I need to fix a broken bathroom fan
It can be exhausting when your bathroom fan is not exhausting. You know your fan gets rid of bathroom smells, but its main job is to remove hot, moist air and keep the room dry to help prevent mold and mildew. Use your exhaust fan both to get rid of smells and to cycle out wet air before and after showers and baths.
Quick tip: to help the bathroom fan remove odors and hot, moist air more efficiently:
- Turn on the fan when you enter so the air is already moving.
- When you leave, keep the door open. This lets the fan replace bad air with fresh air.
- If the door is closed, you restrict air movement and your fan works harder and longer.
So, the bathroom fan does important work. When it’s not working, you want to fix it as soon as you can. Let’s start with why it might not be working.
Why your bathroom fan might not be working
There are several reasons why your exhaust fan might have stopped working. Here are some of the most common reasons, and how to fix them:
- Check to see if something tripped the circuit breaker. Reset the circuit breaker if necessary.
- Check the fan switch with a voltage tester. Replace it if you have a bad switch.
- If the fan switch is on a ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet (that outlet with the buttons that automatically turns off the electricity to prevent electrocution) test it to make sure it’s reset.
- If the exhaust fan motor doesn’t spin smoothly, you might need to clean the assembly or lubricate the motor with a few drops of light machine oil at each end of the motor shaft.
- The motor is burnt out and needs replacing.
Testing your bathroom fan
Let’s say the circuit breaker is reset, the switch is working, the GFCI is reset, the motor is clean and oiled, and the motor is not burnt out. You flip the switch and it turns on but it’s still not working. It could be that bad suction is not caused by the motor. You can test suction by turning on the fan and then putting a piece of toilet paper up to the grill. If the toilet paper doesn’t cling to the grill, you probably need to clean it.
Remove the grill and use an old brush to remove lint or dirt on the grill slats. While you’re doing that, remove the fan motor and thoroughly clean the fan blades and motor housing. One thing to keep in mind: most fan blades are made of plastic, but some of the older blades are made of metal. Metal blades can twist or bend. For optimal efficiency, straighten the blades if they’re bent. Now that all the parts are clean and in good shape, reassemble the fan.
Try the toilet paper test again. If it still isn’t working, you might have a clogged exhaust duct. You can clean it with a broom handle that has a rag attached on the end. You can also buy duct cleaning rods that can curve or make 90 degree bends to clean your ducts. Wet-dry vacuums can also work to clean shorter ducts.
So, what happens if I did all that and it still doesn’t work?
You’re going to need to replace the motor or buy a new fan. Replacing the motor is relatively easy. It costs about as much as buying a new fan, but at least you don’t have to tear out the old fan. If you have to buy a new fan, check the packaging for something called a “sone number.” This is a unit used to measure noise. The lower the number, the quieter the fan.
Don’t just buy the fan with the lowest “sone number”, however. You want to be sure you get one that’s powerful enough to replace the air in your bathroom 8 times in one hour. For that, check the CFM rating. Bathrooms 50 square feet and smaller typically have a CFM range of 50-79. For larger bathrooms, select a fan that can move at least 1 CFM per square foot of room. The fan for an 80 square foot bathroom should, for instance, have at least an 80 CFM rating. So, when you buy new fan, remember to get one that’s both quiet and that moves air. You’ll pay more, but if you like a quiet fan, it’s better than having a fan that’s super noisy.
If you have any questions about your fan or you need help fixing, don’t hesitate to give EarlyBird a call any time. We’ll keep the air moving, so you can stay comfortable.
The general knowledge and advice in this blog is designed to give you a little background information about your electrical system and may not be complete or contain minor errors. Early Bird Electric is not responsible for any consequences if you attempt to fix your electrical problem using this information. It’s always a good idea to hire a local, licensed electrician like Early Bird Electric to safely and professionally handle the job.