slightly louder than advertised for everyday applications. Still, it is impressively quiet for such a powerful fan.
This is an EnergyStar rated appliance, so it is energy efficient. There are more energy efficient options than the 110 volt AC induction motor on this model. However, the difference in energy consumption is slight or negligible.
There are no controls save for the switch under the exhaust fan’s cover. You have to manually flip the switch to change between 80 and 110 CFM.
This Panasonic exhaust fan doesn’t come with any smart features. We’d have at least liked to see an overhead light or timer. Many options at this price-range have some extra features.
The appliance has a decent price tag for its airflow capacity. Consider also that this is an industrial-style fan complete with heavy-duty galvanized steel construction.
Broan-Nutone has an excellent reputation for making high-quality appliances, and this Sensonic model lives up to expectations. This exhaust fan offers powerful airflow and quiet operation.
The defining feature is the integrated Bluetooth speaker, allowing you to listen to music wirelessly while in the shower. You can also use this exhaust fan over a shower or bath. Just be sure to install it with a GFCI-protected branch circuit.
This unit offers 110 CFM, ideal for large master baths or shower and bath combos.
Broan-Nutone Sensonic operates quietly at 1.0 sones. The noise is hardly above a quiet refrigerator hum.
The exhaust fan is EnergyStar rated, so it is energy efficient.
You cannot control the speaker and the fan separately, which is an odd design. A provision to wire the speaker and fan separately would have been appreciated. When you switch off the exhaust fan, the speaker turns off, which can be a pain if your unit is wired to a timer or humidity sensor.
The Bluetooth speaker is much appreciated and a unique design. We suspect that Broan-Nutone may be testing the market with this model so that future options maybe even better.
We like that this is an affordable option despite the 110 CFM airflow capacity and Bluetooth speaker.
Dehumidify and illuminate your bathroom at the same time with this Hunter 83002 Bathroom Exhaust Fan With Light. Its simple but elegant design and imperial bronze finish look more like an accent than a functional appliance.
This model is ETL damp listed, so you can use it over a bath or shower. Just be sure to use a GCFI connector. You get a 5-year limited warranty with this product.
You can dehumidify medium to small bathrooms with this 110 CFM bathroom exhaust fan.
Unfortunately, this model is quite loud at 3 sones noise rating. The fact that exhaust fans in this price range tend to be just as loud if not louder doesn’t make this a deal-breaker.
The Hunter 53002 is EnergyStar rated, so it is energy efficient. A DC motor would have been even more energy efficient than the AC motor featured in this model.
There isn’t much control except turning the exhaust fan on and off. You can wire the light and the fan separately to operate them independently. Otherwise, the fan and the light turn on and off at the same time.
The light is an excellent addition. It is functional and beautiful. Keep in mind that this is an accent light and won’t replace your old bathroom lighting. It is too dim for a primary light source but is perfect for a night light.
This exhaust fan is affordable for a 110 CFM model with a light.
If you are looking for a simple, inexpensive, and functional bathroom exhaust fan for a small bathroom, the Delta BreezSlim Bathroom fan fits the bill. This model comes in a white or cream finish.
Moreover, its small size makes it perfect for installing into a shallow wall space. This Deltas’ motor and fan blades also easily come off for easier installation and connection.
This bathroom exhaust fan has 50 CFM. It’s not the most powerful unit, but it does an excellent job in a small bathroom or powder room.
Delta BreezSlim has a 1 sone rating, which is well within the acceptable range. Its noise level compares with a quiet refrigerator.
Delta scores were high in energy efficiency. It is EnergyStar rated. The unit also sports a DC motor, which is the kind you’d hope for if you are serious about energy efficiency.
This model turns on and off with a switch. There is no way to control the humidity setting or do anything other than power the exhaust fan on and off. You can use this model with a timer.
There aren’t any smart features to speak of. The Delta does have an indicator light to tell you whether or not the fan is running.
This is a very affordable bathroom exhaust fan. We highly recommend it as a practical, no-frills unit that performs as expected.
The Broan-Nutone is an excellent choice for anyone working with a tight budget. The fan comes in white color, but the paintable polymeric grille lets you customize the color to fit your bathroom décor. Broan-Nutone 670 is also flexible and installs in your ceiling or wall. It can be a quick fix for an old failing exhaust fan.
This is a 50 CFM ventilator fan. It works well for small bathrooms.
This Broan-Nutone is quite loud at 3.5 sones noise rating. Some people like loud fans for bathroom privacy. If you are looking for a quiet model, this is not a good choice.
This fan is not EnergyStar rated, so it may not be very energy efficient.
There are no controls to speak of except turning the exhaust fan on and off with a switch. You can also use this model with a timer switch.
Broan-Nutone does not have any smart features. However, we like that you can install this model on the wall or ceiling.
This bathroom exhaust fan is so cheap that you can replace it on a whim. The metal construction is relatively durable and should give you a few years of reliable service. As long as you set your expectations right, this exhaust fan does an outstanding job for its low price.
