4 Expert Tips To Choose A Bathroom Fan

The purpose of bathroom fans is different from that of room fans. Rather than circulating the air to create a breeze, they suck out the humid bathroom air created by hot water through exhaust action. That is why they are also called exhaust fans.

In this article, learn more about how to choose the right bathroom fan, beginning with some basic considerations.

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Tip #1: What are the two basic criteria to choose a bathroom fan?

  • Ventilation (exhaust) capacity

Air ventilation or exhaust is calculated in cubic feet per meter (CFM). The golden rule is, one CFM per square foot of bathroom space. So, if yours is an 80 square feet bathroom, you will need a bathroom fan of 80 CFM capacity. Here is a CFM ready-reckoner:

Less than 50 square feet

  • 50 CFM

50-100 square feet

  • 100 CFM

Over 100 square feet:

  • 100 CFM plus additional CFM per bathroom fixture:
    • Toilet: 50 CFM
    • Shower: 50 CFM
    • Bathtub: 50 CFM
    • Jet tub: 100 CFM

An alternate approach to calculating the minimum CFM requirement for your bathroom is:

Length x width x height x 0.13

  •  Fan noise

Bathroom fan noise is calculated in sones rather than decibels.

For simple understanding, 1 sone equals the sound of a modern quiet refrigerator. The industry standard for contemporary bathroom fans is 1.5 sones. 

Before we go to the next tip, be sure to calculate the correct CFM that your bathroom fan should have, and check that its noise level is between 1.5 and 4 sones, depending upon CFM.

Tip #2: What should I consider when choosing a bathroom fan?

Fans with built-in lighting. Most contemporary designs offer this useful feature that will reduce your bathroom lighting consumption because you don't need a separate light. The lamps are LED, which additionally saves 40% energy. Either incandescent or white light is provided, with rare fans opting for colorful LEDs.

Built-in heat lamps that will keep the bathroom warm during winters. They also help to fight bacteria formation. Mold, a common bacteria forming on damp and wet surfaces such as shower curtains, can be contained with these lamps.

Round Bathroom Fan with Light
Black Bathroom Fan with Heater and Light
Square Bathroom Fan with Light
Rectangular White Bathroom Fan with Light
White Bathroom Fan with Light
Glass Bathroom Fan with Light

Humidity sensor. This will help you adjust the fan speed depending upon the humidity/moisture level. This feature also helps in containing humidity-related bacteria and keeping the bathroom hygienic.

Motion sensor. This feature will turn on the fan when you enter the bathroom and turn it off when you exit. It will also turn on and off the in-built light upon your entry/exit.

Timer switch. You can manually set this switch so that even if you forget to turn the fan off while exiting the bathroom, it will do so after the set time limit.

Square White Bathroom Fan with Humidity Sensor
Bathroom Fan with Humidity Sensor
Round Bathroom Fan with Humidity Sensor
Bathroom Fan with Heater and Light and Timer
Bathroom Fan with Light and Timer
Bathroom Fan with Multicolor Light and Timer

Tip #3: Should I choose a traditional design for my bath fan or a modern one?

Your choice is largely dependent on your bathroom décor. Below is a general style-guide to help you select a befitting bathroom fan. But before you move on, beware -- you have a vast range and ample varieties in both traditional and modern categories. Do not get overwhelmed by the looks or features and make an impulsive choice. A wrongly styled model can mar the beauty of the entire bathroom set-up.

Traditional bathroom fans

They are ornate objects of envy with decorative elements. Their vents may not be simple slits but elaborately carved floral or geometric patterns from aluminum or polymeric plastic. Their lighting is in mid-century style, with the casing being globe, oval, round, or other gracefully tapered shapes rather than angular cuts. This makes the fan look more like an elegant Victorian lampshade.

Some traditional designs are veritable chandeliers. They have multiple lights suspended from elegant dispensers, and the light casing is foggy white glass or polymeric plastic, radiating a diffused, soft incandescent glow rather than direct, strong light-streams.

The finishes are appropriately old-metal, oxidized, or brush-faded.

Traditional bathroom fans take the bathing experience backward in time, transporting you to the 1950s when a shower was meant to be unhurried and luxuriant, pampered by soft lighting and a somber setting. They are your choice if your bathroom is baroque, with subdued, calm, and serene bathroom interior. Soft-colored wall tiles and flooring and a marble sink will create an idyllic set-up for traditional bathroom fans.

Traditional Round Bathroom Fan
Traditional Round Sqaure Bathroom Fan
Large Traditional Bathroom Fan
Traditional Decorative Bathroom Fan with Light
Traditional Ceiling Fan Light
Traditional Wall Mount Bathroom Exhaust Fan

Modern designs

They are angled with sharp edges, simplistic, and functionally-oriented. Squares, rectangles, or gently convex globes, they have slit vents either on the sides or on the front casing. Some designs have concealed vents.

Modern bathroom fans derive their charm from simple forms and efficient looks rather than leaning on elaborate decorative elements. Importantly, they almost always emit fluorescent light and are installed at the center of the ceiling. This makes them a focal feature of bathrooms.

These fans will ideally suit neutral bathroom décor. It means that yours should be less colorful or fancy and more subtle and simplistic. A flat sink-top with an undermount white sink and angular steel faucet, a stepped shower space, walls dominated by emptiness except for an unframed mirror, and no showy display of vanity-ware. Roomy and intentionally bare - that's your bathroom interior for a modern fan.

Modern Bathroom Fan with Multi-Color Light
Modern One Light Heat Bathroom Fan
Small Modern Bathroom Fan with Light
Remote In-Line Modern Bathroom Fan Kit
Modern Round Glass Bathroom Fan

Tip #4: What are the energy and safety standards I should be looking for in bathroom fans?

Energy Star. It is the most coveted energy conservation certification awarded to manufacturers by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy. A 4-star bathroom fan may consume 40% less energy than a lesser-rated model.

Home Ventilating Institute or HVI certification that will endorse the quality of airflow, noise, energy, and lighting efficiency in bathroom fans.

The Canadian Standards Association or CSA certification certifies safety for fans and ventilators' electrical connections and components.

Jessica started out as an interior photographer, but her love of pretty settings took her to the field of interior design, where she can combine two of her greatest passions, creating and then capturing the beauty of homes.