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Bathroom Fan | How Close Can It Be to the Shower?

When I’m busy with a renovation, I’m always so proud of the details that I think about and remember to plan. For example, I remember that I need to install an exhaust fan in my master bathroom. But when it comes time to do it, I realize that there are a dozen smaller details that I didn’t plan out, and I’m left doing last-minute research.

One such detail would be where exactly the fan should be installed in the bathroom. As it happens, there is a very satisfying answer to this question. It’s not one of those “it depends” situations. You have options, but there are definitive parameters.


Bathroom fans can be installed in the shower if they meet the criteria for this installation. However, a better position is about one foot away from the shower. Farther than this will reduce the efficiency at which the fan captures the steam emanating from the shower.

Bathroom Fans Can Be Installed in Showers

Bathroom fans can be so close to showers that they can be installed in the showers. However, doing so comes with conditions and drawbacks.

Conditions for This Installation

If you plan to install a fan in your shower, there are a couple of safety requirements you need to follow to minimize the potential for harm.

For one, the fan should be installed on the ceiling rather than the wall because walls are more likely to be splashed with drops of water than the ceiling.

Luckily, this is actually best practice when it comes to installing bathroom fans. Because steam rises, ceiling-insert fans are better positioned to catch and exhaust the steam.

The more critical requirements, however, are that you have a shower-rated fan and that it has a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

Panasonic FV-0511VF1 WhisperFit DC Retrofit Ventilation Fan, 50, 80 or 110 CFM, Quiet Energy Star Certified Energy-Saving Ceiling Mount Fan, Residential Remodel, UL Listed for Tub or Shower Enclosure when GFCI Protected

Shower-rated fans are those that have been designed to keep water out of the internal workings.

A GFCI functions by detecting imbalances in electrical currents. It then balances the currents out. This is essential because the fan, being in the shower, is likely to be impacted by the water, which can cause short-circuiting.

Having a GFCI and a shower-rated fan prevents you from getting an electrical shock while taking a shower, which could very well be deadly.

Avoid Placing in Showers

When it comes to installing your bathroom fan in the shower, the question is less can you and more should you. 

While it is possible to have a working bathroom fan in your shower without any complications, it can quickly become uncomfortable.

When showering after a long day or in the early hours of the morning, the last thing you’ll want is a cold draft of air rushing past you. Yet, this is exactly what will happen if you install your bathroom fan in your shower.

It is recommended to instead place your fan outside of your shower so you can still enjoy a warm shower.

Considerations in an Enclosed Cubicle

If your shower is in an enclosed cubicle, there are a couple of considerations on top of the others that you need to take into account.

In addition to having a GFCI and a fan that is shower-rated, you will also need to install a second fan.

This is because the bathroom fan in the shower cubicle will not be effective in removing steam in the rest of the bathroom. Therefore, to counteract this, a second bathroom fan would need to be installed in the general bathroom area.

You will also have ineffective steam removal from the shower because the enclosed nature of the shower, while not actually airtight, does limit the amount of air that can enter the cubicle. This means air cannot be exhausted properly (a vacuum is created that keeps the air in the shower).

Ideal Distance From Shower

So, avoid the actual shower when installing your bathroom fan if at all possible. Instead, the ideal distance away from the shower is about one foot.

Bathroom with bathtub, enclosed shower, many windows and with marble floors and walls

Being one foot away gives you the benefits of the fan being in the shower while having none of the drawbacks.

It is close enough to the shower that it will capture most of the steam coming out of it. And since it is not in the shower itself, you won’t get the breeze effect from it blowing cold air on you. This means you are still able to enjoy a warm shower.

This also allows you to decide whether you want your fan on the ceiling or wall. However, we recommend installing your fan on the ceiling because steam rises, making it more effective in collecting moisture.

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