Dear Mr. Electrician: The exhaust fan in my bathroom stopped working after making some exceptional noise for several weeks. Does the bathroom fan need to be replaced or can it be repaired? Is this something that a homeowner can do?
Answer: In many homes it is possible that a homeowner can fix hers or his own bathroom exhaust fan. Quite a few bathroom fans were manufactured for a simple and fast installation by the original installer. Consequently the repair can be almost as simple.
The key to a successful bathroom fan repair is getting the correct replacement parts. Many bath fan replacement parts are available, but identifying the correct parts can be a chore.
When your bathroom fan was manufactured, a model number was labeled inside of the housing or the fan motor support bracket. (Note: This is not the number on the motor itself) The model number may be stamped into the metal or there may be a label glued inside somewhere.
Some Nutone and Broan model bathroom fans that were originally installed by the builder of your home have a retrofit upgrade kit available to change out the motor and fan blade while the existing fan housing remains in place. This is the easiest thing to do, and the manufacturer claims an improvement in noise and air movement. The kit is also much cheaper than buying the replacement parts.
The kit will have instructions and a small wrench in addition to a new motor, fan blade, grill, and two mounting brackets. Basically you will be putting the new motor onto the new proper size bracket and putting it into the existing fan housing that is already in the ceiling. There is also a flexible plastic strip that gets inserted into the housing to direct the airflow.
In brief, you take out the existing motor and the attached fan blade, which are mounted on a metal plate that is held in place with a screw, nut, or sometimes just snapped in. The motor unplugs from a small electrical receptacle inside of the housing. When using the upgrade kit there is no reason to do anything with the wiring. The new motor will just plug into the existing electrical receptacle. Before installing the new motor, clean the inside of the fan housing and check the backdraft damper to confirm that it moves freely. More information about this simple retrofit is in my repair guide.
I remember one time having to repair a customer’s fan that did not have a model number anywhere. I recognized the brand and called the customer service telephone line. I described the fan and the person at the factory was able to give me the correct model number and also sold me the correct parts. After I installed the new parts I made a point of writing the model number inside of the housing with a paint pen. My free guide provides contact information for most bathroom fan manufacturers.
I wrote a repair guide about repairing bathroom fans. “Almost Everything You Need to Know to Repair a Bathroom Exhaust Fan in Your Home” is available as a free download by clicking here.
Replacing the bathroom fan motor can be just a few simple steps that a novice can complete. You need to find the correct replacement parts. My repair guide can help with that.
I also suggest tools that may be needed, in addition to safety information. In my guide I list the contact information for most of the bathroom exhaust fan manufacturers and other suppliers of bath fan replacement parts.
As an electrician I have installed, replaced, and repaired many models of bathroom fans. There are certain factors that contribute to the optimum performance of a bathroom exhaust fan. There are also a few things that a homeowner can do to maintain a bathroom fan and keep it running for as long as possible. One important tip is to be sure to obtain the correct replacement parts when attempting a repair.
Many bathroom exhaust fans can be serviced by a novice with a few simple steps.
With all of the fans that I have repaired, one common problem was prevalent in all of them.
A Total of 19 Free Easy-to-Read Pages divided below:
Safety – When you work around your home, you take some of the same risks as a professional. You need to protect yourself.
Diagnose – Things to check for optimum bath fan performance.
Identify – The correct model number and specifications for your fan.
Repair – How to repair your bath fan.
Prevention – Get the longest life from your bathroom fan.
Tools – Tools and materials that may be needed.
Parts – Where to obtain the correct replacement parts.
Glossary – Terms related to bath fan installations.