So you’re finishing work on your bathroom, and venting is all that’s left to be done, and you’re wondering, “is it okay to vent this fan through the soffit? Looking into this, we’ve come across some important information and tips that may be of use to you as you decide how best to vent your bathroom fan.
A bathroom fan can be vented through soffit so that the warm air from the bathroom comes out through it and goes outside. However, It is important to keep in mind it can not be vented into the soffit, as this will lead moisture back into the attic.
There is more to running a bathroom vent through the soffit, and it depends heavily on proper ventilation routing, insulation, and selection of materials.
Important Things to Pay Attention to When Venting a Bathroom Fan through Soffit
Choice of Duct Hose Matters
Depending on the bathroom fan that exists or is being installed, the correct selection of a duct hose is important. If the bathroom fan is an old model, then it most likely requires the use of a 3’’ duct hose. Take note that most modern bathroom fans are designed to hold 4’’, 5’’and 6’’ duct hoses, therefore making sure to first confirm the bathroom fan model or type should be the initial course of action.
Duct Material Should Be a Deliberate Choice.
The materials used to make duct hoses for bathroom fans and vents vary, and here are some of the most common ones used in housing installations.
PVC piping comes with both rigid and flexible designs that can be bent to direct the warm air from the bathroom to the outside. This is a great choice if you live in a place with a generally cold climate because plastic is a bad conductor.
Metal piping can be your choice if you live in warm or hot climate areas, but never for cold climates. Examples include stainless steel and aluminum foil ducts. Metal is a great conductor, and during cold weather, it could lead to the development of condensation pockets within itself, which could flow back and stain your bathroom ceiling.
Insulation is Very Important.
Insulated bathroom fan duct hoses are also available, although they’re generally more expensive. However, it is highly recommended in a cold climate where the warm moist air could potentially condensate in the duct and flow back into the bathroom. This can lead to water dripping from the bathroom fan.
Condensation is practically eliminated when you insulate the duct since the warm moist air won’t have time to cool down as it moves through the duct. If it is financially possible, an insulated hose duct (Amazon link) should be the choice over a non-insulated one.
Speaking of insulation…
Whether or not your attic is well insulated could affect the nature of the duct hose you run from the bathroom fan to the soffit outside. Lack of attic insulation exposes the fan duct to the climatic extremes in temperature, and in particularly cold situations, condensation is a major concern. If an attic is not insulated, an insulated fan duct is more preferable.
Carefully Plan Your Hose Duct Routing.
In order to counter the eventuality of condensation leaking back to the house from the hose duct, a proper slope is required on the hose itself. It is important to try and keep the hose straight because any bending or dipping creates pockets for condensation to accumulate.
The best way to slope a bathroom fan duct hose is down towards the exit of the point of the air, in this case, the soffit. Although some people still do it, sloping it back down towards the bathroom fan could lead to the flow back of condensation, which could result in damage to the ceiling.
It’s also good to not introduce too many bends on the hose as it leads out to the soffit because too many bends introduce too many obstructions to the path of airflow, which increases chances of condensation forming and will make the fan work harder.
What are the Benefits of Venting through Soffit?
Venting your bathroom fan through the soffit has its advantages including:
Shortest Duct Length
A bathroom fan hose duct will usually take the shortest distance if it is vented out through the soffit. It’s just a quick bend flat on your attic floor and out of the underside of the roof, made even better if your bathroom fan is located as close as is allowable to the wall.
Of course, an argument could be made for roof vents farthest from the roof ridge having a short distance as well.
Preserved Roof Integrity
You don’t have to put a hole through your roof if you vent through the soffit. Some roofs are old, and a hole only makes it easier for leaks into the house to develop, especially if the ventilation is poorly done. Going through the soffit keeps your roof leakage-free.
In regions where there is a lot of snowfall, the roof vent could be covered in snow and potentially start leaking.
There is No Back-drafting When Venting Through the Soffit
This is often a problem when a vent runs through the wall instead of the soffit. The wind moves mostly horizontally, and when your vent is located on the side of the house, it’s fair game for strong to blow cold air back into the house.
Here you have a risk of backdraft from the wind blowing into the vent on the side of the house. This can overwork the fan that’s trying to send the moist air out and can result in all of it being sucked back into the very room you were trying to get it out of.
This is a problem that doesn’t occur with a soffit because the angle of installation is different.
Room Heat Preservation
The hose ducts running warm, humid air out through the soffit often lie in a horizontal position. When the bathroom fan is off, this air remains suspended in the duct, unable to move or is moving slowly. There is no fan to propel it out. This can create a pocket of warm air, acting as a heat trap to prevent outside air from flowing into the bathroom. It can be great during chilly seasons because it’s just one more way to keep your bathroom warm.
When Is It Better to NOT Vent a Bathroom Fan Through The Soffit?
It is not a good idea to terminate the exhaust duct closer than 10 ft. of any air intakes, as this could lead to moist air coming back into the house. Generally, it is possible to position it so that this will not be an issue.
What About Warm Moist Air Coming Back Into the Attic Through the Soffit?
This really only needs to be a concern if the ends of the duct connecting to either the bathroom fan or the soffit are not well sealed, leaving room for warm, moist air to come through. The risk is again, mold developing in your attic, but if you do the installation right, this need not be a concern.
All in all, when both the bathroom fan and the duct leading out to the soffit are well secured and insulated, there will not be a problem of any warm air accumulating in the attic.
What about Venting through the Roof or Wall?
Something that is often brought up as an alternative to venting through a soffit is venting through the roof or wall.
I have recently written a guide for how bathroom fans should be vented go ahead and take a look if you want to learn more.
Venting through the roof is arguably the best way to let the warm air and humidity out of your home. It keeps them warm, humid air out of your attic, removing the risk of mold developing there. I say arguably because it has a drawback that makes soffit venting more preferable.
This kind of venting will need you to make a hole through your roof, which may jeopardize its integrity by introducing unwanted leaks. Also, keep in mind in regions with large amounts of snowfall this could cause leaks as well.
Venting through a wall is a great solution if your bathroom is adjacent to an exterior wall, but this is quite difficult to do if your house has a brick wall.
To specify, it is OK to vent a bathroom fan into soffit, but always remember that it is on a case by case basis. Homes are different, and the choice of venting will need to be a careful consideration. In short, if you have an old roof, don’t add any more holes to it and vent through your soffit. If your soffit has ventilation holes in it, consider venting through your roof or wall instead so you can spare your attic from the warm moist air. Take the time to survey your soffit and pick the best possible section to vent, preferably in a place where you can reach it easily if any repairs or cleaning is ever necessary.
There are plenty of tutorials explaining the exact procedures to vent your bathroom, but if you are unsure, then please consult a professional to help make your venting process a much easier one.