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Old 07-21-2010, 12:58 PM   #1
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Bathroom Light/Exhaust Fan Combo


Hello all -

I wanted to run this by to see if there are any major issues with what I otherwise have planned to do. In my 1st floor bathroom is a Broan combo ceiling light/exhaust fan which currently has the fan and light plugs wired into the same switch. I would like to separate the two, putting them on separate switches for light and fan. Seems simple enough...



Existing configuration:
  • Power into the switch box (currently double gang, shared w/ a GFCI)
  • 14/2 w/G up the wall, across the ceiling (par. to joists) to the light/fan unit
  • 14/2 w/G from the fan, across the ceiling (perp. to joists), down the wall to a medicine cabinet w/ lights ("MC") on the wall adjacent to the switch
In theory, replacing the 14/2 from the switch with a 14/3 to the fan, and then reconfiguring the MC tie-in appropriately would be the way to go. However, I have no access to the wiring (finished upstairs) without cutting drywall; something I want to avoid. Not that I can't or haven't before, I just don't want to here. Further complicating this, fishing would be easier if the light/fan is removed, but I don't think it's going to come out without breaking things so as long as it's serviceable - it stays!



The proposal:
  • Replace double gang box with a triple gang (GFCI + 2 single pole switches)
  • Of the (2) - 14/2's into the light/fan, connect (1) each to the fan and light, using the existing wire to the switch box for the fan.
  • Fish (2) - 14/2's down from the switch box to the basement (see last bullet)
  • Fish those same (2) wires up from the basement to a new box located behind the medicine cabinet (currently the wire just sticks out of a hole in the drywall)
  • Connect (1) new wire to the MC lights
  • Connect (1) new wire to the wire repurposed above from the light/fan combo (effectively bypassing the MC).
  • Reconfigure the switch box wiring as appropriate, combining the two separate light wires at the box, thus allowing for the potential ability to switch the lights independently in the future)
Hopefully this is descriptive enough. Is this appropriate? Or is what is essentially the dual switch loops coming from one appliance (the light/fan) considered a single circuit using 2 raceways? House and wiring is circa 1972 and for the most part that I have encountered (in my non-expert opinion anyways) the existing wiring is still of suitable quality to remain.

Thanks
Chris

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Old 07-21-2010, 01:07 PM   #2
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Bathroom Light/Exhaust Fan Combo


I am assuming this medicine cabinet has lights built in and the feed cable enters the cabinet directly, correct?

Where would this proposed junction box be when you say "behind" the medicine cabinet?

What you say makes sense and will work. But we have to work out a proper placement of the JB.

FWIW, you can get stacked switches, this might help you avoid changing the box to a larger size.

These are Pass and Seymour Trademaster switches. I never liked stacked switches until trying these, I really like these a lot. They are very solid and their up/down design matches typical Decora switches.
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:42 PM   #3
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Proby, MC in the OP meant medicine cabinet, not MC cable.
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
Proby, MC in the OP meant medicine cabinet, not MC cable.
Ohhhhhhh, and to think, I was going to correct him and say "it's probably BX and not MC"


I figured the light was wired with BX and someone just took that whip and brought it into the new fan/light combo.

Above post edited to remove my screwup.

Last edited by Proby; 07-21-2010 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 07-21-2010, 07:22 PM   #5
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I like your "back door" approach in figuring out the best way to accomplish this task. Sounds like something I might have come up with ...
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Old 07-21-2010, 10:59 PM   #6
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Thanks for the quick replies!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Proby View Post
I am assuming this medicine cabinet has lights built in and the feed cable enters the cabinet directly, correct?

Where would this proposed junction box be when you say "behind" the medicine cabinet?

...
Correct. There's just been a hole cut into the cabinet in the top "compartment" (behind the removable plate holding the lamps) and the wire is fixed into it with a regular 3/8 - 1/2" wire clamp.

What I would propose to do, since whether or not it's against code I simply don't like the idea of a wire just sticking through the drywall regardless of voltage/current (I even installed boxes for the RG-60 I installed a few months back - who's to say you don't trip on or otherwise somehow pull the wire and plate right off the wall and destroy a chunk of drywall - plus it's just cleaner looking) would be to square the hole in the drywall and install an old work box - say double gang for sake of space since appearance wouldn't be an issue - which would simply be covered by the cabinet. Obviously some form of box will be required either to splice the ceiling light "bypass" together or to combine the two lights right there. Would it be acceptable to use the cabinet to "cover" the box? The cabinet is grounded, and it would seem to be a definite upgrade over what's there now. Otherwise the option is one of the thin plastic cover plates which wouldn't protrude too far for the cabinet to cover without looking like it's falling off the wall.

Regarding the switches, I'm thinking the stacked ones look like a particularly good idea for separating the two lights - it seems it would be easy to either hit them simultaneously or selectively. Also considering that while there is plenty of room for a triple gang box, a quad would be too wide, both in appearance and physically - there's a single gang hallway light switch on the opposite site of the wall within the same stud spacing. I'm not adverse to replacing the box, as it's full of crud and is slightly out of alignment in every plane. That, and having the box out of the way helps greatly with the fishing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
I like your "back door" approach in figuring out the best way to accomplish this task. Sounds like something I might have come up with ...
Can't help it, I suppose - I'm an engineer (civil) so I guess it's just engrained in the way I think!

I've had a few projects (mostly involving ceiling fans) where I first thought up the idea of putting it in only to stop for thinking it wasn't possible, and then suddenly having a revelation about some creative way to do it. For instance this is my 3rd crack at trying to solve this exhaust fan riddle. For the other projects, it's fortunate that I have a large area (100-120 sq ft) in the 2nd floor level attic of otherwise wasted space that has enabled access to just about all but the kitchen and this bathroom, even if the wire's path ends up being a bit circuitous. I'm trying to finish off all potential uses for that space before getting it finished into a nice walk-in next year perhaps.
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Old 07-21-2010, 11:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabretooth View Post
Would it be acceptable to use the cabinet to "cover" the box? The cabinet is grounded, and it would seem to be a definite upgrade over what's there now. Otherwise the option is one of the thin plastic cover plates which wouldn't protrude too far for the cabinet to cover without looking like it's falling off the wall.
Neither way would be code complaint since the box wouldn't be accessible.

Of course, that part of the code is more of a design and convenience issue and not a safety issue so...

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