A bathroom fan is a must for keeping air circulating and damp and odors at bay. But how do you know which one will work best in your bathroom?
Our guide is here to help! Here, we review seven of the best bathroom fans on the market today. And we set out some hints and tips to help you make the right choice.
Tatsumaki TA-120 Ultra Quiet 120 CFM Bathroom Ceiling Fan
The Best Bathroom Exhaust Fan of 2020
1. Panasonic FV-1115VKL2 WhisperGreen Multi-Flow Bathroom Fan
Panasonic offers a wide range of bathroom fans, but the FV-1115VKL2 is one of the best.
It offers an airflow of between 110 and 150 cubic feet per minute. You can choose from three settings depending on your requirements.
There’s plenty of other scopes for customization too. The system offers “plug ’n’ play” modules with different features. The multi-speed module includes a high/low delay timer. There’s a SmartAction motion sensor. And a condensation sensor will switch on the fan when needed.
The fan itself is covered in a neat cream-colored grille that will blend into the ceiling. And a square LED in the center adds extra illumination to your bathroom.
The LED is dimmable, so you can lower the light when you’re relaxing in the bath. And there’s a less than one watt LED night light for energy-efficient illumination after dark.
Another consideration if you want peace and quiet while you’re relaxing in the tub is noise levels. Happily, the WhisperGreen lives up to its name. This really is quiet enough that you’ll barely know it’s on.
There’s an integrated four-inch and six-inch dual duct adaptor. And there’s a single hinge bracket, which Panasonic has given the catchy name of Flex-Z Fast. Both give you a range of installation options.
The housing is made of 26-gauge zinc-aluminum-magnesium. The alloy is strong yet light, and it won’t rust.
This is a great fan for the bathroom, but it works equally well in a basement, garage or laundry room.
It comes with a six-year warranty for the motor, five years for the LED and three years for other parts.
So is there anything not to like?
Well, Panasonic says it doesn’t need a kill switch installed – but you might disagree. We’ve heard stories of the fan simply not shutting off.
And it takes a bit of time to get going too. Expect to have to wait around 40 seconds for it to get up to full speed.
Other than that, this is a good looking fan with some clever bells and whistles. If you’re happy to splash out on a bathroom fan, this could be a good option.
- Choice of three airflow settings
- Optional modules for delayed start, motion sensor and condensation sensor
- Dimmable LED light and nightlight
- Some people have had issues with it not switching off
- Takes a while to get up to full speed.
2. Tatsumaki TA-120 Ultra Quiet Bathroom Ceiling Fan
Tatsumaki means “tornado” in Japanese. Fortunately, this fan lives up to its name.
It will generate an airflow of 120 cubic feet per minute. That’s enough to keep the air moving in a large bathroom. It’s quiet enough not to be distracting, while its gentle hum can also maskless desirable noises from bathroom occupants!
It’s solidly built, and the grille is particularly good-looking. It has a low profile and sharp edges that wouldn’t look out of place in the bathroom of a five-star hotel.
It’s easy to install too. The brackets included in the package are easy to cut to size. At a push, you could even do the job with a pair of heavy-duty wire cutters. So there’s no need to get out any hardcore cutting gear.
Removing it from the housing is simple too, making it easy to wire in. And it’s light enough that you won’t have aching arms from holding it in place.
The only issue with this otherwise excellent fan concerns the exterior flap. It’s not as heavy as it could be, and if the wind hits it at the wrong angle it will rattle. The noise can be pretty annoying.
Fortunately, it’s easy to fix by adding a little weight to the flap. Duct taping a coin there will do the trick perfectly. And if you do it before installation, it will make your life easier.
This is a fan that doesn’t come with any extras. There’s no light (if you want one, check out the LD-120 instead) and no sensors. But is it very competitively priced fan for its power, and it looks the absolute business.
