Noisy Bathroom Fan?

Over the years I’ve noticed that the bathroom fan at my house has been getting obnoxiously louder and louder. Since the bathroom fan was installed before we moved in, it was probably in need of some type of cleaning. At first, I became lazy and just kept the bathroom door open hoping it would ventilate the humid air out. A few weeks of this and the paint on the walls started peeling, big mistake. Finally I grabbed a ladder, popped off the vent cover, and removed the fan motor and blower wheel to try to clean it. After using a vacuum to suck out all the dust and dirt, I got in between the blower wheel vanes with a toothbrush. I replaced the fan motor and turned it back on. What I should have done was record a clip of the fan going before the cleaning so I could compare it to what it sounded like after. It was slightly quieter, but I was unsure. A week passed and I realized the noise level was pretty much the same, if not worse. Finally I caved and started looking up replacement fans online and also did some research to see if I could do a deeper cleaning (which was a long shot). Bear in mind I was able to date the unit to about 20 years old! Some places like Lowe’s or Home Depot had similar complete fan units for about $150-200. They also showed quick “How To” videos that outlined the replacement process and it did look fairly easy, but I didn’t want to shell out the cash. Since the rest of the fan still works (it’s a combo, fan and heater) I decided that I might be able to find a replacement motor. Here’s what the motor and wheel looked like before (but after my initial cleaning):

Old Motor and Wheel

I found that the manufacturer was a company named NuTone. Another popular brand of bathroom fans is Broan. Eventually one of the companies bought out the other, but I forget which one. Luckily on NuTone/Broan’s website finding the right replacement part was a breeze. I tried to order the parts online and found the motor was in stock, but sadly the blower wheel wasn’t. I could’ve purchased them separately, but I didn’t want to pay an additional shipping charge. I checked Amazon for replacement parts, but none of them were a direct fit. Some reviews said they had to reverse the motor (which I think requires desoldering the leads and soldering them backwards) and/or cut the motor shaft so that it would fit the enclosure properly. Since I didn’t want to do any modifications that may render a new part useless, I called NuTone’s 800 number. After half of a ring (guess they don’t get many calls), an old man answered. I explained I needed a part and he pretty much gave me another number to call. I asked if the prices were the same and he said they’d be the same if not cheaper. I was skeptical at first because 1) this new place was in Michigan 2) the number was to an individual parts “collector” so I didn’t know if the part was new 3) the guy didn’t have a website so I couldn’t check reviews about his business.

After calling Gary’s Electric in Lansing, MI (517) 484-9361, I found Gary to be helpful and very nice. He answered all my questions about the part and knew exactly what I needed. Somewhere in 2005 and after, NuTone started manufacturing the entire units differently so the parts weren’t interchangeable. He made sure I received the right one. One caveat was that Gary sent my package to the wrong address (thankfully the house number he sent it to did not exist, so UPS held the package at the hub), but he was quick to give me a tracking number when I called him back. Before you hang up the phone with him, have him verify all the information (I did this initially, but I think he typed in the address for UPS incorrectly) and have him call you with a tracking number when he ships it out. Anyway, I paid $45 which included tax and shipping, which made me very happy since the parts on Amazon were roughly $15-30 without shipping costs. Here’s a picture of the new vs old fan motor and blower wheel:

Old vs New Motors and Wheels

As you can see, there’s a significant amount of rust on the old motor. In the next photo, you can see the amount of rust on the shaft itself. This contributed to an unbalanced shaft, causing wobble and vibration which was causing all the noise. I was also able to move the shaft up and down, it had a fair amount of play in it.

Old Motor Shaft and Wheel

Here’s a shot of the new part. So shiny! Also, look how clean the vanes are on the blower wheel!

