The bathroom is a room that gets a lot of use. It’s often humid and sometimes gets a bit smelly. An exhaust fan can take the humidity and odors out of the room in just a few minutes. You need to consider several things when selecting the best bathroom exhaust fan for your needs.
Let’s look at what you need to think about, then examine five exhaust fans to see which one is the best available.
How to Choose the Best Bathroom Exhaust Fan
Cutout and Exhaust Duct Size
Exhaust fans fit up into the ceiling. The fan intake vent sits flush or slightly proud of the ceiling surface. If you are retrofitting a new fan to replace an old one, you need to take careful measurements of the existing opening. You should also measure the size of the exhaust duct.
The new fan should match the size of the existing opening. The exhaust ducts should match as well.
Exhaust fans have a CFM rating. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute. It tells you how many cubic feet of air can be moved or exchanged in one minute. A room that’s 500 cubic feet would need a fan rated at 500 CFM to replace all the air in one minute.
Bathroom fans don’t need to replace all the air in a minute. For residential bathrooms, the air should be exchanged eight times in an hour, or every 7.5 minutes.
Take the number of cubic feet in your bathroom and divide that by 7.5. That’s the CFM measurement you are looking for. For example, if the cubic square footage is 1000, divided by 7.5, the CFM would be 133.33.
Always get a fan that’s slightly higher than the CFM measurement for the room. That way it does the job efficiently, without being too oversized.
Older bathroom exhaust fans can be quite noisy. When selecting a new fan for your bathroom, look for one that is built quieter. The way to tell how loud the unit will be is by the number of sones it’s rated at. The lower the number, the quieter the fan will be.
One sone is about the sound you would expect from a quiet refrigerator. Ideally, a bathroom fan should be 1.5 sones or lower.
Today’s bathroom exhaust fans are more energy efficient than older models. However, some are more efficient than others. Some come with Energy Star certification for their efficiency.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a larger fan will use more power than a smaller one. It depends more on the way they are constructed, than their relative size.
Bathrooms generate a lot of humidity and heat. That’s rough on electrical equipment like exhaust fans. You need a fan that’s built to take that kind of environment. The fan should be made from galvanized steel to inhibit the start of rust. A permanently lubricated motor is another item you need in a tough working fan.
Exhaust fans can be much more than simple air exchangers. They can come with a light that can be controlled with a separate switch. Some have heaters built in. A few of the latest models have a Bluetooth speaker built in so you can listen to your favorite music while bathing or doing other things.
Of course, as you add features to the fan, the price does go up.
Exhaust fans usually take on one of two styles. The first is utilitarian and unobtrusive. These fans usually have a white intake vent that fits closely to the ceiling. The second style looks like a light fixture. They can be quite decorative and can become a ceiling focal point.
The choice is completely up to the buyer. Some bathrooms already have a stylish light fixture, so an unobtrusive model may be the better choice. In bathrooms with no overhead light fixture, a decorative exhaust fan can add an extra touch.
The price of bathroom exhaust fans can range quite a bit, based on CFM rating, features, and brand. A simple 50 CFM fan will cost a lot less than a 200 CFM fan that includes a light and a heater.
Warranties offer you protection against many problems that you could encounter with the fan. Carefully read and understand the warranty terms before you buy a fan.
Some warranties only protect against manufacturer defects. They may only protect certain parts of the fan system. Some warranties offer protection for the finish, which is critical since rust can cause problems in the long run.
How to Measure for CFM
Here’s a simple formula for determining how many cubic feet your bathroom has. Measure the square footage of the room. Then, measure the room’s height from floor to ceiling. Multiple the square footage by the height. That’s the number of cubic feet the room contains.
For example, a room that has 64 square feet and a ceiling height of eight feet measures 512 cubic feet, or 64 x 8 = 512.
Divide the cubic feet by 60 minutes in an hour. That number would be 8.53, or 512/60 = 8.53. Then, multiply by 8 for the number of air exchanges you need in a residential bathroom. That number would be 68.24 or 8.53 x 8 = 68.24.
That’s the CFM measurement needed for sizing the fan. It is a good idea to go with a fan that’s slightly higher. So, the fan size should be 70 and 75 CFM.
Why Every Bathroom Needs an Exhaust Fan
You may be wondering why you need an exhaust fan at all. Many older bathrooms never had a fan installed. The truth is, every bathroom in your home should have one. They offer important benefits.
- Better air quality – High humidity levels can trigger respiratory issues, especially in people with asthma or other lung issues. Exhaust fans can draw out the humidity, making it easier to breathe. Also, the fan can eliminate steam and odors.
- No mold and mildew – Humidity is essential for mold and mildew growth. If you can lower the humidity levels by turning on the exhaust fan, it will prevent them from becoming established.
- Lower maintenance needs – Higher humidity levels don’t just affect your bathroom. It can spread throughout the house. Moist air makes it easy for allergens like pollen and dust to travel.
Here are five popular bathroom exhaust fans. Which one will end up being the best in our comparison?
The Delta BreezSlim SLM50 is a small ready-to-retrofit exhaust fan that’s capable of handling 50 CFM. It’s the right size for bathrooms up to 50 square feet in size.
The fan uses a brushless DC motor that’s tested to run continuously for 70,000 hours, or eight years. It’s rated at 1 to 2 sones for quiet running. The design is highly energy efficient, using up to 85% less energy than older less-efficient fans. It holds the ENERGY STAR rating from the EPA.
This bathroom exhaust fan has a slim profile that makes it easy to retrofit into an existing space. It measures 7.2” x 7.25″ x 3.94″, and needs a 3″ exhaust duct. It’s also appropriately sized for either ceiling or wall mount. The unit has a galvanized steel body that’s painted white. It includes an LED indicator light to show when it’s powered on.
