NuTone Appliance Maintenance

My house was built at a time when things were made to last. However, some things are hard to maintain. Hidden appliances, like the kitchen fan, is an appliance that nobody thinks about until it starts making sounds or, in my case, little pieces of dirt rained down when it was turned on. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been cleaned since it was installed 65 years ago. The entire motor housing and duct was covered with a thick layer of grease and dirt. It was time for some appliance maintenance.

The fan manufacturer, NuTone - best known for making doorbells - made fans primarily for residential homes. My grandmother had one above her kitchen sink that vented out the wall.  There was a pull chain to turn it on.  I remember her climbing up a stool and straddling the sink to clean the fan. My mom stood behind her the whole time waiting to catch her if she fell. These fans were stout, quiet and worth a bit of money if maintained.

One by one each part was disassembled and soaked. Goo Gone and an old toothbrush worked well especially since I couldn’t immerse the motor itself.  I’ve always hated the slotted screw head and wondered why they were still in use today. Apparently, they are used primarily where grease build up occurs, like an engine or motor. The grease can be pushed out of the slot allowing the driver head to fit.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures before I starting dismantling the fan.  There was so much grease, I couldn’t find the screws to take it apart. The first thing I constructed was a plastic hammock over the stove to catch debris. Like my grandmother, I had to climb up a ladder and start scraping. Citrus cleaners were invaluable in this first phase. I eventually located the screws that allowed me to remove the fan housing followed by the ducting. Cleaning became easier. The blade was attached with a set screw on the motor shaft and the motor hung from a bracket arm.

While these parts soaked, I scrubbed the motor housing. The motor was press fit together so I decided not to open it up. The power cord was in decent shape because the amount of gunk caked on kept it from drying out.

The outlet is built in the ductworks of the unit.  This two pronged plug is not complicated, however, it needed to be replaced due to cracked wiring. I had a hard time finding a replacement on-line. Fortunately, I have the best hardware store nearby, McGuckins. Their electrical department is well stocked with hard to find items. What shocked me most was the rectangular plug snapped perfectly into the original cutout. No modifications were necessary. The key words to use for searching on-line are “appliance receptacle”.

The blade was attached with a set screw on the motor shaft and the motor hung from a bracket arm.  While these parts soaked, I scrubbed the motor housing. The motor was press fit together so I decided not to open it up. The power cord was in decent shape because the amount of gunk caked on kept it from drying out.  The outlet is built in the ductworks of the unit.  This two pronged plug is not complicated, however, it needed to be replaced due to cracked wiring. I had a hard time finding a replacement online. Fortunately, I have the best hardware store nearby, McGuckins. Their electrical department is well stocked with hard to find items. What shocked me most was the rectangular plug snapped perfectly into the original cutout. No modifications were necessary. The key words to use for searching online are “appliance receptacle”.

This photo was taken just before I reinstalled the fan. The old wiring is shown.

I tackled the “guts” while my husband cleaned the ductworks. This is when he discovered the virtues of baking soda and vinegar.  Physical scrubbing, gloves and Scotch-Brite were essential. Removing all grease and scuffing the surface allowed me to repaint the parts before assembling.

Another problem I had to resolve before re-installing was the drywall opening in the ceiling had been cut too large for the duct flange. The insulation was falling from the edges. My local hackerspace, Solid State Depot, has a ShopBot that allowed me to cut an acrylic donut shaped washer that expanded the flange width.  The outside chrome cover fit over the flange.

The following photos are during installation.

Sadly, the NuTone decal has rubbed off. Eventually, I’d like to send the cover off to get stripped and re-chromed.

The fan is extremely quiet.

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