How to Replace a Bathroom Fan Light

circular bathroom fan with light
  • 2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100-300
What You'll Need
Bathroom fan light kit
Drywall knife
Electrical tape
Voltage tester
Drill and bits
Drop cloth
Wire nuts

A fan light combo in your bathroom provides lighting while also removing moisture in the air, venting it to the outside. Keeping the humidity down helps reduce production of mold on ceilings and other surfaces. Replacing or upgrading your bathroom fan light can be done rather quickly and easily with the right tools, a touch of know-how, and maybe a friend willing to prop it up if you have to venture into the attic. Just follow these steps!

Step 1 - Prep Before You Work

This includes checking if you need a permit, evaluating your current fan, and deciding on the replacement. When deciding on a replacement, find one with a sone rating under two, and a high CFM (cubic feet per minute) number. This will provide you with a quiet fan that also has good ventilation. But if your bathroom is small, the CFM number may not matter as much as it does for a larger bathroom, so adjust accordingly.

Step 2 - Gather Your Tools

Most of these will be common ones you already have in your toolbox. Lay a drop cloth underneath where you will be working to protect the area and facilitate cleanup afterward.

Step 3 - Power Down

Shut off power to the bathroom fan. If your circuits aren't labeled, you can also shut off the main circuit that provides power to the whole house. Power tools that aren't cordless would be your only restriction when it comes to that option, so try to locate the correct circuit, or else borrow some cordless tools.

hand flipping power switch on circuit breaker

Step 4 - Remove Cover

Remove screws to allow you to pop off the cover. If you don’t see screws, it may just snap into place, in which case, there may be a tab or button to press and release it. If you don’t see either, use a flathead screwdriver to gently pry it from the ceiling so you can access the inner workings. If the ceiling was painted around the fan, it may help to score the edges around it with a putty knife to loosen and release it from the ceiling.

Set the cover and any screws in a safe place so you don’t lose them.

Step 5 - Disconnect and Remove the Old Bathroom Fan Light

Double check that wires aren’t live with your voltage tester, and remove wires from the housing when you're sure all is safe. Unplug the unit from the outlet located just above the ceiling. If it isn't connected to a standard outlet, you may see wires with plastic connectors, or else a junction box with wires located inside. Remove the plastic connectors to separate the wires so you can remove the unit. If yours has a junction box, unscrew the cover to reveal the wiring inside and separate them accordingly.

Step 6 - Disconnect Vent Pipe

If the vent pipe is attached with HVAC tape or clips, remove it so you can work the pipe loose from the fan housing.

Step 7 - Remove Vent Fan Housing

Remove housing screws. Depending on your type of fan, this can be done from the bottom of the unit accessible from the bathroom, or else might have to be removed from the top by accessing it from the attic. You may need a second person to support the vent fan from the bottom if you need to access the mounting screws from the attic. Remove the unit from the ceiling once fully disconnected.

Step 8 - Adjust Ceiling Hole

Trace the new housing against the ceiling with a pencil. Cut the hole with a drywall knife. If the unit is smaller than the hole, you’ll have to patch the drywall around the fan to close up the space.

Step 9 - Install the Fan

Place the new bathroom fan light in the same position as the older unit. In some cases, the new fan will be bigger than the old unit. Use the screws that came with the new bathroom fan light to secure the new unit to a joist using the provided support brackets. This may need to be done from inside the attic depending on the model. Have a friend support it from below while you work to attach it to the attic joists.

Step 10 - Reconnect the Wiring

Reconnect the wiring from the circuit breaker box to the new bathroom fan light in the same way it was connected on the older unit. Insulate the connections with new wire nuts or high-quality electrical tape.

Step 11 - Reconnect the Exhaust Hose

Reconnect the exhaust hose that leads from the outside of your home to your bathroom exhaust fan light. If the old duct tube does not fit the new exhaust fan, you may have to purchase new duct tube from a local home improvement store. In some cases, your new bathroom fan light may come with an adapter or tube.

braun bathroom fan light

Step 12 - Cleanup

Use a damp cloth to wipe the new bathroom light clean, removing any dust or debris that may have settled on it during installation. At this time, install the light bulb.

Step 13 - Power it Up

Turn on the breaker that provides power for your bathroom and test the new installation. If it works properly, you're finished. If not, remove the cover and check the wire connections again.

And there you have it. Give yourself a pat on the back and bask in well-circulated air of your bathroom, and the inner glow of another successful DIY project.