Long, steamy showers may be restorative after a stressful day, but they have the opposite effect on bathrooms—there’s the potential for structural and surface-level damage, especially if the space isn’t properly ventilated. Excess humidity causes damage in myriad forms—cracked paint, peeling wallpaper, and warped cabinetry.
Moisture buildup in the bathroom also encourages mold growth in drywall and caulking, threatening indoor air quality. The best bathroom fan removes excess moisture effectively, protecting your bathroom from water damage while helping eliminate mirror fog and odors.
There’s a wide variety of options at different price points, from bare-bones models to high-end fans that come with built-in lighting, heaters, and motion sensors. To understand the ins and outs, continue ahead for a guide to navigating the options—and don’t miss the top picks below!
and motion sensors. To understand the ins and outs, continue ahead for guide to navigating the options—and don’t miss our top picks, below!
- BEST OVERALL: Panasonic FV-0511VQ1 WhisperCeiling DC Fan
- BEST BUDGET: Broan-Nutone 670 Ventilation Fan
- UPGRADE PICK: Broan-NuTone 9093WH Exhaust Fan, Heater, and Light
- BEST DECORATIVE: Hunter 81021 Ventilation Victorian Bathroom Fan
- BEST WITH HEATER: Delta BreezRadiance 80 CFM Exhaust Bath Fan
- BEST WITH LIGHT: Panasonic WhisperValue DC Ventilation Fan with Light
- BEST WITH HUMIDITY SENSOR: Delta BreezGreenBuilder 80 CFM Exhaust Bath Fan
- BEST FOR SMALL BATHROOMS: Tech Drive Very-Quiet Bathroom Ventilation Fan
- BEST FOR LARGE BATHROOMS: KAZE APPLIANCE Ultra Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan
- MOST QUIET: KAZE APPLIANCE Sone Ultra Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan
Types of Bathroom Fans
Before looking for the best bathroom fan for your space, it is important to decide which fan type you’d prefer. Bathroom fans come in two main types: ceiling fans and in-line fans. Each type offers pros and cons to consider.
As the name implies, ceiling fans are mounted in the ceiling of a bathroom. An air intake vent sits right in the ceiling, with the fan portion directly above it. The fan pulls air from the bathroom up into the vent by creating suction and then releases it through the roof vent on the other side.
Some ceiling fans include lights and can be used to make a bathroom brighter or to replace an existing overhead or vanity light. They are also generally a bit easier to install. However, due to their size and weight, the installation options may be more limited than they are with in-line fans. Since ceiling fans are located directly above the bathroom, users may notice more noise and vibration than they would from an in-line fan.
In-line fans are installed either in the attic above the bathroom or another location a bit away from the bathroom. For these models, users install a vent in the ceiling with ductwork that routes to the exhaust fan. This setup moves the fan a bit farther from the bathroom ceiling for reduced noise and vibration. It also makes it possible to add multiple ceiling vents and connect them to the same fan to provide additional ventilation to a larger bathroom.
With an in-line fan, you aren’t as constrained by the available space in the ceiling directly above the bathroom. In some cases, this makes it possible to install a larger and more powerful fan than would otherwise fit. However, installing an in-line fan and setting up the ductwork can be more involved than installing a ceiling fan.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Bathroom Fan
As you’re shopping for the best bathroom fan, there are quite a few features to keep in mind. These include the air flow capacity, energy efficiency, and noise of each model. Beyond technical features, consider ease of installation, versatility, and how it will look in your space.
Air Flow Capacity
Bathroom exhaust fan performance is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), which gives the amount of air moved by the fan each minute. The product’s box will list the CFM number, and it will typically give a suggested room size as well.
As a general rule of thumb, choose a fan with a minimum CFM rating equal to your bathroom’s square footage. For example, a 50 CFM rated fan for a 50-square-foot bathroom and a 100 CFM rated fan for a 100-square-foot bathroom.
