As a kid, you may not have known what the exhaust fan for the bathroom did. Oftentimes, you’d try to turn on the lights, only to hear a loud noise. As an adult, however, you understand the importance of the bathroom exhaust fan. From keeping the bathroom free of mold and mildew to preventing odors, the bathroom exhaust fan is an important part of any bathroom. Not to mention, if there’s a smoke detector outside your bathroom, lacking a fan may cause it to go off!
The bathroom exhaust fan is an important item in any home, and if you’re building a house, you should probably get one. Alternatively, you may live in an older home that doesn’t have one, and you are considering retrofitting a fan into it.
Either way, the bathroom exhaust fan is important. If your home doesn’t have one, or you’re building a home, you should install one. However, which exhaust fan works the best for your needs? In this post, we will look at the best exhaust fans for bathrooms. Let’s get started.
What Should I Look for When Searching for Bathroom Exhaust Fans?
When shopping for an exhaust fan for a bathroom, there are many things to consider. The bathroom exhaust fan is a lot more complicated than you’d think, with many different features you should look for. Here are some features to look for when you’re shopping.
With exhaust fans, bathrooms turn from a quiet place to sounding like you’re in a wind tunnel, depending on the exhaust fan.
Some people like a fan with a louder noise level. If there are people talking outside the bathroom, a fan can drown them out. It can also drown out the sounds you’re making as you’re doing your business. Finally, a little white noise is always good for focusing, especially if you’re a little backed up.
However, some people like bathroom exhaust fans with a lower noise level. To them, the best bathroom experience is one where it’s tranquil, and a noisy fan defeats that.
One way to measure the noise level is how many sones it is. Sones measure sound, with one being that of your standard refrigerator. A quiet fan will have a rating that’s under two. If you like some white noise but not too loud, pick one at three or four. If it’s five or above, it’s a fan that should be reserved for the biggest lovers of white noise.
Some fans can sound louder than the sones they have. In this case, you may want to watch some videos of the fan being used in order to get a good idea as to how loud the fan will be. While it won’t be the perfect representation, it can get you an idea.
The Right Size
If you have a tiny half bathroom, you don’t have to worry too much about bathroom exhaust fans being a little small. However, if your bathroom is bigger, a smaller fan may not be enough. It may not have enough ventilation to clear the air.
How can you pick the right exhaust fan for your bathroom? First, measure the square footage of your bathroom. Then, look at the CFM, or cubic feet per minute, of the fan.
A bathroom fan of 70 CFM will clear less space than one that is 110 CFM, but the 70 CFM may be more appropriate for a medium-size bathroom. One that is 50 CFM may work for a half bathroom. Fifty is as low as it can go, so that’s something to remember.
When it comes to CFM, it’s better to get a fan that’s a little bigger than your bathroom’s needs. While you don’t need to be excessive, it’s better to oversize than it is to undersize.
How to Calculate
When it comes to exhaust, bathroom fans need to be the right size. One good rule of thumb is to multiply your cubic feet by 8, and then divide that number by 60. You should get the right amount of CFM. Add 50 if there’s a toilet or shower in the bathroom.
Ultimately, this is something that you may want to speak to a professional about if you are unsure. Even if you’re decent with numbers, it’s easy for a layperson to mess it up.
Wall or Ceiling?
Most people associate bathroom exhaust fans with being in the ceiling, but there are wall fans available as well. If there is an attic above your bathroom, the air will go to the attic and it can create problems, unless you’re routing it to the outside. Meanwhile, if a wall in your bathroom leads to the outside of your home, the wall bathroom exhaust fan may be more appropriate.
Installing the fan can be complicated. You may need to think of wiring, making sure that it’s safe for the shower, and making sure the duct adapter is long enough. This is definitely another issue that you may want to speak with a professional about, as an inexperienced install of bathroom exhaust fans can lead to issues, sometimes safety concerns.
A fan may require you to have an attic, or have no attic needed. Always look and see if the fan is ideal for what type of home you have.
When it comes to bathroom exhaust fans, they all share similar purposes, which are to:
- Give ventilation to your bathroom.
- Help improve the airflow.
- Lower excess humidity to prevent mold and mildew.
- Reduce the odors that come with a bathroom.
With that said, the bathroom fan has evolved and can provide you with more features. These include:
- Lights. Some bathroom exhaust fans have lights on them. Some are powerful, while others act as night lights. This is convenient for when you wake up in the middle of the night and don’t want your half-asleep self to be exposed to overpowered lights. A fan with a night light may be ideal here, and there are plenty that have both a regular or a night light.
