Common questions about bathroom exhaust fans

You’ve probably used the exhaust fan in your bathroom before—have you ever wondered if you really need it? Older homes were often built without them, and residents simply opened windows to ventilate their bathrooms.

Of course, there’s almost nowhere in Oklahoma where opening the windows after a shower is a functional year-round solution, with the varied weather we have here. And more importantly, modern exhaust fans are much more efficient at reducing humidity than opening a window is.

We receive a lot of questions about bathroom exhaust systems from homeowners. Here are answers to some of the most common ones.

What’s the investment for adding a new exhaust system to a bathroom?

That depends on several factors, including how high-end you want to go. For a new installation, you’ll want to consider several things:

  • Exhaust fan unit: Some of these are just exhaust fans, but some include heating and lighting elements too.
  • Venting: Your exhaust system will need to vent outside the home, not into the attic or a crawlspace. Longer vent runs will cost a little more due to materials and the labor to complete the work.
  • Power and switches: We typically either add a new switch plate or expand one that’s already in place.
  • Multiple contractors: Typically an electrical contractor would handle adding new switches and connecting to the power source, while an HVAC contractor would add the ventilation system.

Since there are so many variables, we typically will not price a new installation until we have seen the home and can accurately gauge the work needed. You may want to be wary of someone who will give you a quote over the phone without seeing your home first.

How much does it cost to replace my existing fan?

This depends on your unit. Some economy units can be replaced for $150. But larger, energy-saving units can cost much more. Our clients often purchase the unit they want themselves. If that’s your route, consider these things:

  • Size of the existing and new units: If they’re the same size, it’s usually an easy swap. But if the existing unit is larger or smaller than the new one, that will require filling in the gap or cutting a large hole in the sheetrock.
  • Features of existing and new units: If your new unit has heat and light but your old unit was solely an exhaust fan, you will probably need a reconfiguration of the existing switches and switch plates.

Can’t I just go without an exhaust system in my bathroom?

You certainly can! Exhaust systems are routinely installed during the home building process, but older homes don’t always have them. You may experience some humidity issues, but depending on your home environment, you may not.

I feel some drafty, cold air coming from my exhaust vents. Is something wrong?

This is a tough one to answer without physically seeing the exhaust system. Some of the questions we typically ask clients, though, may help you determine the cause.

  • Is the ventilation properly sealed? If it isn’t, cold air from your attic or crawl space could be getting into the exhaust vent.
  • Is there a damper on your vent cap? Dampers (movable flaps) on the cap to the vent system can sometimes prevent air from getting into the vent when the exhaust fan is not running. There are ‘draft blockers’ you can put in the exhaust vent, which help move air one-way, preventing back drafts.
  • Are your dampers obstructed? Something as simple as a twig could prevent your dampers from closing and doing their job, leading to a draft.

If you have further questions about your existing exhaust system or about installing a new one, let’s have a conversation. We’d be happy to talk about what makes sense for your budget and your needs.

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