As seen in:
Panasonic
WhisperCeiling 110 CFM Ceiling Mounted Fan
Air King
BFQ 140 High Performance Bath Fan
Broan
679 Ventilation Fan and Light Combination
Delta
BreezSmart SMT130H 130 CFM Exhaust Fan with Adjustable Humidity Senso
Panasonic
WhisperWall 70 CFM Wall Mounted Fan
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Good

Flawless performance. Easy to install. A powerful air mover that is extremely quiet and can operate continuously.

Made of high-impact plastic. Powerful yet inexpensive.

Metallic body is covered with water-resistant, galvanized coating. Includes a built-in light.

Quiet, continuous operation. Powerful motor.

Rated for continuous use. Quiet operation.

Bad

Expensive. No extras are included. Larger dimensions should be considered before purchase.

A bit noisy at 140 sones. Build quality is an occasional concern.

Some complaints about loud noise.

Not suitable for fitting above a tub or shower. Requires six-inch ducting.

Not suitable for fitting above a tub or shower. Lower CFM (70).

Bottom Line

An extremely popular ventilation fan with a reputation for flawless, easy operation. The best on the market.

A basic, affordable unit that is both reliable and efficient. The best bargain with the highest quality.

An affordable ventilation fan/light combination with some known construction problems.

A versatile, expensive ventilation fan with many strengths and a few known weaknesses.

An excellent through-wall option from a reliable manufacturer.

How we decide
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Products received from manufacturers
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Models Considered
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Hours Spent
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Experts Interviewed
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Consumers Consulted

Best Ventilation Fans

Ventilation fans help create an airflow that keeps your rooms free of moisture and mold. They can help reduce other allergens, too. Some cheap ventilation fans vibrate loudly and last for only a short period of time before giving out. However, a good ventilation fan needn't be expensive. The products on our shortlist deliver a range of features and benefits that would meet the needs of different users.

Products in Consideration

Panasonic
WhisperCeiling 110 CFM Ceiling Mounted Fan
Air King
BFQ 140 High Performance Bath Fan
Broan
679 Ventilation Fan and Light Combination
Delta
BreezSmart SMT130H 130 CFM Exhaust Fan with Adjustable Humidity Senso
Panasonic
WhisperWall 70 CFM Wall Mounted Fan

Considerations

Construction & Fitting

Ventilation fans are often used in damp environments, so it's no good if it rusts or needs regular attention to work properly. There's also the question of whether it's straightforward to fit and what kind of ducting is needed. In this section, we discuss the construction and fitting aspects of each contender.

Specification

There are two important numbers associated with ventilation fans: Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) and sones. CFM refers to the volume of air the fan moves. You want a fan with sufficient CFM to properly deal with the demands of your room size. Sones is a measure of relative sound – in other words, how quiet the unit is.

Features & Performance

Some ventilation fans are very basic. Others offer lights and other useful features. Then there's the question of what each fan is like in use – not just on Day One, but also after months of constant use. We've combined our results with owner feedback to build a realistic evaluation of each fan's features and performance.

Price

How much a ventilation fan costs might not be its defining aspect, but it's certainly important. In this part of our ratings, we draw conclusions about where each model's strengths lie.

Considerations

Construction and Fitting

Air King BFQ 140 High Performance Bath Fan, 120-CFM

With many products, an abundance of plastic is seen as a mark of low quality. In the case of the ventilation fan, however, the opposite is true. That's because ventilation fans are often placed in damp environments, and plastic will never rust. Although the Air King BFQ 140 has metal fixings, its body and ducting are made of high-impact plastic. The Air King's suitability for installation where moisture may be present is underlined by a UL listing that says it is safe above tubs and showers (provided a shock-proof GFCI circuit is used). In addition, the motor is certified by the Home Ventilation Institute (HVI). Fitting is made easy with a bracket that attaches to your joists; the body simply clicks onto that. Of course, if you're in doubt about how to install a ventilation fan, hiring a qualified professional is always an option. The outlet on the Air King ventilation fan can be on the right or the left of the unit, and it connects to standard four-inch ducting.

Broan 679 Ventilation Fan and Light Combination

The main body of the Broan 679 ventilation fan is made of metal, but it's by no means prone to rust. This is due, in large part, to its durable, water-resistant, galvanized coating. Broan uses a "polymeric" material for the important parts that are likely to come into contact with most moisture (like the main fan impeller). The term "polymeric" sounds impressive, but in truth, it's just a fancy name for plastic – though it should ensure a long and trouble-free life. This is another fan that can be fitted above a tub or shower with a GFCI circuit. It connects to four-inch ducting using a quick-fit tapered sleeve.

