The Best Bathroom Fans for Spaces Big and Small
Save your bathroom from excess moisture and the problems that come with it—from cracked paint to mildew growth—with this shopping guide and our top picks.
Nothing beats a hot shower at the end of a long day. But while steamy water may work wonders on your nerves, it has the opposite effect on your bathroom—especially if the space isn’t properly ventilated. Excess humidity settles on every available surface in the space, causing damage in myriad forms—cracked paint, peeling wallpaper, warped cabinetry. What’s more, the buildup of moisture encourages mold growth in drywall and caulking, threatening indoor air quality.
Some homeowners can ventilate their bathroom by opening a window after every bath or shower. Those without windows, however, should consider installing a bathroom exhaust fan. The best bathroom fan removes excess moisture to save your bathroom from damage, eliminate mirror fog, remove odors, and—most importantly—protect your family from mold-related health problems.
When shopping for a bathroom fan, you’ll find a wide variety of options at every price point, 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 on for our guide to the best bathroom fans out there:
- BEST FOR SMALL BATHS: Delta BreezSlim Bathroom Fan
- BEST FOR MID-SIZE BATHS: Akicon Ultra Quiet Bathroom Fan with LED Light
- BEST FOR LARGE BATHS: BV Ultra-Quiet Bathroom Fan
- BEST FOR CHILLY BATHS: Delta Electronics BreezRadiance Heater/Fan/Light Combo
- BEST VALUE: Broan 688 Bathroom Exhaust Fan
- BEST SPLURGE: Panasonic WhisperSense Fan with Motion and Humidity Sensing
Fan Size and Power
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, homeowners should buy a fan with a minimum CFM rating that equates to your bathroom’s square footage. For example, you’ll want 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.
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 ratings 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.
Nowadays, many manufacturers 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 6-inch duct puts less strain on the fan and allows for quieter operation.
Many homeowners opt for a bathroom fan with an integrated light. These fan/light combinations allow the buyer to remove their current light and install the new fixture with the existing wires, making installation easy. Some of these models also have motion sensors that automatically turn on the light when someone walks into the bathroom.
Other optional features in bathroom fans include humidity sensors that activate the exhaust fan when the moisture levels reach a specific level, nightlights that offer a comforting glow for midnight bathroom visitors, and built-in heaters that warm the bathroom quickly on chilly winter mornings.
Installation and Ducting
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. Therefore homeowners should opt to vent their bathroom fans to the outdoors.
- If the bathroom is located on the first level of a multi-story home, you’ll want to 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Homeowners should install a new bathroom fan 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 added features—such as lights, heaters, and nightlights—may require additional wires or a designated circuit to operate. Follow manufacturer guidelines for specific directions, and consult an electrician if you’d like.
Our Top Picks
Using the criteria outlined above, expert opinions, and reviews from homeowners like you, we’ve rounded up six choices for the best bathroom fan. Having a properly ventilated bathroom has never been so easy!
1. BEST FOR SMALL BATHS: Delta BreezSlim Bathroom Fan
For small bathrooms—as well as laundry rooms and utility rooms up to 50 sq. ft.—it’s hard to beat the Delta BreezSlim Bathroom Fan. It offers 50 CFM air movement but with just 1.0 sones of noise, you might not know it’s running. Homeowners love this unit not only for its quiet operation, but also for its speedy humidity removal and ease of installation (which is done via a 3-inch duct connection). The fan comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
2. BEST FOR MID-SIZE BATHS: Akicon Ultra Quiet Bathroom Fan with LED Light
No foggy mirrors here! Quickly whisk away the bathroom steam in spaces spanning 60 to 90 sq. ft. with the Akicon Ultra Quiet Bathroom Fan. Thanks to its built-in LED, the Akicon can replace an existing ceiling light, if desired. Buyers give this fan high ratings for its effectiveness and quiet operation (1.5 sones). It comes with a 4-inch duct connection and a limited 3-year warranty.
3. BEST FOR LARGE BATHS: BV Ultra-Quiet Bathroom Fan
This powerful ventilation fan removes humidity from bathrooms up to 150 sq. ft.—and at 2 sones, it does so without sounding like a jet engine! Happy buyers say the BV Ultra-Quiet outperforms more expensive fans. It comes with a 4-inch duct connection and a 1-year limited warranty.
4. BEST FOR CHILLY BATHS: Delta Electronics BreezRadiance Heater/Fan/Light Combo
Are you tired of the temperature change as soon as you step out of a warm bath or shower? Thanks to its heating element and programmable thermostat, this Delta fan quickly removes humidity in bathrooms up to 80 sq. ft. while radiating warmth until the room reaches a preset temperature—all at a soft 1.5 sones. The BreezRadiance also comes with an LED light, which can supplement your existing bathroom lighting. Just know that, because the fan includes a heater, it must be wired to a dedicated electrical circuit. This Delta fan comes with a limited 3-year warranty.
5. BEST VALUE: Broan 688 Bathroom Exhaust Fan
Steam removal without the bells and whistles—and without compromising quality—can save you a pretty penny. Though it hums more loudly than some of its more expensive peers, this basic Broan does a great job of eliminating humidity and excess moisture in bathrooms up to 50 sq. ft. In addition to ceiling installation with a 3-inch duct connection, the fan can be mounted on an exterior wall—making it suitable for mobile home installation. It comes with a 1-year warranty.
6. BEST SPLURGE: Panasonic WhisperSense Fan with Motion and Humidity Sensing
The WhisperSense offers unparalleled quiet—less than a whisper of noise at only .3 sones—among other high-end features. Motion sensors allow the fan to turn on or off when someone enters or leaves the bathroom, and humidity sensors do the same to maintain a preset level of humidity. These features make the WhisperSense virtually hands-free—a perfect choice for families with handicapped or mobility-restricted family members. It comes with a 4-inch duct attachment and a 3-year limited warranty.