You’ll find them in every bathroom, over the range in the kitchen and in the laundry room. And, for the most part, ventilation fans have remained unchanged for the past 75 years. But thanks to a new building mandate set forth by the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), that common household amenity is getting a much-needed facelift. Companies like Broan-NuTone and Panasonic Home and Environment Company are leading the charge with $200 bathroom fans that can provide both spot ventilation for expelling steam after a shower and continuous ventilation for removing pollutants throughout the house.
In addition to being significantly less expensive than complex mechanical ventilation systems that can cost $2,000 (including parts and labor), the fans are more efficient, according to Tom Heidel, Broan-NuTone product manager. “Unlike a traditional whole-house ventilation system that runs 24/7, our SmartSense fans turn on and off automatically based on the customized ventilation needs of the home.” The fans track the manual usage (like during a shower) and deduct it from the total ventilation required based on the size of the home and the number of occupants (this setting is entered into a fan switch by your builder or heating and cooling contractor). If necessary, the SmartSense fans will operate intermittently to achieve the optimal distributed ventilation.
The Panasonic Home and Environment Company’s WhisperGreen fan takes a slightly different approach, running continuously at a very low level for total home ventilation, ramping up to higher level for intermittent spot ventilation when a motion sensor notices that someone has entered the bathroom.
As an added benefit, both the Broan-NuTone SmartSense fans and Panasonic WhisperGreen fans feature technology that enables them be operate very quietly. “They’re so difficult to hear that customers have asked us to build an indicator light on the wall switch,” says Heidel.