Benefits of Bathroom Exhaust Fans & How to Install One

Many older homes do not come equipped with bathroom exhaust fans, although they have proven to offer countless benefits.  For starters, they provide “white noise” for when the bathroom is occupied, making them an especially important facet in communal bathrooms. They also improve ventilation in the room, which in turn eliminates odors, often better than your average Glade bathroom spray.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the ventilation helps combat mold, mildew, and other kinds of moisture-induced damage. Installing a bathroom exhaust fan could be the key to keeping your bathroom in tip-top shape.

How to Install a Bathroom Fan

While each manufacturer’s instructions may vary to a certain degree, there is a general process for installing bathroom fans that works best. However, prior to installing the fixture itself, it’s crucial you ensure the wiring is right. Make sure that your switch and adjoining cable are compatible for the particular unit you are installing. If there is an existing light fixture, then wiring is already in place, eliminating this step.

Prior to beginning the installation process, make sure to turn off the power, lock the circuit breaker box, and put on the necessary gear (goggles, nose/mouth mask, gloves, etc.). Consult with your municipality’s planning office about the project to see if a permit is needed. Even for minor remodels/installations, permits can often be required to prevent circuit overload.

To begin…

1)    Gain access to the attic.

This is only if the installation is taking place on the top floor of the house. You will need to remove any debris and insulation that may be blocking the installation site. If there is a ceiling joist, you should be able to fasten the fan to that joist. Otherwise, wooden braces work just as well.

2)    Assess desired location.

Before inputting the structure, outline the perimeter of the fan’s desired location. Drill pilot holes into each corner and use a jigsaw to cut the shape of the fan into the ceiling.

3)    Install the fan housing.

This is the meat and potatoes of the job. If you are installing a combination unit (light and fan), but wish to operate each one separately, you will need 3-wire cabling. If the unit has a heating function also, that is another wire to take into account. Using connectors, wire the fan to the switch. Typically, the wiring is color coordinated with corresponding colors/features listed in the manufacturer’s guide. If it’s simply a fan with no additional features, it may be as easy as connecting a black wire to a black wire, and a white wire to a white wire. Lastly, connect the housing to the ductwork for proper ventilation and secure the fan cover.

4)    Check for usability.

Once the job is done, turn the power back on, unlock the circuit breaker box, and ensure that the switch correctly operates the new exhaust fan.

Final Considerations

One last thing to take into account is the proper venting of the bathroom fan. Avoiding the use of a roof vent is ideal. The best thing to do is use flexible ducting (such as plastic) to connect the bathroom exhaust fan to a soffit vent. This is the vent found underneath the roof’s overhang/eaves.

When it comes to selecting the right bathroom fan, Broan and Panasonic are trusted brands for this kind of fixture. You will need to assess the size of the bathroom in order to determine the minimum ventilation (CFM) that is required. For a bathroom less than 50 square feet, this would be 50 CFM. Larger bathrooms require 1 CFM per square foot.

If you are planning a bathroom remodel, it will behoove you to consider installing an exhaust fan. It’s an affordable and relatively easy DIY procedure, as well as a preventative measure against mold, mildew, and other unwanted bathroom mishaps.

Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for Plumber’s Stock, a leading online retailer and distributor for plumbing/HVAC supplies and parts.

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