Where's that Cold Breeze Coming From?

The other day when I was painting the kitchen in anticipation of our big date to the tile store I was squished in the corner painting the wall behind the fridge when I yelled at S to move the fan so it wasn't pointing directly at me. (I'd like to say I asked nicely, but I'm sure S would chime in and correct me.) As it turns out S wasn't in the room and neither was the fan. The breeze making me cold while dressed in overalls over a sweater and fleece jacket, covered with a large long-sleeve t-shirt, was coming from our kitchen exhaust fan.

The exhaust fan is on the outside wall above the refrigerator, which we assume is where the stove used to be in the original kitchen.
It's a very charming fan, but it's usually covered by a little plastic beauty with magnets at its four corners that hold it to the four little discs you can see on the fan, above. Side note: I always thought the cover was yellow, but a little bleach and soap solution with some very gentle scrubbing so as to not crack the brittle plastic revealed that it's closer to white. Gross.
The whole thing vents outside just to the right of our side door. When you flip the switch on the wall by the fridge (which is uncovered just because I was painting) a little flap inside moves and the fan sucks the burnt-toast air out of the house and into our yard. But it turns out that the little flap that works with gravity doesn't close so reliably after 80 years of service. So we sprayed her old joints with some WD-40 and came up with an easily removable solution to keep the cold air out of the house.

While I finished painting, S measured the opening of the outdoor vent and cut a scrap piece of plywood to size. He used the staple gun to affix a piece of leftover insulation to the wood, screwed in a couple of eye hooks to the bottom and knotted a piece of nylon rope between the hooks as a handle. Then he called me outside to take some photos.
The whole thing compresses into place and has held up well during several strong wind storms. The handle makes it easy to pop out the back door and pull it out, if I burn something in the kitchen. But I rarely use the fan and have only had to take it out once so far when I let water in an overfilled and unattended tea pot boil over, blow out a gas burner and fill the kitchen with the stink of gas before I turned off the burner. I'm a hot mess sometimes.
And I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I feel a difference in the temperature in the kitchen - this whole time I thought it was just because the unheated, unfinished portion of the basement is beneath the kitchen. Oh well, at least it's an improvement moving forward!

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  1. Now that it's insulated, does it make sense to leave the white cover off, or is it still a heat-saving help? You're right, it's quite charming on its own.

  2. Just wanted to let you know that I am digging your blog. Rob introduced me to it today and I am glad he did. Thanks for all of the good ideas and fantastic recipes. Who wouldn't love chocolate chip cookie dough truffles?


  3. Interesting....our house also has a fan that looks similar to this but I always thought it was in an old bathroom location. But this makes much more sense...thanks for helping me figure out some more of our house's secrets!

  4. I am really enjoying your blog..My husband and I bought a 1890's row house in central PA and its been such a joy to read about you doing these things that we end up doing either a week before you or end up inspired into another project. I currently just got my kitchen back after flooring contractors redid my floor; the first non-DIY in the house in almost a year..
    thanks so much

  5. Hi Sarah - I think we're going to keep it on just because the cover is so brittle that it would get destroyed if I put it anywhere but on the fan.

  6. Matt - I spent forever reading your blog last night. Your adoption stories are very cool. We have close ties to Ukraine so your Russian adoption piqued my interest. Looks like you've got quite a busy household!

  7. Hi Lee, welcome! The whole renovation thing is quite a process isn't it? One thing down just leads to another...and another...and another. It's never ending. If you remind us to take a vacation from home projects I promise to remind you!

  8. Ash, I'm jealous of your closets. Our looks pretty nice, but the doors are so small that you can't actually see anything inside. I'm seriously considering re-routing HVAC ducts to add double doors to my closet so I could have cute baskets too!


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