Loo Academy

Bathroom Dehumidifier vs Exhaust Fan: Which One to Choose?

Ever used someone else’s bathroom and wished you hadn’t because of the tell-tale reek of mold and humidity?

Nasty, isn’t it?

Although both exhaust fan and dehumidifier can help keep your bathroom smelling fresh as a daisy and moisture-managed, choosing which one to go for can be a daunting task.

Worry not!

In this guide, we’ll go into detail about each option and help you choose the one best fit for your particular bathroom needs.

But, first…

dehumidifier vs exhaust fan
Source: Rainbow International

Why Is Bathroom Humidity A Problem?

Bathrooms are humid places. When you bathe or shower, the steam simply makes matters worse.

Without proper maintenance, your walls start looking like they are weeping, and mold begins thriving in damp corners. Worse yet, all that causes a stink that can become unhealthy and unsightly.

So how can we solve all these problems at once and within a budget?

Your Options For Dealing With Bathroom Humidity

When you want to ensure your bathroom is humid-controlled and free of nasty smells and growths, you need to ensure there is adequate ventilation and that water from the air is removed.

Wiping walls and windows can certainly help, but who has time for that?

Choosing a dehumidifying unit such as a dehumidifier or an exhaust fan is a great option to make life easier and healthier.

Bathroom Dehumidifier Pros and Cons 

For those who don’t know, a dehumidifier is a free-standing unit (like a heater) that you simply unbox and plug in before switching it on.

It draws air in, letting the moisture condense from the air before releasing the now-drier air to help dry out your bathroom in minutes.

The water from the condensation is collected in a tank and emptied out once the tank is full.

Pros of a Bathroom Dehumidifier

  • Reasonably priced units available for all budgets
  • Effective at drying air and stopping condensation on walls
  • When it comes with a humidistat, the unit can plug and dry without any need for action on your part
  • Units come in a range of sizes, and some are whisper quiet
  • Improves your bathroom air quality for better health
  • Prevents slipping from moisture condensation on floors
  • Reduces moisture build-up and resulting mold growth

Cons of a Bathroom Dehumidifier

  • Units require electrical outlets, and cords can be tripping hazards
  • Having electrical outlets and cords in bathrooms presents an electrocution risk
  • The tank needs to be emptied regularly
  • Takes up floor or counter space in bathrooms
  • Can result in a higher electricity costs monthly
  • Higher-end units operate better but cost more

If you have a fair-sized bathroom with an out-of-the-way corner, you can easily plug and dry with one of these units.

They have a lifespan of around eight years, making them good investments. These units are also widely available.

Bathroom Exhaust Fan Pros and Cons

For a smaller bathroom where there is no space for a dehumidifier, you may need to opt for a bathroom exhaust fan since it usually fits in the ceiling or in a window like an air conditioner unit.

Pros of a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

  • Takes up no floor or counter space
  • Cost-efficient and lower strain on electricity bills
  • No tank to empty
  • Cheap to purchase
  • Window units are easy to install
  • No chance of electrocution or tripping over cables
  • Swift dehumidifying action while you bathe or shower

Cons of a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

  • Poor fitment can result in drafts from the outside
  • Circulates air from your bathroom to outside, which introduces outside contaminants like pollution in cities
  • Installing a ceiling unit can be complex, requiring an electrician to deal with wiring into your HVAC system
  • Using a window exhaust fan system means your window no longer opens
  • Can be unsightly
  • Initial installation costs can be high
  • Not as quiet as a dehumidifier due to the fan’s running
  • Negative air pressure forms with excessive exhaust fan use, which draws in unfiltered air from the outside into your home
  • By using the exhaust fan, you need to use your air conditioning units to maintain climate control in cold climates
  • Electricity costs can escalate when your HVAC needs to work harder, requiring air conditioners to run longer

While you may initially save money on an exhaust fan, you will spend more on installation and electrical costs than a dehumidifier in the end.

Choosing Dehumidifier Or Exhaust Fan: Main Things to Consider

When I considered which of these to get for my bathroom, I had a few checkboxes to tick, and this is how I ended up choosing. I wanted a unit that would:

  • Be affordable for purchase and operation 
  • Offer easy installation and use
  • Low running costs
  • Easy access for repairs
  • Not take up a lot of space, although I had a corner where I could place a unit
  • Require little action from me to run

Since I tend to forget to switch off lights, I knew I would forget to turn off the exhaust fan, so I opted for a bathroom dehumidifier with a built-in humidistat, which would turn itself on and off when needed.

While I know there are exhaust fan units with humidistats and auto on/off features, using them still busts the economy of climate control in my home.

I also prefer to send the portable humidifier unit in for repair than having an electrician coming over to look at a fixed exhaust fan.

While there were exhaust fan units that cost less to purchase, I phoned around, and electrician call-out fees and installation costs made even the cheapest unit more costly than a dehumidifier.

For me, it made sense to place the surprisingly small dehumidifier in an out-of-the-way corner where it dutifully dries air until I need to empty the tank about once a week.

The Final Verdict

If you have a large family and have a sustained bathroom humidity problem, then the clear winner is a bathroom dehumidifier as its operational costs are less, and it will not place a strain on your HVAC system. It is easy to use, quiet in operation, and low on electricity if it comes with a humidistat to help optimize performance.

For singles, having a window-mounted bathroom exhaust fan will be a cost-effective option as it uses less electricity (if you remember to switch it off).


How is a dehumidifier different from an exhaust fan?

A dehumidifier works by condensing moisture from the air, resulting in the water you can pour into the drain. An exhaust fan uses fans to blow moist air to the outside and replaces it with outside air through circulation.

Will using a dehumidifier or exhaust fan increase my electricity costs?

There is an increased electrical usage with all electrical appliances. A standard unit operates at 280 watts/hour, so depending on how many hours the unit needs to run (or how damp your bathroom air is), you would be looking at about $12 a month extra on your electrical cost. This cost increase is moderate unless you need to run the unit constantly due to excessive damp.

What should I look for when buying a dehumidifier?

Choose a unit with an energy star rating to reduce operation costs. Units with humidistats will further reduce running time and cost. Additionally, choose one with a stable base to prevent the unit from falling over or leaking. If you have a large family, you may want to choose a unit with a larger tank capacity to prevent the need to empty the tank daily.

Adam McCoy

Adam is an HVAC expert and the owner of Mackydo's HVAC Services with decades of experience in fixing and installing air conditioning units, furnaces, and every type of cooling and heating equipment you can think of.

Adam believes that your home is your sanctuary. He loves sharing advice based on his lifelong experience and treats every HVAC problem as if it was his own.

About Loo Academy

At Loo Academy, our mission is to offer trusted advice for everything related to bathrooms (design ideas, plumbing advice, showering & bathing tips, remodeling guides, and more) — a place where we all spend a great deal of time.

We work closely with qualified experts and follow a thorough editing and fact-checking process before publishing content.

Published content is regularly fact-checked and revised so that the information we provide is accurate and up-to-date.

Legal Info

Loo Academy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate Loo Academy is compensated for referring traffic to Amazon.com.

The information contained in this website is provided for informational purposes only.

The inclusion of links from this site does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information, services, products, or providers.