Panasonic FV-11VQ5 WhisperCeiling 110 CFM Ceiling Mounted Fan, White

People expect quality from Panasonic. Indeed, a lot of thought has gone into the engineering of the FV-11VQ5 WhisperCeiling Ceiling Mounted Fan. The parts that aren't plastic are either painted with corrosion-resistant finish or are galvanized. The fitting kit, while it might appear more complex than some, gives lots of flexibility and allows the fan to be mounted quickly and easily in practically any situation – though space can be a consideration. As with the Air King and Braun, tub and shower safety is ensured when using a GFCI circuit. In addition, this fan meets HVI certification and connects to four-inch ducting.

Delta BreezSmart SMT130H 130 CFM Exhaust Fan with Adjustable Humidity Senso

The general build quality of the Delta BreezSmart SMT130H ventilation fan is excellent, with rust-resistant coatings where you'd expect them and plastic parts where necessary. Fitting is basic and straightforward, although with the high CFM generated (more on that later), it is necessary to have six-inch ducting if you want this fan. Although the BreezSmart ventilation fan is HVI certified, we were unable to discover whether it's UL listed. Delta's website is ambiguous, and while we know that the BreezSmart functions well in damp environments like bathrooms, it shouldn't be fitted directly above a tub or shower.

Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall 70 CFM Wall Mounted Fan

The fifth model in our ratings is another Panasonic fan, the FV-OSWQ1 WhisperWall. Much of what we've said concerning the general construction quality of the Panasonic WhisperCeiling also applies to the WhisperWall. However, there are a number of important differences between these two contenders, most notably that this is a through-wall fan. A through-wall fan may be used when that configuration is the preferred option and/or when ceiling mounting isn't possible. Eight-inch ducting is required at the point of contact. An external hood and back-draft damper are supplied to ensure air goes out but doesn't come back in. UL listing for tubs and showers doesn't apply in this case (though clearly it shouldn't be fitted inside an enclosure).

The well-engineered Panasonic WhisperCeiling fan can be installed above any tub or shower with a proper GFCI circuit.
Considerations

Specification

Air King BFQ 140 High Performance Bath Fan, 120-CFM

Before we rate the specifications of each ventilation fan, we'd like to share a quick note about sones, the unit used to rate noise output for these devices. Technically, one sone is equal to 40 phons. This only helps if you know what a phon is! For our purposes, we can say a phon and a decibel are roughly the same. (Phons and decibels have different specifications, but they're similar enough for comparison here.) One sone is equal to 40 decibels. The important thing to note with sones is that the rating is not linear. Two sones are twice as loud as one sone, but three sones are twice as loud as two, and so on. Instead of going up "1,2,3,4 . . ." like on an ordinary volume control, the progression is "1,2,4,8,16."

There are three models in the Air King ventilation fan range. In this review, we rate the largest, the BFQ 140. Despite that number, it actually puts out 120 CFM (the others run at 90 and 100). If you make a rough calculation of needing one CFM per square foot of room size, you can see that this is quite a powerful unit. The downside is noise. The Air King BFQ 140 produces four sones, which is simply too loud for some people. Since this isn't a fan designed to run all the time, however, most owners say the noise is perfectly acceptable for short periods of time.

Broan 679 Ventilation Fan and Light Combination

Broan makes a wide range of fans, and the company is well-known in the sector. We've chosen the evaluate Broan's 679 ventilation fan, which is rated for 70 CFM and produces 3.5 sones. (The manufacturer makes a similar model with a 50 CFM/2.5 sones specification, if that would suit your space better). A noise level of 3.5 sones may seem similar to that of the Air King, but if you remember the way sones double up, it's actually a lot quieter.

Panasonic FV-11VQ5 WhisperCeiling 110 CFM Ceiling Mounted Fan, White

If you're going to call a ventilation fan "WhisperCeiling," it had better be pretty quiet, or you're going to get a lot of negative feedback that will damage sales. Indeed, the Panasonic FV-11VQ5 lives up to its billing. It generates under 0.3 sones – and that's when it's running at 110 CFM! Several owners say it's so quiet that they have to listen carefully to hear whether it's working or not.

Delta BreezSmart SMT130H 130 CFM Exhaust Fan with Adjustable Humidity Senso

The Delta BreezSmart ventilation fan range offers a number of options (we'll look at features in a moment) and a choice of two sizes: the SMT130H rated here (130 CFM and an almost silent 0.3 sones) and a 150-CFM version for those who need something for a larger space. This Delta BreezSmart fan matches the Panasonic WhisperCeiling in terms of its quiet performance. It's actually more powerful at 130 CFM, but it also has the ability to run at lower capacities (50, 70, and 90 CFM). When doing so, it's so quiet that it has a small green light to tell you that it's on!

Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall 70 CFM Wall Mounted Fan

The second Panasonic contender on our list, the FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall ventilation fan, is another quality unit, but it does not have the high specifications of the Panasonic FV-11VQ5 or the Delta BreezSmart. At just 0.8 sones, it's very quiet, but at 70 CFM, the air volume is considerably less than many competitors. Although a CFM of 70 may seem dramatically low, we point out that it does run through eight-inch diameter ducting and through a horizontal wall, so ducting length is minimal. In other words, the Panasonic WhisperWall is not quite as "under-powered" as it may seem.

Considerations

Features & Performance

Air King BFQ 140 High Performance Bath Fan, 120-CFM

Cheap ventilation fans like the Air King BFQ 140 are targeted at consumers who need moisture extraction but don't want to pay a great deal for it. As such, it is quite a basic unit. The question here is whether it's efficient and reliable. The majority of owners say "yes" on both accounts. It's not the quietest ventilation fan, but given that it's not designed to run constantly, most owners find the noise level acceptable. However, there have been occasional quality control issues, and a number of owners discovered faults soon after fitting. While frustrating, there is a one-year warranty, so returning the unit shouldn't be a problem.

Broan 679 Ventilation Fan and Light Combination

Broan tells us that their 679 Ventilation Fan and Light Combination has a permanently lubricated motor for increased reliability. This is good, but it's still not quiet enough to run 24/7. We do think the 100-watt light is a nice addition, though a bulb is not included. It's possible to create multiple configurations (light only, fan and light, etc.) if you know what you're doing during installation – or if you get an electrical contractor to install it. The only significant owner complaint was that several people found parts of the assembly loose. In cases where this wasn't corrected before installation, it caused additional vibration and noise. The problem can be fixed by tightening components or by insulating with silicone sealer. However, this is a correction that shouldn't need to be made in the first place.

Panasonic FV-11VQ5 WhisperCeiling 110 CFM Ceiling Mounted Fan, White

The Panasonic FV-11VQ5 WhisperCeiling Ventilation Fan includes no light, nor does it include any additional features. However, owner feedback is overwhelmingly positive, and this fan is extremely popular. Unlike many, it is rated for continuous operation, and its reliability is underlined by a three-year warranty. It's also Energy Star compliant, which means it's cheaper to run than a lot of the competition. Complaints are so few as to be negligible. However, you might want to make a note of the dimensions. The Panasonic WhisperCeiling is quite large at over 16 x 14 inches.

Delta BreezSmart SMT130H 130 CFM Exhaust Fan with Adjustable Humidity Senso

The Delta BreezSmart SMT130H ventilation fan comes with several useful configuration options. You can have it as just a fan; you can have it with a humidity sensor; you can have it with an activating motion sensor. The humidity sensor monitors the amount of moisture in the room and adjusts the CFM accordingly – anywhere from a 50 to 130. The motor can run continuously and is Energy Star compliant. The Delta BreezSmart SMT130H's warranty is three years, and owner feedback is almost entirely positive. This fan is quite large at 14 x 14 inches.

Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall 70 CFM Wall Mounted Fan

Like its ceiling-mounted counterpart, there's little to say about the features of the Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall ventilation fan, except that it's rated for continuous operation and it's Energy Star compliant. It does offer great flexibility; owners have used it in bathrooms and between adjacent rooms to balance heat. They've even used it to extract heat from computer server rooms. A few owners have been unhappy with the fact that an eight-inch hole is required for mounting, but that fact is clearly stated in the packaging. This reliable fan is supported by a three-year warranty.

The budget-priced Air King BFQ 140 is made for consumers who need moisture extraction but don't want to pay a great deal for it.
Richard
Expert Consultant
Richard
Hardware Store Owner, Do-It-Yourself Guru

Richard is a seasoned small business owner in the hardware industry. He also owns a pool maintenance business and serves as an advisor on groundskeeping committees for a number of prominent organizations. He’s a regionally renowned safe cracker/locksmith expert, and in his spare time, he renovates and repairs vaults, safes, appliances, and a number of other products.

Considerations

Price

Air King BFQ 140 High Performance Bath Fan, 120-CFM

If you're looking for a cheap ventilation fan, it's difficult to beat the Air King BFQ 140 at just $42. It's small enough to go almost anywhere, and the 120 CFM rating means it will cope with room sizes that quite a few more expensive models can't handle. On the downside, it is quite loud (though most find it tolerable for short periods), and a few owners have voiced concerns over its build quality.

Broan 679 Ventilation Fan and Light Combination

For just $58, you can have the Broan 679 ventilation fan with its built-in light. This is a relatively small unit, and owners are particularly complimentary of how easy it is to fit. It's a little quieter than the Air King, but it only moves about half the volume of air. Some might find this to be a bit of a drawback. While reliability doesn't seem to be a problem, the Broan's construction has received some criticism for loose components.

