Can You Have An Exhaust Fan Above A Shower?

Exhaust fans remove moisture and smell from the bathrooms. But it only works well if placed in the right location. Many house owners install it above the shower. But is it true and safe? Let’s find it out. 

Most experts do not recommend installing an exhaust fan directly above the shower. You can only do it if the exhaust fan is UL listed, but it is best to avoid the same because the condensation form on the vents will start dripping. It will also not work as efficiently as it should.

This guide will discuss the possibility of installing an exhaust fan above the shower, the best locations, and other alternatives. 

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Building code requirements for exhaust fans in the bathroom 

Building code section R303.4 states that bathrooms must have exhaust fans for ventilation. 

Some people follow section R3030.3, which states that bathroom exhaust fans are mandatory, even if you have other alternatives. 

The section also states the compulsoriness of adding a window in the bathroom, even if you have an exhaust fan.  

According to section M1507.4, the minimum capacity of the exhaust fans for the bathroom should be 50 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) intermittent or 20 CFM continuous. 

The exhaust fan size depends on the size of your bathroom. Each foot requires 1 CFM. To find the right size, measure your bathroom before buying the fan.

According to Section M1507.2, the exhaust should be able to remove and send the stale air and smell outside the house.

Placement of an exhaust fan in relation to the shower

The best place to install an exhaust fan will be close to the shower, 1 foot away. 

Here are some best placements for an exhaust:

Near the shower

A shower is a place for the maximum steam source. 

So, installing one exhaust close to the shower will catch the maximum moisture before it spreads throughout the room, fogs the mirror, and gives the wooden cabinets unwanted steam-clean.

On the ceiling near the shower

Steam rises naturally around the shower area. 

So, placing a fan near the shower will remove the moisture/steam. 

The ceiling is a common place for gathering steam. 

Installing an exhaust on the ceiling over the shower will encourage the fan to perform better and remove moisture. 

Between the shower and the door

As mentioned earlier, the exhaust fan removes stale air from the bathroom and replaces it with fresh outside air. 

Exhaust fans work best if installed near the shower. 

But, if the layout goes like this – door, shower, fan – the fan won’t perform well. 

The fan won’t be able to receive the outside air from the door since the shower will obstruct being at the center.

If the outside air fails to fill up the vacuum made by the exhaust, it will negatively affect the next air removals.

So, install the exhaust fan between the door and the shower. 

Other locations 

  • Opposite to the dry source. 

Once you have decided to vent the fan, installing the fan opposite that place will create a cross breeze to remove the moisture, stale air, and steam from your bathroom. 

  • Close to the vent. 

Putting an exhaust fan close to the vent will create a short path to vent the air from and to the bathroom. More distance between the external vent and the exhaust will take time to bring in the outside air. 

Ventilation and moisture management in a bathroom with a shower

A bathroom with a shower will have excessive moisture and stale air. 

So, manage the moisture by increasing the ventilation. 

Controlling moisture and ventilating the bathroom has a lot of benefits:

  • Condensation reduction. 
  • Prevents mold and dampness
  • Helps lengthen the lifespan of the bathroom and stops you from frequent re-decorating and painting.

Here are a few ways to moisture and ventilation management:

Exhaust fans

The first is to install an exhaust fan. 

It will ventilate your bathroom by removing moisture and stale air and bringing in fresh air. 

Exhaust fans are good for bathrooms with no windows. 

Let it on for at least 10-15 minutes after you shower.

Install duct fans

These are inline exhaust fans that work like normal wall exhaust fans. 

This fan removes moisture through the ducts going to the attic and outside. Wall exhaust removes the moisture through the wall. 

These fans are used for bathrooms with no outside access.

Keep windows and doors open.

Keeping the doors and windows open after showering can ventilate your bathroom by letting the stale and moist air escape. 

Let them open for at least 15-20 minutes after bathing. 

It will allow the air to circulate and the moisture to escape. 

If your bathroom has a window high open, let it open during the shower to let the moisture escape.

If your bathroom does not have a window, install an intake vent to let the outside air inside. 

Use a ceiling or pedestal fan. 

These fans will help circulate the moist air and vent it through the doors and windows faster. 

The fans can also control the temperature of the bathroom and keep it cool. 

Install a dehumidifier 

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Dehumidifiers take the humidity out of the bathroom by trapping the condensation and preventing it from spreading. 

However, dehumidifiers are not a long-term solution for ventilation management. Install an exhaust for that. 

Shower less often 

It can be difficult because personal hygiene is very important for every individual. 

But showering less often can control moisture and reduce the humidity in your bathrooms. 

Avoid keeping wet clothes inside the bathroom. 

Wet clothes inside the bathroom can increase dampness and humidity level. 

