March 1, 2012
This was the second winter in which my morning shower was preceded by increasingly vain attempts to get the bathroom heater to operate. My house was built in 1981 and the bathrooms are equipped with NuTone combination light/vent/heat units. One unit’s heater fan stopped working years ago, but the one in my own bathroom worked fine until last winter. It started the dreaded buzzing instead of roaring into life.
I like the NuTone unit because the heater blows hot air directly down into the shower, taking the chill off my entry and exit. For months I could just flip the switch on and off a few times and the heater fan would start working. But this winter it gave up completely, buzzing away until the unit overheated and shut off.
As I’ve noted previously, I’ve never been particularly adept at home repair. A few years ago I considered trying to install a new bathroom ceiling unit purchased from Lowe’s, but it looked like installation would require a trip up into the attic and back over the bathrooms. I’m not at all afraid of attics: a few summers back I installed a big new television antenna in the attic at my parents’ home, complete with signal booster and threading new coaxial cable to three different rooms. The problem is that the blown-in insulation in my own attic covers the ceiling joists, so I’d prefer to lay down some boards to walk on, but the Dutch gable roof built up out of trusses makes that quite problematic.
That complication was enough to keep me from pursuing a repair. When the heater fan gave up for good I went out and bought a cheap space heater with GFI shock protection at Wal-Mart and used it on the floor of the bathroom. But it blew air at the shower curtain, not down into the shower, so it was far less effective.
So I finally screwed up my courage and dismantled the ceiling unit to see if I could possibly repair, rather than replace, it. When I first opened up the unit, it was caked with dust and lint. I vacuumed it out and lubricated the fan and motor, but that didn’t help.
However, it was apparent that the heater or exhaust units would be quite simple to remove. The old wrinkled label identified the box as a NuTone H965 unit. I sealed it all back up and went online, where a search at NuTone/Broan showed the original heater fan to have been discontinued, but further searches showed it was simply replaced by a new model number, the 69355000. I ordered a new one from VentingDirect.com, obtaining a discount through RetailMeNot, for $71.20 with shipping. Twelve days later the new fan unit arrived. It was time for Mr. Fix-It!
First I removed the lens.
Then I removed the bulb, exposing the mounting screw.
Removing that allowed the light and cover plate to dangle free.
I unplugged that unit and could see the various parts of the unit.
I unplugged the heater unit.
I removed two screws from one side of the heater, removed another from the other side, and it slipped free, leaving an empty slot in the ceiling box.
I examined the unit, noting where the two black wires from the motor connected to the heating wire assembly.
I also noted where the green grounding wire was connected to the fan housing.
It was a simple matter to remove four screws and take out the old squirrel cage fan and burned out motor. I inserted the new one, attaching the three wires in the appropriate spots.
I replaced the repaired heater unit in the ceiling box and plugged it in.
I admired the new motor and fan for a last time.
It was time for the ultimate test!
Yeah! I plugged the light socket back in, screwed on the cover plate, and reinstalled the nasty old plastic lens. Yes, I’m going to replace that cracked old yellowed cover, even though a new one costs a ridiculous $24.
I’m so encouraged by this repair that I’ve ordered another heater fan/motor unit and a new plastic lens from VentingDirect and look forward to having both of my old NuTone bathroom units back in full operation. And I’m looking forward to a nice warm shower in the morning, before and after the hot water flows.
3/7/2012 UPDATE: I installed a new heater fan/motor in the other unit tonight and it is now working again, and a new lens on my the unit in my own bathroom brings both units back up to snuff. If only all home repairs were so simple.