My bathroom light and fan turn off and on at the same time. :(
October 13, 2006 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I have a single switch light plate in the bathroom that controls the lights and fan at the same time; one flip of the switch turns both on and off at the same time. You can't control them independently. I'd like to be able to. How?

Do they make double switches on a single-plate? What are my options? I rent, so no major renovation is possible. HELP!
posted by nitsuj to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, they make double switches on a single plate. I bought one at Rona a few weeks back. Looks like an older-style outlet with two switches laying horizontally. Specifically, this.

If they're both running into the box, it should be easy. Just turn off the circuit first at the fuse box.

They might be daisy chained, in which case you won't be able to fix it without running more wire which is probably not practical.
posted by GuyZero at 12:46 PM on October 13, 2006

We have a new-ish house and the light and fan are wired together at the fixture, so we would have to run another wire to separate the two. Our solution was to unscrew the light since we have other light fixtures in the bathroom.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:48 PM on October 13, 2006

We had that sort of set-up, too. When we first moved in, I removed the cover to the fan and disconnected the little electrical plug inside. No more annoying fan. Perhaps your fan is similar. Of course, this disabled the fan entirely and you may not want that. But if it drives you nuts to have that fan on every single time, this may be the only solution. But don't go messing around in there if it's just wires and no plug. Danger!
posted by Lockjaw at 12:48 PM on October 13, 2006

probably easiest is adding some sort of control switch to the fan or light (to turn it off).

e.g. a pull chain switch that screws into the socket.

but, you know, a fan in the bathroom is good idea! for the smell (obviously) but also to remove moisture which can lead to mold.
posted by kamelhoecker at 12:52 PM on October 13, 2006

It's not a ceiling fan, it's one of the sucker-upper fans that remove to the poop smells and deposit them outside the house.

Great suggestions so far. I popped the plate off and it looks like both the fan and light are wired into the single switch, so it should be pretty easy to buy the double-switch GuyZero suggested and split them up.
posted by nitsuj at 1:00 PM on October 13, 2006

I am a little unclear as to what your desired outcome would be. Light on and no fan ever? Light off but fan still running?

We like the fan in our bathroom to keep going even when we turn off the light so that it runs long enough to pull the moisture out of the room after a shower. Since we only have a single switch, we installed one of these nifty EFI fan/light delay switches. This allows us to set a timer for the fan (from 0-60 minutes) but control the light at will. The adjustment screw for the timer is behind the cover plate so it looks just like a regular light switch. We cranked our timer up so that everytime we turn on the light, the fan goes on and stays on for 60 minutes after the light is turned off.

I don't know the specifics of your wiring and I didn't install this switch myself (we had our electrician do it when we were rewiring the second floor). But it does come with instructions and customer service might be able to answer your questions about the device.
posted by jeanmari at 1:08 PM on October 13, 2006

Ok, that is a pretty cool switch. Certainly it's an obvious problem once you think about it.

My only warning is that if you're in an older building, the box may not be big enough to hold that switch. I put a pretty basic Leviton dimmer switch in my son's bedroom and the darn thing stick out from the wall more than a quarter inch. The face plate is just floating out there... anyway, good luck. And don't forget to turn off the power at the fuse/breaker box.
posted by GuyZero at 1:37 PM on October 13, 2006

When we moved into our house, we took out the overhead light in the bathroom and installed a heat lamp with a built-in exhaust fan, and put wall lights above the sink.

We have a switchplate with two switches, one for the wall lights and one for the overhead heat lamp, and a timer dial for the exhaust fan.

Our house was built in 1928 and there was no real difficulty with installation, my husband and his dad did the whole thing themselves with just some basic knowledge and a few trips to Home Depot.
posted by padraigin at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2006

For the record..

I've seen upto 5 switches on a single wall plate, using a decora (or whatever) style layout.

Also, bathroom exhaust fans are more about the humidity than the smell, and it is pretty important; helps towels dry, keeps walls from getting moldy, etc.
posted by Chuckles at 8:23 AM on October 14, 2006

My old boss had this problem - a fan and two lights in the bathroom, all running off the same switch. There was only one pair of wires coming into the back of the switch plate, and to change the wiring would have involved destroying bathroom wallpaper and chiselling out ancient plaster.

He ended up designing a box to go in his ceiling with an 8048 microcontroller and three solid-state relays in it, with a sensor input connected via the old switch wire to a triple switch plate and three resistors.

Each light and the fan ended up independently controllable, plus he programmed the 8048 so if you turned the fan off after turning off the lights, it stayed running for ten minutes to de-steam the room.

He's not living in that house any more. I feel sorry for the electrician who has to figure out what the fark that box in the ceiling is doing.
posted by flabdablet at 8:24 AM on October 14, 2006

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