Noisy bathroom exhaust fans are the worst. It’s just a fan; it shouldn’t be that noisy. Sadly, however, many fans don’t check the ‘whisper quiet’ mark. That’s why we compiled a list of the quietest bathroom fans currently on the market.
Here’s the deal:
The main source of noise from a bathroom exhaust fan is the fan motor. Cheap and poorly designed motors produce quite a lot of noise. It’s not usual for a bathroom fan with a cheap motor to generate more than 4 sones (48 dB) of noise.
Good fan motors will run at incredibly low noise levels. These silent bathroom exhaust fans will generate less than 2 sones (38 dB).
How to find out which bathroom exhaust fans are actually quiet?
Simple. You just look at the specification sheet, check the noise levels, and compare several models. You make a list of bathroom exhaust fans with the lowest noise levels to the highest noise levels.
Not everybody is keen on opening 100s of spec sheets, however. That’s why we did exactly that (and ranked the best very quiet bathroom exhaust fans) to help everybody avoid picking a noisy fan. In the list below (complete with spec-by-spec comparison table) you will find the quietest bathroom fans with below 0.9 sones (26.5 dB).
Now, if you want the best quiet bathroom exhaust fan, checking the noise levels is not enough. Low noise levels are worth nothing if the bathroom fan has other issues. You also have to make sure the fan has great performance overall as well. That’s why you need to check:
- CFMs (adequate fan sizing). We will show you how to adequately size a fan to our bathroom size.
- Energy efficiency (Energy Star certificates). Energy Star certificate also ensures that most bathroom fans (both 10 to 89 CFM fan and 90 to 200 CFM) will have a below 2.0 sones noise levels. The cut off limit for the high CFM fans (201 to 500 CFM) is 3.0 sones. You can read more about energy efficiency and low noise levels of fans at Energy Star website (check for ‘Bathroom and Utility Room Fans’).
- Useful add-ons (light, humidity sensors, installation difficulty). Very quiet bathroom fans with light are especially popular.
Before we check the list, comparison table, and reviews of the 5 super quiet bathroom fans, we will cover the basics.
We will look into everything you need to know about bathroom fan noise levels (noise source, units – Sones vs dB, what is considered a quiet bathroom exhaust fan). We will also cover how to adequately size a quiet fan for your bathroom size; this is an essential thing you have to figure out before buying any bathroom fan.
Let’s start with the noise levels:
Quiet Bathroom Fans: All You Need To Know About Noise Levels
There are two sources of noise every fan, including bathroom exhaust fans, have:
- Rotation of fan blades and generated airflow (measured in CFM).
- Sound of fan motor running the blades.
Between these two, the fan blade rotation and airflow are unavoidable. If we want to get ventilation, the blades have to rotate and the airflow has to be generated.
What producers of quiet bathroom exhaust fans can focus on, however, is the fan motor. Here’s where quiet fans differ from loud or noisy fans: Quiet fans have silent motors, and loud fans have noisy motors.
The generated noise levels are measured in sones. For almost every HVAC appliance, from ACs to furnaces, we use decibels (dB). That’s why the use of sones as a unit of loudness is a bit unusual. However, if we want to understand how loud a particular bathroom fan is, we have to understand what sones mean.
We have explained in-depth the conversion from sones to dB in this article, but for selecting the quietest bathroom fans, you only need to know that it’s possible to convert sones to dB (using dB = 33.2×log10(Sones) + 28 equation). To better understand how loud or quiet a certain bathroom fan is, you can use this sones to dB conversion chart:
|0.1 Sone||-5.20 dB|
|0.2 Sone||4.79 dB|
|0.3 Sone||10.64 dB|
|0.4 Sone||14.79 dB|
|0.45 Sone||16.49 dB|
|0.5 Sone||18.00 dB|
|0.6 Sone||20.63 dB|
|0.7 Sone||22.86 dB|
|0.8 Sone||24.78 dB|
|0.9 Sone||26.48 dB|
|1 Sone||28.00 dB|
|1.1 Sones||29.37 dB|
|1.2 Sones||30.63 dB|
|1.3 Sones||31.78 dB|
|1.4 Sones||32.85 dB|
|1.5 Sones||33.85 dB|
|1.6 Sones||34.78 dB|
|1.7 Sones||35.65 dB|
|1.8 Sones||36.48 dB|
|1.9 Sones||37.25 dB|
|2 Sones||37.99 dB|
|2.1 Sones||38.70 dB|
|2.2 Sones||39.37 dB|
|2.3 Sones||40.01 dB|
|2.4 Sones||40.62 dB|
|2.5 Sones||41.21 dB|
|2.6 Sones||41.78 dB|
|2.7 Sones||42.32 dB|
|2.8 Sones||42.85 dB|
|2.9 Sones||43.35 dB|
|3 Sones||43.84 dB|
|3.5 Sones||46.06 dB|
|4 Sones||47.99 dB|
|4.5 Sones||49.69 dB|
|5 Sones||51.21 dB|
|6 Sones||53.83 dB|
|7 Sones||56.06 dB|
|8 Sones||57.98 dB|
A standard bathroom fan will generate anywhere between 3 to 5 sones (that’s 43.84 dB to 51.21 dB sones). Anything about that we consider a noisy bathroom fan.
