Fricking Fan Vents!! How do they work?

Fricking fan vents, how do they work?

Does your bathroom feel wet and nasty?  Read on and we will share some cheap fixes for preventing mold that work for nearly every bathroom.

What’s the loud thing on your bathroom ceiling that no-one turns on?  It’s a fricking Bathroom Fan Vent!  The purpose of bathroom fan vents is to ventilate moisture after hot showers and baths– some people call them ‘fart fans’ but clearing out stinky air is secondary to preventing long-term moisture damage.

fricking template

How do we inspect them?

By code, a window satisfies the ventilation requirement but we always recommend mechanical fan/vents because who is going to open a window during the Winter??  (Certainly no-one in my family!)  As home inspectors we look for a working fan vent in every bathroom with a tub or shower (things that produce vapor) which is why we are less concerned about half bathrooms.  During an inspection we try to verify that these vents exit to the exterior.

What could possibly go wrong?

The mold can get so bad at bathroom ceilings that it can look like a roof leak (see picture).  The damage that an improper installation can cause depends on the habits of the occupants.  When bathrooms are rarely or lightly used it’s less of a concern, however, bathrooms that are used regularly by several occupants that enjoy nice long hot showers will produce a lot of vapor– and where is all that moisture going?  Hopefully the moisture is vented to the outside but too often it’s going into the ceiling or attic which causes mold/moisture issues over the long-term.

mold at bathroom ceiling
Moldy bathroom ceiling

Good, better, and best repairs…

For almost every category of home improvement there are ‘good’, ‘better’ and ‘best’ repairs. ‘Good’ actually mean ‘not great’ but sometimes given a budget or a situation that’s all that can be done at the time. Good repairs tend to be cheaper and easier to install and more of a short-term fix.  The best repairs should, in most cases, be installed by a professional– they are costlier but yield the best results over the long-term. Below are some ideas for repairs that should be helpful in nearly every situation and budget:

‘Good’ Repairs (not great)

One idea is to threaten your family repeatedly, like I have, that if they don’t turn on the fan vent during hot showers that the bathroom will be renovated instead of buying family season passes to Dollywood! (good luck with this strategy)

-OR- Install a timer.  Installing a timer is nice but there is no guarantee that the occupants will actually turn it on. Timers require ‘enlightened’ occupants, most homes need a fool-proof strategy.

-OR- For bathrooms that don’t have a window or a fan vent or if the fan vent is broken and there isn’t the budget for a professional installation yet: a small dehumidifier could be purchased in the meantime. Remember it’s only going to dehumidify until the bucket fills up and then it needs to be emptied.  Also be sure to keep plug in appliances away from the plumbing fixtures! This is not a permanent solution.

‘Better’ Repairs

A simple and effective idea is to combine the fan and light switches together- this is a fairly easy project.  This solution forces occupants to use the fan if they want light.   To cover the abandoned switch use a blank face plate or a blank toggle.

-OR- This is my favorite and guests will be impressed with how fancy (and dry!) your bathroom is. Buy a Motion sensor switch which will turn on the fan automatically whenever anyone walks into the bathroom (make sure that the sensor switch has adequate wattage (600W minimum) for fan/vents.  As long as the sensor is working your bathroom will be ventilated when someone is in it.  If they don’t like to hear the vent when they are just checking their look in the mirror– too bad!

‘Best’ Repairs

Open up your checkbook and call a professional to install a powerful 110cfm fan (or higher) with a humidity or motion sensor (Like the Panasonic Whisper Series).  Ask your installer to verify that the fan/vent is vented to the exterior.  This is a very quiet and efficient fan/vent- you won’t even notice it working to keep your bathroom dry.

Looking for the exit to a bathroom fan vent
Inspecting a basement fan vent that doesn’t exit outside

In conclusion:

Bathroom fan vents are intended to prevent moisture damage in your bathroom.  For most people, the cheapest and most convenient option is to combine the light/fan switch or installing a motion sensor…  For Do-it-yourself folks this could cost less than $50! Dollywood here we come! (or whatever your dream destination may be…)

Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed it and look out for similar content coming out soon!

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