The moisture in the clothes will dissipate and add extra moisture to your bathroom.

You can control the situation by not keeping wet clothes inside the bathroom. 

Safety considerations for installing an exhaust fan above a shower

Most experts do not suggest installing an exhaust fan above the shower. 

Electricity and water should not be allowed to contact each other. 

Since exhaust fans use electricity, moisture can come in contact with electricity anytime.

So, installing an exhaust above the shower is very risky.

But there are some primary safety measures to follow if you want the exhaust fan to be safely installed over the shower:


If your exhaust fan is UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listed, you can install it over the showers. 

The UL first checks the fans’ functionality near the shower and recommends that customers use the products. 

If they have confirmed and recommended it, the fan is safe for installation near the showers.

Shower-rated exhaust fans 

A shower-rated exhaust means manufacturers have rated it suitable for the showers.

You can use these exhausts safely in areas where they might come in contact with water.

Always check the manufacturer’s specification for shower rating before buying an exhaust fan for showers.

GFCI breakers and outlets 

Install a GFCI outlet and breaker for further protection in case water and electricity come in contact. 

In such a risky condition, the GFCI will trip out and prevent short circuits and electrocution. 

The GFCI will detect the imbalance in the electricity when it contacts the moisture, automatically cut off your device’s energy, and trip off.

Maintain distance between the shower and the exhaust fan 

Placing an exhaust close to the shower can make the fan effective, as it is where the steam accumulates the most. 

However, you should maintain a slight distance so that the moisture cannot come in contact with the exhaust fans. 

Maintain a 1-foot distance between the shower and the exhaust fan for safety.

Maintenance and upkeep of an exhaust fan above the shower

Maintaining an exhaust fan above the shower involves cleaning the fan every 12 months. 

Cleaning the exhaust fan will increase its lifespan, efficiency, and performance. 

If you do not clean an exhaust fan, it will accumulate dust and reduce effectiveness.

Here are the steps to clean the exhaust fans in the shower:

  • Turn off the power at the breaker to prevent electrocution while working.
  • Open the vent cover and soak it in hot, soapy water. Scrub the cover with microfiber, wash it, and let it dry.
  • Twist the fan and motor assembly to remove it from the vent. Wipe the fan blades with a damp cloth or use a vacuum attachment to reach the harder areas.
  • Use a crevice or brush attachment and vacuum inside the exhaust vent to clean the fan brackets. 
  • Dry everything and reassemble everything. Attach the fan and the motor, and secure them with screws and brackets. Try moving the fan back and forth to check everything is perfect. 
  • Cover the exhaust fan and press the cover until you hear the clip click closing.
  • Turn the power back on and check if the fan is working. 

Other maintenance steps include the following:

  • Avoid running the exhaust fan unnecessarily, as it will reduce the lifespan. Please turn it off when you have achieved the result. 
  • Check the attics and walls for mildew development. If you even see any signs, call for help to get rid of them. 
  • Inspect the vent pipes, and look for broken pipe dampers. If you find any problem, turn it on and try checking from the outside. Oil or replace them if you hear them flapping. 
  • Use the exhaust fans according to the instructions provided by the manufacturers. 
  • Maintain and clean the fan regularly to enjoy it on a long-term basis. 

Alternatives to having an exhaust fan above the shower

Even though you can install an exhaust fan above the shower, many house owners prefer other alternatives due to the following issues:

  • Chilly shower: When the exhaust fan takes the air out of the bathroom, it brings in the same amount of cold air from the outside. Since the fan is above the shower, you experience a chilly shower. 
  • Fan exposed to water: Exhaust fans will get exposed to the water regularly. Regular exposure can damage the exhaust fan and encourage mold.
  • Dripped condensation: The exhaust fans will be close to the shower steam. So, the chances of condensation will increase, drip from the fan’s fascia, and damage the fan.

That is why homeowners prefer alternatives to exhaust fans. 

Below are seven great alternatives to having an exhaust fan in the shower:

1. Ductless bathroom fans

Instead of having exhaust fans, install ductless bathroom fans.

Ductless fans are inline exhaust fans that allow moisture to escape through the ducts. 

The fan is easy to install as you do not have to make any holes in the roof like in the wall exhaust. 

Attach the fan to the wall or ceiling and let it work. 

The fan uses a charcoal filtration system to remove the stale odor and moisture from the bathroom. 

These fans are ideal for bathrooms with no outdoor access. 

They are called inline because they remain inside the duct and connect the bathroom and the outside. 

However, ductless fans are costly to buy and install since it passes through the attic to the outside.

2. Household fans

You can use a normal household fan instead of an exhaust fan.

Oscillating and large box fans are good alternatives for exhaust fans.