Here is a general categorization of bathroom fan loudness levels:
- Below 0.9 Sones: Ultra-quiet bathroom fans.
- 1.0-2.9 Sones: Quiet bathroom fans.
- 3.0-5.0 Sones: Standard-noise bathroom fans.
- 5.1 Sones and above: Loud bathroom fans.
As you will see in the comparison table of the quietest bathroom exhaust fans, all of the selected fans have a noise level range below 0.9 sones and are thus considered ‘ultra-quiet bathroom fans’.
The Bigger The Fan, The Noisier It Is (At Least Generally)
One key thing to remember is that bigger fans (those with higher CFM airflow output) tend to be louder. That’s simply because they require:
- Bigger fan motor.
- Longer fan blades or faster spinning fan blades.
- Higher generated airflow (high CFMs generate a whooshing sound).
That doesn’t mean high CFM bathroom fans can’t be quiet; some of them are extremely quiet. The implication here is that we can’t equate fans and their all noise levels equally.
To adequately determine which bathroom fan is quiet, we need to take airflow (CFM) into account. That’s why – as you will see in the comparison table below – we need to figure out a metric that puts all fans, both big and small, on the same level.
The easiest metric here to use is ‘CFM per sone’. Namely, this tells us how many CFM a given bathroom fan would generate if it produced 1 sone of noise.
Example: A 120 CFM bathroom fan generates 1.5 sones of noise. That means that it would produce only 80 CFM airflow if it were to run at 1 sone. A quiet 120 CFM bathroom fan generates much less noise, let’s say 0.5 sones. That means that if it were to run at 1 sone noise levels, it would generate 240 CFM airflow.
Here we have a case between 80 CFM per sone and 240 CFM per sone fans; the second one is obviously much quieter than the first one.
In the table below, you will see calculate ‘CFM per 1 sone’ metrics for every silent bathroom fan. The quietest standard-noise fan can only manage to generate 33 CFM per 1 sone. All the selected whisper quiet bathroom fans in the table can generate more than 100 CFM per 1 sone; that’s how much quieter they are than a standard-noise fan.
With the standardization of noise levels for bathroom fans figured out, we have to talk about the most important bathroom exhaust fan specification in general. That’s the CFM airflow output for adequately sizing the fan to the bathroom size:
What Size Quiet Bathroom Fan Do I Need?
One thing you just cannot neglect when choosing a fan for your bathroom is the size of the fan you need. This is obviously also true even for the quietest most silent bathroom fans.
The size of fans is determined by airflow and measured in CFMs (Cubic Feet Per Minute). As a general HVAC ventilation rule of thumb, a fan should be able to achieve 8 ACH. That means it should have enough airflow to change all the air in the bathroom 8 times per hour (or once every 7.5 minutes).
Based on this rule of thumb, we can adequately (with only about 7% inaccuracy) determine the size of the bathroom fan using this simple rule:
1 CFM per sq ft.
That means that a 50 sq ft bathroom will need a 50 CFM fan, for example. A bigger 120 sq ft bathroom will need about 120 CFM fan. You can read more about how to precisely calculate the size of the bathroom fan in CFMs here.
Here is a chart of bathroom CFM fan sizes for bathrooms with 8 ft ceiling height:
|Bathroom Size (Sq Ft):||Required CFM:|
|20 sq ft||21 CFM|
|30 sq ft||32 CFM|
|40 sq ft||43 CFM|
|50 sq ft||53 CFM|
|60 sq ft||64 CFM|
|70 sq ft||75 CFM|
|80 sq ft||85 CFM|
|90 sq ft||96 CFM|
|100 sq ft||107 CFM|
|120 sq ft||128 CFM|
|140 sq ft||149 CFM|
|150 sq ft||160 CFM|
|160 sq ft||171 CFM|
|180 sq ft||192 CFM|
|200 sq ft||213 CFM|
|220 sq ft||235 CFM|
|240 sq ft||256 CFM|
|250 sq ft||267 CFM|
|260 sq ft||277 CFM|
|280 sq ft||299 CFM|
|300 sq ft||320 CFM|
|400 sq ft||427 CFM|
|500 sq ft||533 CFM|
Note: Panasonic bathroom fans – considered to be the best bathroom exhaust fans overall – created new SmartFlow tech (Pick-A-Flow selector). This is the easiest way how to avoid choosing an inappropriately sized bathroom fan.
