The Best Bathroom Fans of 2021

Control humidity and excess moisture in the bathroom with an exhaust fan. Learn what to look for in a quality model—and which models are top performers.

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The Best Bathroom Fan Option

Photo: istockphoto.com

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 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!

  1. BEST OVERALL: Delta Electronics (Americas) Ltd. GBR100H Exhaust Fan
  2. BEST BUDGET: Broan-Nutone 670 Ventilation Fan
  3. BEST WITH HEATER: Delta Electronics (Americas) Ltd. Radiance 80 CFM
  4. BEST QUIET: KAZE APPLIANCE Ultra Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan
  5. BEST DECORATIVE: Hunter 81021 Ventilation Victorian Bathroom Fan
The Best Bathroom Fan Option

Photo: istockphoto.com

Types of Bathroom Fans

Before looking for the best bathroom fan for your space, it’s 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.

Ceiling Fans

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

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 airflow capacity, energy efficiency, and noise of each model. Beyond technical features, consider ease of installation, versatility, and how it will look in your space.

Airflow 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, choose 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. 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.

Energy Efficiency

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 certification, bathroom fans must also meet the maximum allowable sound levels and performance levels for airflow.

Versatility

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.
  • Night lights 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.

Aesthetic

Visual appeal can also be important when choosing a bathroom fan. 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.

Noise

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 concerned 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.

Installation

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 multistory 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 night lights 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.

Best Overall

The Best Bathroom Fan Option: Delta Electronics (Americas) Ltd. GBR100H Exhaust Fan
Photo: amazon.com

This Delta Electronics exhaust fan features a built-in humidity sensor that detects when bathroom humidity levels are too high, then adjusts the CFM output accordingly. Users can program specific humidity levels between 50 percent and 80 percent.

This quiet bathroom fan operates at just 1.4 sones. Since it’s so quiet that users may not even notice when it’s running, it also includes an indicator light beneath the grille to verify that the fan is indeed on. To reduce utility bills, this is also an Energy Star–rated bathroom fan.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Fan only
  • Airflow: 100 CFM
  • Ideal for: Small and medium-size bathrooms

Pros

  • Energy Star rated
  • Built-in humidity sensor
  • Quiet operation

Cons

  • Not suitable for bathrooms over 100 square feet


Best Budget

The Best Bathroom Fan Option: Broan-Nutone 670 Ventilation Fan
Photo: amazon.com

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 square feet.

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.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Fan only
  • Airflow: 50 CFM
  • Ideal for: Small bathrooms

Pros

  • Cost-effective
  • Ceiling or wall-mounted installation
  • Easy to remove for maintenance and cleaning
  • Grille can be painted for personalization

Cons

  • Louder than other options available
  • Not suitable for bathrooms over 50 square feet


Best with Heater

The Best Bathroom Fan Option: Delta Electronics (Americas) Ltd. Radiance 80 CFM
Photo: amazon.com

Thanks to its heating element, this Delta Electronics fan radiates warmth while working to remove humidity in bathrooms up to 80 square feet with its 80 CFM rating. A built-in thermostat allows 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 Radiance operates at a soft 1.5 sones to keep noise and vibration to a minimum. This 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 adapter is included to simplify installation.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Fan, light, heater
  • Airflow: 80 CFM
  • Ideal for: Small and medium-size bathrooms

Pros

  • Multifunctionality enhances value
  • Built-in thermostat aids in temperature control
  • Long-lasting build

Cons

  • Dimmer lighting compared to similar models
  • Not suitable for bathrooms over 80 square feet


Best Quiet

The Best Bathroom Fan Option: KAZE APPLIANCE Ultra Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan 90 CFM
Photo: amazon.com

If choosing an ultra-quiet bathroom fan is a top priority, this model from KAZE APPLIANCE should be a top consideration. The whisper-quiet 0.5 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 night-light rated for 30,000 hours of use.

When producing this Energy Star–rated 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.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Fan and light
  • Airflow: 90 CFM
  • Ideal for: Small and medium-size bathrooms

Pros

  • Energy Star rated
  • Ultra-quiet operation
  • Long-lasting construction

Cons

  • More involved installation process
    Not suitable for bathrooms over 90 square feet


Best Decorative

The Best Bathroom Fan Option: Hunter 81021 Ventilation Victorian Bathroom Fan
Photo: amazon.com

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 smaller bathrooms. 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 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.

Product Specs 

  • Style: Fan and light
  • Airflow: 90 CFM
  • Ideal for: Small and medium-size bathrooms

Pros

  • Attractive Victorian-era design
  • Easy cleaning and bulb changes
  • Includes all hardware necessary for installation

Cons

  • Slightly louder than average
  • Not suitable for bathrooms larger than 90 square feet


Our Verdict

The best bathroom exhaust fans effectively remove moisture, humidity, and odors from the air. Among the top picks, the Delta Electronics (Americas) Ltd. GBR100H stands out for humidity control and ventilation performance. If you’re looking for a simple and budget-friendly option, the Broan-Nutone 670 is a worthy alternative.

How We Chose the Best Bathroom Fans

After searching through an array of ventilation systems available for bathrooms, the top picks represent some of the most thoughtfully designed and reliable options. The models featured in this guide are all from trusted manufacturers with a demonstrated history of producing quality bathroom fans.

Taking into account functional features like lights and heaters, installation requirements, and pricing, the above list accounts for different bathroom sizes and user needs. As a bonus, many of the fans are Energy Star certified, meaning they perform more efficiently and offer greater savings compared to typical exhaust fans.

FAQs

There are many benefits of adding a bathroom fan to your bathroom, 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. What 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 Ventilating 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.

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Glenda Taylor is a freelance writer for the residential remodeling, homebuilding, and commercial roofing industries. She and her husband have been general contractors for over 20 years, and Ms. Taylor has written for leading media outlets as well as National Association of Homebuilders. In addition to her construction experience, Ms. Taylor is a Master Gardener, a former real estate professional, a universal design enthusiast, and an advocate for green building practices. The recipient of Journalism and Marketing degrees from the University of Kansas and Bauder College respectively, she enjoys life on a farm in the Midwest with her husband and their five Saint Bernards!