- Heating element. Some fans have heaters, which are good if you want to target your bathroom when it’s cold. While a heating element is one of the lesser essential features, consider looking for a fan with a heating element if you live in an icy place.
- Automatic sensors. Some bathroom exhaust fans have the ability to sense humidity, and should the humidity reach a certain level, it will turn on until the level goes down. This can save you trouble and energy. If the bathroom exhaust fan has lights, they may have sensors that turn it on automatically when you enter, or stay on at night. A sensor may also turn on the fan when there’s motion detected, which means it will always turn on should you enter the room. This is another convenient feature as well.
- Controls. A bathroom fan is typically controlled through a light switch, but there are several types of controls that may help you turn on the lights or the fan itself.
Fans are usually not energy guzzlers, but every bit of conservation helps. In the case of the bathroom exhaust fan, they are quite efficient, especially if they have the Energy Star label on them. With an Energy Star level, the bathroom exhaust fan ends up using a whopping 70 percent less energy. These are also quieter. However, there are also louder fans that are Energy Star level, which is good if you like a little white noise whenever you’re using the bathroom.
We should probably mention that in 2020, a bathroom fan being energy efficient doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. The best bathroom exhaust fans tend to combine power with energy efficiency.
Bathroom fans that operate with less energy aren’t just better for your electric bill or environment, either. When a bathroom fan uses less energy, this means that it will last longer. Speaking of which…
Durability, Customer Service, and Warranty
There are several factors that can influence a fan’s durability. Besides the fact that bathroom fans last longer when they use less energy, the quality of the parts may affect how durable it is. A fan made from galvanized steel is going to be tougher than a fan that isn’t made from galvanized steel.
Customer service is also important when purchasing a unit. Should you have any problems, customer service should be there to help. Whether it’s having trouble installing the unit in your ceiling, the fan not clearing moisture as well as it should, or if you have another question, customer service should be available through phone, email, or another method of communication.
In addition, a good seller of bathroom fans will stand by their product and make sure that you’re getting a bathroom fan that will last you a long time. If there are any problems, good bathroom fans tend to have an extended warranty so that you can get it repaired should you need to.
This is a problem you don’t have to worry about with most modern fans, but you should always be sure. What do we mean by permanently lubricated? Older fans needed the occasional oiling to prevent them from squeaking. There would be slots to put the oil in.
However, newer fans should have a permanently lubricated motor, which means there is little maintenance. If you try to oil these fans, it may end up damaging the fan, so beware.
Bathroom fans aren’t terribly expensive, but the price can vary depending on what type you get. Energy-efficient bathroom fans that are feature-packed may cost more, which may not work for your budget. With all that said, you also have to remember the bathroom exhaust fan will probably need a professional installation, which can cost more.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Bathroom Exhaust Fans
We looked at several types of bathroom exhaust fans of varying prices. In addition, we tried to select a couple of unique fans that would fit a certain need. Finally, we picked fans that have positive reviews. Each fan has a rating of four stars or more, meaning that you can expect quality. Now then, let’s begin.
#1: Broan-NuTone AE110 (Best Value – All-Purpose)
The best bathroom exhaust fan on this list goes to one that will fit most budgets and needs. This is a mid-range bathroom exhaust fan that is quite powerful and is the perfect combination between value and quality. If you are looking for a fan, this unit is the first fan you should check out. Obviously, it may not be the best pick for everyone, but it should be a good pick for most.
First, this fan is available in either 110 CFM or 80 CFM, and there isn’t too much of a price difference between the two. The 110 costs slightly more, but it’s a small price to pay if you have a bigger bathroom that is a little more demanding. Either way, you will have a powerful fan that can pull away the exhaust.
This is a quiet fan as well, being around 1 sone. This means that it’s about as loud as your fridge. It’s energy-efficient as well, not costing too much to use for normal usage. Whether it’s a new home or you’re retrofitting, this bathroom exhaust fan manages to be quite easy to install.
One feature this bathroom exhaust fan also has is that it has TrueSeal Damper Technology. This helps reduce air leakage, meaning that you won’t get cold air in your home during winter or excess hot air in the summer. While most fans probably have something like this, we are glad to see descriptions of this unit confirming it.
Reviews of this bathroom exhaust fan have been positive overall, with most people saying the bathroom exhaust fan is quiet and works well. One reviewer said that it was much better than the fan recommended by a professional contractor. Many reviewers were also impressed with its price.
