If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
If you’re considering different ways to cool down parts of your home, and don’t want to invest in a multi-room central air system, one of the options you may not have considered is a ventilation fan.
Ventilator fans are motor-powered, and suck the air out of your room instead of blowing it in. Many bathrooms have a vent fan installed because it can suck moist air out before it causes damage or mold. Range hoods, which are installed above stoves to remove smoke from your kitchen while you cook, are also considered ventilation fans.
Because they don’t blow cold air into your room, a ventilation fan cannot cool a room the same way an air conditioner or central air system can. Think of it as a way to regulate and slightly reduce the temperature of your room rather than cool it, and you’ll have the right expectation. Another difference is that ventilation fans are typically hooked up to a dedicated switch in your home rather than a thermostat or buttons on the fan itself.
If you’re curious about getting a ventilation fan for your home, we’ve compiled this guide to help you out. Whether you’re looking to keep steam out of your bathroom, or better circulate the air in a bedroom, you’ll find options to help you here.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Ventilation Fan
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best ventilation fan for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Style: “Ventilation fan” is a broad term that covers several different types of cooling devices. Some fit into a small cutout in your wall, and don’t require any ducts to be installed. Other, more powerful ventilation fans work as part of a larger cooling system, with hoses that get connected to the outside of your home.
The big difference between the two is power; larger air ventilation systems can move significantly more air around. We’ve covered both types, so you can pick the appropriate one for your situation.
Installation: The different styles of ventilation fans we just mentioned vary significantly in terms of installation time, cost, and difficulty. Most people will be able to install a single, small ventilation fan in a couple of hours with a handful of tools. Multi-room air vent systems will likely require a contractor, and weeks worth of work.
1. Panasonic WhisperCeiling DC Ventilation Fan
Panasonic’s WhisperCeiling Ventilation Fan is the right pick if you’ve decided to install one in a room with a small (or ceiling-mounted) window, like a bathroom.
The fan comes in three parts: a white cover, which is the only part you’ll see, a bracket to mount the fan into the hole cut out in your ceiling, and the motor and fan. Panasonic says its vent works with four and six-inch ducts; ducts will need to be installed inside your walls, because they route air from the inside of your home to the outside.
The fan has three speeds: 50 CFM (cubic feet per minute), 80 CFM, and 100 CFM, and the manufacturer says it only reaches 0.3 sones of loudness. Converted to decibels, it’s only about 9db, which is literally considered whisper quiet. Panasonic says its fan can also eliminate humidity, mold, mildew, and other potentially harmful pollutants from the air in your room.
If you don’t mind doing a pretty substantial home upgrade, this ventilation fan will move a lot of air without making loud noises.
Pros: Its white vent is subtle, and will likely blend in with the color of your walls.
Cons: Installing it is a significant home improvement project.
2. iLiving Wall-Mounted Exhaust Fan
ILiving’s fan is an excellent choice if you’re trying to cool down or vent a single room in your house. It measures 13 inches long and wide, and gets drilled directly into a cutout you’ve made in the side of your house. The fan has one speed, and can move air at up to 600 CFM. You can adjust its speed if you get an optional remote.
The manufacturer says that installing this ventilation fan in an attic can reduce the temperature of your home by up to 12 degrees at roughly one tenth the price of an air conditioner. Your home’s layout and construction will impact the ventilation fan’s efficiency, so keep that in mind.
The fan will be in direct contact with the outdoors, but iLiving says the aluminum it uses for its shutters prevents them from being damaged by heat and moisture. It goes on to describe the fan’s motor as “corrosion-resistant” because it’s fully enclosed.
If you only need to ventilate one room, want an effective way to reduce the temperature of your home, and don’t want to run ducts on the inside of your walls, iLiving’s fan is an excellent choice.
Pros: It has a powerful motor, and doesn’t require an extensive installation process.
Cons: You need an optional remote to change its speed.
3. MaxxAir Heavy Duty Cylinder Fan
MaxxAir’s cylinder fan lets you take a ventilation fan with you on the go.
It comes in two pieces: a 12-inch, two-speed ventilation fan with a maximum output of 2,000CFM, and a 28-inch-long hose. The idea is you install the fan in a room where you’re doing work (think painting) where the air quality may be compromised. By sticking the hose outside of the window, you can quickly vent the room while you’re working to avoid lingering smells.
Despite its large size, Maxx Air says this ventilation fan only weighs a little over a pound, so you’ll be able to easily move it to different parts of your home — including places like basements and garages that traditionally have poor air circulation.
This ventilation fan is less about temperature regulation, and more about helping prevent fumes from circulating throughout your home or work area. If you do home projects frequently, and don’t need ventilation fans installed throughout your house for other purposes, this is the right choice.
Pros: Lightweight, and powerful enough to move a lot of air very quickly.
Cons: Not recommended for home cooling.