Project: Bathroom Fan

Our house is weird. It’s an old house, with a slightly-less-old addition, and it’s got a whole lot of quirks we’re still figuring out. The addition was mostly done by the old owners, by which I mean the work was done by them, and these folks were not exactly licensed professional contractors. So we keep coming across little surprises, which is both frustrating and entertaining. We got a home inspection when we bought the place, so nothing is dangerously wrong. Just several “WTF” moments as we’re trying to fix things.

Our heat is “Hydronic” baseboard heat, which, according to Dave, is supposed to be awesome and efficient. I just find it effective and loud – the baseboard heaters start clicking and pinging every time the heat switches on, which is annoying, but they heat the place up quickly and that is extremely important for someone like myself who could probably get frostbite on my toes in June. The heaters, though, are mostly on outdoor walls. Or, at least, on walls that were outdoor walls before the addition was put on, which leaves us with a kitchen and several bathrooms without any heat. They accounted for this problem by putting combination light/fan/heaters in the bigger bathrooms, and wall heaters in the small ones. The kitchen is open enough that the heat from other rooms manages to warm it up fairly well, except that the floor always stays cold, and I will put in a heated floor someday, mark my words. Anyway, the heater in the main bathroom died the first time I tried to use it, which was, of course, on a cold day.

At first, Dave tried to fix it. So he carefully took apart the old fan to see what could be salvaged. Unfortunately, nothing could. A new fan was ordered online, and we waited. Of course, at this point, there is a big round hole in my bathroom, and I can stare up into the attic every time I pee. Ever taken a shower and been worried about bats coming down from the attic to freak you out? I have! No, there are no bats in the attic. That we know of.

We had to cut power to the bathroom so Dave could work on it without getting zapped, but that turned out to be easier said than done. The breaker labeled “hall bathroom” cut power to everything except that fan. So I stood by the exposed wires with a multimeter while Dave stood at each of the breaker boxes (we have three) and flipped switches. We set our phones to walkie talkies so we didn’t have to yell, and since we were doing this anyway, I decided to turn on all the lights upstairs and run around with a nightlight to test plugs, so I could find out what all those unlabeled breakers controlled. So he’d flip a switch, and I’d test the wires with the multimeter, then zip from room to room checking what lights were off and which plugs were dead. After forty minutes of this adventure, we determined that neither the breaker box in the laundry room or in the family room contains the breaker for the fan. We found the breakers for lights in the master bathroom, plugs in three bedrooms, and the fridge and dryer, but it turns out that the breaker for the hall bathroom fan was in the third breaker box, in the garage. Beside the ones for the garage door openers, the pool lights, and the workbench plugs. We laughed. A LOT. And Dave has vowed to track that old owner down and have him committed.

The next day, I came home to a brand new, functioning, bathroom heater. It’s great, and not just because it keeps the bats out of the bathroom. It warms the room up quicker than I expected, and isn’t any louder than a small hair dryer. It’s going to be nice to have shiver-free showers for the rest of the winter!

This morning, I took a shower, and completely forgot to use the heater. I am brilliant.

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