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Bathroom Fans Buying Guide

Ever noticed that layer of condensation that seems to cover everything in the bathroom just following a shower? Condensation not only becomes a breeding ground for bacteria if it's not dried, but it can also make maneuvering around slick spaces a treacherous activity. 

What are the benefits to a bathroom fan?

Bathroom fans most importantly collect and remove pollutants before they have an opportunity to spread. Bathrooms are a rather intuitive source of moisture and odors and are the perfect solution in removal of moisture rich air and toxic odors.

Bathroom Fans

Beyond the obvious, bathroom fans can protect your home from the dangers of moisture induced hazards such as mold, mildew, damp spots on walls, condensation or frost on inside of windows, peeling paint, and sweating water pipes.

How does a bathroom fan work?

These fans are installed directly into the ceiling (or wall) of the room, with internal duct work tunneling leading out through the roof. This tunnel out to the outside air allows moisture rich and noxious air to be quickly shuffled outside.

How easily are bathroom fans installed?

Installation of these fans can be somewhat involved.  It's best to follow the steps outlined in your manufacturer's guide.

How loud are bathroom fans?

It is important to factor noise levels into your fan search. Noise levels on these units are measured in sones and can vary from an unnoticeable whisper (.5-1.2 sones) to a low hum (4 sones).

How do I determine where to place the fan?

Very much like real estate, the location of the fan is key to its success. If the unit is placed too far from the shower, bathtub, or toilet it will be far less effective than if it were optimally placed.

How much space can one bathroom fan effectively operate?

It is important to determine which fan can provide the level of air circulation needed for your specific space. The Home Ventilation Institute states that a bathroom fan should provide the airflow of one cubic foot per minute (CFM) for every square foot of a bathroom area up to 100 square feet. Calculating the appropriate CFM's for your space can easily be done by using one of the three methods below.

Cubic feet method:

The first method assumes that your goal is to achieve 8 pure air cycles per hour (a reasonable amount of circulation), in order to determine the output needed to reach this goal; we'll need to determine the cubic footage of your space.

Step 1: Cubic Feet Formula: space square footage x ceiling height = cubic footage of the space


  • Space square footage: 10 ft x 10 ft
  • Ceiling height: 9 ft
  • Formula: 10 ft x 10 ft x 9 ft = 900 cubic feet

Step 2: Take the cubic feet and divide by minutes per hour

  • 900 cubic feet/60 minutes per hour = 15

Step 3: Divide by cycles per hour goal

  • 15 x 8 desired cycles = 120 CFM of air movement

Therefore, the fan needed to effectively circulate air throughout this space would need to have a capability of 120 CFM at the very least.

100 Square foot method:

This method only applies if your space is less than 100 square feet. In these cases, you simply take your square footage and multiply length x width.


  • Space square footage: 8 ft x 9 ft ?? Formula: 8 x 9 = 72

Therefore, the fan needed for this space would need to have a capability of 80 CFM.

Estimation method:

This method of calculation was designed for spaces over 100 sq. ft., with multiple fixtures. This method is a true, and accurate estimation.

Formula: Allow 50 CFM for each standard shower, toilet, or tub (specialized whirlpool tubs will be calculated at 100 CFM)


  • 1 standard toilet + 1 standard shower + 1 standard tub = 150 CFM

Therefore, this space would need a fan of at least 150 CFM. Following these simple guidelines will help you choose a fan that is appropriate for your specific space and needs.

Do I have options on how to control my bathroom fan?

Of course! Modern day bathroom fans aren't limited to a simple on/off switch.  You can opt for a fan that includes timers, levels of air flow control, and automatic shut-offs. In addition to these technical controls, you are also able to choose the color of the control panels, offering colors for any decor.

What about decor?

Choosing the right "look" for your restroom is a key factor in your decision making process. With bathroom fans becoming more and more standard in American homes, there are many more options of style, size, and shape available to you. In addition to the aesthetic design of the fan, there are also multi-function fans that offer 2-in-1 capabilities; for example, bathroom fans that offer a light, heater, and timer switches.


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