- Powerful yet quiet
- Very attractive grille
- Easy to install
- The exterior flap needs extra weight to avoid it rattling in the wind
- There’s no light or sensors with this one.
3. Broan-NuTone 688 Ceiling and Wall Ventilation Bathroom Fan
If you’re looking for a bathroom fan that’s easy on your wallet, check out the Broan-NuTone 688. It’s about the same price as a few cups of artisan coffee. And for that, you’ll get a fan that can be installed either in walls or on the ceiling.
It has an airflow of 50 cubic meters, making it suitable for smaller bathrooms. It will be perfect for anything up to 45 square feet.
It operates at 4.0 sones, so it isn’t the quietest fan out there. But if you’re looking for a hum to offer privacy from other bathroom noises, it will work a treat! And the sound isn’t overpowering.
It’s very straightforward to install. The grille is mounted on torsion springs, so you won’t need any screws. And you can paint it so it blends in with your décor. If you prefer a metal version, a replacement can be purchased separately.
The motor is plug-in and permanently lubricated to keep it running smoothly. And the fan snaps in and out of position so you can clean it easily. There are no screws to worry about here either.
The housing is compact. It’s 7.25 inches long, 7.5 inches wide and 3.6 inches tall. That means it can squeeze neatly into spaces between ceiling joists or wall studs. It takes a duct diameter of three inches.
Just be careful of the metal edges during installation. They’re sharp enough to cut. And the relatively small housing means the wiring can be fiddly.
This isn’t flashy – there are no lights or sensors – but it’s effective and reliable and will last for ages. We’ve heard of plenty of people buying them to replace Broan fans they’ve had for twenty years. You don’t get a better recommendation than that.
- Economical and effective for smaller bathrooms
- Paintable grille allows it to blend in with your décor
- Very simple to install in either wall or on the ceiling
- The small housing means the wiring can be a bit fiddly
- Not the right choice if you’re looking for whisper-quiet fan.
4. Air King BFQ Bathroom Fan
At about twice the price of the Broan-NuTone 688, the Air King is still an economical buy. And you’ll get considerably more power and quieter operation for the extra money.
This generates an airflow of 90 cubic meters per minute. That makes it suitable for bathrooms of between 90 and 115 square feet. And you get all that power for a sound output of just 2.5 sones. It’s a good balance between peace and privacy for whoever is using the bathroom.
This is designed to be installed in ceilings rather than walls. The fan comes with a bracket which you nail or screw into the ceiling joist. The fan then snaps into the bracket.
Unfortunately, that snap-in design is the main drawback of this fan. It really is a bit of a beast to install. Be prepared to spend time wrestling with it.
If you have larger studs – 2 inches by 6 inches – wall mounting is an option. But in most cases, studs are 2 inches by 4 inches. So unless you’re sure that yours are bigger, stick with ceiling mounting. It’s also more effective for sucking out moisture from steam while you’re bathing.
The housing here is made of plastic. That might sound flimsy, but it actually has a number of advantages.
First of all, it absorbs sound, contributing to a peaceful operation. Secondly, it’s resistant to rust and corrosion. If you live in a seaside area, it’s a great choice. The salt in the air won’t damage the housing the way it would metal versions.
The four-inch plastic dust collar with backdraft damper keeps the fan running quietly and stops drafts entering the bathroom.
The package includes everything you need to install the fan – the bracket, screws, and electrical caps to connect the wires.
The grille is nothing to write home about. It’s plastic and it does the job. But if you spend a lot of time looking up at it whilst in the bathroom – hey, we’re not judging – you’ll see its limitations. You can see right into the guts of the fan.
All in all, though, this is a good fan at a decent price.
- Plastic housing absorbs sound and resists corrosion
- Decent power-to-noise ratio
- Plastic dust collar stops drafts entering the bathroom
- A bit of a pain to install
- The grille doesn’t screen the interior of the fan very effectively.