- Slim profile that fits inside 4″ wall or ceiling cavity
- Uses standard 3″ duct
- Runs at 1 to 2 sones
- Extremely energy efficient, using only 6.4 watts
- Weighs less than five pounds
- ENERGY STAR certified
- Includes three-year limited warranty from manufacturer
- Also available in models for 70 CFM, 80 CFM, and 100 CFM
- Does not include heater or light
The Broan-NuTone 688 Ceiling and Wall Ventilation Fan offers a slim profile that fits well into any small bathroom. The fan’s rated at 50 CFM. It can be used as an exhaust fan in the bathroom, or to ventilate any area needed.
The motor comes permanently lubricate for long-running success. It includes the Broan polymeric blower wheel and a snap in/out motor assembly for easy cleaning. The fan runs at 4 sones.
Its housing is 7.5″ x 7.2″ x 3.6″, making it easy to fit inside a 4″ wall cavity. The unit can mount into a ceiling or into the wall. The grille measures 9″ x 9.25″ and is may from polymeric. It comes in white, but is also paintable. The manufacturer offers a one-year warranty on parts and labor.
- Easy to retrofit into place of older units
- Snap in-snap out motor assembly is easy to clean
- Grille is paintable
- One year warranty on parts and labor
- Lowest cost among those compared
- Runs at 4 sones
- Does not include heater or light
The Delta BreezGreenBuilder GBR80LED is a quiet, super efficient bathroom exhaust fan that runs at a mere 0.8 sones. It comes with an LED light built in and holds the ENERGY STAR certification.
The unit has a brushless DC motor engineered to run well for a long time. It can handle 80 CFM. The sone reading is 0.8, which is less noise than most new quiet refrigerators. It has an indicator light that lights when the unit is running. The fan is very efficient, using only 11.6 watts.
Made from galvanized steel, this exhaust fan resists corrosion. The LED light has an output of 850 lumens, 2700K. The unit measures 8″ x 8.2″ x 6.6″. It is made for new construction or where there is attic access. The manufacturer offers a three-year limited warranty.
- Super quiet running at 0.8 sones
- High energy efficiency, holding the ENERGY STAR rating
- Brushless DC motor in galvanized steel body, made to last in humid conditions
- Includes LED light
- Three-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
- Also available in 100 CFM model
- Can be purchased with other features including dual speed, motion sensor, and humidity sensor
- Made for new construction or where attic access is available
- Cannot be used for retrofitting in many cases
- Not appropriate for wall mounting
The Broan-Nutone 9093WH offers an exhaust fan, heater, and light all in one single unit. It has a 70 CFM rating and a 1500W heating element capable of heating up to 65 square feet efficiently.
This round unit fits up into the attic, standing 3″ off the ceiling surface. The unit measures 18″ in diameter and stands 12″ tall from top to bottom. It requires a 4″ exhaust duct. It uses extension hangers making it easy to mount in joists up to 24″ on center.
The unit’s lighting uses a 100-watt incandescent bulb for main lighting and a 7-watt bulb for nighttime. The exhaust fan runs at 3.5 sones. It includes a four-function wall switch to control the fan, heater, and lights separately. The manufacturer offers a one-year warranty.
While this unit is the highest priced in the comparison, it also includes features not included on the other models.
- Includes heater, light, and fan in one unit
- Rated for 70 CFM
- Has a 1500W heater that can warm up to 65 square feet
- Kit includes a four-function wall switch
- Dual lighting, 100-watt incandescent for daytime, 7-watt for nighttime
- Requires attic access
- Runs at 3.5 sones
- Light shines between grille and ceiling
The Hunter 83002 Ventilation Sona Bathroom Exhaust Fan brings style, lighting, and ventilation into a single unit. Flowing scrollwork and an Imperial Bronze finish makes this exhaust fan not only functional, but beautiful.
It’s rated at 110 CFM, which is on the larger side in our comparison. The fan and light can be attached to the same switch or split for easier control. The easy to remove glass cover encloses two light sockets and an optional C7 night light.
The fan runs at 3 sones. It is high efficiency, earning the ENERGY STAR certification. The unit is 16.7″ x 16.5″ x 15″. It stands about 3 inches off the ceiling. The manufacturer offers a six-year limited warranty on parts and a five-year limited warranty on the motor.
- Decorative ceiling fixure that includes light and ventilation
- Rated for 110 CFM
- Tested for use over bathtubs and showers
- Manufacturer 5-year limited warranty on motor
- Can run on single or dual switch
- Includes two-bulb light and a separate night light
- Removable light cover for easy bulb replacement and cleaning
- Runs at 3 sones
- Metal finish prone to rust
- Lighting is dim through frosted glass
And the Winner Is…
The Delta BreezGreenBuilder GBR80LED is the clear winner in our best bathroom exhaust fan comparison. While it does not include the heater option like the Broan-Nutone 9093WH, this bathroom exhaust fan runs super quiet and is available in both the 80 CFM and 100 CFM models.
It has galvanized steel construction to help resist corrosion in the high humidity of a bathroom. Its brushless DC motor is ready for plenty of use for years to come.
This bathroom exhaust fan runs super quietly at only 0.8 sones. It has an indicator light to tell you that it’s still running. This unit is energy efficient and holds the ENERGY STAR certification.
It has a higher profile than the Delta BreezSlim SLM50 or the Broan-NuTone 688. That makes it a poor choice for a retrofit without attic access. However it is a good choice in new construction and where retrofitted with attic access.
The LED light offers plenty of illumination for most bathroom applications. The manufacturer offers a three-year limited warranty.