New Motor and Wheel

I fell in to the same trap as before as I didn’t record a clip of the noise before and after. Thankfully I can definitely tell the fan is quieter and my wife can also confirm it. I saved $150 by just replacing the motor instead of buying a completely new unit and struggling to install it. If you have a noisy bathroom fan, pop off the cover and see what you can find. A simple cleaning might do the trick, or you may need to tighten a few bolts. Please take extreme caution as you’re working with live electrical lines! Here are some tips:

  1. Record a quick clip of what the fan sounds like before you do any repairs, you’ll have solid proof if the repair worked (or didn’t)
  2. BEFORE YOU POP OFF THE COVER: TURN OFF THE CIRCUIT TO THE FAN (if you have to, the entire bathroom; in this instance, use a shop light and extension cord for illumination!)
  3. DOUBLE CHECK THE CIRCUIT IS OFF
  4. TRIPLE CHECK THE CIRCUIT IS OFF
  5. Make sure your ladder is on a sturdy surface
  6. Take pictures before you start unscrewing stuff or draw a diagram where wires and screws go
  7. Keep in mind of the position of the fan plug, it’s short for a reason
  8. Wear eye protection: stuff can and will fall into your eyes (think 20 year old dust bunnies, eeeww!)
  9. Excess moisture caught by the fan is often siphoned off into a drip tray on the fan enclosure, use a drop cloth or lay out some newspapers when disassembling the fan motor. You’ll see what I mean, just note this “moisture” has been stagnant for days/months/years it stinks like mold and can stain carpets, towels, clothing. Think of it as the drip trays or the oil catch that is installed in your stove’s range hood

I think there are more than enough tips for a successful repair or replacement. By reading this post, I am in no way responsible for any damages, injury, or deaths that may occur from performing the repair or replacement. Just throwing that out there! =)

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Dropbox

I work in the IT field. I’m a help desk tech so I get to do all the dirty work and fun stuff. I also get to “escalate” problems to the higher ups because I don’t have rights to do so and so (that in itself is a rant for another day; I mean like, Hey, I can totally do those things, what gives?!) Anyway one of the main problems we face as a public facing organization is sharing of information. Whenever you want to share info, you run the inherent risk of a security breach. This breach can include passing of sensitive/confidential/personal data. Recently someone wanted to send a file, 15mb. In this day and age, sharing of information should be as seamless as possible no? This file was A OK to be sent out, but a few things prevented it from happening.

  1. Our email attachment limit was set “too low”
  2. The email attachment limit for some of the recipients were “too low”
  3. The sender wanted to BCC about 35 people

We fixed #1 quite easily, but something happened down the road and we had to reboot our mailserver. #2 is out of our control. #3 is also kind of out of our control. When a message is sent to more than x amount (depends on the receiving mailserver) of people listed as BCC, most mail systems see it as spam and handle it accordingly. One solution we have for our users is a public FTP folder where they can drop stuff and provide credentials to the outside public. This works, but it’s slightly cumbersome as in the end, you’re providing support to the people outside who don’t “get” how to use it (even with clear and concise instructions provided for them). One solution which I think would alleviate all problems is the use of Dropbox. Dropbox allows you to share files quickly and seamlessly across multiple platforms and devices. Anyone with a Dropbox account can simply plop a file in the “Public” folder of their account and give a unique URL to outsiders for easy, secure, and fast access. Only those with the link can download the file. Once everyone has partaken in the download, simply trash the file or move it out of the public folder. Easy peasy.

The cooler part about Dropbox is that there are many many many more ways to use it to sync files across your devices. One example is syncing your Firefox browser profile across computers, let’s say your work computer and your home computer. Simply store your profile in your Dropbox and your favorites, add-ins, and settings are synced between the two. When you sign up, you get 2gb’s of space free, and if you install the client, you’re given an additional 250mb. If you refer more people and they in turn sign up and install the client, you’re given another 500mb for free! Since they have a client for most mobile device platforms out there (iOS, BlackBerry, Android, etc) you’ll always be within reach of your most important documents. Stuff is securely stored on their server. They even offer 30 days of version control (on the free plan, longer for a fee). If someone makes a change, the old file is archived for 30 days and is easily recoverable through their friendly web interface.

