Mr. Fix-It Heats Up the Bathroom

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.

The NuTone H965 Ceiling Light/Exhaust/Heater

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.

My attic is not pedestrian friendly

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.

The GFI-protected space heater I used in the bathroom as a temporary solution

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!

The new heater motor and fan unit I ordered

First I removed the lens.

Remove the plastic cover over the light bulb

Then I removed the bulb, exposing the mounting screw.

Remove the large screw hidden behind the bulb

Removing that allowed the light and cover plate to dangle free.

The cover plate and bulb socket will dangle from an easily removed plug

I unplugged that unit and could see the various parts of the unit.

You’ll see the separate heater and exhaust fan units

I unplugged the heater unit.

Unplug 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.

Remove a few screws and the unit slips out of the ceiling box

I examined the unit, noting where the two black wires from the motor connected to the heating wire assembly.

Note where the old motor wires connect to the heating wires

I also noted where the green grounding wire was connected to the fan housing.

Note how the grounding wire is attached to the case

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.

Take out four screws to remove the old motor and fan; insert the new one; screw it and the wires on

I replaced the repaired heater unit in the ceiling box and plugged it in.

Reinstall the heater unit in the ceiling box

I admired the new motor and fan for a last time.

Check that all of the connections are made properly

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.

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife, Wendy, and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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11 Responses to Mr. Fix-It Heats Up the Bathroom

  1. Handy Andy says:

    I really appreciated seeing your topic and I obviouslydefinately bring it to the knowledge of others. You have great content here and it was a pleasure to read it thank you for the work andreal effort you put in to it.

  2. Mike says:

    I thank you for these instructions. I believe I have the same unit in my bathroom and if I can do this myself I will save hundreds on installation costs. Thanks again.

  3. Brian Hogue says:

    Ive had the following issues with my Heater on the fan/heater/light combo. Three times it was a swtich issue. The last time had power to the heater but it did nothing, Took it out, cleaned the motor, and found a D149 thermo fuse in series with the fan and heating element was opened. Bypassed the fuse and the unit operated fine (did this to test the unit, never operate without a thermo fuse) , Ordered 5 from ebay for less than $10 it did the trick. These are easy to remove, so take them out and clean them ever couple years.

  4. Shawn says:

    Hi I am having problems with my nutone model 665rp. My unit would heat then kick off after 30 sec or so. So I ordered a new motor hoping that would fix. I fussed for 2 hours re hooked it up and the new one also kicked out after 30 sec. Is my unit overheating? If so why do you think. I cleaned all the lint out all so I can figure out what’s wrong. Any ideas

    • I’m certainly no expert, but that behavior sure sounds like the safety thermostat detecting overheating. Check that the fan blades and heating coil wires are clean (disconnect all power, of course!) and that the fan turns easily and doesn’t have a sticky bearing that is preventing the motor from rotating the fan quickly enough to draw enough air to keep the motor from overheating. Or it could be a faulty/over-sensitive safety thermostat. Do NOT disable the thermostat, but you could see if it can be replaced (if it wasn’t already part of the new motor).

  5. Paul says:

    Good morning.

    I have the Nutone combination heater/Fan/Light. I noticed that a few months ago when I turned the Unit on, I would have paper like particles coming through the vent. Eventually, the entire unit will not function/dead. The light, heat or fan will not turn on. The unit appears dead.

    Any ideas as I would like to fix on my own and the Unit is about 2.5 years old.

    Thank you for your help.

    • Since the whole thing stopped, sounds like it overheated and the safety switch tripped or wiring broke down and a fuse blew. I would turn off the power at the breaker box for the house and then disassemble the unit to remove it. Could be various issues. If it was not installed properly it might be drawing particles from attic insulation and the buildup overheated the unit, or it just got full of dust drawn from the room and that was spilling out before the buildup got too bad for it to run. Cleaning the unit and checking that it vents through the roof with a sealed duct might solve it. Or some wiring insulation in the unit was breaking down and that will need to be replaced.

  6. Paul wasserboehr says:

    I have a nutone combination overhead light and heat blower installed on my 2nd floor bathroom ceiling. I had this installed about 3 years ago. About 9 months ago the heater fan stopped blowing hot air and has been blowing cold air ever since. Is there anyway I can fix this and how? Also the box is hard to open in the attic. So not sure how to open it to repair it. I’m at paul.wasserboehr@verizon.net.

  7. Charles black says:

    I need a fuse for a bath light heater also has agent and light

  8. gaadams33730 says:

    Thank you a million. The instructions you posted on how to replace broken heater/ light/ fan unit helped tremendously! We have a similar1980’s unit, Broan N655. The heater quit working. We ordered the entire replacement unit Broan 655 from Home Depot – exact match (cut off breaker, unplugged and took out all old parts and replaced with new… including new cover). Works perfect!
    Thank you SO MUCH for posting!

  9. Brian says:

    This week my friend brought over two of his nutone (both the fan and heater units) from his 1984 fan/heater/light combo. All that was needed was a good cleaning and oiling of the fan motors, these motors are simple to take apart and oil and almost never fail. One did need a new switch. In total to fix both his bathroom units. It cost $9 for the switch (other than some clorox spray and oil). Replacing the fan units and heater units (4 in total) would have cost hundreds of dollars) Blowing the units out with a good air compressor works wonders. Wish Id taken some pictures. Next time.

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