The great indoors...
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Last Updated on December 20, 2019 By Dave
Our bathrooms are arguably the most hardworking areas of our homes. They have the most pressures to withstand. Not only do they provide us with water on demand, but they must also constantly endure it. Steam and condensation are unavoidable in this space and neither is kind to fixtures and fittings.
Homeowners know damp is the enemy for furnishings. So, what’s the best way to prevent damp in a space that’s designed to be wet? Fortunately, there’s a simple answer to this question and it’s the extractor fan. Extractors fans work by directing wet air to an outlet to be safely deposited outdoors where it won’t cause problems for floors, walls and ceilings. The result is a much drier bathroom even if it’s used regularly by a large family.
Installing extractor fans is a simple way to improve ventilation and prevent a bathroom from accumulating moisture and, eventually, damp. Persistent wetness on wood and plaster fixtures can quickly lead to rot. If you use an extractor every time you bathe or shower (and for a time afterwards), you should find the room dries out quicker, doesn’t smell musty and stays in tip-top condition for longer.
Despite all of these benefits, some homes are still without extractor fans. Others have a fan which is too small for the size of their bathroom or inadequate for their family routines. While these affordable devices aren’t essential for new builds, they probably should be. For a moderate amount of money, families can protect their bathrooms from damp for many years without resorting to fancy gadgets or technologies.
Extractor fans are useful for all bathrooms but there are some homes which can just about manage without them. The better the ventilation in the room, the lower the need. Bathrooms with narrow or small windows, bathrooms with no windows and very small bathrooms are strongly advised to install a fan. Without good airflow, the room will stay wet and its risk of developing damp problems will increase.
It should be noted, if you have a large window that rarely gets opened, it won’t do anything helpful for your bathroom. In this case, your need for an extractor fan is just as pressing because you’re not creating airflow. You could start opening the window when the bathroom is in use, install an extractor fan or both.
If your extractor fan is good enough and appropriately sized, you shouldn’t need to open a window at the same time, but it does help. The fan draws wet air from inside the bathroom and directs it outdoors. The open window introduces newer, drier air. Using both methods at the same time is the fastest way to completely dry out a bathroom.
The reality is most of us don’t think much about the ventilation in our bathrooms. Even properties with larger windows tend to downplay or misunderstand the need for it. It means extractor fans are recommended for most properties. If you would like to install one, you’ll need to find a qualified electrician who can handle the wiring safely.
There is no specific location an extractor fan needs to be installed. As long as it can be connected to the property’s existing wiring, you can put it almost anywhere you like. Commonly, these devices are placed on the ceiling or on a bathroom wall that has an outside surface. The closer your extractor fan is to the outside of the property, the less ducting work you’ll need to make it operational.
There are extractor fans in lots of different sizes and styles. When browsing for one, keep a few simple shopping tips in mind. Yes, you want the fixtures in your bathroom to be complementary and match one another. However, it’s more important to get a fan which is suitably sized and able to handle usage requirements.
Look at the Air Movement Rating when shopping for extractor fans. This indicator of quality gets measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Keep an eye out for these letters when considering specific products. The greater the CFM rating, the faster the fan can move and the quicker it will dry out the room. The higher the CFM rating, the more powerful the fan essentially. The average cost increases with intensity of power, as you might expect, but it’s not necessarily a good reason to go for a smaller product.
Smaller, less efficient fans in large bathrooms have to be left running for much longer. Whereas a larger extractor fan is going to dry out the room in half the time and use half the electricity. It’s worth considering this when deciding what type of ventilation product to purchase for your home. The absolute minimum you should consider unless you have an extremely small bathroom is 80CFM.
For those who want to be extra precise, there’s a quick calculation you can do to determine the CFM rating your bathroom really needs. First, calculate the volume of your bathroom. This is done by multiplying its height by its width by its length (height x width x length). Then, multiply this volume figure by ten (the minimum number of complete air changes required within one hour). The resulting figure should tell you, as a general guideline, what size extractor fan to consider.
For instance, if your bathroom has a total volume of 30m3, you’ll be left with an airflow requirement of 300 m3/h. Look for an extractor fan that matches this guide size. If you want a fan that works faster, times the volume by a greater number of complete air changes.
Various factors can affect the cost of an extractor fan and its related installation expenses. We’ve already talked about size; the larger the fan, the more it is likely to cost. The price increases if you want special features such as a ‘quiet fan’ which performs at a high level without causing a lot of noise disturbance.
Quiet fans are popular, but they are only necessary for properties with bathrooms and bedrooms in close proximity. Or bathroom users who like to take longer baths in quiet conditions. The majority of homeowners don’t mind or notice the whirring noise of the fan because they don’t spend enough time in the bathroom, at each visit, to be frustrated. You can consider a quiet fan, of course, but it may not be necessary for your home.
We’d say a more important detail is whether the extractor fan switches on and off independently or in tandem with the light switch. Both options are common. The benefit of the latter is a consistently operational fan and, as a result, the best quality airflow. It’s a helpful idea for families with children who can’t always be trusted to turn the extractor fan on during or after a shower. Some slightly pricier versions include a humidistat sensor which automatically switches the extractor on when moisture levels rise above a certain point.
It’s difficult to settle on an average cost for an extractor fan because they come in so many styles and forms. The average household spends £40 to £65 on their bathroom fan but this doesn’t include installation costs or account for the fact a larger home might need a larger extraction device.
Again, a general guideline for a complete installation (including the fan and labour) is £350. On average, this is the price homeowners are charged for a full installation which creates a new bathroom fan where there wasn’t one before. The good news is most properties already have some kind of extraction device. It may be outdated or too small but, if it’s there, your electrician can use existing components for the new installation. In this case (replacing an old fixture), the average cost is around £200.
Make sure you talk with your electrician about what will be included in the cost. It is very common for tradesmen to finish the electrical work but leave any redecorating to the homeowner. If you want a complete job – with electric wiring and all subsequent clean up included – you’ll need to search specifically for this type of service.
Needless to say, all of the air extracted from your bathroom must be deposited outdoors. If vents and ducts are required for this, they should be airtight with no leaks. If damp air is allowed to escape and vent into other parts of the home, there is a risk of damage to electric circuits and furnishings. While extractor fans can’t always be placed in an optimal position (sometimes the shape of the bathroom prevents it), they should be installed as close as possible to the outside opening.
The most efficient extractor fans are those with the shortest distance between interior and exterior airflows.
Some other points to consider are the possibility of condensation inside the extractor fan device itself. This is difficult to prevent but remedied by installing a fan with an integrated condensation trap. If any part of the ducting is installed in unheated loft space, it should be fully insulated to prevent condensation creating damp and mould. These are key details to discuss with your installer before the work begins.
Once installed, extractor fans require very little maintenance. They need cleaning only twice per year unless the bathroom undergoes very heavy usage. Large families sharing a single bathroom may need to clean their fans a bit more often. The purpose of cleaning is just to gently remove any dirt and debris which has been caught in the fan.
It’s easy to do and will stop your extractor from getting clogged and becoming less efficient over time. While you’re cleaning, give the fan a visual check. Look at the individual blades to check for cracks. Make sure no part of the system is obstructed by dust, hair or grime. Any mildew or mould should be wiped away. As a short term fix, you can use duct tape to mend broken fan blades. It won’t last long, however; use the extra time to arrange repairs.
If you don’t have an extractor fan in your bathroom or would like to replace an outdated extractor, get in touch with us today. Complete the form on our website and experienced contractors will get back to you. They’ll discuss the type of extractor fan you need and how much it is likely to cost after installation.