5. Broan-Nutone AE80B InVent Series Single-Speed Bathroom Fan
The second fan from Broan-Nutone to make our list, the AE80B is a little more expensive than the 688. But it’s still one of the most economical options out there.
It offers a few more features than the 688. Its more powerful motor generates an airflow of 80 cubic feet per minute. That’s enough to ventilate bathrooms up to 75 square meters.
And it’s impressively quiet to boot. It emits a noise level of just 1.5 sones.
It’s also easy to install. It’s designed for ceilings, although it can be wall-mounted if you have 2-inch by 8-inch studs. (Wall mounted installations need to be at least eight feet above the floor.)
But the best thing is that if you’re retro-fitting your fan, you won’t need to go into your attic. The whole thing can be installed from the side of the room using foldable mounting ears.
It uses what Broan-Nutone calls “TrueSeal Damper Technology” to reduce air leakage. The manufacturers say leakage is reduced by 50% compared to its competitors. The result is better air circulation and fewer warm and cold air backdrafts.
The housing is made from 26 gauge galvanized steel, so it’s pretty robust. And there’s a 4-inch polymeric duct connector, which won’t rattle like metal versions can.
If you’re replacing a small builder’s fan, you’ll probably find you need a 4 inch to 3-inch duct reducer. You can pick one up at a hardware store for very little money.
The grille is 11.75 inches by 12 inches. It’s not the most attractive one out there, but it’s unobtrusive. If your ceiling is white, it will blend right in.
The main drawback is that this isn’t hugely powerful. In a medium-sized bathroom, you may find your mirror still steams up when you’re showering. But you won’t find many fans at this price that run as quietly as this one.
- Whisper-quiet operation
- Easy to install – no attic access needed
- TrueSeal Damper Technology reduces air leakage by 50% compared to its peers
- Not the most powerful fan out there
- The grille is rather a plain Jane.
6. Tech Drive Very-Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan
Tech Drive’s offering generates a similar airflow to the AE80B. Its 70 cubic feet of air per minute is suitable for bathrooms up to 75 square feet.
And despite the “Very-Quiet” tag, it’s slightly noisier, running at 2.0 sones. If you prefer a little extra volume to mask unpleasant bathroom sounds, though, it’s a good option.
There’s an effective internal damper. That prevents cold air from outside getting into your bathroom.
And installation is relatively straightforward. If you’re a competent DIYer, you shouldn’t have any problems.
It uses a standard 4-inch duct and the mounting opening is 7.5 by 7.3 inches. If you’re replacing a compact fan, in most cases you won’t need to make any changes to the existing space.
Installing the fan through your attic is the best option. Simply screw the housing to a joist.
It’s also theoretically possible to do this from below, as the housing has keyhole screw slots. In practice, though, we think this would be pretty tricky to pull off. And you’d risk leaving the fan loose against the joist – a recipe for an annoying rattle. If you don’t have attic access, there are better options out there.
The grille is plain white and plastic, and it’s not particularly smart. But it will blend into white ceilings just fine.
All in all, a decent fan at a fair price. Just make sure you have access to your attic for installation.
- Effective internal damper prevents cold air getting from the outside in
- A nice balance between peaceful operation and privacy for bathroom users
- Will fit right into the space left by most compact fans
- Tricky to install if you don’t have access to your attic
- The grille isn’t particularly smart.
7. Delta BreezIntegrity ITG70BT Bathroom Exhaust Fan with Bluetooth Speaker
If you’re grappling with the conundrum of peaceful fan operation versus bathroom privacy, here’s another option to consider. The BreezIntegrity ITG70BT from Delta includes an integrated Bluetooth speaker.
Connect it to your smartphone, laptop or tablet and select the music of your choice to accompany your bathroom break. Switch it on while you’re getting ready in the morning and set yourself up for the day.
It’s installed with two switches. You can have either the fan or the speaker on alone, or use both at the same time. The one sone of background noise from the fan won’t intrude on your musical enjoyment.
