A Guide to Sones. What They Are & How Many A Quiet Fan Has

Researched & Written by Craig

Are you spending more time in your home than you ever have?

Have you discovered that sounds that used to be mildly annoying are now driving you crazy?

If so, perhaps this has led you to find the answers to life-altering questions like… what is a sone? How many sones does a quiet fan have? How do I make my spouse stop talking?

I’m here to share my extensive research on the first two.

What is a Sone?

Simply put, a sone is a unit by which loudness is measured. But since each person perceives loudness individually, this measurement is subjective. A single sone is said to be equivalent to the near-silent hum of a quiet refrigerator. Kitchen and bathroom fans are measured in sones.

Read on to find out all you ever wanted to know about sones.

Why Should you Care About Sones?

Imagine for a moment—or head into your kitchen or bathroom and turn on the fan— and your fans are obnoxiously loud.

Perhaps you’ve been doing more cooking than normal during the era of COVID-19. Many people are. One of the reasons is people are finding it therapeutic.

If you have a range hood that sounds as though a jet is landing in your kitchen, there’s a good chance you will avoid using it. Even though it’s there for a reason and should be used when necessary.

The same can be said for bathroom fans. At the end of your all work no fun day, you might want to relax in a nice hot bath. But the fan is so loud you need to crank up your music.

In both of these situations, you could decide not to use the fan. But these fans are a vital part of your home’s ventilation systems. This is true in all homes, but it’s even more important if your home was built in the last several decades.

Exhaust Fans Are Essential for Indoor Air Quality

Newer construction homes have better insulation and airtight seals that prevent air movement and make ventilation even more important. Since moisture can lead to mold, in order to preserve indoor air quality, removing excess moisture is imperative.

Here’s the kicker though. Now that many of us are spending more time at home than ever, air quality is even more important than it was before.

So if your fans are so loud you aren’t using them, something needs to change.

Sones vs Decibels

Most of us have heard of decibels, but this may be the first time you heard of sones. So what’s the difference?

Here is a table that compares sones to decibels (dBA).

dBA2837.9943.8447.9953.8357.9862.5767.9872.5777.97
Sones12346811162232

Those numbers might not mean much to you, and I’ll help you with that a bit more below.

Still, you probably need something a bit more real-world to help give you a point of reference.

Many will use dishwashers to offer a comparison. A lot of entry-level dishwashers tend to operate in the 60-decibel or 10 sone area. And the 32 sones mentioned in the chart would be the equivalent to the sound a vacuum cleaner makes from 3 feet away.

How Loud is a Sone?

# of SonesEquivalent Sound
1The hum of a quiet refrigerator
2A quiet office
3A radio or TV playing a comfortable level
4Normal conversation
5Normal conversations with additional noise in the background
6The crowd in a quiet restaurant
7The sound produced by light traffic
8The sound produced by heavy traffic

Note that these aren’t sounds you hear in the distance. When traffic sounds are mentioned, that assumes you are in the midst of it, not far away.

No matter what kind of fan you are looking to replace, whether it’s an exhaust fan or a fan used to cool your space, the above will give you a good idea of what sone level to look for. And what you absolutely want to avoid.

How many Sones does a quiet fan have?

By now you should understand what a sone is and why understanding them when it comes to fans is a good idea.

Pedestal vs Tower Fans Appliance Analysts
A quiet fan provides relief to everyone.

Purchasing and installing a range hood or bathroom fan that is so loud you won’t use it is a bad idea. So is keeping one you don’t use for the same reason. Because as I’ve detailed above, exhaust fans are critical to the overall air quality of your home.

Note that you won’t find a range hood that’s as quiet as a bathroom fan, as range hoods need to move far more air than a bathroom fan, which makes them louder to operate.

The lowest rating you will find on a range hood is typically around 4 sones. Which, as the table above shows, is in the normal conversation range. If you tend to hold conversations in the kitchen while cooking, keep this in mind. You don’t want to have to yell over the fan.

Also keep in mind that the lowest ratings are for when the fan is running at its lowest speed. At the highest speed, you can expect the sound to be in the 7 sone area.

Bathroom fans can be found with ratings of less than 1 sone. Of course, if you prefer a loud bathroom fan, they can be found as well.

Conclusion

Since there’s a good chance you need a new fan if you’re here, understanding what a sone is and how many to look for in a quiet fan is important.

Research done by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp (CMHC) found that many homes have kitchen or bathroom fans that:

  • Are far too loud
  • Don’t move enough air
  • Aren’t energy efficient
  • Can cause back drafting of combustion appliances
  • Use high-wattage light bulbs

If you’re facing just a few of those issues, yes, you need a new fan.

Remember, a quiet rangehood will be rated at about 4 sones and very quiet bathroom fans can be found at less than a sone.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out any related articles listed below that interest you.