Choosing a bathroom fan doesn't have to be difficult and you might think that they're pretty much all the same. However despite the seeming similarities among them, there are differences and ones that go beyond just aesthetics.
If you're reading this page you probably don't need to be convinced of the need for good bathroom ventilation. Once you're beyond that point however you'll need to determine the size of the fan your bathroom requires. There are guidelines to help you figure this out so don't fret if you never studied fluid dynamics.
Other factors you'll need to consider include the fan's sound volume, energy efficiency and whether you need a new fan or just an upgrade kit.
There are good bathroom fan choices on the market today that are much better than their old predecessors. It's just a matter of matching your home's ventilation needs with your preferences.
Bathroom fans are important particularly in bathrooms with showers and tubs because the moisture and humidity that's generated there isn't good for your home. The best and most effective way to get rid of that moisture is to install and use a bathroom ventilation fan.
If you don't have any bath ventilation or you just don't use it you know what it's like when you step out of the shower. The mirror's fogged up and the walls and countertop have a moist coating.
The problem with all this moisture is that it can lead to the growth of mold that's both unhealthy and can damage your home. Constant exposure to moisture is also detrimental to some of the materials in and around your bathroom. Getting rid of the moisture as it's produced is the best defense against the problems caused by excess wetness.
Another reason to use bathroom ventilation is to help improve your home's indoor air quality. Odors and indoor pollutants become more prevalent in "tight" houses that are built or remodeled to be more energy efficient. They're not as "leaky" as older houses and without proper ventilation, these contaminants remain in the house longer. A bathroom fan helps to eliminate some of these pollutants by providing a ventilation outlet.
Choosing a bathroom fan involves knowing how to properly size the unit for your space in addition to what preferences you have regarding its operation. Before we get into the details let's take a look at the 3 main types of bath fans that you can install.
Inline (Remote) - Inline fans are also called remote bath fans because the fan unit is located in an area away from the bathroom, typically in the attic. There is an opening in the bathroom ceiling covered by a grille that is ducted to the remote fan. Another duct runs from the other side of the fan to the vent outside the house.
An advantage of inline bathroom fans is that one fan can be connected to several inlet ducts located in different areas of a single bathroom or to inlets in different bathrooms. If you have two upstairs bathrooms for example, one inline fan can ventilate both bathrooms, avoiding the need to install a fan unit in the ceiling of each bathroom.
Wall Mounted (External) - A wall mounted bath fan is mounted outside the house on an external wall just outside the bathroom, instead of being inside the bathroom or an attic. These bath fans work best in situations where there is no access or practical way to vent through the roof. They also work well for first-floor bathrooms particularly if they're situated near an outside wall.
One caution is that these fans shouldn't be located close to a window or a vented soffit since the moist air that's being evacuated can come right back in through these places.
For example, a 5'x8' bathroom equates to 40 square feet. A proper fan for this space would be one rated at 40 CFM.
For bathrooms larger than 100 square feet the HVI recommends ventilating based on the number and type of fixtures that are in the bathroom. Toilets, showers, and bath tubs each require a fan rated at 50 CFM. A whirlpool tub requires a fan rated at 100 CFM.
For example, if your bathroom is larger than 100 square feet and you have a tub, shower and toilet, your total requirements add up to 150 CFM (50 for each fixture). You can use a fan rated at 150 CFM or install 3 separate fans rated at 50 CFM over/near each fixture.
If you live in California, you'll need to comply with Title 24 energy requirements. Title 24 is part of the California Code of Regulations dealing with the establishment of energy efficiency requirements for residential and commercial buildings. The standards change periodically as newer technologies and advances in energy efficiency are developed. Bathroom fans that meet these criteria are noted as such.
Bathroom fan sound is expressed in sones and a sone is simply a measure of loudness. For example, 3 sones is louder than 1 sone which is louder than 0.3 sones.
There are fans on the market today that only get as loud as 0.3 sones which is pretty quiet. On the other hand there are also fans that are in the 2 to 3 sone range. Consider the sound rating of the fan before you make a decision. Some big-box home centers have displays that allow you to hear the difference between various fan sound levels.
The first option involves using a fan upgrade kit for celiing-mounted fans made by the manufacturer of the old fan unit (for example, a Broan upgrade kit that retrofits an existing Broan fan). In this scenario the fan upgrade kit comes with a new fan and grille. Since the aerodynamics of the fan is what make most of the noise, newer technology fans are what help achieve quieter operation.
The second upgrade option involves getting rid of a ceiling mounted fan and replacing it with a remote inline fan. These kits come with the inline fan and the ductwork necessary to attach the grille opening in the ceiling to the fan and then up to the roof vent. In this type of retrofit you keep the grille from the old fan and use this to cover the opening in the ceiling. This option is a good solution for those wishing to get rid of their ceiling fan and move the fan to a more remote location.
When it comes time for installation you can choose to install the fan yourself or hire someone to do it for you. The job is not out of the realm of someone that's fairly handy but there is electrical work involved. And if this is a completely new installation (where no fan and/or ductwork previously existed) there will be ductwork that'll need installation too.
Today's bathroom fans are miles ahead of their dinosaur ancestors. Technology advances have led to quieter fans with very good energy efficiency. Here are some of the key product innovations and options to look for.
The information above gives lays out the criteria for choosing the right bathroom fan. But before you make that final decision, make sure you've considered the following items.
I lived in my home for a very long time with no bathroom exhaust fans so I know what it's like not to have good ventilation. To be honest, one of our upstairs bathrooms did have a fan but it was ducted into the attic. I promptly disconnected that one.
The master bath didn't have a fan either but I resigned myself to living with wet mirrors and walls. Why I did that I don't really know but maybe it had something to do with the fact that for a while my wife and I were the only ones taking showers.
As my three sons moved from toddlers into full-fledged shower hogs the amount of steam and moisture that gathered in and around the bathrooms rivaled a good London fog. When the hallway and bedroom windows started dripping, I knew it was time to take action.
When we remodeled our home I took advantage of the presence of electrical and HVAC contractors and had them install a fan in each bathroom. I chose the type of fan I wanted and they did the rest, installing the fans and ductwork and wiring them up.
Incidentally, I did have some mold problems. It wasn't severe but it was there. Who knows how much worse it would have become if we had left things status quo. Now there's no more fog and no more dripping windows, even when my 3 shower hogs..er..children have finished their bathing marathons.
Bottom line message: if you don't have a bathroom fan, you'd be wise to invest in one.
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