One thing to note is that the speaker isn’t the most powerful. It is, though, loud enough to be heard over the shower.
The fan generates an airflow of 70 cubic feet per minute. It’s not the most powerful, but for bathrooms up to about 145 square feet, it will be fine.
The motor uses brushless technology, which extends its life as well as making it highly energy efficient. It has a rating of 10.7 cubic feet per minute per watt.
The fan housing measures 7.25 inches by 10.75 inches, and it uses 4-inch duct. Its ceiling mounted, and installation is fairly straightforward, particularly if you have access to your attic. If you don’t, you’ll need to drill a couple of holes in the housing.
It’s a smart unit too, looking just like you’d expect a white speaker to look. And if you’re thinking it costs a fortune, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. This is still less than third of the price of the Panasonic FV-1115VKL2.
- Comes with Bluetooth speaker to listen to music when you’re in the bathroom
- Brushless motor is highly energy efficient
- Can be installed in ceilings even where there isn’t attic access
- The speaker is great – but it’s not the loudest
- Not powerful enough for large bathrooms.
Still not sure which is the right fan for your bathroom? Let us walk you through the factors to consider before you head to the stores.
How big is your bathroom?
The first question to ask yourself is how large is the space you need to ventilate. This will determine the amount of power you need for your fan.
The key statistic you’re looking for here is the airflow. This is measured in cubic feet per minute, usually shortened to CFM. The number indicates how many cubic feet of air the fan will move every 60 seconds. The larger your bathroom, the higher the CFM you’ll need to ventilate it effectively.
An effective bathroom fan should be able to replace all the air in your bathroom eight times in an hour. That’s once every 7.5 minutes.
So to calculate the optimum CFM, multiply the length of your room by its width and depth. All measurements should be in meters. Then divide that total – the volume of your room – by 7.5. Look for a fan with a CFM close to that final number, and you won’t go far wrong.
Wall or ceiling mounted?
Next, decide whether you want to mount your fan in the ceiling or the wall. Ceiling installation is generally considered to be more effective, but some fans can be wall mounted instead.
If you do want to mount your fan in the wall, check the size of the studs that are required first. If they don’t match what’s in place in your wall, you won’t be able to install the fan.
And if you’re looking for a ceiling-mounted version, consider whether or not you can access the attic. Some fans are virtually impossible to install if you can’t. Others offer installation through the side of the housing.
Peaceful operation or bathroom privacy?
Fans vary a surprising amount in terms of how noisy they are. Noise at this level is measured in sones, not decibels. The fans on our list range from 1 to 4 sones.
Some people prefer a fan to make a bit of noise. They like the comfort of knowing that it’s on and working. And the sound will also mask any bathroom noises you’d prefer others didn’t hear.
If, on the other hand, you enjoy lazing in the bathtub, a noisy fan may be less appealing. If you’re looking for something really quiet, look for a fan that runs at 1 or 1.5 sones.
And if you prefer music to the hum of a fan, how about a version with a Bluetooth speaker? The Delta BreezIntegrity ITG70BT offers the option of music or a podcast to accompany your trips to the smallest room.
Ready to choose your bathroom fan?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our reviews of seven of the best bathroom fans out there today. However big your bathroom, and whatever installation requirements you have, there’s an option to suit. Keep things simple, or go for a fan with integrated lights, sensors or speakers – the world is your oyster!
Our top pick is the Tatsumaki TA-120. It’s powerful, quiet and exceptionally stylish.
If you’re looking for a budget option, we think the Broan-NuTone 688 is hard to beat. It can be mounted in either the wall or on the ceiling. And it’s very effective in smaller bathrooms.
Finally, if you’re ready to blow the budget, we love Panasonic’s FV-1115VKL2. The dimmable LED, choice of airflows, and the option to add a range of sensors make this a top-notch fan.
But whichever option you choose, you’ll benefit from fresh air in your bathroom. That’s an investment that’s well worth making.