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Improve Bathroom Ventilation: 5 Actionable Tips!

Do you find that the air in your bathroom seems to be constantly stale or humid? Perhaps you have already tried to improve your bathroom’s ventilation, and you are running out of ideas. You are not alone! A bathroom is the one room where achieving top-notch ventilation is crucial, yet it often feels impossible. But you don’t have to despair any longer!

We are big fans of proper ventilation, so we have put together some tips that will help bring the much-needed fresh air into your bathroom.


Adequate ventilation comes from combining natural and mechanical ventilation, ensuring the exhaust fan has a suitable CFM and that it is properly maintained, adding a fresh air supply system, and reassessing the door design to allow for natural ventilation through the door.

Two Elements Are Required to Improve Ventilation

The idea behind ventilation is to improve the air quality of a certain space by introducing fresh air into that space.

the master removes the grate very dirty Exhaust fan in the bathroom

However, bathrooms are, for the most part, sealed-up rooms that are constantly exposed to high levels of humidity and vaporized chemical pollutants. A simple inflow of fresh air just won’t cut it. In fact, it won’t even satisfy the true definition of ventilation.

Yes, bringing in new air does help up to a point. But it doesn’t completely remove the old air; it merely dilutes it, leaving you exposed to the stale air.

Proper and effective ventilation in a bathroom can only be achieved by combining two key elements: fresh air supply and old air removal.

Why Ventilation Is so Important

According to the International Residential Code (IRC) Section R303.3, ventilation in a bathroom is a requirement. There are many reasons why ventilation in bathrooms is exceptionally important.

  • Enclosed humid environments create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi (mold), which can lead to serious health implications.
  • Insects also thrive in this environment, especially the infamous cockroach.
  • Your home’s structural reliability could get damaged by rotting support beams.
  • Your clothing could get damaged by mold growth and start giving off an odor.
  • Not installing ventilation earlier will hurt your wallet later when you have to repair your bathroom fittings and décor.
  • You will end up using more power to control surrounding rooms’ temperatures as they will be affected by the excessive humidity of the bathroom.
  • The excessive humidity fogs up mirrors and creates condensation on tiles and windows. This is not only inconvenient but also dangerous.

If you are interested in a more in-depth explanation of the importance of bathroom ventilation, have a look at 9 Reasons Why Having No Ventilation in a Bathroom Is Terrible.

5 Tips to Improve Bathroom Ventilation

1. Combine Natural and Mechanical Ventilation

Some things come in pairs. One cannot be complete without the other, like peanut butter and jelly. The same is true for natural and mechanical ventilation.

Several air exhaust vents with flapper and screen on white stucco wall of residential building
natural ventilation

Implementing natural ventilation is great, but it would be much more effective with the addition of mechanical ventilation. This is the ventilation dream team if you will.

Natural ventilation completely relies on the pressure created by wind and temperature differences to ensure a passive flow of air to and from the house.

Although having natural airflow in your home sounds appealing, it is still very unpredictable. You never know how much air will flow through your house and if the current airflow is sufficient to ventilate your bathroom adequately.

You would also need to keep some of your windows and doors open for airflow. This is okay for the summer but less than ideal for the winter.

Mechanical ventilation, on the other hand, mainly consists of systems that intentionally either bring in a new supply of fresh air from the outside into your home (supply fans) or extract old air from your home and push it outside (exhaust fans).

However, combining natural and mechanical ventilation helps to ensure the airflow circulation is consistent and balanced.

Together, these two systems can maintain the optimal air quality in your bathroom. So, open a window (or door) and invest in supply and/or exhaust fans.

2. Add a Fresh Air Supply Vent

Nowadays, installing your own fresh air supply system is not too difficult, and its benefits for air quality are immense.

It brings fresh air into your home without creating unpleasant drafts that are associated with natural ventilation. It improves the air quality, helps to keep pollutants out, and reduces the amount of dust inside the house.

Of course, this also affects the air quality of your bathroom. Fresh air supply vents can help make the air smell better and be cleaner.

The fresh air supply needs to be hooked up to your home’s HVAC system. The heart of this system is usually located in your basement.

fresh air supply vent

The fresh outdoor air is drawn through the fresh air vent hood. It is then filtered and flows through your return air duct to supply ductwork in order to be distributed to the entire house.

When installing this system, you need to take into consideration where you position your air vent hood. Make sure that it is not located too close to other exhaust sources, like those for the dryer, or air contaminants.