Panasonic FV-11VQ5 WhisperCeiling 110 CFM Ceiling Mounted Fan, White

The Panasonic FV-11VQ5 WhisperCeiling ventilation fan will cost you $114, which is a fair step up from the Air King and Broan. No extras are included in this package. What you do get is excellent construction and durability, a reputation for flawless and uninterrupted performance, and sound levels so low that many owners must "double-check" to make sure it's really working. The unit is quite large, but it's a high-quality option, and in spite of the price, it's very popular.

Delta BreezSmart SMT130H 130 CFM Exhaust Fan with Adjustable Humidity Senso

A big advantage of the $149 Delta BreezSmart SMT130H ventilation fan is that you can specify the configuration you want: fan only, moisture control, motion sensor – you decide. If you need to continuously balance humidity levels in a particular space, this is the one to choose. Indeed, it's difficult to find fault with the Delta BreezSmart's build or performance, though it is a big unit, so you'll want to check your home's dimensions before making a purchase.

Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall 70 CFM Wall Mounted Fan

What you get with the $172 Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall ventilation fan is a product designed to solve a particular problem. This fan works where ceiling mounting isn't possible (though as we've seen, it does have other applications). The price may seem a little high, but it's competitive when you compare quality, specifications, and performance with rivals that do the same job. For horizontal venting, this is the best through-wall ventilation option.

With a CFM rating of 120, the affordable Air King BFQ can cope with room sizes that many pricey ventilation fans simply couldn't handle.

Best of the Best

At the premium end of the market, two ventilation fans stand out, and it's difficult to choose between them. However, after careful consideration, we declare the Best of the Best ventilation fan to be the Panasonic FV-11VQ5 WhisperCeiling.

The Delta BreezSmart SMT130H came close to capturing this title. It's a high-quality product with lots of options, but the price is prohibitive for some, and most people don't need precise moisture control and motion activation. What most people want is a "set it and forget it" ventilation system, and that's exactly what the Panasonic WhisperCeiling provides.

The WhisperCeiling's build quality is outstanding. To avoid corrosion, Panasonic uses high-grade plastic where possible and either rust-proof or galvanized finish on the metal parts. Reliability is ensured by a permanently lubricated motor that's designed to run continuously. Safety comes by way of thermal cut-off fuses and a UL rating for installation over tubs and showers with the appropriate GFCI circuit. The WhisperCeiling is Energy Star rated for economy and certified by the Home Ventilation Institute. It's backed by a three-year warranty.

With dimensions of 16 x 14 inches, it is quite large, but when fitted to standard four-inch ducting, it is capable of producing an impressive 110 CFM with a noise level of under 0.3 sones. That's where the name "WhisperCeiling" comes from: it's so close to silent that many owners have said they wondered whether the fan was actually working or not.

We always consider owner feedback in our deliberations. The Panasonic FV-11VQ5 isn't perfect – when you produce tens of thousands of something, there are bound to be a few with faults – but the negative numbers are tiny. The vast majority of owners use words like "great," "best," and "silent" to describe this fan. If you're looking for the best ventilation fan available right now, you just found it.

Best of the Best
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The Panasonic WhisperCeiling is superbly built with excellent specs of 110 CFM and 0.3 sones. In other words, it's powerful and quiet.

Best Bang for Your Buck

We're proud to endorse all five ventilation fans on our elite list, but the product that delivers the best value for the littlest amount of money is the Air King BFQ 140.

If you're looking for a cheap ventilation fan, the Broan 679, with its built-in light, is a serious contender. However, we believe the budget-priced Air King is the budget fan that answers most consumers' needs.

Air King takes the same approach, in terms of finish, as do the best models. The manufacturer uses quality plastics where possible and corrosion-resistant coatings everywhere else. The fan is quick and easy to fit, attaching to ordinary four-inch ducting and producing a class-leading air flow of 120 CFM. We admit that this air flow comes at the expense of a bit of noise (four sones), but then again, this isn't the type of fan you would run continuously. In many cases, it would be wired into a light switch so it's on when you're in the room and off when you're not. Under those circumstances, most owners don't have a problem with the noise.

Not surprisingly, the Air King BFQ 140 is very popular. It may not have the build quality of some competitors, but it's a smart little fan. The loudness is unacceptable for a handful of users, but that's a complaint for the minority. A few criticized the installation instructions, but we believe it's almost impossible to find a better product for the money. Most owners are happy that such a compact, inexpensive unit performs so well. For all of these reasons, we recommend the Air King BFQ 140 to budget-minded consumers. It's simply the Best Bang for Your Buck.

Best Bang for your Buck
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The team that worked on this review
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    Bob
    Writer
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    Melissa
    Editor
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    Operations
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    Product Analyst
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