Bath Fan/Light Hazards

I don’t know how involved home inspectors generally get when examining bathroom combination fan/light units. I would encourage a more thorough examination, as these units are designed to come apart for routine cleaning and lamp changes without tools. I am finding one particular failure mode on a very regular basis, that presents a substantial hazard to a person changing light bulbs. I have seen this hazard dozens and dozens of times. The particular model in my picture, for reasons that are not clear to me, seems to be among the one’s most prone to this failure.

This problem is caused by overlamping the fixture, but some styles are far less resistant to overlamping.


the home inspectors is a non-invasive inspection meaning they can’t remove the cover of fixtures or actually remove anything in the way of fixtures, plates or switches and the like…as it normally would venture outside of their generalist label .

However…it does appear to be a serious fire hazard…if it is something that the HI can tell from the surface without going into the unit…most certainly they should be aware of it…kinda like a defect warning…is this a standard thing or found to be involved with a certain brand more than others?

Alot of time when the HI is inside the attic as well…they can see openings on the fixture like the one shown here and they most certainly should write it up…

With all that said…I agree 100% if you see one of these…do your BEST to peer inside…if it is clogged…recommend cleaning…and never hurts to make sure they know about installing the right size buld in fixtures…

Great Post…

Ahh…Nutone…yep…see them ALOT !

Indeed, there are a couple of external indicators that 90% of the time will indicate that this heat stressed lampholder wiring issue will be found.

For fan/light units and medicine cabinets with plastic diffusers; discolored spots and heat cracks on the diffuser are the key external indicators. These are a sure sign of past (or present) overlamping and heat stressed wiring within the fixture is highly suspected. This is not only a potential fire hazard, but often an immediate danger to the person attempting to relamp the fixture.

Fixtures with heat discolored diffusers should absolutely be among the items that require a more detailed evaluation by a person more famaliar with these items.

Seeing more of these.

Ventilators with a humidistat built in. Automatically turns itself on and off.

Most excellent…and can most certainly be something that HI’s can notice when looking at all fixtures…many times the signs of overlamping can be seen if you just take the time to really examine the situation.

Excellent TIP …electrical synergy baby…thats what it is all about…bringing BRIGHT minds together for the educational experience.

I am going to go trademark that tagline…:slight_smile:

I agree that this is concern, but if it is a hazard for the person changing the lamp, it would also be a hazard for the inspector. I don’t think many inspectors are really interested in “hazard duty”.

However, discolored diffusers should be noted and deferred to an expert.

We’re struggling with the availability of the repair part (the humidistat) for these units in the field. I suspect that in the years ahead, many of these units will have the humidistat part disabled. I push for the regular Honeywell wall mounted humidistat on my higher end installs, and for bathrooms with high potential moisture load (such as baths with jetted tubs and steam showers).

Was the bulb oversized?


Overlamping is the primary cause of this condition. The lamp size found when I took those pictures did conform to the maximum lamp size marked on the fixture.


Some of which include similar products.

****Also, all fixtures are required to be marked with the maximum lamp wattage or electrical rating, manufacturer’s name, trademark, or other suitable means of identification.

In addition, a fixture that requires supply wire rated higher than 60°C (140°F) must be marked in letters not smaller than ¼ in. high, prominently displayed on the fixture and shipping carton or equivalent.

Are you finding this to be true Marc?

Holy moly, Joe… you must be psychic…

That exact unit in my pictures (which is a very popular unit), is the subject of a recall for the exact reasons in my posted pictures.

Here’s the recall notice on that particular model:

I find that to be true, but often ignored. Plus, some of that required marking is done on labels. The glue on these labels dries out (ironically, from the heat of the lamp) and the labels summarily fall off.

The most important thing about this for the HI to take away from it is the fact they were installed between June 96 to July 97.

Also important to note : Other models of NuTone fans with larger grills or fluorescent lights are not involved in this recall

AS well as the EXCELLENT lesson on looking at the signs of overlamping in marcs original example.


Yes, I am a Physic and have a keen eye that helps me to identify the links when searched as I did here for Fan light Fire hazards.

**I have two questions:

  1. How are you able to post the images as large as they are, we have some size restrictions?

  2. What are your feelings related to safety and the removal of any equipment covers, where the inspector looks for any problems, most of which are posted here showing the images of interiors of energized cabinets, and the panelboards within them? :smiley:

Ancient Chinese secret.

I immediately thought the same thing with respect to that response, but thought I’d better bite my tongue (or keyboard finger, as it were). Some guys have already seen fit to ding my reputation points, for some reason. I struggle to be as technically accurate as I can.

Good question those photos were so large I couldn’t see the original text. :roll:

Joe Tedesco, check the NACHI SOP’s, they do address what is expected, without spelling out top it, just when not to. Also it is in the Electrical Education course, if the memory serves me right. So I’m guessing there is an ‘official’ position on such investigations.

As for the this specific case, I have a nutone, in-fact I seem to only been lately installing nutones. My luck, I guess. The cover of this specific light looks very “YELLOWED” so in hindsight I would say I would have popped it off, because I would want to see if there was an overheating issue. But this is me.


Opening panels and such are covered in the SOP for the home inspector, it is part of their requirements and written that way. It might be helpful Marc if you read this information…kinda will give you an idea of what they are going be looking for and looking at.

However…some do go beyond the scope of a normal non-invasive inspection and the information provided for them is vital…Your doing fine marc with your explanations…very easy to understand and to the point. The REP system is a total waste…don’t get too bogged down with that freakin thing…

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