SmartFlow tech gives you a three-stage option to choose adequate CFM airflow. Example: Just by rotating a switch, a Panasonic bathroom fan can generate either 110 CFM, 130 CFM, or 150 CFM airflow (for bigger bathrooms) and 50 CFM, 80 CFM, or 110 CFM airflow (for smaller bathrooms).
With all this in mind, we can now go through the list of the best quietest bathroom fans currently on the market:
5 Super Quiet Bathroom Exhaust Fans
- Quietest Bathroom Exhaust Fan (Best Of The Best): Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling
- Whisper Quiet Bathroom Fan With Humidity Sensor: KAZE APPLIANCE SEP120H Ultra Quiet
- Super Quiet Bathroom Fan With Light: Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense
- Very Quiet 80 CFM Bathroom Exhaust Fan: Broan NuTone QTXE080
- Cheapest Silent Bathroom Fan: BV BV-BF-01 Ultra-Quiet
1. Quietest Bathroom Exhaust Fan (Best Of The Best): Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling
|Noise Levels:||0.3, 0.5, or 0.7 Sones|
|CFM per 1 Sone:||370 CFM/Sone|
|CFM (Airflow):||110 CFM, 130 CFM, or 150 CFM|
|Bathroom Size:||100 – 140 Sq Ft|
|Dimensions (WxDxH):||13 x 13 x 8.5 Inches|
Of all the quiet bathroom exhaust fans, Panasonic fans are considered the best in many regards, including the extremely low noise levels. The quietest Panasonic bathroom fan is the Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling model; this is currently the best quiet bathroom exhaust fan on the market.
First of all, the Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling has a three-stage CFM output option (Pick-A-Flow speed selector). You can choose between 110 CFM, 130 CFM, and 150 CFM airflow output. This SmartFlow tech enables you to install the fan in standard and larger bathrooms (100-140 sq ft is the perfect size bathroom for these CFMs).
Every CFM output produces a different amount of noise. Even the strongest CFM output – 150 CFM – produces less than 1.0 sones of noise (0.9 sones, to be exact). At the lowest CFM setting – 110 CFM – the Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling will produce only 0.3 sones of noise. That’s incredibly low for a substantial CFM output.
If you calculate the CFM per 1 sone, you will see that Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling could generate 370 CFM airflow if it were to run at 1.0 sones. That makes it one of the quietest possible bathroom exhaust fans. Most standard-noise fans will only generate less than 50 CFM; that means we can say the Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling is about 6-8 times quieter than a standard fan.
On top of that, Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling has an Energy Star certificate (in addition to ASHRAE 62.2 compliance, of course). This means it’s will be very inexpensive to run even for a prolonged time.
The only drawback Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling has is the absence of light. Light can be somewhat useful on a bathroom fan.
All in all, Panasonic FV-1115VQ1 WhisperCeiling is the best quietest bathroom fan by far. Panasonic is the best bathroom fan producer, the noise levels are incredibly low (down to 0.3 sones) for a substantial 100+ CFM airflow, and it’s available for a reasonable price for such a reliable and quiet fan:
2. Whisper Quiet Bathroom Fan With Humidity Sensor: KAZE APPLIANCE SEP120H Ultra Quiet
|Noise Levels:||0.3 Sones|
|CFM per 1 Sone:||400 CFM/Sone|
|CFM (Airflow):||120 CFM|
|Bathroom Size:||110 Sq Ft|
|Dimensions (WxDxH):||11.38 x 10.5 x 7.63 inches|
If you tally up all the quietest bathroom fans with a humidity sensor and look at the noise levels, the KAZE SEP120H comes up on the top. This is a superbly-engineered quiet humidity sensing bathroom fan that will ensure below 60% relative humidity levels in your bathroom.
KAZE SEP120H is a 120 CFM fan, adequately sized for 110 sq ft bathrooms. Despite the high coverage and high CFM output, the noise levels are incredibly low. Even when running at 100% output, the KAZE SEP120H will generate only 0.3 sones of noise (that’s about 10 dB). Most of us don’t even have ears that could detect 0.3 sones.
If you check the theoretical CFM per 1 sone, you can see that this bathroom fan could generate an all-in-all 400 CFM/sone output. That’s a record-breaking silent performance; given this spec, the KAZE SEP120H is the single quietest bathroom exhaust fan.
On top of being extremely quiet, it also comes with a built-in humidistat. Humidistat monitors the moisture levels in your bathroom. When the relative humidity levels after a shower fall below 60%, the KAZE SEP120H will automatically shut itself off.