A few reviewers did say it (especially the 110 CFM) was a little noisier than expected. However, some comments indicated that it was an easy fix. With any fan, it may end up being noisier than you may think, especially if you have sensitive ears.
Overall, this bathroom exhaust fan works well for most people, especially if you’re looking for one that doesn’t have any fancy features. When you are looking for a tough fan but don’t want to spend too much, you should go with this fan. Of course, you may have a bigger budget, and the next unit is something you may consider.
#2: Panasonic FV-0511VQC1 (Best Fan)
If you have a higher budget, spending more on a bathroom fan isn’t a bad idea. Besides the fan possibly lasting longer, it does come with more energy efficiency and has several features you may want to have.
Let’s first discuss the biggest feature of this bathroom fan, which is its sensors. It can detect the humidity, and once your bathroom needs clearing, the bathroom exhaust fan turns on and then shuts off automatically once all the humidity is clear. This means you don’t have to worry about turning it on and forgetting to turn it off when you’re out.
The sensors can also turn on whenever you enter the bathroom, meaning they can get to work as soon as you take a shower or as soon as you’re using the bathroom. It’s so nice to have a fan you don’t have to turn off. This is because even if you have super hearing, you may forget to turn it off because it is so quiet. It’s under 0.3 sones, meaning you have to work hard to hear it. Despite its quietness, it’s a powerful fan, being able to keep up with even the most demanding bathrooms.
It’s also easy for you to install, and it fits with ducts that are either 4 or 6 inches in diameter. This bathroom fan is also built to last. If you’re skeptical about its high price, you can have some peace of mind realizing that it has a 6-year motor warranty and a 3-year warranty on parts.
Reviews of this bathroom fan have been quite positive. Most people say it’s the best bathroom fan money can buy, being whisper quiet and having great motion detection. For those who have more money to spend, this is the best bathroom exhaust fan to get. Negative reviews mostly center around people who had issues with the motion detector. However, a reviewer did say that moving the motion sensor fixed the problem.
There were a few complaints about customer service as well, with the negative reviews saying that they couldn’t get hold of them. But once again, this was in the minority and shouldn’t reflect on the overall quality of the unit if you want to purchase a Panasonic.
When it comes to the best exhaust fan, Panasonic delivers. This fan is great if you have a bigger budget and you want a fan that makes moisture history. For those who don’t have much money, the motion detection isn’t something you should go in the red over, but it’s a convenient little feature, especially if you are mindful of how much energy you use.
#3: Hunter Home Comfort 90052 (Best Fan with Light)
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If you’re building a home or retrofitting, you are probably wondering where the lights should go and where the bathroom fan should go. One way to solve this problem is to combine the two. This bathroom exhaust fan comes with a beautiful glass enclosure that you can add two light bulbs to, meaning that you can turn on your fan and your bathroom lights at the same time. This is great for those who don’t have much space on their ceiling or don’t want too much taking up their ceiling.
This fan is 80 CFM and has a loudness of 2.5 sones, meaning that it is louder than the previous two fans on this list, but not extremely loud. This fan is good if you want a little white noise without it being too overpowered. It’s also easy to install, coming with everything you need to make sure the product is set up correctly. As we said, you should contact someone if you are unsure of how to put it together.
Reviews of this bathroom exhaust fan have been positive overall, with most people saying it’s a high-quality bathroom exhaust fan with a powerful motor and a decent noise level. Some reviewers did declare that the fan was a bit noisy and the glass dome was hard to remove, but most people were satisfied.
Overall, this is a decent ceiling fan with a light in it. A fan with a light is great if you don’t want both crowding up your ceiling or wall. This unit manages to serve both purposes quite well, offering plenty of light and ventilation. With that said, you can also look for a fan that has a dimmer light should you not want something so harsh. The next fan may work better in that case.
#4: Tech Drive Very-Quiet (Best Low Cost)
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With the modern bathroom exhaust fan, even cheaper fans are decent. This is one of the best bathroom exhaust fans around if your budget is low or you don’t want to spend too much on a bathroom exhaust fan.
First, we should mention that this exhaust fan is available in 70 CFM or 80 CFM. The 70 CFM and 80 CFM are also available, for a little more, with an LED. The LED itself comes out of the grille and is 600 lumens and 11 watts.
This is a quiet exhaust fan, though, despite its name, it’s not the quietest here. This bathroom exhaust fan is 1.5 sones to 2 sones, depending on which model you get. Most are 1.5 sones, but the 70 CFM with LED appears to be 2. Why that is, we are not sure. For many people, half a sone won’t be too much of a difference, but if you have sensitive ears and every sone counts, you may want the fans with lower sones.