I’ve been using Dropbox for a few years now, and I love how easy it is to use as well as all the functionality it provides. There are a few dozen apps out there that utilize the “cloud storage” mentality like LastPass (a password manager) and Dropbox makes it easier to store and sync your password cache across platforms. A few years ago, I met the Dropbox CEO, Drew Houston, in line for the iPhone 4 in San Francisco and he’s a pretty chill guy. Drew and Dropbox were recently featured on Forbes Magazine, you know, the one Bruno Mars and Travie McCoy sing about in Billionaire… All in all, get with the program and sign up for Dropbox, it’ll change your life and the way you store stuff!

PS Some organizations choose to BLOCK Dropbox (and related services) because it’s a file storage type service so don’t go installing it at work without reading your company’s Computer Use Policy! So with that said, I’ve done my job. Haha…

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QR Codes Revisited

Hackaday.com is one of my “Daily Reads”. They cover a multitude of topics, ranging from beginners guides to soldering, hardware hacking, and also security topics like RFID spoofing, etc. They posted an article today about QR codes and how the technology has built in error correction. This means some codes can have up to 30% of their data modified and the code will still essentially work. This is AWESOME since from a design aspect, QR codes look like total shit. Continue reading

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HTPC Done!

I finally finished the setup of my HTPC. Oh BOY is it sexy! I crammed everything into an Ikea BESTA cabinet. The cabinet has two 120mm fans installed on the rear for exhaust, and the bottom of the cabinet is cut out and I’ve installed a cheapo HVAC air filter in order to filter out dust. The result? A dust free, quiet HTPC setup! WOO HOOO!! The only thing I have left to buy is a new wireless keyboard and mouse. I’m thinking about getting the Logitech diNovo Mini ($120) or a non-backlit Lenovo Mini for half the cost at $60. Any suggestions? Here are a few pics of the setup.

Got Airflow?

Hidden like... Bin Laden was...It's all stuffed in the left cabinet

I couldn’t have done it without the help of this guy’s article on Lifehacker… I took a little bit of liberty with the setup, but in the end, the installations look the same. Oh for the Power and HDD activity LED’s, I placed them facing downwards towards the air filter. So when the lights are off, you can see a small hint of light, giving me peace of mind the HTPC is up and running, without having to open the case! Pretty sweet!

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How Muni gave me HPV

I live in San Francisco and I love it here. The bus stop is literally across the street from my house. When I’m running late, I can hop on the bus to avoid a brisk 10 minute walk. When I leave the house on time, I’ll usually walk it. Anyway, I’m sure everyone has taken some form of public transportation at least once in their lives. Do you have your own horror story? Well I do… But before I get into the meat of this subject, let’s go over some stats about San Francisco and its public trans system, the Muni. Muni is made up of buses, trolley cars, and light rail vehicles. In 2006, there were nearly 700,000 rides per DAY. Divide that by half under the assumption each person will ride the Muni back to their original destination, and you get 350k. My point? Hella people ride Muni. The population in San Francisco is estimated at 805,235. My point? There are hella people in San Francisco. Continue reading

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Dear Mom

As I lay here on the daybed trying to think of a master plan of what I can do to even TRY to show you my appreciation for all of the motherly things you’ve done for me, I always end up in the same place every single time: dumbfounded and speechless. There’s nothing I can do to repay you for what you’ve done for me. Continue reading

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Security System

Been thinking about upgrading the security system in my car. Right now it’s just a standard keyfob that locks/unlocks the doors, it does have a starter kill though where the car won’t start if the alarm has been triggered. So basically, if you can disconnect the alarm before it goes off, my car is yours… I’ve been meaning to add an immobilizer with a hidden reed switch that would act as Plan B, based on a simple circuit found on AutoSpeed’s website (they’re also working on putting a turbo in a Prius). Speaking of security, the main point of this post was to share these two pictures. Supposedly a garage owner in New Mexico gave his dog a hair cut in order to thwart thieves:

He was sick and tired of thugs breaking into his garage shop to steal tools, etc.
So he came up with this idea. He put the word out that he had a new
Mexican Lion that would attack anyone that would break in or climb his fence.
Would-be thieves saw the “Lion” from a distance and fled the scene.


Ingenuity at its finest!!

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