Do you want to find the best bathroom exhaust fan? As a licensed home inspector, I have tested a lot of bathroom fans over the years, and I have learned about the highest quality bath fans you can buy.
Bathroom fans are essential in preventing moisture damage which can lead to mold growth, rusted out cabinet hardware, drywall warping, and poor indoor air quality. It's not a surprise that I'm a big fan (no pun intended) of Panasonic, but I have also included Broan and Delta.
Check out my top picks below of the best bath fans that include humidity sensors, heaters, lights, bluetooth speakers, low Sone, and more!
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BV High CFM
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Our 5 Top Picks
Read our full Panasonic WhisperFit review where I cover everything you need to know.
Our choice for the best quiet bathroom exhaust fan goes to the Panasonic WhisperFit because it is extremely quiet and rated at less than 0.3 sones on the 50-cfm fan speed. The actual noise level and Sone rating will vary depending on which fan speed you choose. There is a little switch on the housing so homeowners can pick between 50-cfm (lowest noise), 80-cfm, or 110-cfm. But even at the higher CFM fan speed, the WhisperFit is extraordinarily quiet due to it's variable speed motor.
And since there is a fan speed switch, this bath fan is perfect for small, medium, or large bathrooms. If the bathroom is around 50 square feet, then choose 50-cfm. If the bathroom is around 80 square feet, then pick 80-cfm. And if it is 100+ square feet, choose the highest speed setting of 110-cfm.
Panasonic has made the WhisperFit super easy to install. It was designed for retrofit installs (not just new construction) since it has a low profile (5-5/8″ housing depth) and will fit 2"x6" ceiling joists. It even has a plastic clip that will hold the bath fan in place while you screw it to the joists (and won't fall down).
Panasonic also provides a Flex-Z Fast installation bracket to make the install even easier. The installation bracket is retractable which means it can fold in half lengthwise so it will fit inside the ceiling hole. The bracket can be expanded or contracted to fit 16" to 24" joist spacings. The WhisperFit requires a 4-inch duct for the advertised performance but a 3-inch duct adapter is included.
Price at time of publish: $129
Dimensions: 10.25"W x 10.25"L x 5.625"D | CFM: 50-80-110 | Sones: 0.3 at 50-cfm | Duct: 4" or 3" | Joists: Fits 2"x6" or smaller
The WhisperSense by Panasonic is my favorite pick for the best bathroom exhaust fan with a humidity sensor. The humidity sensor will automatically turn the bathroom fan on & off based on the moisture level.
This is a great feature because it allows you to keep the fan on after a shower for the recommended 15-30 minutes to effectively remove moisture. And it is also nice for households when you know that users fail to use the bathroom fan and you want to prevent mold issues or wall damage. Homeowners can also bypass the humidity sensor by simply toggling the wall switch for manual use.
This bathroom fan has been engineered with a variable speed motor like many of the Panasonic models. This means that the fan will speed up or slow down in order to reach your target fan speed or CFM. There is a little switch on the housing so you can choose 50, 80, or 110-cfm. The sone rating is 0.3 which makes it extremely quiet.
The WhisperWarm by Panasonic is our best choice for bath fans with heaters. Panasonic also makes a heater and light version of the WhisperWarm. You can avoid a chilly morning shower with this fan and heater combo unit. You can see our full article on the top bath fans with heaters here.
At 110-cfm, this is a powerful bathroom fan that will fit a variety of bathroom sizes and uses a 4″ duct. The housing is made out of stainless steel to help prevent corrosion and rust. This bath fan is also very quiet and it is rated at 0.6-sones which is ultra low sound. I think Panasonic makes some of the best exhaust fans on the market.
The WhisperWarm is a very popular model if you would like to have your own personal heater AND bathroom fan in the same product. This bath fan also comes with a powerful ECM motor which can overcome the 0.375-inch ‘static pressure’ which is a frequent barrier to inferior fans.
Our favorite pick for the best bathroom fan with bluetooth speaker goes to the Sensonic by Broan-NuTone. This premium bathroom vent fan will allow you to play music or podcasts while taking a shower or bath, and the built-in speaker is high fidelity. And the bluetooth speaker is seamless with the fan so it is hidden in plain sight.
The Sensonic is rated at 110-cfm so it is suitable for bathrooms up to 105 square feet. Broan-NuTone makes this fan easy to install and will fit standard 2″ x 8″ construction and comes with a unique spacer so you can mount it to an I-joist.
This bathroom fan was designed for continuous operation so that it runs very efficiently. And it is quiet with a sone rating of 1.0 and it is energy star qualified.
Our most powerful bath fan choice goes to the BV brand that has this incredibly strong 150-cfm exhaust fan. No more fogged windows, mirrors, or drywall damage with this ultra powerful unit.
The biggest downside is that it will be loud at 2.0-sones, at least compared to the ultra quiet models (less than 1.0-sone). But if your biggest issue is that your current exhaust fan is under-powered, then this BV extractor fan is for you. It uses a 3-inch duct and the housing dimensions are 10.31″ x 10.31″ x 8.07″.
Our Overall #1 Rated Pick
Our overall top pick for the best bathroom fan goes to Panasonic WhisperFit. This ultra quiet bathroom fan is rated below 0.3 sones (at 50-cfm) because it uses an efficient variable speed motor. Homeowners can even flip a switch on the housing to change from 50, 80, or 110-cfm. If you want a bath fan with LED light, the WhisperFit also comes with a lighted version. f you want a bath fan that automatically detects humidity in the air and turns on — check out the Delta BreezSignature.
