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How To Replace A Bathroom Exhaust Fan Without Attic Access
Need to replace your bathroom exhaust fan, but don’t have access to your attic? You’re in the right place. This step-by-step guide will break the process down for you.
If you need to replace a bathroom fan without attic access, you can do it in three steps: check the housing and duct size of your exhaust fan, remove the old fan piece-by-piece, then install a new fan of the appropriate size.
For a more detailed explanation of this process, just read on. This post will walk you through the easiest way to replace your bathroom exhaust fan from inside your bathroom.
Table of Contents
- Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan
- Remove the Old Exhaust Fan
- Install The New Bathroom Exhaust Fan
- When Should You Replace Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan?
- Related Questions
Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan
Before you remove your old bathroom exhaust fan or buy a new one, there are a few important factors you need to consider. The housing and duct size, wall switches, and potential extra features will make a difference.
Housing and Duct Size
It’s important that your new bathroom exhaust fan is the exact same size as your old one, so that it fits into place without having to cut out additional drywall. To check the housing size, remove the plastic fan cover and measure the fan housing in both directions.
Then you’ll need to check the duct size. Most bathroom exhaust ducts are 3” or 4,” so make sure you buy a fan that fits your duct size.
Wall switches and features
As long as your new fan doesn’t have any special features that require additional switches, you will be able to connect the new fan to the old switches without any problem. However, extra features like a light, heater, or humidity sensor may require new wall switches to be installed and wired.
Remove the Old Exhaust Fan
You don’t need attic success to remove your bathroom exhaust fan. With a couple of simple tools, you can easily remove the fan from inside your bathroom. You may want a step stool or ladder, depending on the height of your bathroom ceiling.
Before you get started, grab a screwdriver and a box cutter. It will also be helpful to have another person in the room to give you the tools so that you can stay on your ladder while holding the bathroom exhaust fan and housing in place.
Step 1. Shut off the power
Before you start removing the exhaust fan, you’ll need to completely disconnect it from power. This is for your own safety. The easiest way to shut off the power is simply to turn off the breaker connected to your bathroom.
You can test the power by turning the lights in your bathroom on and off. If the switch doesn’t work, the power is disconnected and it’s safe for you to start working.
Step 2. Remove the cover
The next step is to remove the grill of plastic cover from your bathroom exhaust fan. You don’t need any tools to do this: just squeeze the metal clips on either side of the cover and pull it right off.
Step 3. Remove the fan motor
Next, remove the fan motor from the housing. This process can vary depending on the style of your exhaust fan. In most cases, you should be able to take the fan motor out of the housing by removing 2-4 screws.
Some bathroom exhaust fans are connected to the housing with a single plug. Others may be attached to wires that need to be manually disconnected by removing wire nuts.
Step 4. Remove the fan housing from the ceiling
Once the fan motor has been safely removed, you will have to take the housing completely out of the ceiling. Most bathroom exhaust fans are connected to the ceiling duct with screws attached to metal brackets.
Use a screwdriver to detach the housing from the metal brackets and carefully remove it from the ceiling. If you own an older home, the housing may be directly screwed into the ceiling joists without metal brackets. Take care not to damage the ceiling joists if that is the case.
Step 5. Disconnect the duct and wiring
To completely remove the housing of your bathroom exhaust fan, you will have to disconnect it from the duct and wiring. Use a box cutter to cut off the foil tape or zip tie holding the fan housing to the duct.
To detach the wiring, you will have to manually unscrew the wire nuts or bushing (a circular piece of plastic) on the back of the housing. After that, the housing will be fully detached from the ceiling cavity.
Install The New Bathroom Exhaust Fan
If you have successfully removed your bathroom exhaust fan from the ceiling, the hardest part of your job is over. All you have to do now is replace it with the new exhaust fan. This is faster and easier than the removal phase.
Before you get started, be sure to double-check that your new exhaust fan will fit the duct size and wiring of the old fan. If it’s the wrong size, it won’t function as well as it could.
Step 1. Attach the duct connector
Pull the wiring through the housing of your new bathroom exhaust fan, then secure it with a bushing or grommet (if the new fan comes with one).
After that, you will be able to connect the duct connector. This piece is also sometimes referred to as the flapper. It has downward-facing flaps that close when the bathroom fan is not in use.
Attach the duct connector using foil tape or another sealant, then push the fan housing into place in the ceiling. Make sure the flapper is properly connected and sealed before you screw the fan housing into the ceiling joists.
Step 2. Secure the housing to the ceiling joists
Your new bathroom exhaust fan should come with a “fast install bracket” or hangers that make it easy to secure it to the ceiling joists. Slide the hanger bars into place on the metal housing, then you can quickly screw it into the joists.
Bathroom exhaust fans usually aren’t very heavy, so don’t worry if you can only secure one side of the housing. It will still hold in place.
Step 3. Connect the fan motor
Before you seal the new fan into place, you need to connect the fan motor to your home’s wiring. Most modern fans have color-coded connections to plug in the wires by hand.
Your fan should come with clear instructions on how to do this. In case it isn’t immediately obvious, remember: every wire needs to be connected to the plug of the same color.
Step 4. Seal and replace the cover
Seal off the edges around the fan housing with caulking. Let it dry, then replace the grill or plastic cover. At this point, it’s safe to turn the power back on.
Test out your new bathroom exhaust fan by flipping the wall switch. If everything went well, you won’t have to worry about replacing the fan again for years!
When Should You Replace Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan?
Like everything else in your home, your bathroom exhaust fan will wear down over time. Continuous use, dust buildup, and wet conditions can decrease the function of your fan.
If you hear a loud rattling when you turn on your bathroom exhaust fan, that’s a good indicator that it needs to be replaced. You might also notice that it isn’t working as well as it should. Steam will sit in your bathroom for a long time, which can damage your drywall and wood fixtures.
To sum it up: your bathroom exhaust fan should be replaced every few years, or whenever it loses its function.
Do I need a bathroom exhaust fan with humidity sensors?
There are benefits to having humidity sensors on your bathroom exhaust fan, but they aren’t absolutely necessary. Sensors will measure the humidity level in your bathroom and turn the fan on automatically, so you don’t have to flip the switch on and off.
Humidity sensors can help you save electricity by preventing your bathroom fan from running unnecessarily. They will also help you to protect the fixtures in your bathroom in case you forget to turn the fan on.
Can steam cause damage to my bathroom?
It’s never a good idea to leave steam in your bathroom without a fan running. It can cause mildew on your walls and ceiling, as well as warping any wood fixtures in your bathroom like mirror frames or shelves.
How can I prevent mold and mildew without using a bathroom exhaust fan?
If your bathroom exhaust fan is broken or being replaced, you can take other measures to prevent mold. Always open a window after showering to let steam escape. You can also use a dehumidifier as an additional measure.
On top of that, using semi-gloss paint in your bathroom and applying sealant to your grout will help to stop mildew from growing, whether or not you’re using your bathroom exhaust fan.
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