That has a double advantage: you know you have adequately low humidity levels in your bathroom (less worrying about mold growth in the corners) and you don’t have to manually turn off the fan.
Unfortunately, the KAZE SEP120H doesn’t have a light. That is the main drawback of otherwise the most silent bathroom exhaust fan.
All in all, if you want an absolutely quietest bathroom fan with humidity sensor (with 400 CFM/sone output), the KAZE SEP120H is the right choice:
3. Super Quiet Bathroom Fan With Light: Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense
|Noise Levels:||0.4, 0.6, or 0.9 Sones|
|CFM per 1 Sone:||125 CFM/Sone|
|CFM (Airflow):||50 CFM, 80 CFM, or 110 CFM|
|Bathroom Size:||50 – 100 Sq Ft|
|Dimensions (WxDxH):||13 x 13 x 7.38 Inches|
Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense is a bathroom fan for everybody who needs a whisper quiet bathroom fan with light. The combination of inclusion of light and below 1.0 sones (28 dB) noise levels makes the Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense one of the most popular bathroom fans in general.
As all Panasonic bathroom fans with SmartFlow tech, the Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense can produce different amounts of CFM airflow. This particular model can switch between 50 CFM, 80 CFM, and 110 CFM output; basically, you have 3 bathroom fan sizes in 1 unit.
With this CFM output, the Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense is most appropriate for a 50-100 sq ft bathroom. The majority of bathrooms in the US and UK are within this square footage; this is another reason for the popularity of Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense.
The noise levels are incredibly low: below 1.0 sones for any output. 50 CFM output generates only 0.4 sones of noise and even the highest 110 CFM output generates merely 0.9 sones of noise. This yields a 125 CFM/sone theoretical output (given the CFM and noise levels relationship).
Everybody also loves a quiet bathroom fan with light, and that’s the key to Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense success. You get a ceiling LED light mounted on the bathroom fan. This LED light can lighten up the entire bathroom.
On top of that, the Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense is energy-efficient (it even has an Energy Star certificate). It can’t be used in bigger 120+ sq ft bathrooms, however, and it tends to have a higher price tag than most noisy bathroom fans.
In short, Panasonic FV-0511VQCL1 WhisperSense is the best quiet bathroom fan with light. It is appropriate for majority of bathroom sizes, has very low running noise levels and is very energy efficient:
4. Very Quiet 80 CFM Bathroom Exhaust Fan: Broan NuTone QTXE080
|Noise Levels:||0.3 Sones|
|CFM per 1 Sone:||270 CFM/Sone|
|CFM (Airflow):||80 CFM|
|Bathroom Size:||75 Sq Ft|
|Dimensions (WxDxH):||11.38 x 7.63 x 10.5 Inches|
Broan NuTone is one of the most well-known brands in the bathroom fan industry. They make several quiet bathroom fans; the quietest and most popular whisper-silent model is the Broan NuTone QTXE080.
This is an 80 CFM fan adequately sized for up to 75 sq ft bathrooms. It has one of the lowest noise levels for any 80 CFM bathroom fan; it will generate only 0.3 sones of noise. That means it has a theoretical output of 270 CFM per sone.
It has an Energy Star certificate and is energy-efficient. The installation process is very simple and user-friendly (for DIY installation)
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a light.
All in all, if you’re looking for a super quiet Broan NuTone bathroom fan, the Broan NuTone QTXE080 is the quietest model:
5. Cheapest Silent Bathroom Fan: BV BV-BF-01 Ultra-Quiet
|Noise Levels:||0.8 Sones|
|CFM per 1 Sone:||110 CFM/Sone|
|CFM (Airflow):||90 CFM|
|Bathroom Size:||85 Sq Ft|
|Dimensions (WxDxH):||12.6 x 12.6 x 7.6 Inches|
If you’re looking for a cheap quiet bathroom fan, you have to know that Panasonic and Broan NuTone are not the most inexpensive brands. BV is a fairly unfamiliar brand but their BV BV-BF-01 Ultra-Quiet bathroom fan is very quiet and it has all-in-all good specifications.
This is a quiet exhaust fan with up to 85 sq ft bathroom coverage. While generating 90 CFM, it generates 0.8 sones of noise.
It’s one of the few quiet Energy Star rated bathroom fans that costs less than $100. This is the lowest you can go with price without sacrificing performance or raising noise levels above 2.0 sones.
All in all, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly silent bathroom fan, the BV BV-BF-01 Ultra-Quiet is a viable choice:
This has been an overview of bathroom fan noise levels and a selection of the quietest bathroom exhaust fans. Hopefully, now you have enough knowledge to make an educated pick of a quiet fan that best fits your bathroom size and your personal preferences.