replacing bathroom fan

I have a dumb question.... We have a 40 sqft. bathroom (full bath). The exhaust fan can not keep up. It's been getting worse and worse since we moved in a few years ago. We've tried cleaning it out a few times but that does little good. We didn't put it in, but from the looks of it, it's one of those super cheap Broan fans http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId&556-14-671&lpage=none). It's rated to fit our size bathroom but does not cut it. What I'd like to do is replace it with a new better quality one. My question is...... Is there a way to do this without getting into the attic? If I buy a better model Broan (same size unit) can I simply put it in the existing box in the ceiling? Ideally I want to disconnect and pull down the old one and reconnect a new one in it's spot. Thanks!!
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grodenhiATgmailDOTcom wrote:

http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId&556-14-671&lpage=none).
at least with Nutone fans you can definitely do what you're suggesting, I did just that in a house that I was renting once.
You may at least wish to take the removable working bits of the fan to the store with you when you go to purchase the replacement. This will help you determine if your plan will work as easily as you think it will.
Also check the ductwork and dampers etc. to make sure that there's not a blockage causing the fan to work poorly. Also cracking the door while showering makes a big difference, or opening a window (if you have one in your bathroom.)
nate
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I'll reply to you Nate, as I have all gmail posts blocked. You need to check the duct size first. The small, cheap units typically use a 3" duct, which would be worthless if you want the fan to actually do something. You may be able to get replacement guts for the existing fan, but it would probably work as badly as it did previously. Broan and Nutone, which are the same company now, have many similar fan models with slight changes between them, just enough to make part replacing difficult. Broan makes some models called "quiet" or "silent", which I've been able to install from beneath without wrecking the ceiling. In order to do this, there has to be an open space above where you can push the entire fan including the duct adapter. You have to enlarge the existing hole starting up against a joist, cut out the sheetrock, remove the existing unit and transfer the electric to the new unit, push the unit into the ceiling, and working through the hole, connect the duct, (assuming a 4" duct ), then drop the unit down into the perfectly cut hole until it's flush with the ceiling and shoot several screws through the interior of the housing body into the joist, reinstall the fan innards, which you will have to have removed, and you're done
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http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId&556-14-671&lpage=none).
Depending on the model fan that you have, Nutone/Broan makes a retrofit kit that is a little quieter than the existing cheap builders special. Check out the model 690 kit here: http://www.broan.com/display/router.asp?ProductID 0402 This is installable without going into the attic in about a half hour. My recommendation is to get rid of that Broan fan altogether and install a Panasonic model in its place. You will most likely need to go into the attic to install it, but it is worth the extra work and expense.
As Nate mentioned, there could be other factors causing the fan to not perform well. A roof cap that no longer fully opens, a pinched duct, or the fan damper may be stuck. Also an exhaust fan does require make-up air to perform well so as Nate suggested an open window would help.
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Don't forget the bird's nest in the duct problem.
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