Fundamentally, a bathroom exhaust fan pulls out moist or humid air from your bathroom to the outside of the house. The exhaust fan has a powerful motor that operates a fan inside the unit.
When in operation, the fan suctions the humid air in your bathroom into the appliance. The exhaust fan is connected to your home’s ventilation system, allowing the moist air to travel through the ductwork and out of the house.
The result is no condensation on bathroom surfaces, no odor, and unfavorable conditions for mold and mildew growth. Given that your bathroom is often wet and humid, you need proper ventilation to avoid the problems mentioned above.
A typical bathroom window, if there is one at all, does not offer sufficient air circulation. A bathroom exhaust fan helps solve this problem.
There are two main types of bathroom exhaust fans that you should be aware of, and we’ll cover each in detail below.
This exhaust fan is typically installed with access to the roof vent, like an upstairs bathroom. As the name suggests, the unit installs on your ceiling. Most ceiling-mounted models use a centrifugal system. The unit has drum blades to extract the moist air.
Centrifugal exhaust fans are powerful, allowing the air to travel around bends and across lengths of duct. These models are generally big and can be noisy, so be sure to check the noise rating before you buy.
Wall-mounted exhaust fans install on the outside wall to vent moist air and circulate fresh air into the bathroom. These models are ideal if you do not have access to ceiling vents. Wall-mounted exhaust fans typically use an axial extractor fan and are often less powerful than the ceiling-mounted models.
These models run quieter and are ideal if you do not want to interfere with your bathroom’s interior design or aesthetics. You need access to the exterior wall to install this model. Some modern fans can be installed as a ceiling or wall-mounted, depending on your situation.
Sorting through the options doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what to look for. We used these same criteria to find and rank the five best bathroom exhaust fans in this review.
Airflow capacity refers to how much air the fan can move. This is computed in cubic feet per minute (CFM). As a rule of thumb, you need one CFM for every square foot of the bathroom. As a general guide:
• Small bathrooms and guest bathrooms: 50-60 CFM
• Medium-sized bathroom: 70-90 CFM
• Large master bath: 100+ CFM
The rule varies for bathrooms larger than 100 square feet. You will need to add an extra 50 CFM for every extra shower, bath, or shower and bath combo. Also, add 100 CFM for each whirlpool in the bathroom.
The bathroom exhaust fan noise level is measured in sones. 1.5 to 2.0 sones is considered to be good. 0.5 to 1.2 sones is hushed, while 4.0 sones are considered very loud. For comparison:
• 0.5 sones = rustling leaves
• 1.0 sones = quiet refrigerator
• 2.0 sones = quiet office
• 3.0 sones = regular office noise
• 4.0 sones = normal television noise
The noise level may vary slightly depending on the length of your ducts and the number of bends. A fan connected to a long duct with multiple bends may be louder than the same model connected to a short duct with little or no bends.
This information is useful to know just in case the model you buy is louder than advertised. Consider this when choosing the ideal noise level.
You want to look out for the EnergyStar label. These appliances are certified for energy efficiency and are between 50-70 percent more energy efficient than “regular” appliances. The unit’s motor also accounts for energy efficiency.
Generally speaking, DC motors are usually more energy-efficient than their AC counterparts. DC motors can be up to 30-percent more energy-efficient than the AC models, and the difference may show in your monthly energy bill.
On the other hand, AC motors tend to have a longer service life and require minimal maintenance than DC motors.
Controls are useful in exhaust fans with additional features. Most fans connect to a switch to turn the unit on and off as desired. You often have to buy the switch separately.
These switches can have additional features, including a humidity sensor and a timer to automatically shut off the fan. Some newer models come with remote-controlled functions to adjust the CFM, light, and turn the unit on and off.
The remote is useful if you don’t have easy access to a switch or if the unit has multiple features that you would like to control independently. At the very least, your exhaust fan should allow you to wire different features to separate switches.
Speaking of features, some nice-to-have features can complement the functionality of your exhaust fan. Some useful features to have include:
Humidity sensor activation – you don’t have to worry about turning your fan on and off. The unit automatically detects humid air and turns on and off accordingly. This feature can add to your unit’s energy efficiency.
Built-in heaters – if you dread taking a shower during winter, consider an exhaust fan with a built-in heater. The heater warms up the bathroom and complements your HVAC system.
Overhead lighting – some models have integrated lighting. These have a beautiful design that replaces the ugly grille. This option is ideal for people who are meticulous with aesthetics and interior design.
Wireless connectivity– music fans can listen to their favorite jams in the shower with wireless fans. These models come with a built-in speaker and connect to your phone or device via Bluetooth. You would need a quiet fan; otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to hear the music.
The good news is that you can get a functional bathroom exhaust fan at any budget. The only thing to remember is that you get what you pay for. Cheaper models can work well for a while but often short their motors or develop other mechanical problems.
You can get lucky and find a durable model for under $80, but this is an exception rather than a rule. The budget models featured here come highly recommended and serve their purpose for small bathrooms. More expensive fans tend to be more durable, have higher CFM, and come with more features.