bathroom exhaust connected to 26' of duct
The exhaust fan in the bathroom in the lower level (half basement) of our house died yesterday and I'm pondering the situation.
Basic background info. This is a 1967 raised ranch that was split into two units in the 80's. We live upstairs and rent out the lower level apartment.
The apartment bathroom is located against the front of the house, next to the entrance to the upstairs, and has no window. The front exterior is brick, with cedar siding on the other sides.
I'm guessing that when the builder or original owner was having the basement bathroom duct installed, he didn't want to mess up the brick by taking the most direct route (roughly 4') and venting it to the front of the house. Or maybe he didn't like that the vent would be so close to the front entrance.
So instead of taking the shortest route, the bathroom exhaust duct work runs, inside a joist, the width of the house (20' ), then, when it meet the back exterior wall, it makes two bends and ends at a vent close to the dryer vent. The total length is roughly 26', 2 bends. I'm not sure why he didn't put a vent in right where duct first reached the back wall, If he had done that, at least there would be no bends.
Being a bathroom, half below grade, and having no windows nearby, the bathroom exhaust fan was on quite a bit and surprisingly it has worked well. No mold or mildew. When I put my hand on the vent outside, I could feel air moving out.
Unfortunately the apartment bathroom exhaust fan died yesterday. We checked the voltage and it's getting power. It was fairly old - was already there when we bought this place 11 years ago. The styling looked to be from the 80s.
From reading up on exhaust fans & ventilation, I'm pretty sure the right thing to do would be to redo the ducting, punch a hole in the brick resulting in a roughly 4' run of duct and no bends.
Opening up the ceiling, however, in the tenant's sole bathroom, in the middle of winter, would not be a popular option.
On the other hand, there's the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" approach. It was a weird set up but it did work with no problem for over 11 years. Though I wonder if we just had an exceptional exhaust fan that performed beyond the call of duty.
I'm writing this out partly as a way to think this through so I'm not sure what questions I should ask.
If we do the easy route and just replace the fan, how would we determine the right one? The descriptions all talk about the cubic footage of the room and how many air exchanges day and so on but I would think how far the fan needs to push the air would be a factor.
This bathroom is well separated from bedrooms & places where people hang out so noise isn't a big deal. I'm thinking of getting the powerful replacement fan possible that would fit in the existing box and not over load the circuit.
I don't see redoing the ducts & installing a new vent as a DIY job. I'm handy & careful but slow, real slow. If we hired a HVAC guy to re-do this exhaust set-up would he punch a hole through the brick? Would I want a HVAC to punch a hole through the brick?
If it has worked well all these years, why don't you just put in a fan equal to what was there and call it a day?
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