Besides that, this bathroom exhaust fan is easy for you to install and is powerful enough to clean out the bathroom. Reviewers seem to agree, with most saying it’s a powerful bathroom exhaust fan that works well. The small minority of complaints centered around the fan needing an attic, having trouble staying up, or that it stopped working. However, these complaints were in the minority.
Overall, this is a great fan if you need a unit that is cheap, yet effective. Despite the fan being low cost, it does have the extra light feature that doesn’t cost too much extra. That’s another feature we love about this fan. It serves those who want to have plenty of choices, offering two sizes and the decision of a fan with or without a light.
The good thing about fans is that you can find several for not too much that deliver what they promise. With other appliances, going cheap can end up being a regret, but luckily, this is not a fan you’re going to regret buying should you decide to go with the lowest-priced unit on this list. You can buy with confidence.
#5: Broan-NuTone 505 (Loudest Fan)
Most people want an exhaust fan that performs well and isn’t heard. However, some people love a loud exhaust fan. Being able to drown out the world outside, or just having some white noise to focus on, can be quite useful. People who love this type of exhaust fan are probably the people who can’t sleep unless their fan is on. Don’t worry, we’re like that too. So what should you do if you want an exhaust fan that is loud?
This is the one for you. It has a whopping 6.5 sones. It is not quiet, so don’t say we didn’t warn you. It being loud means it’s quite powerful, and is great if your bathroom frequently has smells or smoke. Despite its loudness and performance, it is an Energy Star approved exhaust fan, so it’s actually quite efficient energy-wise. It’s 180 CFM, making it great for big bathrooms as well.
The grille is paintable as well, which is a unique feature. If you want your exhaust fan to match the color of your bathroom, you can’t go wrong with this one. Have your fan match the color of your ceiling in order for it to blend in. You can also paint it the opposite color of your ceiling for a little contrast. Go wild with the color.
Reviews have been quite positive, with most saying that this is the loud exhaust fan they were looking for. Most negative reviews center around people who had trouble installing it. One reviewer gave it one star because it was noisy. What did they expect?
Overall, this fan is a great unit should you want a fan with the most sones as possible. A high amount of sones means that you’re going to have a loud fan, but there’s nothing wrong with having it. Some people just love white noise, and this fan manages to make some noise without being a pain on your energy bill.
What About the Cheapies? Our Best Products Under $30
Looking for a cheap exhaust fan? Here are some fans that you will be a fan of. (We are sorry for that very bad pun.)
#1 Best Under $30: Hampton Bay 80 CFM
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This is a great little budget exhaust fan, operating at a respectable 2 sones and requiring no attic. It’s not the fanciest out there, but it’s one of those fans that should work well enough. If you are looking for a fan with the basics, check this out.
#2 Best Under $20: Broan-NuTone 50 CFM
Broan has appeared several times in this article, so you know that they make a good exhaust fan. Even their cheaper fans are good. At four sones, it’s not quiet, but the Broan-NuTone 50 CFM should work well enough. Again, this is a competent enough fan.
#3 Best Under $15: Air King 3-Sone 50 CFM
Finally, we have the AirKing 3-Sone 50 CFM. As you can probably tell, it’s not the quietest, but it manages to be a decent exhaust fan for a very cheap price. It’s not the best reviewed, but you may get lucky. We only recommend this fan if you are in a pinch and can’t afford something a little more expensive.
With all that said, you do need to remember that unless you can install it yourself competently, a fan may be more expensive than you think. This is because you need a professional installation if you want to be sure your unit will run the best. While you can buy a cheaper unit, you shouldn’t cheap out on getting an unlicensed contractor or someone who may cause damage to your home. You may still want to consider buying a more expensive unit, assuming you have the money to do so.
Can You Oversize a Bathroom Exhaust Fan?
In the context of bathroom fans, oversizing refers to getting an exhaust fan that can handle a little bit more than the total square feet of the bathroom. For example, if your bathroom needs 75 CFM, you may wonder if you can get an 80 CFM.
The answer is an resounding yes! It’s always a good idea to go up a little bit when you have a bathroom. This is because circumstances are always changing in your bathroom, and having a little extra can help to clear it up faster. Undersizing a fan can be a bad thing, but oversizing it is something good.
If you have a tiny bathroom, you are going to need to oversize it anyway, as the lowest you can go is 50 CFM.
