Vetted: The Best Bathroom Fans for Moisture and Humidity Control

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.

Best Overall

The Best Bathroom Fan Option: Broan-NuTone HD80L Heavy-Duty Ventilation Fan

Broan-NuTone HD80L Heavy-Duty Ventilation Fan

Best Bang For The Buck

The Best Bathroom Fan Option: Broan-NuTone 688 Ceiling and Wall Ventilation

Broan-NuTone 688 Ceiling and Wall Ventilation

Best Quiet

The Best Bathroom Fan Option: Panasonic WhisperValue DC Ventilation Fan With Light

Panasonic WhisperValue DC Ventilation Fan With Light

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Editor’s Note: We will be testing these products soon. Stay tuned for new, hands-on reviews of our top picks.

There’s the potential for structural and surface-level damage if a bathroom 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 the bathroom from water damage while helping eliminate mirror fog and odors.

We recommended the HVI-certified Broan-NuTone Heavy-Duty Ventilation Fan as our best overall pick because of its 2-in-1 functionality as a light and fan, 80-CMF air output, and GFCI-protected branch circuit for a long lifespan.

However, there’s a wide variety of bathroom ventilation fans, from bare-bones models to high-end fans that come with built-in lighting, heaters, and motion sensors. Read on for a guide to navigating the options and some top picks below!

  1. BEST OVERALL: Broan-NuTone HD80L Heavy-Duty Ventilation Fan
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Broan-NuTone 688 Ceiling and Wall Ventilation
  3. BEST QUIET: Panasonic WhisperValue DC Ventilation Fan With Light
  4. BEST DECORATIVE: Hunter Victorian Decorative Bathroom Exhaust Fan
  5. BEST WITH HEATER: Delta Breez RAD80L Exhaust Light and Heater Fan
  6. BEST FOR HUMIDITY: Delta Breez GBR80 GreenBuilder Exhaust Fan
  7. BEST FOR LARGE BATHROOMS: Kaze Appliance Ultra Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan
  8. BEST DUCT-FREE: Broan-NuTone 682 Duct-Free Ventilation Fan
  9. ALSO CONSIDER: Broan-NuTone 9093WH Exhaust Fan, Heater, and Light
The best bathroom fan option shown in the ceiling of an large and inviting bathroom space
Photo: istockphoto.com

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 exhaust 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 these bathroom exhaust fans are Energy Star certified, meaning they perform more efficiently and offer greater savings compared to typical exhaust fans.

Our Top Picks

Continue reading to discover some of our top picks to consider when shopping for the best bathroom exhaust fan. These products were selected to meet a variety of needs and budgets.

Best Overall

Broan-NuTone HD80L Heavy-Duty Ventilation Fan

Product Specs

  • Style: Fan and light
  • Airflow: 80 CFM
  • Coverage: up to 75 square feet

Pros

  • HVI-certified ventilation provides excellent performance; great for busy bathrooms
  • GFCI-protected branch circuit helps provide a longer lifespan
  • Shatter-resistant bulb housing reduces the risk of breakages

Cons

  • DIY installation is recommended only for experienced DIYers

This Broan-NuTone model is made to mitigate moisture, odor, and mildew buildup effectively within spaces of 75 square feet or less. The Home Ventilating Institute (HVI)-certified fan produces 80 cubic feet per minute (CFM) and has a reasonable 2.5 sones rating (see the Noise section below for more information on sones). For those looking for the best bathroom exhaust fan with light, built-in lighting supports a 100-watt incandescent bulb protected with a shatter-resistant glass cover.

The branch circuit in this model is GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protected for a longer lifespan and increased durability. Installation is relatively straightforward with the included keyholed mounting brackets and a tapered, polymeric duct fitting, but DIY installation is recommended only for experienced DIYers.

Get the Broan-NuTone HD80L bathroom fan at Amazon.

Best Bang For The Buck

Broan-NuTone 688 Ceiling and Wall Ventilation

Product Specs

  • Style: Fan only
  • Airflow: 50 CFM
  • Coverage: Up to 45 square feet

Pros

  • Cost-effective option provides great value compared to other models
  • Ceiling or wall-mounted installation options for added flexibility
  • Provides easy installation and removal; great for regular maintenance and cleaning
  • Grille can be painted for personalization; suitable for matching most decor choices

Cons

  • At 4 sones, it’s significantly louder than other options available

Save money with this 50-CFM model from Broan-NuTone that eschews bells and whistles without sacrificing quality. Though its 4-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 45 square feet.

