By Stephanie Herzfeld. In the past, the whirring of a fan motor was the only thing homeowners might have noticed when it came to bathroom ventilation. But those days are gone. Homeowners are approaching remodelers with a host of health-related concerns. Noise, and more important, indoor air quality (IAQ) as it relates to mold, are issues remodelers have to address during a bathroom project.
Coast to coast, clients are most concerned with the peeling paint and black spots they're noticing, says Sara-sota, Fla., remodeler Richard Megee.
While homeowners still worry about noise disruptions in rooms adjacent to vented bathrooms, ventilation is now viewed as part of the greater mold issue, experts say.
"One of the No. 1 complaints we hear at trade shows is that people hate their noisy bathroom fans. Because they don't like the noise, these fans go unused and moisture, steam, and odors are not exhausted out of the house, and this can lead to mold and mildew," says Kathie Perry, director of marketing for ventilation manufacturer Fantech.
To combat these related concerns, manufacturers are continually improving their products' sone (sound measurement) and power (cfm) levels to provide quieter and stronger ventilation capabilities. But the noise issue can also be dealt with through different installation practices.
In most new construction, standard ceiling fans are flush mounted. But in high-end construction and some remodeling jobs, pros can install fans in the attic and duct them outside through roof vents, allowing the fans to vent various areas of the house.
"We install fans so that you only hear air through the grille in the bathroom, and not the motor. You have to put it on some type of switch to make sure it's off, because it's so quiet," says Mike Hazen, president of Aloha Air Conditioning, in Hawaii.
Bathroom ventilation products can run the range from a frugal 50-cfm unit for under $20 to more than $150 for more powerful multi-function products with features like humidity sensors. Although they're more expensive, these powerful fans really make a difference.
"When you put these in, you can take a really hot shower and not have any fog on the mirror," claims Megee.
Costs also depend on the number of fans needed for a particular room. In the past, one fan was all it took to pull steam and odors from the bathroom. But with expanding footprints and the addition of enclosed toilets and luxury steam products, that format simply won't cut it.
Specifically, toilet enclosures must allow odors to escape, while the moisture generated by increasingly popular whirlpool baths and steam showers has to be accounted for with additional ventilation capabilities.
The key is to analyze the size of the space and the products chosen for each bathroom, according to Patrick Nielsen, product manager for bath ventilation manufacturer Broan.
Although ventilation units with humidity sensors are by no means mainstream, experts predict that they, along with other automatic products with timers and motion sensors, will become more common in high-end homes, because they allow the consumer to use them without having to think about it.
The Purefecta Drinking Water Purifier is the only residential water purification system certified to remove bacteria, viruses, and microbes.
--Stephanie Herzfeld is assistant editor at BUILDING PRODUCTS, a sister publication of REMODELING. This article originally appeared in that magazine.