For even more accuracy, measure your bathroom and use the following mathematical formula:
Length X Width X Height X 0.13 = Suggested CFM
Suppose your bathroom is 8 feet wide, 10 feet long, and 8 feet high. Then you’d multiply 8 by 10 by 8 by 0.13 for a total of 83.2. In this case, a fan with a CFM rating of 80 would probably be sufficient for your bathroom.
As with purchasing any new appliance or electrical product, consider energy efficiency when shopping for a bathroom fan. Fans that are energy efficient use less energy than other models, meaning that they can help you save on your monthly electric bills while also decreasing your home’s environmental footprint.
Energy Star certifications were developed to help users easily identify energy-saving models. Energy Star certified ceiling fans use an average of 70 percent less energy than their less-efficient counterparts. In order to receive Energy Star classification, bathroom fans must also meet the maximum allowable sound levels and performance levels for airflow.
Many bathroom fans are designed for more than just ventilation. Consider models with these convenient features:
- Many people opt for a bathroom fan with an integrated light, which can replace an existing light fixture using the same wires, making for easy installation.
- Nightlights offer a comforting glow to guide late night bathroom visitors.
- Some bathroom fans have motion sensors that turn on the light automatically when someone walks into the bathroom.
- Fans with humidity sensors activate automatically when the moisture levels reach a specific level.
- For cold days and chilly baths, built-in heaters can warm up the room and ventilate simultaneously.
Visual appeal can also be important when choosing a bathroom. Consider the overall style and decor of your bathroom, and choose a fan that will coordinate with the space. One basic item to consider is the fan’s color. Many bathroom fans are white, but some may include a paintable cover that will allow you to customize the fan’s color to blend in with your ceiling or walls.
Other bathroom fans offer decorative fixtures that can help add to the style of the space. For example, some bathroom fans may feature interchangeable finials or trim in different finishes, such as white, chrome, nickel, or brass, hanging pendant lights, or other intricate or eye-catching designs.
The noise emitted by an exhaust fan is rated in “sones,” and most fans have a sones rating between the range of 0.5 to 6.0. The lower the sones number (which is typically printed on the fan box), the quieter the fan will be when operating.
Since a sones rating of 1.0 compares to the sound of a quiet refrigerator, any fan with a sones rating of 1.0 or less is considered very quiet. On the other end of the scale, a sones rating greater than 4.0 might be loud enough to drown out your shower singing.
Many manufacturers today produce bathroom fans that operate quietly. If you’re very worried about sound, consider installing a 6-inch ducting attachment for your fan rather than the standard 4-inch attachment. Air can move easier in a wider duct, so a 6-inch duct puts less strain on the fan and allows for quieter operation.
When you draw moisture-filled air out of the bathroom, it needs somewhere to go. Some bathroom vents release exhaust into a home’s attic; however, this setup isn’t ideal, since excess moisture in the attic can lead to mold-related issues. It’s usually best practice to vent bathroom fans to the outdoors.
- If the bathroom is located on the first level of a multi-story home, you can vent the air through the side of your house. A standard ceiling-mounted fan is suitable for this type of venting, as long as you can run the ducting through the ceiling joists to an exterior wall.
- For any bathroom located on the floor directly below the attic, your best bet is to direct the vented air to the attic and then, via ducting, either to a soffit under the roof’s eave or out through a vent pipe in the roof.
- If you can’t run ducting between the joists, and if your bathroom has at least one exterior wall, you can install a wall-mounted fan that vents the exhaust directly out the side of the house.
When installing a bathroom fan, the best location is typically between the shower and toilet, in an area of the ceiling without any obstructing joists or pipes. Replacement fans should be installed in the same location as the existing fan.
Keep in mind that larger bathrooms may require multiple fans to effectively ventilate the space. Fans with features such as lights, heaters, and nightlights may require additional wires or a designated circuit to operate.
Our Top Picks
Continue reading to discover some top picks to consider when shopping for the best bathroom exhaust fan. These products were selected using the features outlined above to meet a variety of needs and budgets.