What To Know Before Buying
CFM or Fan Speed
The amount of CFM for the bathroom vent fan will depend on the size of your bathroom as well as the number of fixtures. Bathroom fan strength or speed is rated in CFMs, which stands for cubic feet per minute. This is a measurement of how much air the bath fan can exhaust in one minute. I invite you to read our full guide on CFM sizing bathroom fans here.
Residential bath fans usually range from the 50-cfm and all the way up to 180-cfm. Anything above 200-250 is usually for commercial properties. The general recommendation for CFM is based on the size of your bathroom and the number of bathroom fixtures.
If you have a bathroom in between 50-100 square feet, you can simply add one CFM for every square foot of your bathroom space. For bathrooms less than 50 square feet, then a minimum 50-cfm bathroom fan is recommended. For a bathroom above 100 square feet, industry associations recommend adding up the CFM based on the number of fixtures:
- For each toilet, add 50-cfm.
- For each shower, add 50-cfm.
- For each bathtub, add 50-cfm.
- For each jacuzzi tub, add 100-cfm.
The Old Housing Will Need To Be Removed
Replacing an exhaust fan involves removing the old exhaust fan from the ceiling. The old bathroom vent fan will need to be disconnected from the wire nuts and unplugged. You can read our full article on how to install a bathroom fan without attic access here.
Removing the bathroom vent fan housing will involve removing a few screws and possibly some metal clips. For more difficult housings, you may need to use a pry bar or even a reciprocating saw to cut it loose from the joist.
New Wiring May Be Needed
If you will be wiring the new bathroom fan to the existing switch, then no new wiring will be needed. You simply connect the wiring to the appropriate color, ground the fan, and you are good to go.
However, if you want to connect the exhaust fan light to a separate switch, or if there are any new features such as a heater—you will need to run new wiring from the new wall switch to the bath fan.
Quiet Bath Fans Have 1.0-Sone or Less
A quiet bathroom fan will have a sone rating of 1.0 or less. Sones isn’t a physical measurement like decibels, but it is a measurement of the loudness that is perceived by humans.
The loudest bathroom fans are in the 3-4 sone range, these are the fans that you can hear with the door closed or even down the hallway. The quietest bathroom fans are 1.5 sones are very quiet and some can go as low as 0.3 sone. These bathroom fans can be so quiet that they sometimes have indicator lights to show that they are on (otherwise you wouldn’t know).
Read Also >> What Are Bathroom Exhaust Fan Sones?
Make Sure Bath Fan Will Fit Ceiling Joist Dimensions
Installing a new extractor fan will require you to secure it to the ceiling joist. If you have an older home with 2″ x 6″ ceiling joists, there are some fans that you may not be able to install into such a ceiling.
For older homes with 2″ x 6″ construction, I highly recommend that you choose a bathroom vent fan that has a low profile so that it can be easily installed in-between the joists.
Some bath fans also come with adjustable metal brackets which in theory should make it easier to install the bath fan. The idea is that you screw or fasten the bracket to a joist, and then you attach the bathroom fan to the bracket.
Read Also >> How To Install An Exhaust Fan On The First Floor?
Bath Vent Must Go To Exterior
Venting an exhaust fan will require you to install a 3-6 inch duct to the outside. You also should not vent exhaust fans into an attic, it must go to the outside to avoid moisture damage and mold growth. The duct can terminate on an exterior wall, a roof, or even a soffit. You can read our guide on bathroom ventilation options here.
Newer bathroom vent fans almost all use 4-inch or 6-inch sized ducts. You may be able to install an adapter which will connect the 3-inch duct to the 4-inch or 6-inch flange, but it will decrease performance. It’s also important that the duct is as straight as possible and with a minimal number of bends.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Purpose Of A Bathroom Exhaust Fan?
The point of a bathroom vent fan is to exhaust the moisture and smells to the exterior. Without a bath fan, the moisture from a shower will linger in the bathroom and may lead to deterioration and mold growth. Bathroom moisture can damage wood, rust door hardware, warp drywall, and lead to mold problems.
Do I Really Need A Bath Fan?
Installing a bathroom exhaust fan is cheap insurance to prevent moisture damage. If drywall gets damaged, hardware becomes rusted, or if mold grows out of control — it can be very costly to fix. Most extractor fans only cost in the $50 to $200 range though labor and wiring will be extra.
What Features Do Good Exhaust Fans Include?
The best bath fans have variable speed motors, humidity sensors, lights, and even heaters. A bathroom vent fan with a DC multi-speed motor can change it’s speed based on the amount of ‘static pressure’ in the duct so that it can always reach the desired CFM. And since it doesn’t always have to be at one speed, they are more efficient and quieter than older bath fans.
Do Bath Fans Have To Vent Outside?
Most local building codes require the bathroom fan to vent outdoors. Some local municipalities may allow a ventless or recirculating fans under certain conditions. We always recommend venting outdoors (and not into the attic).
Where Is Best Place To Install An Exhaust Fan?
The top place in the bathroom is in the ceiling and in the middle. Since hot air and moisture rises, it is logical to place it in the middle and in the ceiling. Some bath fans are also able to be installed vertically on the wall if needed.