Ductless (also popular as duct-free) bathroom ventilation fans aren’t very common. Indeed, only Broan makes the most ductless bathroom fans, with Panasonic making a few too.
Nevertheless, ventless bathroom fans have their advantages. The ease of installation is particularly a significant draw among shoppers who don’t want to spend the weekend venting an exhaust fan to the home’s duct system or cutting an opening in their walls/roofs to vent the stale air outside.
This guide should help you understand how these fans work and suggest a few top ductless fans to consider when you next go shopping.
Best Ductless Bathroom Fan Comparison Table
How Does a Ventless Bathroom Vent fan Work?
Any robust bathroom design would benefit from some form of ventilation. Ventilations help to handle excess humidity and strange odors.
It’s partly why the majority of people install a ducted exhaust fan in the bathroom. Most of these fans draw stale air via a duct system and dispose it either outside or into the home’s primary ductwork. In either case, the stale air is ultimately pushed outside the house, leaving the bathroom fresh and comfortable.
Ductless bathroom fans don’t have a ducting system to carry the stale air outside the house. But, they’re still quite effective. Here’s everything you need to know;
There are two broad types of ductless ventilation fans for the bathroom, i.e., standard wall/ceiling mounted and through-the-wall ventilation fans.
Ductless Ceiling/Wall-Mounted Bathroom Fans
Ductless wall or ceiling mounted bathroom ventilation fans operate by filtering the air they suck in and then blowing it back into the room. It’s a recirculation process that goes on nonstop until the fan is turned off.
The unit’s filter contains activated carbon or charcoal, which helps remove odor and other unwanted particles from the air. The clean, filtered air is then circulated back into the room.
Two factors are crucial for the effective operation of wall/ceiling mounted ductless ventilator bathroom fans;
- Filter replacement: For the best outcome, the charcoal/carbon filter must be changed often. Experts recommend changing your filter at least twice a year and once a year in homes with large families.
- Filter cleaning: It’s worth noting that some of the fans can be cleaned. Where this is the case, the fan should be cleaned every one or two months.
Cleaning and changing the filters ensure that you’re getting the cleanest possible air in your bathroom. Additionally, it increases the efficiency of the vent fan.
What’s the Point of a Ductless Bathroom Fan?
Ductless bathroom fans are a worthwhile alternative in older homes without external venting systems or situations where installing the necessary ductwork might be complicated or expensive.
While they aren’t as efficient as ducted fan systems, they are better than having nothing. Why? Because they clean your air to a degree.
The filtration process traps unwanted particles in the air, including dirt and debris. It might not “scrub” the air as much as you’d wish, but where the alternative is not venting at all, you can see how even duct-free venting becomes helpful.
Ductless Through-The-Wall Ventilation Fans
Ductless through-the-wall bathroom fans operate like typical through-the-wall air conditioners. They are installed by drilling a hole through the bathroom wall and connecting an outdoor unit to an indoor unit via a duct system.
The indoor unit is responsible for sucking stale air into the fan system while the outdoor unit disposes the contaminated air. A motor system within the unit keeps this process going as long as the fan is running. In most cases, the motor is permanently lubricated for worry-free use.
Something else you’ll notice about through-the-wall bathroom ventilation fan systems is that effort is made to prevent backdraft (cold air getting into the bathroom from outside the house). Many units use a damper for this purpose.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Ductless Bathroom Fan
The considerations will vary depending on the type of ductless fan you choose (through the wall or recirculating vent fan). Nevertheless, the following factors should be prioritized;
- Fan capacity (in CFM): Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) defines the speed at which the fan moves air. Typically, you need around 1 CFM for every square foot of space. Therefore, for a 70 square foot bathroom, you’d need around 70 CFM.
- Noise (in sones): All great bathroom fan systems produce very little noise. However, there’s always some sound as the motor revolves. Make sure that the sound is as undisruptive as possible. Many experts recommend units below 4 sones.
- Filter quality: For recirculating ventilator fans, the quality of the filtration process is a significant factor. Some fans are so effective they can even remove minor traces of unwanted smells. Some also allow you to wash and reuse the filter for years. You may even find one with double filters. It’s something you want to consider.
- Build quality: Finally, a great ductless bathroom heater is one that promises years of uninterrupted and trouble-free use. Only a quality build can guarantee such reliability. So, assess the build material, quality of the finish, the manufacturer’s reputation, and everything else to ensure that you’re getting a quality product.
Top 4 Best Ductless Bathroom Fan Reviews 2021
1. Broan-NuTone 682NT Duct-Free Bathroom Ventilation Fan
- VERSATILE FAN: Ventilation fan helps eliminate , tobacco smoke, and cooking odors. Install the compact fan between ceiling joists or wall studs - wherever it's needed most!
- EFFICIENT: Fan circulates air past replaceable activated charcoal filter to continually cycle the air in enclosed spaces
- EASY INSTALLATION: Includes fast snap-in metal housing for a quick and simple installation
- DECORATIVE: White polymeric grilles are the perfect addition to your existing decor
- FEATURES: Plug-in, removable motor with the polymeric impeller wheel for high-quality operation every time
The Broan NuTone 682NT is a standard, easy to install ventilation fan, useful in half baths or rooms where humidity isn’t a concern.
The fan circles air past a replaceable activated charcoal filter for continuous filtration. The filtration and air circulation go on noiselessly, a plug-in motor assembly with polymeric impeller ensuring efficient and powerful operation.
The first thing you’ll note about the unit is the durable steel build and polymeric grill. These are fastened with torsion springs. The grille is paintable in case you need to match it to your wall color or décor. The snap-in metal housing allows for easy installation.
