Bathroom exhaust fans are handy little appliances that remove unpleasant odors and get rid of moisture. But as practical as they are, some fans produce deafening noise, making it impossible to enjoy yourself while you’re in the tub or shower.
If you want to reap all the benefits of having an exhaust fan without having to put up with the annoying clamor, you’re in dire need of this buying guide. I’ll show you which models to consider buying, where to find them, and how to install them.
What Is a Bathroom Exhaust Fan?
A bathroom exhaust fan is a mechanical ventilation device that draws indoor air outside. In the process, the fan will get rid of moisture and unpleasant smells, as well as keep the humidity levels in check.
Nowadays, most building codes require you to put a fan in when you’re building or remodeling your bathroom. But even if the law isn’t telling you to install it, having an exhaust fan comes with a ton of benefits you can’t ignore.
How a Bathroom Exhaust Fan Works
A bathroom fan is wired in pretty much the same way as the light fixtures in your bathroom. It uses standard 120 V electrical current and you usually operate it by flipping a switch. Some newer models have built-in timers so that you can choose how long you want them to be running.
Once you turn the exhaust fan on, the air is drawn out through a metal duct or plastic tube that leads to an opening in a sidewall or the roof. There’s also a cover plate with slats that protects the vent’s exit point and keeps the duct closed when you’re not using it.
Why You Need a Bathroom Exhaust Fan
Most people seem to think that the only thing an exhaust fan is good for is getting rid of steam. But it can do so much more than that, including removing humidity, reducing contaminants, and preserving your bathroom fixtures.
Not only that, but depending on the fan you get, it can also replace your existing overhead lighting or warm up your bathroom.
Improves Air Quality
By extracting moisture and steam from your bathroom, a bathroom exhaust fan can drastically improve your air quality. It’ll also stop moisture from accumulating in your walls and bathroom fixtures, thus preventing mold and mildew growth.
And if you’ve already had a problem with mold, an exhaust fan will suck up all the spores left in the air and kick them out of your bathroom. In addition to that, it will also get rid of the particulate matter that went up into the air when you flushed your toilet.
One of the most popular reasons people install exhaust fans is odor control. While you can certainly light a match or a scented candle, these are only temporary solutions. Not to mention, but forgetting a lit candle in your bathroom is a fire hazard.
On the other hand, if you install an exhaust fan, your bathroom will smell clean and fresh much longer.
Reduces Airborne Contaminants
Oftentimes, to clean and disinfect our bathrooms, we use heavy-duty chemicals that have strong scents. When inhaled, they can cause all sorts of breathing problems, allergies, and headaches.
But just like with odor, an exhaust fan can get rid of these fumes and create a healthier cleaning environment. That’s especially important if you have kids because they can be more sensitive to them.
Lowers Maintenance Cost and Repair Expenses
Having your bathroom fixtures fall apart and break down because of moisture is not a pretty sight. Depending on the damage, you might have to replace appliances, change wallpapers, or even do a full remodel.
Getting rid of mold and mildew from your bathroom can cost an arm and a leg sometimes. But by installing an exhaust fan, you can save yourself hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on remodels and repairs. Instead, you can spend that money on something more practical, like a vacation in Hawaii, for example.
Why Are Bathroom Exhaust Fans Loud?
Once upon a time, when exhaust fans first became a thing, they were extremely loud. When you turned them on, they would sound like jets flying directly above you. That’s because they were built for speed, not comfort, which meant they had fast motors, but small turbines.
Another reason your typical exhaust fan might seem noisy is that it’s on the fritz and you need to tighten the screws. Your exhaust fan could also be acting up if it’s dirty or full of dust. Either way, these are usually pretty small repairs that you can handle with a few tools.
The Best Bathroom Exhaust Fans on the Market
All of the exhaust fans I’m about to show you are high quality, high power, and extremely quiet. In fact, none of the fans on this list are over 1.0 sone so you never have to worry about them distracting you or disrupting your peace.
1. Panasonic FV-0511VQ1 WhisperCeiling Ceiling Exhaust Fan
The Panasonic Q1 WhisperCeiling is one of the quietest models on the market and it registers at only 0.3 sones. But it’s actually not its whisper feature that made it one of Amazon’s top sellers; it’s the Smart Flow technology.
With this feature, the fan senses static pressure and automatically adjusts its CFM setting to ensure the optimal output. That makes the Panasonic a perfect choice for any bathroom, big or small.
In addition to Smart Flow technology, the fan also has a Pick-a-Flow feature. That way, you can control exactly how much CFM you want the fan to be outputting. Just flip a switch and pick between 50, 80, and 110 CFM.
If you decide to go with the WhisperCeiling, you’ll also get a light fixture, since the fan has a flush mount grille with a dimmable 10 W LED panel. It provides a nice, warm light that has an average 50,000-hour rating.