3. Upgrade Your Exhaust Fan

Imagine this. You’ve just taken a long relaxing shower after a stressful day. You step out and find it difficult to breathe. The bathroom feels stuffy, more than usual, even though the fan is running. Well, maybe you just had an extra hot shower.

After leaving the exhaust fan run for a good few minutes without adding more steam into the mix, you come back to find your bathroom still looking like a steam room. You can’t even give yourself a pep talk in front of the mirror as it fogs up again right after you wipe it off.

This is a clear sign that your exhaust fan is struggling to keep up with the moisture produced. This may be because it is too weak for the room or perhaps it is in its last few days and needs replacing. These are two common reasons why fans stop removing steam.

Another scenario is that you decide to renovate your bathroom. You need to remember that your current exhaust fan may not be able to keep up with some of the changes you are planning to make.

If you add a shower or expand your bathroom, you may want to consider upgrading to a larger exhaust fan with a higher CFM (the volume of air moved by the fan per minute). You can use this guide to determine your fan’s ideal CFM based on the bathroom size.

Consider getting a fan with a humidity sensing feature. These devices help increase the fan’s efficiency by automatically switching it on when humidity levels rise and switching it off when the levels drop. The humidity sensor is a good energy saver. It also lengthens the fan’s life expectancy by ensuring that it doesn’t run constantly.

4. Get Serious About Exhaust Fan Maintenance

We all know that nothing lasts forever. However, things tend to last longer if we put the time and effort into maintaining them. Consistency is key!

Young handyman fixing a kitchen extractor with a screwdriver

The average life expectancy of a bathroom exhaust fan is about 10 years. The actual life expectancy of your fan will depend on its quality, how well it’s been maintained, and how often you use it.

To increase the lifespan of your fan, you need to make sure you have a decent maintenance schedule in place. Try to clean your exhaust fan at least once a year, maybe even twice.

These fans act like giant vacuums, so they do accumulate plenty of dust. Since exhaust fans suck in a lot of moisture, the dust inside them clumps together, potentially clogging their airways and motors. This could be a fire hazard.

Cleaning your exhaust fan isn’t difficult. Firstly, you need to remove the fan’s grille using a screwdriver. Then wipe the grille and fan with a damp cloth and perhaps some light detergent to remove any dirt. Lastly, use some oil to lubricate the motor. Please don’t forget to switch off the power supply to your exhaust fan before you start cleaning it!

Also, don’t neglect your duct maintenance. Ensure the air is getting discharged directly outside and not inside your attic. The latter could cause serious problems with mildew growth.

5. Reassess the Bathroom Door Design

Let’s not give all the attention to exhaust fans, shall we? We can use bathroom doors to our advantage when trying to improve ventilation inside the room. How?

Well, the first step would be to leave the bathroom door open after a shower. This is much more practical if the bathroom door swings inward.

The second step would be to look into alternative door designs, which can partially make up for a lack of windows in your bathroom if you are in that situation.

Instead of installing a normal swinging door, maybe consider a sliding barn door (amazon link) without a frame allowing more passive airflow into the bathroom from the surrounding hallways and rooms.

You could also build doors with larger gaps at the top and bottom to allow more air in and allow for some humidity to escape. If you want to go old school, you may want to consider shopping around for louver door (amazon link).

Alternatively, you can simply install a louver (amazon link) in your current bathroom door. Louvers come in a variety of sizes and colors, so you can choose one that goes well with your interior.

Sources

https://www.epa.gov/iaq-schools/heating-ventilation-and-air-conditioning-systems-part-indoor-air-quality-design-tools

https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/ventilation-buildings-breathe

https://www.ncconsumer.org/news-articles-eg/many-people-underestimate-the-important-of-proper-ventilation-in-humid-bathrooms.html

https://codes.iccsafe.org/content/IRC2018P4/chapter-3-building-planning#IRC2018P4_Ch03_SecR303.3

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK143277/

https://www.energystar.gov/ia/new_homes/features/MechVent_062906.pdf

https://www.hvi.org/resources/publications/bathroom-ventilation/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ventilation_(architecture)

https://www.plumbworld.co.uk/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-bathroom-ventilation

https://www.heatandplumb.com/blog/how-to-clean-a-bathroom-extractor-fan

https://www.mckeehomesnc.com/blog/filtered-fresh-air-intake-system-advantages/

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