Friday, January 04, 2013

Out with the old, in with the old

Our house isn't super new, but it's not super old either. It was built in 1987, which means it's got enough history to have character, but enough modern features to not require remodeling or massive updating. In fact, except for a new stove and cooktop, there really isn't much in the house that could use replacing either. In short, the house suits us quite nicely which is great because we would rather not spend our time and money fixing things :)  But at 25 years old the house is no spring chicken, and a few parts are starting to show their age.  Case in point: the bathroom ventilation fan:

It's an old NuTone H965 heat/light/vent combo unit, which is probably as old as the house. Ever since we moved in, the vent motor has sounded somewhat clunky, though it does still serve its basic function of moving air from the bathroom out into the attic.  In the past few weeks though, it has started to develop a new problem: it won't turn on.  Or, rather, it turns on veeeery slowly.  Sometimes it takes a few seconds for the fan motor to kick in, and sometimes more than a minute during which time it emits a low-frequency hum as the electric current struggles to turn the squirrel cage.  Based on the parts list for the unit, we were looking at roughly $100 for a new fan assembly or we could just replace the entire combo unit entirely. Neither one was an enticing prospect, but that's part of the deal when you sign the papers for a home purchase.

However, I wanted to try my hand at a third option before plunking down a Benjamin on replacement parts and such.  To that end I figured I might as well bust out the ol' air compressor and clean the fan and motor out just for ol' times sake.  It was a fairly simple process...for the most part.  First I shut off power to the unit in the circuit breaker box, and since most of these heat/light/vents have their own breaker it meant that everything else in the bathroom still functioned. The next step was to remove the fan motor, which was accomplished by taking out three screws and then literally unplugging it.

After that I brought the assembly out to the garage and blew it out with the compressor...and wow. Such a massive cloud of dust burst forth that one would have thought it was a July 4 firework! That thing was so incredibly dusty, presumably because it had not been cleaned in over two decades, that it was just caked with gray particles.  After the dust was gone I took apart the motor assembly, oiled the drive shaft, and put the whole works back together.  Then it was a simple matter of plugging everything back in and voila! Good as new, except for a bit of a rattle that was there before but not quite as pronounced anymore.

All in all I'm happy that things went so smoothly, and we saved $100 in the process.  The only problem with this whole operation though is that it didn't really work.

Sure the fan sounded great...for about one day. After that it was up to its usual tricks again, and I think something is worn out in the motor itself that no amount of simple cleaning and lubrication can fix. Looks like we'll be headed to the hardware store after all!  And if we do end up buying a new fan I promise I will take plenty of pictures for the blog :)

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