With that said, you don’t need to go excessive. If you need 50 CFM, then there’s no point in getting 100 CFM. That’s like bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. It’s just going to be excessive for what you need it for. There’s a right balance to strike, with your going slightly higher than what you need, especially if you have plans to install another shower or other fixture.
What Is the Best CFM for Bathroom Fans?
When you look at bathroom fans, you may notice that these fans are available in different numbers of CFM. You may wonder which is the best.
Well, that depends on what size of bathroom you have. A bigger bathroom will need more CFM and vice versa. There are many ways to calculate CFM. We mentioned a way earlier on in this article, and now we are going to mention another.
If Your Bathroom Is under 50 Square Feet
Then you’re in luck. This is the easiest situation for you. With a bathroom under 50 square feet, you just need a fan that has 50 CFM. You don’t need to go any bigger, nor do you have to go with anything less, since there isn’t a fan under that.
If Your Bathroom Is 50-100 Square Feet
Measure your floor space. Every square foot gets 1 CFM. Get a fan that matches that as closely as possible.
What If It’s over 100 Square Feet?
This time, you need to combine how many fixtures you have in your bathroom. If you have a toilet shower, or bathtub, add 50 CFM for each unit. Meanwhile, if you have a tub with jets, that’s 100 more.
Sometimes, you may want to add an extra fan, particularly if you have a part of your bathroom that’s closed off. For example, a shower that is in a smaller room.
If you are unsure, contact a professional. It’s easy for a non-professional to mess up the measurement, and you’ll end up with an underpowered fan that doesn’t work too well. Don’t be this person. Talk to a pro and see what fan you need to clear the air. (No pun intended this time.)
Who Makes the Best Bathroom Exhaust Fans?
There isn’t a definitive answer to this, as everyone’s needs are different and some fans provide a fan for different needs. However, in our article, a name that comes up a lot is Broan-NuTone. This company manages to create quite a few types of bathroom exhaust fans for different needs and budgets. For example, they offer some cheapies for when your budget is super thin, but they also have more expensive fans with more features.
However, it may not be the brand for your needs. Other brands offer unique features, for example, Panasonic. A Panasonic fan can have some more advanced features, such as motion sensors, that will make your fan experience even more unique.
With a fan, brand loyalty is important. If you have had a good experience with a previous brand, it can be good for you to want to buy another from them. However, you should also be open to looking for a fan that has all the features you expect.
Verdict: Your Best Bathroom Exhaust Fans
And there you have it. Bathroom exhaust fans can keep your bathroom clean and free from any odors. If you were too busy doing your business to read this article in its entirety, let’s summarize the top five bathroom exhaust fans again.
First, we have the Broan-NuTone AE110. This is a fan that should work well for most people. It’s quiet, powerful, and is mid-ranged in price. While it doesn’t have any fancy features, it will clear the air of moisture with ease. It should be the first pick on your list.
Second, there’s the Panasonic FV-0511VQC1. This exhaust fan is good if you have a higher budget and want something fancy. With this fan, it will turn on automatically when there is motion or when there is humidity, meaning it’s only on when it needs to be. Besides that, this is the most whisper-quiet fan out there, having under 0.3 sones. You can’t get much quieter.
Third, we have the Hunter Home Comfort 90052. This is one of those bathroom fans that has a light built in. It looks just like a bathroom light fixture, yet it delivers some powerful ventilation that’s quiet. It is designed to replace your entire light fixture, so it’s not exactly a night light, but it works fine.
Fourth, the Tech Drive Very Quiet. This fan is available in 80 or 70 CFM, and it has an option for an LED night light. The main draw of Tech Drive fans is that they are fans that offer quality with affordability. Even if your budget is low, you don’t have to worry too much about this fan lacking in quality.
Finally, we have the Broan-NuTone 505. Most of the fans on this list have been quiet, so if you’re looking for a fan that’s louder, make sure to check this one out. Despite it being loud, it’s Energy Star rated, meaning that it won’t be a power sucker for your home.
With that, these are the top five bathroom fans. Having a bathroom fan in your house is convenient for several reasons, including preventing mold and moisture. If you want to clear up your bathroom, it’s easy to retrofit a unit in. Modern fans manage to be whisper quiet while clearing out your bathroom.
Before we go, we can’t stress how important it is to properly install one. See how many cubic feet per minute your bathroom needs. For example, if it needs a 110 CFM, get nothing less than that. Talk to a professional if you are unsure. Getting fans installed professionally can cost a lot of money, but it’s worth it.
We hope this article has helped you pick the best fan for the job. Good luck.