High Variance

Bathroom Fan Love Letters

Two of my favorite bloggers (Marco Arment and Ben Brooks) recently published passionate love letters to the Panasonic WhisperCeiling bathroom fan, and in Marco’s case, a Leviton electronic timer switch. Since our downstairs bathroom has had no fan at all for more than a year, and our upstairs bathroom fan sounded like a jet engine (and took 20 minutes to de-fog a mirror), I took this as a sign that it was time to upgrade. It was harder than expected to find an electrician to install them, but today was the big day. It’s worked out pretty well for our upstairs bathroom, but not so much for the downstairs bathroom. In fact, I was surprised by three issues that were unmentioned in the “reviews” I read:

  1. The Panasonic WhisperLite fan/light combo unit is approximately square and it doesn’t fit in our downstairs bathroom because we have a cast-iron drain pipe running 8.5” away from the stud where the fan has to be mounted. Drat.

  2. The bulbs in the WhisperLite are compact-fluorescent and they send out a very white light. I like it, but my wife calls it “institutional” and she says it reminds her of a public restroom. This isn’t exactly where anyone wants to be taking a shower, and if she doesn’t acclimate, I’m hoping we can just change the bulbs to something a little softer.

  3. The Leviton switch requires three wires (including a neutral) and our downstairs bathroom only has two. If I want a timer switch we either spend $200 to run a new line (I’m not that crazy) or we get one of those spring-loaded knobs that screams hotel sauna. For now, we’re sticking with the old manual switch.

To be fair, the new fan is very quiet and is working like a champ–our upstairs bathroom isn’t small and during a leisurely shower the mirror never fogged up. And the Leviton timer is far more reliable than I was about remembering to turn off the fan when it’s done its job. But I think there is a bigger lesson here: Some products that are perfect for some people (or bathrooms) are not perfect for others, and we shouldn’t let ourselves be blinded by the opinions of fan-bois.