This WhisperCeiling DC fan from Panasonic allows users to customize the desired airflow based on the size of their bathroom and specific needs. Choose from 50, 80, or 100 CFM ratings. It features special precision spot ventilation to effectively eliminate moisture and pollutants from the space and leave the air fresh. With its 0.9 sone rating, this fan also promises quiet operation and reduced distractions.
This energy-efficient fan has earned an Energy Star rating to keep utility costs low and prevent the unnecessary wasting of energy. It offers flexible installation options with the Flex-Z Fast bracket and both 4- and 6-inch duct adaptors.
Save money with this 50 CFM model from Broan-Nutone that eschews bells and whistles without sacrificing quality. Though its 3.5 sone rating means it hums more loudly than some of its peers, this basic bathroom fan does a great job of eliminating humidity and excess moisture in bathrooms up to 50 sq. ft.
This model features a white polymeric grill that can be painted to coordinate with different bathroom decors. The fan can be installed in the ceiling with a 3-inch duct connection, or it can be mounted on an exterior wall. With the torsion springs grille mounting, no tools are required for either installation option. This bathroom ventilation fan features a permanently lubricated motor to ensure long-lasting operation.
Individuals looking for a bathroom fan that will do more than simply remove moisture and odors from a bathroom may want to consider this model from Broan-NuTone. The 70 CFM rating means that this model can be used to ventilate, light, and heat bathrooms up to 100 square feet. It offers a 1,500-watt heating element and is safe to use with up to 100-watt bulbs. Users can also use the included 4-function wall switch to turn on the 7-watt nightlight (bulb sold separately) for a relaxing bath or middle-of-the-night bathroom runs.
This bathroom fan has a 3.5 sone rating. This model is designed to be easy to install for professionals and homeowners alike. All of the parts needed are included in the fan’s box.
This decorative bathroom fan from Hunter features a classic Victorian-style design with a chrome and porcelain frame and white glass dome. It has a 90 CFM output and a 2.5 sone rating, making it suitable for use in a variety of bathroom spaces. The fan is designed to effectively circulate the air in the room to reduce humidity levels, moisture, and odors.
Users can choose to wire the light and fan to the same switch or to wire them separately depending on their needs and preferences. The manufacturer includes all the necessary hardware for installing this flush-mount fan. Remove the chrome finial and glass cover when needed for easy cleaning or to change the bulbs.
Thanks to its heating element, this Delta fan radiates warmth while working to remove humidity in bathrooms up to 80 square feet with its 80 CFM rating. The fan also features a built-in-thermostat to allow users to set the temperature to their desired level. Just know that, because the fan includes a heater, it must be wired to a dedicated electrical circuit.
The BreezRadiance operates at a soft 1.5 sones to keep noise and vibration to a minimum. This energy-efficient model also includes an LED light, which can supplement existing bathroom lighting. The corrosion-resistant galvanized steel construction and DC brushless motor work together to offer a long-lasting product. A detachable 4-inch duct adaptor is included to simplify installation.
Those looking for the best bathroom exhaust fan with light may be interested in the Panasonic WhisperValue ventilation fan. With the Pick-A-Flow Speed Selector, users can choose from CFM outputs of 50, 80, or 100 to accommodate smaller or larger bathroom spaces. The fan operates quietly with sone ratings between 0.5 and 1.3 depending on the CFM output selected.
This Energy Star-rated fan includes a 10-watt dimmable LED chip panel to illuminate a bathroom space. It is also designed to be quick and easy to install with its L-shaped bracket. Compared to other models, this fan also offers a very slim profile, which makes it easier to install in tighter spaces.
The Delta BreezGreenBuilder exhaust bathroom fan features a built-in humidity sensor to detect when the humidity level in a bathroom is getting too high. Users can program a specific humidity level between 50 percent and 80 percent, and when the humidity rises to this level, the fan will run with an 80 CFM output. Other times, when the humidity level is below the desired threshold, the fan will run continuously at the user’s preferred level of 0 or 50 CFM.
