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How To: Restore an Attic Fan

how to restore an attic vent

This post was sponsored by my friends at Krylon who help me almost every day to restore this historic home to its former glory.

Last year I moved into a new house here in Orlando, FL. The house was built in 1918, but there had been some significant renovations in the early 2000s. One of the changes made to the house was to remove the passive attic vents and install new powered attic fans that were honestly looking pretty rough.

There is a fine science to attic ventilation that I have written about extensively in this post if you want to go a little deeper. Once summer hit I discovered that none of the attic fans were working any longer which meant that my attic was basically un-vented for the coming summer season. This spelled doom for my air conditioner which was already struggling to keep up with the extreme attic heat building up.

I got a couple quotes from roofers to have the attic fan replaced, but when I saw a price tag of over $1,500 for each fan I decided to take things into my own hands and do it myself. If you know me at all you know that I don’t just fix things I restore them. I knew I not only had to get these things working again, but also needed to make them as attractive as possible and up their curb appeal in a major way. That last part is where Krylon’s spray paints were going to make the big difference!

Diagnosing the Problem

I climbed up in the sauna…er, attic and tested the power supply to the fan with a voltage tester. The power was on and after testing the thermostat for the unit it was also performing properly, running power from the thermostat to the fan when the temp was over 95 F in the attic, which was about 22 hrs a day at this point.

The fan blade turned relatively smoothly, but could certainly use a little WD40 to relieve some friction. That meant it had to be the motor that had gone bad. I turned the power off to the fan at the breaker, disconnected the wires (taking a picture of them first so I could easily wire up the new motor), and after loosening three nuts holding the motor to the housing I was able to get the motor down and take a closer look.

The make and model number was printed on the side of the motor and with a quick Amazon search I was able to find a replacement attic fan for only $78 that would be delivered the next day. The path to a weekend DIY project was laid bare and I was ready for action the next day when things arrived at the house.

How To Fix an Attic Fan

The next morning I tore into the box and pulled out the shiny new motor. I used an Allen key to loosen the collar on the old fan blade in order to give it a good cleaning and swap it out onto my new motor.

After being careful to install the blade the right direction onto the new motor so that it sucks hot air out of my attic instead of blowing it inside, the motor was ready for installation.

I crawled back into Dante’s inferno…uh, my attic and set the new motor into the housing, tightened up the 3 retaining nuts and wired things up just the way they were before. The moment of truth had arrived! I called down to my oldest son to flip the breaker back on. After what seemed like a 2 hour hostage negotiation he finally understood what I was asking of him and powered it up (note to self: buy him a cell phone before attempting this again!)

Success! The fan spun into action and began sucking the heat right out of my attic with vigor. I walked outside to inspect my work from the driveway and that’s when I noticed my shortcomings. The fan, which now worked fantastically, still looked absolutely atrocious. The mushroom cap was dented in places and had an ugly mottled color like it had once been painted, but had given up that ghost long ago. I wasn’t done yet.

Making an Attic Fan Beautiful

Just because it worked didn’t mean I could leave it like that. I decided to grab a can of my go-to spray paint and get to work. Krylon Fusion All-In-One is the hardest working spray paint I know and I use it all the time for restoring vintage tools and homes, so I knew that if any spray paint would be able to tackle this it would be Fusion All-In-One. Waiting for the morning to paint since the metal would be prohibitively hot during daytime hours, I cleaned off the mushroom cap with a damp cloth.

One of the great things about this product is that it doesn’t require sanding or priming. It provides excellent rust protection with minimal prep which is so great for my busy schedule. One coat and done!

I grabbed a drop cloth to protect my surrounding shingles and the business end of a can of Krylon Fusion All-In-One in Metallic Satin Nickel and got down to work. Spraying even overlapping coats over the metal the paint covered beautifully.

I climbed down from the hellscape that is a Florida roof in summer and admired my work. Now I was done! Mechanicals repaired, aesthetics beautified, ventilation restored.

Step-by-Step Repairs

For those of you who like a concise play by play this section is for you. None of my pithy descriptions, just the facts for you!

Tools Needed

Step 1 Turn Off Power

Turn off the power to your attic fan at the breaker. Using your voltage tester at the fan check that power has been cut.

Step 2 Disconnect Wires

At the thermostat take a picture of the wiring as it is. disconnect the wires for the fan and pull them out of the thermostat box.

Step 3 Remove Fan Motor

Using a crescent wrench or socket set loosen and set aside the nuts holding the fan motor into the housing and lift the motor assembly out of the housing.

Step 4 Replace Fan Blade

Loosen the collar on the fan blade and remove the fan. Give the fan a good cleaning and install it the same way onto the new motor exactly as it was on the old motor.

Step 5 Install New Motor

Install the new motor and blade back into the housing and tighten the retaining nuts down to secure the motor. Test that the fan blade spins without hitting any of the housing.

Step 6 Connect the Wires

Reconnect the fan wires inside the thermostat just the way they were connected before. You took that picture, right?

Step 7 Turn it On

Turn the power on and test to make sure everything is working properly.

Step 8 Paint the Cap

Wipe the metal cap down with a damp cloth to clean off any dirt, lay down a drop cloth to protect the shingles, and spray one coat of Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint in a color that matches your shingles as closely as possible. And the easy part is that they have over 200 different colors to choose from so it makes it easy to match your roof!

That’s it! A simple DIY and budget friendly project to fix an attic fan in your house for under $100. That’s a savings you’ll get back very quickly in reduced energy costs.

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4 thoughts on “How To: Restore an Attic Fan

  1. I’m having a very hard time trying to locate replacement motors for an attic ventilator like yours. Would you share your vendors information, please?

  2. I’ve always read that WD40 shouldn’t be used for fine lubrication – because of the oil it attracts dust and dirt which means it eventually causes problems.
    We use a silky graphite powder instead and have never had any issues.

  3. Great article & DIY . Thank you for sharing this. We have to roof turbines …non powered. I just wo der would an attic fan be better.

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