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Wall Vs Ceiling Bathroom Fan (Pros and Cons)

Bathroom fans are vital for maintaining airflow in the bathroom, which keeps the room well ventilated and significantly reduces the risk of mildew and mold. There are various types of bathroom fans available, but the main types are wall-mounted and ceiling-mounted fans.

Wall and ceiling bathroom fans are both effective for what they do. Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to wall and ceiling fans. Let’s take a closer look at how these two types of bathroom extractor fans compare.

Bathroom wall fans are typically more difficult to install and slightly less effective than ceiling bathroom fans. Wall fans exhaust directly through the wall while ceiling fans exhaust through a duct system and vents. Both fan types cost roughly the same, but wall fans are far cheaper to install.

Bathroom Fan Availability and Design Diversity

Regarding bathroom fans, there are many design options available for both wall and ceiling-mounted fans. Both types of bathroom fans are readily available, but the area where you live may determine the availability of one type of fan or the other.

Using a wall-mounted bathroom fan is less common in colder climates due to the higher probability of backdraft, which may allow cold air from outside to enter the bathroom through the fan duct. That being said, wall-mounted bathroom fans are more easily available in Europe than they are in the USA.

Wall and ceiling bathroom fans come in various designs and styles, including dual fan-light combinations. Still, wall fans are commonly integrated with a heater as well as they may not be connected to the houses’ central thermostat system.

Related article: Best Wall Mounted Bathroom Exhaust Fans

Ease of Bathroom Fan Installation

When comparing wall and ceiling bathroom fans, the installation of each type of fan is an important consideration. Ease of installation may determine which fan is best for you.

Wall-mounted bathroom fans are more challenging to install than ceiling-mounted fans. This is because wall fans often exhaust directly through the wall. Furthermore, it is more difficult to protect the installation against backdraft.

Ceiling-mounted bathroom fans are easier to install because they are generally integrated into the ventilation system of the house, which is easier to manage and poses fewer problems than venting through the wall of the house. Additionally, and quite simply, it is easier to cut a hole in your ceiling board than through your wall!

Exhaust Effectiveness

Fans mounted in the ceiling and in the wall are both effective methods for ventilating a bathroom, but ceiling-mounted fans are more efficient.

Ceiling-mounted bathroom fans do require more ducting and therefore must be more powerful than wall-mounted fans, but the fan’s position makes it more effective as an exhaust system.

Wall-mounted fans are less effective simply because they are mounted on the wall. Hot air, steam, and moisture in the bathroom rise to the ceiling and are therefore less effectively ventilated by a wall-mounted bathroom fan.

How effective the bathroom fan is determines how quickly air and moisture are ventilated from the room, which in turn determines how quickly the bathroom surfaces will dry. 

The ceiling-mounted bathroom fan is more effective than the wall-mounted bathroom fan, even if it is smaller, less powerful, and uses more ducting.

Noise Differences

An important consideration to make when comparing these two types of bathroom fans is the noise that is generated by each fan type.

Some homeowners prefer louder bathroom fans (for privacy reasons), while others would rather have as little noise in the bathroom as possible.

In general, wall-mounted bathroom fans are significantly louder than ceiling-mounted bathroom fans. The quietest wall-mounted bathroom fan is the Panasonic FV-08WQ1 (amazon link), producing about 0.3 Sones (22.4 Decibels) of noise. This makes the Panasonic FV-08WQ1 the only wall-mounted bathroom fan on the market that is quiet enough for use in a residential bathroom.

In comparison, there are dozens of ceiling-mounted bathroom fans that produce less than 0.3 Sones of noise which is so quiet that it is almost not audible. This means that ceiling-mounted fans are typically quieter than wall fans.

Maintenance and Cleaning Requirements

All bathroom fans require maintenance and regular cleaning, but are wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted fans easier to maintain?

Both fans will accumulate dirt and grime while in use, but ceiling-mounted fans may accumulate more dirt from the duct system that the fan is attached to. This duct system will also require maintenance and cleaning.

Wall-mounted fans are far easier to reach than ceiling-mounted fans, and they do not have a duct system to clean or maintain. This means that wall-mounted bathroom fans are easier to clean and maintain than ceiling-mounted fans.

Location of External Vent

According to International Residential Code M1501.1, all ducts must terminate outside the building, and no system may be exhausted into an attic, crawl space, soffit, or ridge vent.

Ceiling-mounted bathroom fans are typically vented outside through the roof of the house. This involves installing an external vent and ducting which can be expensive, time-consuming, and challenging, but the vent can be placed anywhere on the roof.

Wall-mounted vents typically vent directly through the wall of the house. This exhaust system means that due to IRC regulations, the fan cannot be mounted too close to the roof of the house, which could reduce the effectiveness of the fan.

This helpful guide will help with the best bathroom fan installation options.

Influence of Outside Factors

There are external factors to consider when comparing these two types of bathrooms.

Bathroom fans mounted in the ceiling are less susceptible to influence from wind and weather, as the fan itself will never be exposed to these factors.

However, ceiling-mounted fans require an external vent usually placed on the roof and a comprehensive ducting system to carry the exhaust from the fan to the vent. This duct system and vent are susceptible to damage from rodents and other small animals. The vent is likely to attract nesting birds. The vent is also susceptible to weather and sun damage depending on the type of vent that is used.

Wall-mounted bathroom fans are not likely to sustain damage from rodents and small animals due to a lack of ducting, but this type of fan is far more susceptible to damage from wind, rain, snow, and other environmental factors because part of the fan is exposed to the elements.

Wall Fan vs. Ceiling Fan Cost Comparison

Bathroom fans are available in various sizes and qualities, which means there are various price points for all types of bathroom fans.

Bathroom fan prices are determined by the quality and features of the fan and the cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air that the fan is able to move.

Bathroom wall fans typically cost anywhere between $16 and $250. Low capacity wall fans with low CFM are generally very cheap. Mid-capacity fans will cost around $100, and high-end wall fans with high CFM capacity may cost $250. 

Ceiling-mounted bathroom fans cost between $16 and $200 per fan. The lower the cost, the lower the capacity and quality of the fan. More expensive fans generally are more powerful but may cost much more.

Installing a bathroom wall fan will cost between $130 and $600, including parts and labor. Installing a ceiling-mounted bathroom fan will cost between $225 and $1100, including the fan, parts, ducting, vents, and labor.

Which Fan Should You Choose?

Between the two types of fans discussed here, the ceiling-mounted bathroom fan is the more effective and quieter option.

Sometimes, a wall-mounted bathroom fan is the only option due to the way the house is built.

Choose the type of fan that you use based on the requirements of your bathroom, your budget, and the construction of your house. 

This article is a good resource to help find the best bathroom fan for you.

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Related article: Can a Bathroom Fan Be Vented Down


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