Another thing that made the Panasonic WhisperCeiling so popular is how easy it is to install. The fan has a Flex-Z Fast installation bracket so that you can position it any way you want to. Of course, it’s also code compliant and has an Energy Star certification.
- Registers at only 0.3 sones
- Smart Flow and Pick-a-Flow technologies
- Has a light fixture
- Easy to install
2. Broan-NuTone Very Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan
If you want an exhaust fan for a bathroom that’s up to 75 sq ft, the Broan Very Quiet is the perfect choice. This model registers at only 0.3 sones but packs a big, highly-efficient punch. It’s also sleek, chic, and easy to install.
The Broan Very Quiet is Energy Star and HVI-certified. If you install it on a GFCI circuit, you can put this fan directly over your tub or shower. Also, it comes with a hanger bar system so that you can easily install it without too much hassle.
Another cool thing about the Broan Very Quiet is that its housing is made out of galvanized steel that’s corrosion resistant. So you can rest assured that your fan will never rust or corrode, no matter how humid your bathroom gets.
The AC motors inside the fan are permanently lubricated and engineered for constant and continuous operation.
No matter if you order the Broan off Amazon or the manufacturer’s official website, you’ll get a 3-year warranty. But one benefit of buying on Amazon is that you can find a Renewed version. It looks and works exactly like the new one, but it’s a bit cheaper.
- 80 CFM fan with 0.3 sones
- Has Energy Star and HVI certification
- Comes with a three-year warranty
3. BV Ultra-Quiet 90 CFM Bathroom Ventilation and Exhaust Fan
If you’re looking for something more powerful than the Broan, I suggest the BV Ultra-Quiet. It is a 90 CFM fan that has a sone rating of only 0.8. But if you want something that packs an even bigger punch than that, BV also makes a 110 CFM fan. The only downside to these models is that their sone rating is above 1.0.
Just like the Broan, the BV has Energy Star and HVI 2100 certification. It’s also UL approved, so you can put it above your shower if you hook it up to a GFCI circuit.
The housing for the BV fan is made of stainless steel that’s impervious to moisture damage. Also, the motors inside are permanently lubricated and have thermal protection.
When you buy the BV Ultra-Quiet, you’ll also get a one-year limited warranty on it. However, bear in mind that you have to register on the BV website for it to be valid.
The installation process is pretty simple and the company will send you all the components you need to do the job. You’ll get the housing, grille, secure tabs, adaptor and wiring compartment, three support braces, installation hardware, and user manual.
- 90 CFM with 0.8 sones
- Available with 110 CFM
- Stainless steel housing
- Comes with a one-year warranty
4. Panasonic WhisperFitEZ Ventilation Fan
The WhisperFitEZ fan from Panasonic is the ideal choice for all of your bathroom remodels. You can put it in both commercial and residential housing as its sleek design fits into any washroom.
You can buy this model just as a fan or with motion sensors, but unlike the WhisperCeiling, it can’t double as a light fixture.
Another cool thing about the WhisperFit is that it features the same Pick-a-Flow technology as the WhisperCeiling.You can adjust the fan to choose whether it has an 80 CFM or 110 CFM. Just keep in mind that the 80 CFM has a 0.3 sone rating, while the 110 CFM model has 0.8 rating.
The installation process is super simple and the EZ fan works with both 4-inch and 6-inch ducts. It also has the Flex-Z bracket with articulating joints and a detachable installation adapter.
The motor inside the fan has a thermal cutoff fuse to ensure that it never overheats, even if you forget to turn it off. But should the worst happen and the fan breaks down, you’ll be happy to know that Panasonic offers a three-year warranty on the parts.
- One fan, two CFM choices
- Has motion sensors
- Easy installation
- Has a thermal cutoff fuse
5. Win Air Quiet 70 CFM Bathroom Fan
If you want a durable, high-power fan to put in your bathroom, the Win Air Quiet should be one of your go-to choices. This 70 CFM fan emits a noise of only 0.3 sones and is perfect for a bathroom that’s 60 sq ft or smaller.
But if you want something bigger, you could get the Win Air Quiet with 110 CFM and a 0.8 sone rating. The company says that its fan has around 15,000 hours of use before you have to replace it.
The Win Air Quiet has a white polymeric grille and durable, high-impact housing. Also, the housing is completely rust-resistant so you don’t have to worry about the humidity ruining it for you.
The company put galvanized brackets to ensure the longevity of its fan. Also, the motor inside the fan is made out of 100% copper and it has a sturdy turbofan. Just like most of the fans on this list, the Win Air also has an Energy Saver and HVI 2100 certification.
Before you buy the Win Air Quiet, I suggest you go and measure your duct size. Unlike the Panasonic WhisperFit, for example, this fan will only fit into a 4-inch duct.