This model features a white polymeric grill that can be painted to coordinate with different bathroom decors. The fan boasts easy installation 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.

Get the Broan-NuTone 688 bathroom fan at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Ace Hardware.

Best Quiet

Panasonic WhisperValue DC Ventilation Fan With Light

Product Specs

  • Style: Fan and light
  • Airflow: 50, 80, or 100 CFM
  • Coverage: up to 100 square feet

Pros

  • Pick-A-Flow Speed Selector allows the user to adjust the CFM
  • Quietest bathroom fan on this list with sone ratings of 0.5 to 1.3 depending on the output; whisper-quiet functionality
  • Energy Star certified, energy efficient, and user-friendly
  • Dimmable LED chip panel provides light as well as clean air

Cons

  • May not provide enough air circulation for very large spaces

Those looking for the quietest bathroom exhaust fans with a 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.

This energy-efficient fan operates quietly with sone ratings between 0.5 and 1.3 depending on the CFM output selected. This Energy Star–rated quiet 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 provides easy installation in tighter spaces.

Get the Panasonic bathroom fan at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Best Decorative

Hunter Victorian Decorative Bathroom Exhaust Fan

Product Specs

  • Style: Fan and light
  • Airflow: 90 CFM
  • Coverage: up to 85 square feet

Pros

  • Attractive Victorian-era design creates a sense of style while reducing humidity levels, moisture, and odors
  • Easy access makes cleaning and bulb changes a breeze
  • Includes all hardware necessary for easy installation

Cons

  • Higher CFM means it operates slightly louder than average

Unlike other models, 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 circulate the air in the room effectively 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.

Get the Hunter bathroom fan at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Wayfair.

Best with Heater

Delta Breez RAD80L Exhaust Light and Heater Fan

Product Specs

  • Style: Fan, light, heater
  • Airflow: 80 CFM
  • Coverage: up to 80 square feet

Pros

  • Multifunctionality enhances value; great for heating up cold bathrooms
  • Built-in thermostat aids in accurate temperature control
  • Durable materials make for a long-lasting build

Cons

  • Dimmer lighting compared to similar models; may require additional bathroom lighting

Thanks to its heating element, this Delta Breez 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 fan 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.

Get the Delta Breez heater bathroom fan at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.

Best for Humidity

Delta Breez GBR80 GreenBuilder Exhaust Fan

Product Specs

  • Style: Fan only
  • Airflow: 100 CFM
  • Coverage: up to 80 square feet

Pros

  • Energy Star certified; provides great energy efficiency
  • Built-in humidity sensor for automated adjustment; ideal for steamy showers
  • Quiet operation at just 1.4 sones; great for early mornings without disturbing others

Cons

  • Installation can be quite complicated for DIY novices

The Delta Breez GBR80 GreenBuilder Exhaust Fan features a built-in humidity sensor that detects when bathroom humidity levels are too high, and then adjusts the CFM output accordingly. Users can program specific humidity levels between 50 percent and 80 percent.

This quiet, energy-efficient 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–certified bathroom fan.

Get the Delta Breez GreenBuilder bathroom fan at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or The Home Depot.

Best for Large Bathrooms

Kaze Appliance Ultra Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan

Product Specs

  • Style: Fan and light
  • Airflow: 150 CFM
  • Coverage: up to 150 square feet

Pros

  • Clears steam easily; great for users who enjoy hot showers
  • Universal installation makes it suitable for most homes
  • Very quiet operation at just 0.5 sones

Cons

  • 11-watt light is not very bright; will require additional bathroom lighting to compensate

This bathroom exhaust fan from Kaze Appliance offers a 150 CFM output to remove moisture and odors from bathrooms as large as 150 square feet. The fan’s design includes an 11-watt LED light to add soft glow lighting to the space, although this may not be bright enough to be the only light source in the bathroom. It has a near-silent 0.5-sone rating.

This 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 at multiple humidity levels.

Get the Kaze Appliance bathroom fan on Amazon or Kaze Appliance.

