Mar 16, 2006 | by Wendy Weinert
Bathroom Ventilation Fans
"It doesn't do anything."
"It's noisier than an airplane."
Sound familiar? People often complain about old-style bathroom fans, but proper room ventilation no longer requires a big, ugly chrome box jutting out from the ceiling. Today, a variety of decorative, efficient fixtures combine modern style with quiet operation.
But why have a fan in the bathroom at all? It's simple - in a room that is often damp and steamy, improper ventilation can cause condensation and drive moisture into the ceiling, walls and floor. This can cause blistering paint and peeling wallpaper or even mold, mildew and rotten wood. Not only is this bad for the structure of the home, but it could also cause allergies, chemical sensitivities or serious medical conditions for residents.
Putting a ventilation fan into a bathroom is an easy addition to make, especially when you consider how much protection it can give. In fact, most building codes require either a bathroom fan or, at the very least, a window that can be opened. Whether the fan merely recirculates the air or is ducted to the outside will also be specified in the code.
Get the right look
New designs in ventilation fans give you a selection of options that add convenience and style. Some look like regular light fixtures while hiding the vent within the design, and offer shades, colors and finishes to match the room's style. Other fans have heaters and low-profile facings as well as covers that are easy to remove and clean.
Bath ventilation fans are rated by how many cubic feet of air they can move in one minute, known as the CFM rating. They will also have a sone rating, which measures how loud it is during operation. The lower the sone rating, the quieter the fan will be.
One sone is equivalent to the sound of a quiet refrigerator in a quiet kitchen. Fans typically range from 0.5 to 6.0 sones. Usually, the sone level of a bathroom fan is measured at maximum speed, but some newer products are also being tested at normal settings to provide consumers with typical sound level information. You'll find both the CFM and sone ratings printed outside on the packaging.
Where the ventilation fan sends the moist, damp air is important, too. Many people think venting into an attic space is fine, but this can cause major issues in condensation resulting in ice dams on the roof, wet insulation and mold growth. Always vent the fan's exhaust to the outside, even if it means having to put turns into the ductwork to do it.
While running the ductwork through the roof is common for ceiling-mounted fans, in colder climates ice and snow can cause clogs in the roof cap, reducing the fan's efficiency. If possible, running the ductwork through a wall or soffit is a better option, and would also eliminate the chance of causing future leaks where the vent exits through the roof.
With all the new choices now available for ventilation fans, it is simple to add this bathroom essential. Plus, if you hear the complaint that a bathroom fan is ugly, noisy and doesn't really do anything, you can present a variety of solutions that are practical, efficient and beautiful for any design.