- 70 CFM fan with 0.3 sones
- 15,000 hours of use
- High-impact housing
- Galvanized brackets
6. Delta Electronics BreezSignature Exhaust Bath Fan with Humidity Sensor
With the Delta Electronics BreezSignature, you’ll get an 80 CFM fan that registers at less than 0.3 sones. The company also makes this model with 110 CFM and 130 CFM, but they’re, of course, louder than this one.
One of the things I really like about this fan is that you can get it with all sorts of different features. If you’re shopping on Amazon, you can get the 80 CFM with a light, humidity sensors, or with dual speed.
But if you decide to go up a size and get the 110 model, you can choose between LED and CFL lights. Of course, if you don’t want any of those extra features, you could always buy just the fan.
Inside the fan, you’ll find a brushless DC motor that’s supposed to ensure its durability and reliability. In fact, Delta Electronics says that thanks to the motor, its fan will outlive many of your other household appliances.
If you buy the model with humidity sensors, which I recommend you do, you can preset the values on your own. So as soon as the fan senses that it’s too humid in your bathroom, it’ll automatically turn on. Once it’s done its job and restored the levels back to normal, it’ll shut down.
- 80 CFM with 0.3 sones
- Humidity sensors and dual speed
- Doubles as a light fixture
- Brushless DC motor
7. Broan-NuTone QTXE080 Ultra Silent Bath Fan
If you love the Broan Very Quiet but need something more powerful, then allow me to introduce you to the Ultra Silent. This 110 CFM fan is perfect for any bathroom that’s around 100 sq feet or less. And with a 0.7 sone rating, you won’t even hear it while you’re relaxing in the tub.
What’s great about this fan is that it’s extremely versatile and you don’t even have to put it in the bathroom. You could also use it in your kitchen or living room to get rid of cooking or tobacco smoke, for example.
The Ultra Silent has a simple, yet modern design and the grille comes in two colors: white and cream. But if the fan clashes with your color scheme, simply paint over the polymeric grille and you’re good to go.
The installation is pretty simple and Broan will send you hangar bars to make the process even easier.
Another thing that the Ultra Silent shares with the Very Quiet is that it’s made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel. And since the motor has also been engineered for continuous operation, this fan will last you a long time.
- 110 CFM fan with 0.7 sone rating
- Modern and sleek design
- Comes with hangar bars
- Corrosion-resistant stainless steel
8. KAZE APPLIANCE SE90T Modern Ultra Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fan with LED Light
If you want an exhaust fan that doubles as a night light — look no further than the Kaze Appliance Ultra Quiet fan. This model comes in six different power options, with the smallest being 90 CFM, while the biggest has a whopping 290 CFM.
Both the 90 and 120 CFM fans have a 0.3 sone rating, and 110 CFM one has 0.9. The Kaze Appliance fan has two sets of lights: an 11 W LED light and a 2 W LED night light.
Keep in mind that the lights have a life expectancy of 30,000 hours and the color temperature is 2700 K. You can combine all of the lights with the fan and turn them with one switch or wire them individually.
When you order the Ultra Quiet, you’ll get a 4-inch and a 6-inch adapter, along with double-hanger mounting bars. Also, Kaze Appliance will give you a three-year warranty against manufacturer defects.
The fan is compliant with the HVI, Energy Star, CEC, and ETL-CETL regulations. What’s more, to avoid overheating, the Kaze Appliance fan has a thermal cutoff fuse and it doesn’t create excessive heat.
- Has six different power options
- Doubles as a night light
- Comes with a three-year warranty
- Has a thermal cutoff fuse
9. Air King Humidity Sensing 80 CFM Ceiling Bath Fan
A fan that’s just as powerful as any other model on this list, the Air King is an 80 CFM model with a sone rating of 1.0. But if you want something more powerful, the company also makes 90 CFM and 100 CFM models. However, they’re both over the 1.0 sone rating, so they’re not my favorite.
The fan features a sleek and contoured design that’ll blend perfectly into any bathroom. Also, it’s 14 inches long, 11 inches wide, and projects only half an inch from the ceiling.
The installation process is pretty simple since the Air King has adjustable hanging brackets. There’s also a round plastic damper that’ll stop any backdraft coming into your bathroom.
One of the coolest features of the Air King is its integrated humidity sensor. When you’re done installing it, you have to input what humidity percentage you’re comfortable with. Once the fan senses that the levels are too high, it’ll automatically turn on. Of course, it’ll also shut down as soon as it senses that everything’s back in balance.
If you wire it on a GFCI circuit, you can install this ceiling fan above your shower or tub. And if something goes wrong or you’re not happy with the product, you’ll be happy to know that Air King offers a 5-year limited warranty.
