The job of an exhaust fan is simple: to remove hot, steamy, or contaminated air from a space so it can be replaced by fresh, clean air from an open window, doorway, or vent. They’re versatile enough to be used in window frames to simply blow the unwanted air outside, or mounted in the ceiling or wall, and expel their air through ductwork or vents. Exhaust fans are commonly used in residential bathrooms, but you may be surprised at other places they’re useful—like garages, home kitchens, or anywhere else that may have a buildup of humidity, like a laundry room.
What to Consider
The main thing to consider when choosing an exhaust fan is where exactly you’re going to be using it, which will help to narrow down both the type and size of fan you’ll be needing. Also, if you can find out the square footage of the space, you’ll have a much easier time finding an effective fan with the appropriate CFM (cubic feet per minute) output.
Installation is also something to take into consideration. If you’re not comfortable working around electrical wiring, you’ll either need to choose an option that will plug directly into a wall outlet, or hire an electrician to do the work for you.
How We Selected
Since there are several types of exhaust fans out there, it can be overwhelming to find the one that fits your specific situation. To help narrow down the number of potential options, we did our best to include at least one of each type of common exhaust fans, and since most will be looking for a bathroom exhaust fan, we made sure to include a good amount of those. We also took budget into account as well, so whether you have $20 or $200 to spend, you should find an option that works for your specific situation.
Easiest Controls to Use
iLIVING ILG8SF10V Wall-Mounted Shutter Exhaust Fan
The control panel of this fan allows you to easily adjust both the speed and temperature settings, and conveniently plugs right into an existing wall outlet. We’re most impressed with the variable speed controller, as opposed to typical fans that only offer two or three set speeds to choose from. The shutters close to form a full seal against the outside when the unit is not in use, preventing any insects or debris from entering the unit.
Soft bumper strips on each shutter also help to block out exterior noise, contributing to the overall quiet operation of this fan.
- 1-year limited warranty
- Durable steel frame
Best low-budget inline option
VIVOSUN 6-Inch Inline Duct Exhaust Fan
If you don’t need a large amount of power, and just want a basic inline fan that won’t break the bank, this model could be just what you’re looking for. It’s designed to be used in 6-inch ducting, and though there will be some relatively intensive installation required, its light weight and simple design make this a quick process. Its 5.5-foot long power cord is nice and long, which can also be very helpful when it comes to installation. It’s available in 4- and 8-inch sizes as well, so you should be able to find a size that fits your ductwork.
- Low price
- Quiet operation
Best Multifunctional Bathroom Option
Delta GBR100H GreenBuilder Exhaust Fan
$115.00 (42% off)
Our favorite feature of this fan is its humidity sensor, which automatically activates the fan when a certain level of humidity is detected, making this an especially hassle-free option. Plus, if you prefer not to use this sensor, you can also use the timer setting instead. We’re also big fans of its brushless motor, which will last much longer and operate more efficiently than older brushed motors. Small, colored LEDs set inside the grill of this fan let you know when it’s running, a feature that can really come in handy with a fan as quiet as this one.
- Energy Star-certified
- Sturdy steel construction
- Relatively low CFM output
Best low-budget window unit
iPower 12-Inch Shutter Exhaust Fan
If you’re comfortable with basic wiring, and aren’t concerned as much about extra bells and whistles, this 12-inch window-mount fan could be an affordable and hassle-free choice. It’s designed to be mounted easily into a window or existing wall cutout, so if you already have one of those in place, this could be an even more convenient option. The durability of this fan makes it perfect for areas that might be too rough for less rugged models, thanks to its rust-proof shutters and corrosion resistant blades. Despite its low price, this fan still produces an impressive amount of airflow, capable of blasting 1,600 CFM.
- Not convenient if you won’t be wiring it yourself
Best Affordable Bathroom Option
Broan-NuTone HD80L Heavy Duty Ventilation Fan
We appreciate the subtle, low-profile design of this fan, and combined with its matte white finish, allow it to blend in with a variety of bathroom styles and decors. The oversized light is also a nice perk, with a diffusing lens that throws a soft, bright light over the room.
The unit itself is also rated for safe use over bathtubs and showers, as long as it’s connected to a GFCI-protected circuit. Its 80 CFM output isn’t the most powerful compared to other options on our list, but if you’re using it in a bathroom under 75 square feet, it should work just fine.
Best for Quiet Operation
Panasonic FV-0811VFL5E WhisperFit Ventilation Fan
If you’re interested in replacing your noisy, outdated bathroom fan, this Panasonic model would be a great choice, thanks to its whisper-quiet operation and easy installation.
We’re big fans of LED lights due to their low energy consumption and long lifespans, which is another valuable benefit to this fan and its bright, white LED. The convenient Flex-Z fast bracket expands to fit into your existing joists, minimizing the amount of time spent mounting it to your ceiling. You will need to perform some basic electrical wiring though, so keep that in mind.
- You can choose between 80 or 110 CFM airflow
- Very quiet
Best for Indoor Gardening
VIVOHOME VH188 4-Inch Inline Duct Exhaust Fan
This inline fan is designed to be used in either new or existing 4-inch ductwork, and its eight blades can blast air up to 2,300 RPMs. A convenient control switch allows you to easily power on the unit, as well as select between low, medium, and high speeds, and at just 3.7 pounds, is one of the lightest options on our list.
This light weight, combined with a plug and play design and universal mounting bracket, make this option fairly simple to install. Although it can be used in a variety of applications, this would be a great choice for indoor gardening or grow rooms.
Best for Powerful Airflow
AC Infinity AIRLIFT T14 Shutter Exhaust Fan
Those looking to get maximum airflow out of their exhaust fan should probably consider this wall-mount model. The 14-inch fan and powerful motor produce an impressive 2418 cubic feet of air per minute, making this a great choice for larger structures like greenhouses, garages, or restaurants.
It’s also IP-44 rated, meaning that its components will be protected from water splashes and small debris, making it more durable than most of its competitors. The included control panel makes it easy to adjust its settings, timers, and speeds, and alerts you in the event of any issues.
- Plug and play design
- Efficient motor
- May be overkill for smaller areas
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