This fan is ideal for removing humidity (to a small degree), tobacco smoke, and cooking odors. It effortlessly easily between ceiling joists or wall studs.
- Easy, quick installation
- Reliable charcoal filtration
- Noise-free operation
- Durable steel housing
- Decorative polymeric grilles
- Has holes all around through which air can escape
2. Broan-Nutone 682 Duct-Free Ventilation Fan
- VERSATILE FAN: Ventilation fan helps eliminate humidity, tobacco smoke, and cooking odors. Install the compact fan between ceiling joists or wall studs - wherever it's needed most!
- EFFICIENT: Fan circulates air past replaceable activated charcoal filter to continually cycle the air in enclosed spaces. Minimum Construction Space Required- 2 x 4 inches
- EASY INSTALLATION: Torsion springs grille mounting - no tools necessary for a quick and easy installation
- DECORATIVE: Paintable polymeric grilles allow you to ensure the fan is cohesive with your existing decor
- FEATURES: Plug-in, permanently lubricated motor with the Broan-designed polymeric blower wheel for high-quality operation every time. Motor snaps in and out for easy cleaning - no screws required
- 1 A
The 682 and 682NT ventilation fans are pretty much similar. You’d wonder why Broan had to assign them different names. As with the 682NT, the 682 weighs about 3.4 pounds and measures 7.1 x 3.7 x 7.1 inches. Both fans also come with a steel housing in a white finish.
Perhaps, the only difference is that this model is primarily designed for wall mounting while the 682NT supports both wall and ceiling mounting. The plug-in removable motor assembly guarantees easy maintenance while the whisper-quiet operation ensures an enjoyable bathroom time.
This fan is ideal for situations where ducted ventilation is impractical and offers relief against humidity, tobacco smoke, and cooking odors.
- Efficient charcoal filtration
- Easy torsion spring grille mounting
- Decorative, paintable polymeric grills
- Plug-in, permanently lubricated motor
- Snap-in housing for easy cleaning
- Mounting in existing sheetrock is not very easy
- Fan operation is a little weak
3. Broan-Nutone 512M Through-the-Wall Ventilation Fan
- VERSITILE: Ventilation fan eliminates heat, humidity and unwanted smells inside the garage, kitchen, laundry room or rec room
- IN-WALL INSTALLATION: Requires cutting a hole in the wall and wiring to a switch; has a built-in exterior wall cap/vent, so no ducting needed for install; motor assembly offers a fast and easy twist-lock installation
- HIGH QUALITY, EFFICIENT OPERATION: Operates at 70 CFM to efficiently ventilate rooms up to 65 sq. ft.; use for spot ventilation in a garage near a work bench, car, yard equipment or other spaces within the garage.
- FEATURES: Galvanized steel housing for superior protection against the elements; built-in bird screen
- DIMENSIONS: 6" duct; fan housing measures 8" x 8" x 5" and adjusts to fit walls from 5.25" to 10" thick
The above two fans on this list are either wall or ceiling mounted units with few installation requirements. However, the final two units are through-the-wall units meaning that significant installation work is necessary. Remember to call in a professional if you’re not very confident in your DIY skills.
This particular model from Broan is a 70 CFM ventilator that operates at six sones. A 6-sone rating is slightly loud, but not too loud to cause an alarm. A twist-lock mechanism allows the unit to be installed in walls from 4.5 inches to 9.5 inches thick.
The motor is permanently lubricated and thermally protected while the grills are louvered with polymeric material for efficient performance. The 6-inch flexible ducting is included.
This fan comes in a durable steel housing with electrically bonded epoxy paint and features spin-on grille installation. It is HVI Certified.
- Powerful 70 CFM fan
- Uses variable speed wall control (sold separately)
- Remote controlled (accessories sold separately)
- Built-in damper minimizes backdraft
- Polymeric fan blades ensure efficient performance
- No humidity sensing
- No radiation dampers
- Slightly loud at six sones
4. Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall 70 CFM Wall Mounted Fan
- Easy-Install Ventilation Fan: Through-the-wall mounting provides ventilation, works with 8” ducts
- Quiet Fan and Motor: Uses a propeller fan driven by a capacitor motor that draws clean air in
- Clean Air Ventilation Fan: Designed to improve air quality and eliminate humidity and pollutants
- Guaranteed to Last: Panasonic ventilation fans use less energy to move larger volumes of air
- Code-Compliant Ventilation: Energy Star certified and complies with the latest codes and standards
Another through-the-wall bathroom ventilation fan, the 1.1-sone Panasonic FV-08WQ1, is an 8-inch duct, 70 CFM unit that works best in medium-sized bathrooms. It uses a propeller fan driven by a capacitor motor. The motor is not only very efficient but also incorporates a thermal cut-off system for safety protection.
The unit uses a double-suction blower wheel to move stale air out of the house. The motor draws in air from both sides, meaning that more air enters the unit at any given time.
Made from heavy-gauge zinc galvanized steel, Panasonic FV-08WQ1 is designed for continuous, trouble-free use. It features a permanently lubricated motor and high-quality components.
The FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall is Energy Star Qualified and comes with a 6-year motor and 3-year parts warranty.
- Galvanized steel housing
- Thermal-cut protection
- Built-in dampers prevent backdraft
- Energy Star Qualified
- 6-year motor warranty
- 3-year parts warranty
- Most expensive product on this list
- No remote control
Duct-free bathroom heaters are a worthwhile alternative to ducted bathroom fans. They might not be as efficient or famous, but in situations where having a ducted exhaust fan is impossible, a ductless option is better than no venting.
As long as you pick the right one, you’re guaranteed a much more breathable bathroom devoid of foul smells and unhealthy particles.
Other Bathroom Fan Options