I purchased a house about 2 years ago with a bathroom vent fan. When we bought that house it was running constantly and we kinda looked over it (first house lol).

In the bathroom there is one light switch (for the lights) and an outlet next to it (Which is strange...an outlet that high?) however the light switch does not control the exhaust fan.

Is it possible that the fan was never hooked up and expected to be ran continuously? How big of a job would it to be to take out that outlet (which is useless cause it's near the bathroom door and high up) and just add a switch for the vent fan? Surely the vent fan isn't expected to just always run? It has a timer on it but that doesn't seem to do anything?

There are more wires behind the switch socket. Is there any way I can test to see if any go to the exhaust fan?

Edit(More Details): House is approx 6 years old (built in late 2011).

imgur link to vent and outlet box:https://i.stack.imgur.com/twEpv.jpg

Since some things are hard to see, on the switch itself there are 2 black wires that go to it and a ground wire (theirs also a bundle of ground wires in the back with a green cap).

There are also 3 white wires and 3 black wires each bundles with their own cap behind all this (tough to see but I counted 3 per)

The outlet plug has 1 black wire on it's left side and 1 white wire on it's right side, and a ground wire. The weird thing about this one...is the white one is HOT (as in when I test it with the wire tester it beeps) but the black one doesn't beep. Regardless the outlet does indeed work.

The fan will continuously run, and I'm thinking maybe where the outlet was there used to be a switch?

  • Can you upload a picture of the wires in the switch box? There might be some visual clues; for example, if you see a red wire pigtailed to a black wire, it's likely the red wire runs to the fan and used to be connected to the switch. Jun 16, 2017 at 20:45
  • Is there a fan motor right in the ceiling, or is it nearly silent as if being operated elsewhere? If the latter, you probably have a modern air-to-air heat exchanger, and the fan is controlled by the central unit. It's a more efficient alternative to pumping your conditioned air into the neighborhood. Some run on demand and some run all the time to keep fresh air in your home without wasting heat. Update your post with the age of your home (we don't care when you bought it) and any details you can uncover about your HVAC system.
    – isherwood
    Jun 16, 2017 at 20:49
  • @RobertNubel I added details and pictures
    – msmith1114
    Jun 16, 2017 at 21:37
  • @isherwood Details and pics added
    – msmith1114
    Jun 16, 2017 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


I installed a fan in our bathroom to improve air circulation in the house. It is intended to be run all the time at a low setting. We have a motion sensor module in ours that will increase the fan speed (and thus the CFM) for a period of time (settable). I kept the switch on ours, but you're not generally supposed to. Instead, it is common to swap the switch with an outlet, like it appears was done in your case.

A house is intended to have a continuous exchange of air with proper ventilation. If you do not have that, your indoor air will quality will suffer... more CO2 and humidity, leading to mold growth. If mold is detected in a house, a common recommendation is to increase air exchange by installing a continuously-running fan.

If your fan is running all the time at a high rate, it may be possible to install a motion-sensing module. Google the fan's model number to get a manual to find the right part numbers to buy.

If you think your air quality is fine, and you want to make the fan switchable again, you should be able to easily swap the outlet back out for a switch. Generally speaking, you'll want to remove the outlet (with it's pig-tailed wire(s)) and then find the wires that go to the fan... there will be two coming into the box in the same spot which, when disconnected will leave a working light switch, but the fan will be off. One of these two wires will go to one side of the new switch and the other wire will go to one of the existing capped bundles... then you'll need to add the pigtail from the other side of the switch to the other color capped bundle.

Take this all with a grain of salt... I'm not an electrician. Be sure to turn off your breaker when you are doing the changes. If you're not sure which wires are which, it's best to make one change at a time so you can reverse it as needed. I always take a picture before I make any changes. Writing it out on paper sometimes helps me get my thinking straight.

Finally, if you just want to split the difference and be done with it, you could consider just turning the CFM dial down until it is quieter but still moving decent air.

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