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Question DetailsAsked on 1/2/2014

What is the best exhaust & Heater fan combination for a basement bathroom?

I'm looking to replace our new exhaust fan with a heater and exhaust fan combination. The one our contractor put in pours in cold air, though he claims there is no way to avoid such an issue. We never had any such issue with our past fans. For some reason, he installed an exhaust fan instead of replacing with the same type of unit that was there before our remodel. So, I'm hoping to avoid another costly mistake and get the right unit this time that will provide both heat and not act like an open window.

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2 Answers


Personally, for people who want both a heater and exhaust fan, I recommend a unit (or separate units preferably so you do not have to replace an expensive unit when the fan dies of old age) with infrared lights for heat, and a conventional bathroom exhaust fan for the air circulation and moisture removal. I have never seen a combined heat/exhaust fan unit that does not seem to immediately vent most of the heater air through the fan, keep most of the heated air at the ceiling where it is useless, and cause cold drafts. Infrared heating eliminates the draft issue because it heats surfaces by radiation not by circulation of warm air, provides essentially instant heat, and concentrates it one place where you are standing - though if you are looking for heat during prolonged shower or baths, then you also need a sealed wet environment unit directly over the bath or shower as well as one where you stand to dry off or do makeup or whatever. Infrared units have one additional flaw that, unless you get a bit creative with controls, they are just on or off, rather than regulating the temperature at a set desired level. For most people, that does not bother them - just be sure the infrared lights are wired separate from the fan unit and from the normal bathroom lighting so they can be turned on and off at will - a timer switch is liked by many people so they are not left on by accident, which wastes a lot of power.

A conventional fan combined with wall mounted or baseboard electric heating unit can achieve the same goal, though of course baseboard units have a significant time lag in heating up.

The cold air coming in is possibly because he either botched the installation, or installed an air circulation or direct vent fan rather than a bathroom exhaust fan. Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans are required to have a damper to prevent cold air backflow through the duct back into the room. He may have installed one without a damper, jammed the damper in installation so it does not close, or failed to seal the fan unit to the ceiling or wall where it is mounted so it is letting cold air flow in around the unit from the wall or attic.

Another possibility is he failed to connect the duct to the fan unit or to the outlet exhaust hood, so cold air is pouring into the duct or fan box - and also letting the moist bathroom exhaust air vent into who knows where - maybe your attic, where it will cause mildew and mold and eventually rot ? Normal upstairs bathroom installations venting through the roof actually usually have two dampers - typically one centrally pivot mounted at the outlet of the fan itself as part of the fan unit, and a second hinged flapper built into the roof hood. It sounds to me like these missing or being jammed open may possibly be your problem, not a problem with the unit itself. If he does not recognize this, maybe time for a competent contractor to check it out. IF you are slightly mechanically inclined and able to get into the attic, you could check for disconnected or torn ducting, and if that is OK take off the ducting at the fan box and under the roof hood and look for the flappers and see they move freely - images of what they typically look like at these links:

flapper shows in the photo, and also in image 5 - just an off-balanced center-pin hinged disc that stays closed unless there is fan pressure holding it open while the fan is running, preventing reverse flow of cold air from outside. If you remove the cover on the fan inside the room you may actually be able to see this one with a flashlight and see if it is opening when the fan is on and closing when off, without having to remove the ducting in the attic.

you can see the round backdraft flapper inside the vent hood, blocking the duct opening unless there is positive pressure fromthe fan holding it open. Exterior ones like this can be hinged, but are usually just gravity weighted by the weight of the flap to limit sticking from corrosion. If you are up to getting up onthe roof (or use binoculars) you should be able to see this openign when the fan comes on, and closing when the fan is turned off, again without having to disconnect the ducting from the vent.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


The first answer that advised seperating the two devices is a good advise. Still the flap that most bathroom vent fans have is a back draft preventor and not a damper. They do not seal the exhaust vent line very well and commonly let cold air in during the winter making your utility bills higher then they could be. Check out the damper fan from the Larson Fan Company if you want to stop the cold draft from your bathroom fan.


Answered 5 years ago by sjlgreen

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