Bathroom Exhaust Fan Pros and Cons


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Exhaust fans counter mold growth and structural, furniture, and fixture damage. Towels can dry, air quality is better, and odors are removed. Windows can stay closed. The noise provides privacy, but fans can be too noisy. Installation is costly and invasive. Fans require upkeep, and heating the room is hard.

Pros of Bathroom Exhaust FansCons of Bathroom Exhaust Fans
Ventilation in bathrooms is a code requirement; exhaust fans easily provide the required ventilationYou have to pay for the fan and installation
Removal of particulates and excess moisture improves air qualityInstallation is invasive
Removing the steam reduces the risk of mold and mildew growthYou have to maintain the bathroom fan
There is a lower risk of rust, wood rot, warping, peeling paint, and other moisture-related damageSometimes they can get too noisy
Your towels dry faster when the humidity is lowerIt is difficult to heat a bathroom with the exhaust fan running
They extract odors 
You don’t have to shower with an open window in the dead of winter 
The noise from the fan can provide you with privacy 

Bathroom Exhaust Fan Pros

Great Way to Achieve Code-Required Ventilation

According to building codes, your bathroom has to be ventilated. There are many reasons for this, which we will go over in the subsequent sections, but for now, all you need to know is that it is extremely important.

Exhaust fans themselves are not mandated by the code; this required ventilation can be obtained through the use of operable windows (natural ventilation).

However, a beneficial supplement or effective alternative to windows is to install a bathroom exhaust vent (mechanical ventilation).

Improves Indoor Air Quality

Indoor damp & air quality (IAQ) testing; A hand is seen close-up, using a handheld device to check for pollutants

We all know the value of good air quality, especially these days when pollutants and allergies seem to be such ever-present topics of conversation due to their prevalence.

But indoor air quality does not just refer to the amount of dust, allergens, or toxins in the air; it also applies to the amount of moisture. You don’t have to worry about inhaling too much dust in your bathroom, but moisture is in abundant supply.

A bathroom exhaust fan removes any particulates that may be present in the bathroom as well as the excess moisture.

Excess moisture is also associated with mold and mildew growth, the spores of which can also become airborne lower the indoor air quality. Fans help to remove these spores as well. You can read more in the following section.

If indoor air quality is something you are (rightly) concerned about, you can also read my article on Can You Put an Air Purifier in a Bathroom?

Preventing Bathroom Mold/Mildew

When you find mold on the last sliver of cheese or piece of bread, you just throw it away, and your problem is solved. When you find mold on your bathroom walls and ceiling, you are in for a bit of a journey.

The mold or mildew has arisen because unventilated or poorly ventilated bathrooms provide the most ideal living conditions for these fungi: persistent warmth and moisture.

Now, if you find mold in your bathroom, don’t just hit the panic button. There are different types of mold; none are pleasant, but not all are lethal.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend putting “clean bathroom mold” onto next week’s or next month’s to-do list. Address the matter as soon as possible.

But this is a post about bathroom fans, not mold, so let’s look at how these common household appliances help to prevent an outbreak of wall slime.

Bathroom fans are also known as exhaust or extractor fans because they extract moist and warm air from the bathroom. This active process creates a passive airflow response in which fresh (dry and cool) air is pulled into the bathroom to replace the removed air.

This happens quickly and consistently enough (if your bathroom fan is sized correctly and you leave it to run for 15-20 minutes after your shower) to ensure that mold has very little opportunity to grow and spread.  

As mentioned previously, any mold spores that happen to be in the air are also pulled out of the bathroom by the fan.

Protecting the Bathroom Furniture, Fixtures, and Structure

Moisture and heat are just an all-around enemy in a house, and the bathroom in particular, considering how much heat and moisture is produced there.

On top of the mold issue, excess heat and especially moisture can cause furniture to warp, rust, and weaken as well as lead to peeling, blistering, and cracking paint.

Wood rot in your vanity cabinet is annoying; wood rot in your bathroom walls is structurally dangerous.

PC Products PC-Petrifier Water-Based Wood Hardener, 16 oz, Milky White 164440

Installing an extractor fan will combat the cause of these home maintenance nightmares for very little money each month.

Your Towels Dry Faster

I hate having to dry off with a wet towel (I’m really selfish at pool parties and the beach; it’s my towel, sorry!). Without adequate ventilation, which an exhaust fan can easily provide, the humidity levels in a bathroom will often be too high for towels to dry.

Don’t forget your high school science. Towels dry by evaporation, but when the air is already saturated with moisture, no more water can be evaporated, and your towel remains wet or damp.

