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Jun 18
2007

An Exhausting Topic


Posted by C. Mason Hearn in renovation, bathrooms

Something everyone should know about new or old bathrooms - ventilate!

As I see it, there are two reasons to have proper ventilation in a bath or powder room.  The first, to protect your home from excessive airborne moisture that will accumulate in the air during a tub bath or shower.  Moisture creates mold and deterioration of finishes and underlying structure.  Secondly, and even applicable to washrooms without showers, is the desire to exhaust (uhhh... how to politely say this?) unsavory odors which may occur from toilet use.

Bathrooms without windows are required by Code to have mechanical ventilation - such as an exhaust fan.  Regardless, window or Code, we think EVERY bathroom or half-bath should have good mechanical ventilation.  What - are you going to fully open your bathroom window in February while you shower?  Perhaps you, along with our Code writers, are exhibitionist Polar bears.

Several issues to consider when selecting ventilation systems for your bath.  First and technically foremost, assure that the ventilating capacity of the exhaust unit is proper for the size and use of the space.  A good rule of thumb is that the exhaust capacity in CFM should allow for at least 6 full exchanges of air within the space, per hour.  What does that mean?  Calculate the volume of air within the space (L x W x H in feet); multiply that number by 6.  For example, if your bath dimensions are 12' L x 8' W x 8' H = 768 CF.  Multiply by 6 = 4608 CF needed to exchange per hour.  That's 76.8 cubic feet per minute (I divided by 60)... a fairly standard 80 CFM fan will therefore work in this space.

Next issue, we hear ALL the time, "I want a bath fan that's not so NOISY!"  Good news, folks, the industry has heard your complaint, and is now creating fans that you won't even know are running.  Of course, as the SONE rating (a noise measure) goes down, the prices go up drastically.  What should you look for in terms of SONE ratings?  I would always like to have something rated around 1... which has been likened to the noise level of a refigerator running.  When budget is restrictive (and sometimes the higher velocity fans are limited as to very low ratings), we have our clients consider up to a "3" rating.  Definitely much quieter than the old models, but not ideal.

Certainly, also, there are models with bells and whistles - lights, nightlights, heatlamps, heat blowers - what else could you possibly want?  It's available.  Oh, and a great idea, to make your exhaust fan truly work as it should - use a timer switch on the wall.  You DON'T want to turn off your exhaust fan as you leave your bathroom.  Ideally, it should be left running maybe 20 minutes to complete its work.  The timer switch will then turn it off automatically.  I wish they made such a thing for my propane grille!

Cost is also an issue (as noted above)... these units can cost anywhere from $20 to almost $1,000 for a multi-port remote unit. Likewise, installation, wiring and venting to the outside can be easy or complex, depending on conditions and model.

Lastly, and often top of our customer lists, is STYLE!  Hey, world, there's always somebody making a butt-ugly everything.  For those that don't want their fans to be a "feature", there are nondescript, plain white versions, simple grilles, remote units, and even units concealed within a recessed light (we call them "can fans".  On the high-style side, there are plenty of whacky modern designs out there, also.

That's enough.  Are you exhausted?






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