Best Duct-Free

Broan-NuTone 682 Duct-Free Ventilation Fan

Products Specs

  • Style: Fan
  • Airflow: None
  • Coverage: N/A

Pros

  • Very simple installation and easy access to motor for maintenance
  • Paintable grille helps match the fan with existing decor choices
  • Budget-friendly price point is suitable for bulk installation in multiple rooms
  • Quiet fan makes almost zero noise

Cons

  • Does not actually exhaust the air; only recirculates it through a filter

Shoppers looking to control humidity levels in a smaller space where there is no room to install ductwork should consider this option from Broan-NuTone. Installed between either ceiling joists or wall studs, this compact and duct-free square ceiling fan helps reduce humidity in smaller bathroom spaces. The white grille is paintable to suit a more colorful decor, so it won’t stick out in a bathroom styled in darker tones.

Installation is a breeze with a toolless torsion spring-mounting system. It’s also budget-friendly, so this fan is a great option for covering multiple areas with additional ventilation. Maintenance and cleaning is made more simple thanks to the snap-to-fit motor, with no need to worry about screws.

While this fan does not exhaust air from the room, it does filter the air and recirculate it, helping reduce humidity and odors.

Get the Broan-NuTone 682 bathroom fan at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot

Also Consider

Broan-NuTone 9093WH Exhaust Fan, Heater, and Light

Product Specs

  • Style: Fan, light, heater
  • Airflow: 70 CFM
  • Coverage: up to 65 square feet

Pros

  • Various light settings allow users to achieve different looks
  • Multifunctionality enhances value; exhaust fan, heater, and light all in a single unit
  • Includes all parts and accessories; easy installation

Cons

  • Extra fan power makes it louder than other bathroom fans
  • More expensive compared to other models on the market

Shoppers 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 65 square feet. It offers a 1,500-watt heating element and is safe to use with up to 100-watt bulbs. Buyers can also use the included four-function wall switch to turn on the 7-watt night light (bulb sold separately) for a relaxing bath or middle-of-the-night bathroom runs.

This bathroom fan has a 3.5-sone rating. The model is designed for easy installation for professionals and home users alike. All of the parts needed are included in the fan’s box.

Get the Broan-NuTone 9093WH bathroom fan at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing a Bathroom Fan

While looking through the best bathroom exhaust fans, 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 a space.

Types of Bathroom Fans

Before looking through the options for the best bathroom exhaust fans, it’s important to decide which fan type is preferred. Bathroom ventilation 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, shoppers 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.

Airflow Capacity

The best bathroom exhaust fans’ performance is measured in 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 the 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 the bathroom and use the following mathematical formula:

Length x Width x Height x 0.13 = Suggested CFM

Suppose the bathroom is 10 feet long by 8 feet wide by 8 feet high. Multiply 10 by 8 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 the bathroom.

Energy Efficiency

As with purchasing any new appliance or electrical product, consider energy efficiency when shopping for a bathroom fan. Bathroom exhaust fans that are energy efficient use less energy than other models, meaning that they can help save on monthly electric bills while also decreasing the 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, most bathroom fans must also meet the maximum allowable sound levels and performance levels for airflow.

Versatility

Most 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 the bathroom, and choose a fan that will coordinate with the space. One basic item to consider is the fan’s color.

Most bathroom fans are white, but some may include a paintable cover that will allow shoppers to customize the fan’s color to blend in with their 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 the quietest bathroom exhaust fans have a sones rating between 0.5 and 0.6. 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 compares to the sound of a quiet refrigerator, any fan with a sones rating of 1 or less is considered among the quietest bathroom exhaust fans. On the other end of the scale, a sones rating greater than 4 might be loud enough to drown out someone’s shower singing.

Many manufacturers today produce bathroom fans that operate quietly. If shoppers are very concerned about sound, they might want to consider installing a 6-inch ducting attachment for the 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 drawing 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, the air can be vented through the side of the house. A standard ceiling-mounted fan is suitable for this type of venting, as long as the ducting can be run through the ceiling joists to an exterior wall.
  • For any bathroom located on the floor directly below the attic, the 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 ducting can’t be run between the joists, and if the bathroom has at least one exterior wall, a wall-mounted fan can be installed 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, and the area should be prepared using the best bathroom cleaner prior to installation.

Keep in mind that larger bathrooms may require multiple fans to ventilate the space effectively. Fans with features such as lights, heaters, and night lights may require additional wires or a designated circuit to operate.

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 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, and then turn the fan off.

Q. How long should you run the bathroom fan after a shower?

The HVI 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

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is a BobVila.com staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries. 

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