Moreover, if the bathroom is humid enough, your previously dry towels can absorb water molecules from the air and become damp before you even use them.

Now, perpetually damp bath towels are not just uncomfortable to use; they start to smell and can act as Petri dishes for all manner of gross bacteria. You do not want to be drying your face and body with germs!

Extractor fans mean you don’t have to deal with damp and germy towels, or you don’t have to tote your towel in and out of the bathroom whenever you shower.

Eliminating Odors

Let’s be honest; bathrooms are a source of some bad odors. Many people can be quite embarrassed by this, but the truth is that it is a perfectly normal bodily function. However, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do anything about it.

Many people actually believe that odor removal is the primary function of a bathroom fan. The truth is that it is just a bonus secondary effect.

Can Keep Bathroom Window Closed

Growing up, my sister and I shared a ground-floor bathroom with a south-facing bathroom window. We also shared it with a semi-feral cat called Noddy. She had a bed, food, and water in the bathroom, and we lived with an open bathroom window (later, an open cat flap through the one cottage pane).

In winter, the thought of showering with that open window was enough to make you cry. We did it for Noddy, but it was sometimes physically painful.

Now, if your only source of bathroom ventilation is a bathroom window, then in order to avoid steam build-up and all the associated problems, you will have to open the window every time you shower.

A bathroom extractor fan can save you from this chilly fate, and you can leave that iced-over window fully secured shut.

Fan Noise Can Provide Privacy

I’ve already mentioned the stigma and embarrassment associated with bathroom odors, now let’s talk about the runner-up: bathroom sounds.

If you struggle with toilet-related insecurities, then the buzzing of a bathroom fan may just provide you with the perfect way to relax when using the bathroom. This is particularly great when you are sharing a bathroom with someone you are less familiar or comfortable with.

Bathroom Exhaust Fan Cons

Can Be Expensive to Purchase and Install

While many affordable bathroom exhaust fans are available from a multitude of suppliers, stores, and online stores, compared to opening a window, purchasing and installing a bathroom fan is definitely going to be the more expensive option.

If you go for one with a timer switch or a humidity sensor, which are both very functional, or one with a Bluetooth speaker, which is a little more luxurious, you will pay more as well.

There are rules about how far the ducts can run, who can install or replace a bathroom fan, what materials you can use, etc.

This makes professional installation a really good idea unless you are confident in your abilities. Unfortunately, professionals do not always come cheap.

Installation Can Be Invasive

When you consider that bathroom fans have to vent outside to comply with building codes, installing the ductwork will literally involve cutting a few holes into your house!

It is in your best financial interests, not to mention better for your emotional state, to install the bathroom fan properly.

Have to Be Maintained

As soon as you introduce a new feature or appliance to your home, you sign up for the maintenance of that feature or appliance.

Bathroom fans are not terribly complex, so you may be able to do the minor maintenance yourself, which would cost you time and tools. However, they are also common enough that most handymen would be able to help you out if you aren’t up to doing it yourself.

However, this is still another thing that needs to go onto your “when did I last” list. I have also written numerous trouble-shooting bathroom fan articles like Reasons Bathroom Fan is Buzzing/Humming, Why is My Bathroom Fan Dripping, Reasons Why Bathroom Fan Is Not Removing Steam, Why Bathroom Fan Makes Noise When Windy, and even Reasons Why a New Bath Fan Is Not Working.

This is an indication of all the things that you might have to deal with throughout the life of your bathroom fan.

Can Be Noisy

Couple Covering Ears While laying On Bed At Home

As mentioned earlier, the noise from bathroom fans can provide some much-appreciated privacy. However, you get bathroom fans, especially wall insert fans, that make your bathroom sound like an airport runway.

There is no way you can have a relaxing, candlelit bath with what sounds like a jumbo jet firing up above your head.

That said, you can get some incredibly quiet fans, like the Panasonic WhisperValue (amazon link); you will probably just pay a little extra for these.

Related article: Quiet Bathroom Fans With a Light

Harder to Heat the Bathroom While in Use

If your purpose is to warm the air in your bathroom to make entering and exiting the shower more bearable in the winter or to make your warm bubble baths last longer, then an extractor fan is not going to help you to achieve this goal.

The air heated by the running water or the bathroom heater will be removed and replaced with unheated air while the fan is running. This can lead to increased costs as you run more hot water or you turn the heater up to the highest setting.

If you are a dedicated bathtub user, you might want to consider a whirlpool tub with a built-in heating unit.

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