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We have this bathroom with just one switch on the wall.

switch

Both the wall light near the mirror and the ventilation fan in the ceiling are controlled by this single switch.

wall light ventilation fan

I want to replace it with a 2-Function Rocker Combination Switch. dual rocker switch

A well-reviewed electrician and I looked in the attic above this bathroom, and he said that it doesn't provide the access that he needs. So he needs to cut drywall (repairing it would be expensive) and run a new wire.

Is there some alternative approach that would be cheaper?

Maybe nowadays there is some kind of wireless option like Kasa or Lutron?

I imagine there is some product that I could install at the end of the wire that the fan is plugged into that would act as a wirelessly-controlled switch that would be controlled by one of the rocker switches.

It would be acceptable to me if the light must be on for the fan to be on (as long as the fan being on is optional when the light is on).

Any other ideas to improve my situation?

P.S. How can I convert a single light/fan switch to separate switches? seems like a related question but didn't explore inexpensive alternatives to new wiring.


UPDATE

Inside the switch box:

switch box photo 1 switch box photo 2 switch box photo 3

Video of the inside of the switch box


UPDATE 2

floorplan

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    What's above the bathroom? Another habitable space, or attic?
    – Huesmann
    Jan 10, 2023 at 17:17
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    OK, he said, but is he right or does he just want to pad his bill and include some drywall repair? Also, do you know how your fan and light are wired up? Do you have the wherewithal to open up the switch box and get a pic of the wiring?
    – Huesmann
    Jan 10, 2023 at 19:12
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    Yeah, looks like you have a switch leg. Power comes into to box, the hot connects to the switch and continues to your loads, and the neutrals and ground are connected to each other. The loads must be pigtailed together at one of them.
    – Huesmann
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:49
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    Did your electrician elaborate on why he doesn't think he has access from the attic? Is the switch on a wall where there's very little clearance to the roof? Do you have a sketch showing the room layout with the switch and exterior walls labeled?
    – Huesmann
    Jan 12, 2023 at 14:27
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    Is that neutral wire connection done with a copper crimp? You should replace that with a proper wire nut.
    – Matthew
    Jan 12, 2023 at 15:41

2 Answers 2

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No easy solutions that I know of. The standard thing is, of course, new cables as needed. How much drywall work would be needed depends on access. In particular, if there is access above the ceiling (e.g., an unfinished attic) then it may not be too bad. But if there is another regular floor above then almost definitely some drywall work would be needed after running a new cable.

Remotes typically take three forms:

  • Plug-in. Not an option here as the light and fan are both hardwired.
  • Remote control attached to a device in the ceiling (or wall). This is how many ceiling fan/light combinations work these days, instead of using two separate hardwired switches. That works well for ceiling fans because (a) having a remote you can use anywhere in the room (e.g., while lying in bed or sitting on a sofa) is very helpful - not really applicable in a bathroom, (b) it is extremely common to not have extra wires to the ceiling to replace a simple light with a combination fan/light (unlike a bathroom where for many years a fan has been planned for the room so the extra wires are installed), (c) the remote can provide speed control (which is not really needed in a bathroom). In any case, a remote installed that way would have to be designed to work with the fan. A typical small exhaust fan has an integral junction box and isn't designed to have a remote fitted to it. Not impossible, but not easy.
  • Built into the device. Not an option unless you replace the fan altogether.

There are parts available to build almost anything. It is a matter of relays and controllers and whatever...but you can't just build something and stick inside your wall or ceiling because if anything goes wrong then you will be in deep trouble. And if that trouble involves a lot of money, your insurance company won't pay for it.

My recommendation would be to run a new cable. But not a simple 2-wire (plus ground) cable. Run a 3-wire or possibly even a 4-wire cable. Why? So that if you decide (now or later) to replace the exhaust fan with an exhaust fan/light, an exhaust fan/heat fan or an exhaust fan/heat fan/light then you will be all set - just replace the switch and the device and you're done. Most of the cost of running a cable will be labor (yours and/or electrician and/or handyman to fix drywall/etc. if you don't want to do it yourself) so future-proofing is well worth it.

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    I would also be concerned(life span) about adding electronics in a high humid room.
    – crip659
    Jan 10, 2023 at 16:10
  • Thanks for your thorough answer. I am now thinking a little bit laterally. Even though the electrician said that my attic doesn't give him the access that he would need to easily run new wires from the switch to the light and fan, I wonder if the attic access that we do have would be useful in another way. Thinking out loud: if I had access to either the wire that goes to the fan or the one that goes to the light and also had access to a power source in the attic, I wonder if I could connect a remote to that.
    – Ryan
    Jan 10, 2023 at 18:59
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    Theoretically, if you had accessible power in the attic and access to the fan, you could wire up the fan with a master wireless control of some sort and put the remote as a switch in the bathroom. Generally, unfinished attics don't have much in the way of accessible power. But every house is different, so that might be possible. Jan 10, 2023 at 19:02
  • There is a lightbulb up there with a pull string. So there is power. If I sacrifice the attic light (which I'm willing to do, since I could always wear a headlamp when visiting the attic), then I have what I need? (Also, I'm updating the question with more photos.)
    – Ryan
    Jan 10, 2023 at 22:15
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    A light bulb with a pull string is actually very good. That means you have constant power available. In theory (I say that because there are a lot of other details), you could extend that circuit to near the fan, install a smart switch "main", extend from there to power the fan. Then downstairs you put a wireless remote - which can (e.g., Lutron Pico) look just like a regular switch. But if you do that, I would stick a piece of paper in the box behind the remote that says "Main smart switch in attic" for the next owner (or your future self if you forget in a few years). Jan 10, 2023 at 22:47
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I think the electrician's right. But if you want to save some money, consider letting the electrician deal with the wiring, and then fixing the holes in the drywall yourself.

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  • Yeah, fixing the drywall is most of the expense. And I am not very handy.
    – Ryan
    Jan 10, 2023 at 18:54
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    You can hire a handyman to do drywall patching/painting - no need to pay electrician rates for that. Jan 10, 2023 at 18:55
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    Also you may not want electrician-tier drywall. diychatroom.com/threads/is-this-normal.746119 Jan 10, 2023 at 20:04
  • Fair point, @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact. Thanks.
    – Ryan
    Jan 10, 2023 at 22:19
  • Ha, yeah, thanks @Harper-ReinstateMonica
    – Ryan
    Jan 10, 2023 at 22:19

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