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Best Bathroom Fans

Updated December 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 25 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 115 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best bathroom fans

    Last Updated December 2018

    To protect yourself from the danger and mess of mold, peeling paint, and ruined insulation, consider installing a good bathroom fan. Bathroom fans are designed to help move moisture and odor up and out of one of the most important spaces in your home. Without one, your bathroom could go from an oasis to an unpleasant sump over time.

    Before you purchase a bathroom fan, there are some important technical features to consider. Size, amount of air moved, sound output, installation requirements, and venting vary from unit to unit. You may also be interested in some nice added features, such as overhead lights, night lights, and heaters. The shopping guide that follows can help you sort through these options.

    At BestReviews, we’re here to help you make smart buying decisions. Our goal is to provide consumers with an unbiased view of the best products on the market, and that includes bathroom fans. When you’re ready to purchase a new bathroom fan, please see the product list above for our recommendations.

    After a shower, leave your bathroom fan on for about 20 minutes to clear out the humidity.

    Air movement

    The purpose of a bathroom fan is to move air up and out, thereby keeping the moisture in your home balanced and your bathroom clean and mold-free. Units on the market are designed to move air at a variety of rates. Here are a few tips.

    • Look for the “CFM” rating on any fan you’re considering to see how much air the fan moves per minute.

    • How high of a CFM rating do you need? A good rule of thumb is to opt for one CFM per square foot of bathroom space.
       

    A lot of bathroom fans push at least 50 CFM. That is usually adequate for an average-sized bathroom. If you’re looking at a bigger space, or perhaps a master bath, do some measuring before you shop. Some fans will move well over 100 CFM and are a good bet if your room is large.

    EXPERT TIP

    Even if you have a very small bathroom space, you will need a minimum 50 CFM on your bathroom fan to meet code in most places.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Noise level

    Do you get up early or go to bed late? If you’re showering when others are sleeping, you will thank yourself if you pay close attention to the sound level of your fan.

    Most fans come with a sone rating that indicates how much noise the fan makes while operating.

    Your best bet for a quiet fan is to look for one with a sone rating lower than one. Others products might cost less, but noise output is a very noticeable quality in a bathroom fan.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    It is possible to get a quiet bathroom fan. Many are made with decibel levels not much higher than the sound of rustling leaves. Low-cost bathroom fans tend to make more noise than pricier models.

    Venting

    The venting of your fan is very important. We touch on some essential ventilation facts below.

    • Duct size

    If you’re installing a replacement fan, you likely already have ductwork in place. Check your duct size before you buy a new fan. Sizes of ducts for bathroom fans generally run four inches in diameter, but some are three inches and others run up to six inches.

    • Placement

    Another important venting issue to consider is where to place the fan. Generally, it is best to place it near your shower. If you have an enclosed toilet, it is a good idea to give that area a separate venting system, as the general system will likely not work well to remove odors from the enclosed space.

    Note that if you vent into the attic only, you are not adequately venting out moisture and are at risk for mold growth. Adequate venting may require cutting a hole in your roof. Many homeowners will want to leave this job to a professional.

    CAUTION

    Venting your bathroom fan into your attic or wall instead of out of your roof puts you at risk of damaging insulation and possibly the structural pieces of your home.

    Size

    Bathroom fans come in a variety of lengths and widths, from as small as eight inches to as large as 14 or 16 inches. There is essentially no “standard” size for a bathroom fan.

    In fact,  you might be hard-pressed to find one exactly the same size as a unit you need to replace.

    The housing for your bathroom fan unit will have to be installed in your ceiling. If you have not had a fan in your bath before, you will have to cut large hole in your ceiling and, likely, another in your roof for ventilation.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A duct-free bathroom fan will not remove any air from the room and will not reduce your humidity levels.

    Heating elements

    A nice heater in your bathroom will keep you comfortable when you step out of the shower. Some bathroom fans have them, and they come in two basic types: those with a heat lamp and those with a built-in heat coil.

    • Bathroom fans with heat lamps use high-wattage bulbs to give you a little extra warmth in your bath. Notably, some of these products cannot be installed directly over the shower.

    • Bathroom fans with heat coils generally operate on the same principle that small space heaters do. These fans are more durable than heat lamp-based fans, but they pull a lot of energy.
       

    Remember if you are running a heater, light, and fan at the same time, you will be drawing a lot of electricity. This can be close to 1,500 watts on some units, which is about the same amount as a hair dryer. You may need a 20-amp dedicated circuit with a heat lamp unit to run your fan and other appliances without tripping a circuit.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Fans should be cleaned every three months because they naturally create static electricity, which can restrict air movement.

    Lighting

    Not all bathroom fans have a light, and you may not want one. However, in small spaces, the ability to illuminate from above can be a major benefit.

    Newer fans are usually equipped with low-watt compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs. Nicer fans have LED bulbs for brighter light.

    Some fans also include a night light feature. Many folks agree it’s nice to be able to see your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night without having to turn the lights on.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some bathroom fans come with an automatic sensing feature which will turn your fan on and off based on the humidity level.

    Bathroom fan prices

    • $25 to $50

    In this price range, you will get something that moves air, but not as much air as a pricier fan would.  Fans in this lower price range will also be louder. If your bathroom is a good distance from your bedrooms and is on the small side, an economy fan may work well for your needs.

    • $50 to $100

    In this range, you should be able to get a quieter bathroom fan that moves a lot of air. You may not get a heater or a light at this price, but you may be able to get a fan with varied air flow.

    • $100 to $200

    These higher-end fans come with nicer features such as LED lights, night lights, built-in heating coils, and variable speeds. Some have moisture indicators that turn on only when needed. Most importantly, they can move a lot of air quietly.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you have an enclosed toilet, you may wish to install a separate fan for the toilet area.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • The best place to install your bathroom fan is near or over your shower or bathtub – unless your fan has a built in heater.

    • Double check the size of the current hole in your ceiling so that you do not undersize yourself and leave a visible space.

    • If you currently have a bathroom fan, check your ventilation system. If it is not properly vented, it could be damaging your home.

    Many bathroom fans are rated to work in homes with a continuous ventilation system.

    FAQ

    Q. Will I be able to use the fan separately from the light?

    A. Most bathroom fans can be set up to operate on a separate switch from the light. However, if you choose, you could wire them together.

    Q. Can a bathroom fan be mounted on the wall?

    A. It depends on the width of the wall. Many units will be too deep fit in a 2x4 opening. There are some on the market that can fit the space, but remember, venting issues will be the same.

    Q. What kind of electrical requirements does a bathroom fan have?

    A. Requirements vary by unit. If you choose a unit that includes a heater, you may need a dedicated circuit. A fan by itself can generally be operated off of a light circuit.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Stacey
      Stacey
      Writer

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