- 80 CFM fan with 1.0 sone rating
- Projects only half an inch from the ceiling
- Integrated humidity sensor
- Comes with a five-year warranty
10. Broan-NuTone Single-Speed Ventilation Fan
The last Broan-NuTone product I wanted to mention is the Single-Speed fan that comes in both 80 CFM and 110 CFM. When you turn it on, this nifty little fan emits only 1.0 sones and it’s powerful enough to improve air quality in rooms that are up to 105 sq ft.
The fan’s compact housing easily connects to inboard joists. It also has foldable mounting ears and the company says that you can install it room-side and don’t have to go through the attic. This model also comes with a 4-inch polymeric connector with a tapered end. With it, you never have to hear that annoying sound of metallic clattering.
But the key feature of the Single-Speed fan is the TrueSeal Damper technology. With it, the fans can reduce up to 50% of air leakage and backdrafts.
Just like most of the fans on this list, the Single-Speed is UL listed. That means you can hook it up to a GFCI circuit and put it directly above your shower or tub. Essentially, the fan will immediately capture all steam before it even gets a chance to take over your bathroom.
- Two power options: 80 CFM and 110 CFM
- Foldable mounting ears
- TrueSeal Damper technology
Things to Consider Before Buying a Quiet Exhaust Fan
If you want to find a quiet fan that’ll fit perfectly into your soundproofed bathroom, you need to keep an eye out for the sone rating. It is a linear measurement of loudness that shows how the sound is perceived by the listener.
The lower the sone is, the quieter your exhaust fan will be. So if you want a quiet fan, you have to find a model that has a 1.0 rating or lower.
To put things into perspective, your average quiet fridge would have a 1.0 rating, while a TV set or a regular dishwasher might come in at around 4.0. Fun fact — rustling leaves emit a noise that’s 0.5 sones, which is kind of the ideal rating for quiet fans as well.
In addition to the sone, another rating that you need to pay attention to is the CFM.
How to Find the Right CFM Size
Cubic feet per minute (CFM) is a measure that shows the amount of air that your fan can move. CFM basically shows you how powerful your fan is and how much air it can take out of your bathroom.
A general rule of thumb is that you need a fan that has the same amount of CFM as the square footage of your bathroom. To calculate that, simply multiply the width and length of your washroom.
Say for example, that you have a bathroom that’s 8 feet long and 9 feet wide. That means that its square footage is 72. Therefore, you need an exhaust fan that has 72 CFM.
With that said, I usually recommend getting a fan that has a bit more CFM than what your square footage is. So even though your square footage is 72, you should get a fan that’s around 80 CFM.
Also, keep in mind that the minimum power of a fan has to be 50 CFM, even if your bathroom is smaller than that.
How to Install a Bathroom Exhaust Fan
Installing a bathroom exhaust fan isn’t the easiest of home improvement projects. But if you have the right tools and lots of patience, there’s no reason why you can’t do it.
For this project, you’ll need:
- Your exhaust fan of choice
- Drill and drill bit
- Flexible ducting
- Exterior grade silicone caulk
- Reciprocating saw
- Drywall jab saw
- Dust mask and safety goggles
First, you’ll have to either find or establish a power source. If your electrical code allows it, you could share the lighting circuit with the exhaust fan. But if you can’t, you’ll need to run a dedicated circuit. If you’re not comfortable with doing that, call an electrician to run it for you.
Then, you need to locate the vent point that’s close to the shower and offers the fan a direct route to the outside. Once you have your ideal location picked out, it’s time to cut the exterior vent location.
When you’ve done that, go to the attic, cut out a hole for the fan, and place it inside. You’ll also have to screw the fan into the joists. If you feel comfortable with the placement from the attic, go back down to your bathroom to double-check.
Now that you’re happy with the position of the fan, it’s time to attach the fan unit to its housing and put the grille on. You can find instructions for this step in your user’s manual.
If you’re more a visual person, I recommend checking out this YouTube video on how to install an exhaust fan. It’ll show you, step by step, what you need to do and how you should be doing it.
Caring for a Bathroom Exhaust Fan
Since you’ve done such a fantastic job picking out and installing your new fan, (I’m sure) you don’t want all of that hard work to go to waste by neglecting it. You should clean and maintain it from time to time to ensure that it doesn’t break down.
All you have to do is stand on a step stool to wash the grate and dust the fan once a year. Take the grate off, put it in some warm water and dish soap and scrub until clean. You also need to dust or vacuum your fan while you’re on the step stool. Then, dry your grate completely, attach it to the fan, and you’re done!
Those were my top ten picks for the best quiet bathroom exhaust fans on the market that’ll make all of your soundproofing fantasies come true. They’re all sleek and stylish, but most importantly, virtually silent! So no matter which model you end up buying, I can guarantee that you’ll be more than happy with it.