Turn on the fan inside the bathroom after you finish showering. Remove it after running it for some time. 

Be careful while using these fans as they have electrical cords. Letting them come in contact with water will be dangerous. 

3. Install a dehumidifier

A dehumidifier can also work well in the place of an exhaust fan. 

It will control the bathroom’s humidity. 

The humidity sensor will communicate with the unit and turn it on automatically whenever it senses high humidity. 

Since you will use it instead of the exhaust fans, use high-quality humidifiers to receive the results as the exhaust fans. 

4. Open the windows

Keeping the windows open during and after showering is one of the simplest alternatives to exhaust fans. 

According to the EPA building code, bathrooms should have openable windows with 4% of the floor area and 1.5 square feet. 

Letting the windows open will let the moist air exit from the bathroom from the window and let the outside come inside to fill the vacuum. 

However, the kind of window your bathroom has will determine the effectiveness of the process. 

Bigger windows will ventilate better than smaller windows. 

However, the method is not applied because some people feel uncomfortable letting the window open while showering. 

In that case, keep it open after you finish showering.

5. Open the doors 

Open doors are good alternatives to exhausts. After showering, keep the doors open for 15-20 minutes.

It will remove the moisture from the bathroom and replace it with fresh outside air. 

This technique will also help if your bathroom does not have any windows. 

However, it won’t be a good idea if your bathroom stinks as the smell will spread to other rooms. 

6. Install a ceiling fan

Another alternative to an exhaust fan is a ceiling fan. It will remove the humid and stale air from the bathroom.

It can also control the temperature and remove hot air from the bathroom. 

Choose fans made for bathroom usage and damp-rated. 

However, these fans will be useless if your bathroom has no windows because windows should vent out the moisture and bring in outside air.

7. Add plants to your bathroom

Though this method is not as effective as exhaust fans, it can regulate the humidity and remove stale air from your bathroom. 

Plants like ferns, Boston, Pothos, and English Ivy will absorb and enjoy the humid air, remove stale air, and purify the air quality and oxygen flow. 

Since plants may not remove moisture as exhausts, it is a good alternative for small bathrooms. 

Energy-efficiency and cost-effectiveness of exhaust fan in the bathroom

Exhaust fans are important for adequate ventilation in the bathroom.

The best fans will allow strong air movement measured in CFM, reduce energy consumption, and provide low noise. 

Whenever you select an exhaust fan, go for the energy-efficient fans certified by Energy Star. 

These fans will work efficiently by consuming around 70% of less energy.

Coming to the noise, try choosing an exhaust fan with a 2 or less sone rating. It will allow lesser noise. 

 Do not use the wrong size of exhaust just because it can provide less noise. The size you choose should properly ventilate your room. 

Installation price for an exhaust will drastically vary based on the mounting style, labor cost, and product price.

Here is a brief information about the overall cost for exhaust fans:

  • Average installation cost (exhaust fan, new ducts, and roof vents): $350
  • Based on the style and size, the exhaust fan price is $30 to $125. Fans with extra features like lights, remote controls, or automatic humidity detection features are more pricey.
  • Fan installation cost: $350
  • High-end installation cost (with premium ducts, humidity sensors, and heat features): $800
  • Replacement cost, including labor cost: $100

Some good exhaust fans with good efficiency are:

Final thoughts

You can install an exhaust fan above the shower if it is shower-rated and UL-listed exhaust, and you have GFCI protection. Maintain a 1-foot distance between the shower and the exhaust.

If you don’t want to install exhaust fans, try installing a ductless exhaust, buying dehumidifiers, introducing houseplants, installing ceiling or pedestal fans, or adding household fans.

Follow the building codes related to bathroom exhaust installation. Buy energy-efficient exhaust fans, especially EnergyStar-certified products. They consume 70% less energy.

Should I insulate my bathroom exhaust fan?

A well-insulated bathroom exhaust will do much better than a non-insulated fan. A well-insulated fan circulates air better, prevents more moisture, and regulates temperature.

Do I need to exhaust the bathroom fan outdoors?

To adequately exhaust the bathroom’s moist and stale air, you should duct the air outside. Avoid venting the exhaust air within the walls, attics, crawl spaces, or garages.

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Arthur Smith

Howdy! I am Arthur Smith, an electrical engineer who is extremely passionate about electronics. I have lived in different parts of the US and currently reside in Wisconsin. I am one of those rare children who knew what he wanted to study and do in life right from the start. I was a curious child who wanted to know how switches work and how the AC works, and I would always observe my dad whenever he would handle the wires and fix things around the house. I currently work as an electrical engineer at a reputed company and write for this blog. And I read loads of books or play video games in my free time.

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