This quiet bathroom fan operates at just 0.8 sones. Since it is so quiet that users may not even notice it is running, it also includes an indicator light beneath the grill to verify that the fan is indeed on. To reduce utility bills, this is also an Energy Star-rated bathroom fan.
Individuals with smaller bathrooms of up to 75 square feet may find that the Tech Drive bathroom ventilation fan offers the optimal solution for their needs. This 70 CFM fan has a 2.0 sone rating. It also includes an 11-watt LED module to add to, or replace, the lighting in a bathroom. The light offers an output of 600 lumens.
This UL- and HVI-certified model is designed to be easy to install. The no-cut housing installation generally offers a good fit into the existing opening left from rooming the current fan in the bathroom. If installed with a GFCI-protected circuit, this model is approved for use above showers or bathtubs.
This bathroom exhaust fan from KAZE APPLIANCE offers a 200 CFM output to remove moisture and odors from bathrooms as large as 200 square feet. The fan’s design also includes an 11-watt LED light and 2-watt LED nightlight to add the right amount of lighting to the space based on the time of day and each user’s preferences. It has a 2.0 sone rating.
This Energy Star qualified model offers universal installation options and adjustable heavy-duty triple point mounting brackets. It features a permanently lubricated brushless motor that operates at low temperatures for long-lasting durability and operation.
If choosing an ultra quiet bathroom fan is a top priority, this model from KAZE APPLIANCE should be a top consideration. The whisper-quiet 0.3 sone rating means users can turn the bathroom fan on, and they’ll barely be able to tell it is running. This fan offers a 90 CFM output for bathrooms under 90 square feet. The design also incorporates an 11-watt LED light and 2-watt LED nightlight rated for 30,000 hours of use.
When producing this Energy Star model, the manufacturer relied on high-quality elements and included a permanently lubricated motor for reliability and lasting operation. Installation is straightforward, and the adjustable mounting brackets and 4- and 6-inch duct options allow for flexibility.
FAQs About Bathroom Fans
There are many benefits of adding a bathroom fan to your space, but you may still have some questions about choosing the right fan for your space. Refer to the frequently asked questions below to gain more knowledge to help you make the best selection.
Q. What is the difference between a ventilation fan and an exhaust fan?
Ventilation fans and exhaust fans both share the goal of leaving the air in a space cleaner and fresher, but the way they go about reaching this goal is different. Ventilation fans pull cleaner air into spaces from the exterior, while exhaust fans remove pollutants and other contaminants from the air in a space.
Q. How many CFM do I need for a bathroom fan?
To determine the CFM (cubic feet per minute) needed for your bathroom, consider the square footage of the space. The CFM should be at least as high as this number, so a 100-square foot bathroom will require a fan with a rating of at least 100 CFM. For greater precision, use the following formula to make sure you choose the right fan for your bathroom: Length X Width X Height X 0.13 = Suggested CFM.
Q. Do bathroom exhaust fans have to be vented outside?
When installing a bathroom fan, it is important to vent it to the outside, either through the attic or a sidewall. If bath fans are not vented outside, you’ll simply be moving the moisture to another area in the home, where it may cause problems.
Q. Can you run a bathroom fan all the time?
Running a bathroom fan all the time is not a good idea. If the fan is run for too long, it can cause the motor to wear down or even pose a potential fire hazard. Run the fan for about 20 minutes after bathing or showering to allow it to do its job and remove the moisture from the room, then turn the fan off.
Q. How long should you run the bathroom fan after a shower?
The Home Ventilation Institute recommends running a bathroom fan for about 20 minutes after showering. This amount of time will allow for proper bathroom ventilation and prevent moisture from lingering and causing issues.
The best bathroom cleaners can go a long way, but where mold and mildew are concerned, prevention is the best approach. The best bathroom exhaust fans remove moisture, humidity, and odors from the air. Use the size of your bathroom, its ventilation needs, and your preferences in regard to aesthetics and versatility to choose the right bathroom fan for your space.