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Technical Tuesday: A simple change to keep moisure out your bathroom

Steamy showers feel great on cold mornings, but all the moisture can be terrible for the bathroom walls, ceiling, and everywhere else.  Luckily there are exhaust fans to send the humid air out of the house but to be most effective the fan should stay on for 20 minutes after you're done showering.  We have a fan in our master bathroom, but sometimes we find ourselves having to fly out of the house after getting ready (or we're too lazy to go back upstairs after breakfast!) and we can't stick around to make sure the fan stays on, so we turn it off prematurely, keeping extra moisture in the room.

Without sounding too much like an infomercial, "All our problems were solved with this little device."  We found a simple $19.99 fan timer that lets you push a button to keep the fan on for a certain amount of time.  It will help make sure we leave our fan on long enough and it was a good excuse for me to play with electricity!  Katrina likes the multiple timing options so she can turn on the ten minute button to time her shower!  She turns it on again when she's out to keep the fan pumping out the steamy air, the second time for 20 minutes, so she can make sure she gets ready in time. 

You'll need

  • A voltage tester that warns you if a wire has electricity in it
  • Flat and philips-head screw driver
  • Needle nose pliers (only if your wires need to be straightened or bent)
  • A timer switch, we went with a Leviton from Home Depot
  • A new electrical face plate since you're going from a small switch to a big rectangular timer

The steps

**Warning, I am not a licensed electrician.  If you're unsure of what you're doing please do not attempt to work with electricity - it can kill you.

1)  Admire your current switch but feel good about changing it out.

2) Turn off power to the switch from the breaker box

3) Remove the faceplate and use your voltage tester to make sure the power is really off.

4)  Unscrew your current switch and look at the mess of cables

5)  Unhook the two wires from your old switch.  There should only be two cables, one will be black or red and the other can be any color but should have a black marking near the end.  There may also be a green or copper wire used for grounding.  If there are more than two wires (not counting a copper or green ground), if something looks out of place, or if you have no idea what you're doing PLEASE call an electrician at this point.

6)  Connect your new timer two the two wires that were connected to your old switch.  If you get the same timer switch as we did, you'll notice it doesn't have screws to connect the wires, instead it has two black wires that are meant to be spliced to the old wires with the supplied wire nuts.

7)  Also splice the green wire that is attached to the timer switch to the copper or green wire in the box.  If there isn't a green or copper wire in the box please call an electrician.

8)  Put everything back in and screw the timer to the gang box.

9)  Turn the power back on.

10)  Enjoy your new timer!

 Stay tuned for our full master bathroom reveal this Thursday!
Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Best disclaimer ever.

    Now that is a really cool feature! Why didn't I think of that? Too bad I couldn't do it though, because my fan switch is one of those 2-for-1 deals with the vanity light switch. Ah well.

  2. Boo, I am jealous, we have no vent in our bathroom (well there are no ducts in the entire house). We are still figuring out the best way to stop the excess moisture in our bathroom.

  3. Amanda – bummer!
    Carla – Can you cut a hole to the outside and run a vent? We're going to have to do that if we add a bathroom to the basement.

  4. I love this idea. We did add a fan to our master bathroom so I'm going to add this to our list of things to do in 2011! Thanks for the tutorial – so helpful! :)

    lol at 'it can kill you' because I've often thought that when I've considering swapping out a light fixture myself. Best to wait for help or at least until someone is home to dial 911. 😉


  5. Found this project via Charles & Hudson. Love it and your blog! Well done.

  6. I bought one of these for this project, but… can't make it work? I might have the same thing Amanda is talking about. It's a two switch outlet now. One switch is the bathroom light, one is the fan. So will this not work for me?



  7. Jay, I think Amanda has a 1-gang box with two switches stacked vertically. If you have a 2-gang box with two switches side by side you should be fine. If you followed our tutorial or the instructions that come with it and it's still not working you should find an electrician to help. Good luck!

  8. It's a 2-gang box– I finally did get it working but the fan was working at only about 1/4 (or less, at best) power. Seems strange… (I did get exactly the switch shown above, and not the dimmer switch that looks similar).

    Any ideas on this? The power _sounds_ the same no matter what time selection is made.

  9. Jay – make sure you have a model that can handle the wattage of your fan. If you have the 500W version and your fan is over 500W you'll see a power reduction. Leviton makes a 1000W and 1800W version that might work better for you.

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