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House & Home

Troubleshoot a Ceiling Fan Malfunction

Posted May 13, 2015

A ceiling fan is a pleasure when the weather starts warming up. It stirs the air and creates a delightful breeze. The fact that a fan is much less expensive to run than your home air conditioning doesn't hurt, either. What happens, though, if your fan suddenly stops functioning the way it should? Do you know how to troubleshoot a ceiling fan problem? Here's a brief guide, with 5 causes and solutions for common malfunctions, plus some general tips to help you out.

1. PULL CHAIN DETACHED

Cause -- Someone yanked too hard on either the chain that turns on the light or the one that controls the fan.

Solution -- First, attempt to repair the ceiling fan by reattaching the chain or, if that does not work, replacing the switch. Important: the replacement ceiling fan mechanism should be the same size and wattage as the original.

2. CEILING FAN LIGHT NO LONGER WORKING

Cause -- This could be due to any one of a number of reasons. The bulb may have simply burnt out. Alternatively, there may be damage to the pull chain or light socket, or a loose wire.

Solution -- Try changing the light bulb initially. If that doesn't fix your ceiling fan problem, flip the circuit breaker off and check with a noncontact voltage tester to see whether the socket is being supplied with power. Clean the inside of the socket using a soft, dry cloth. Then make another attempt with a new light bulb. Don't forget to flip the circuit breaker back to "on" when you are done.

3. CEILING FAN WOBBLING

Cause -- The box which the fan was installed on could be at fault. It should be fan-rated, rather than designed for a standard light fixture. Alternatively, the blades may have become warped or unbalanced.

Solution -- You might need to add an adjustable fan brace for support. If the problem is with the blades, you can purchase a special balancing kit. Warped blades will generally be replaced by the ceiling fan manufacturer.

4. CEILING FAN MAKING TOO MUCH NOISE

Cause -- A soft humming sound is normal for a ceiling fan. However, if the noise level rises over time, or sounds more like a rattle, it may be a consequence of deterioration of the motor, an imbalance (see "Ceiling Fan Wobbling" above), or loose parts inside the fan housing.

Solution -- Once the motor breaks down, it is usually too complicated to repair; replacement of the ceiling fan will be necessary. If the motor is still good, fitting the fan base plate with a rubber gasket may help. The fix for a rattling sound is taking the fan assembly apart and removing any screws or other loose pieces.

5. CEILING FAN NOT CIRCULATING AIR

Cause -- A weak airflow may simply be the result of operating your fan on too slow a speed. However, it could be caused by a ceiling fan which is running in reverse (changing the airflow direction to clockwise in winter will help circulate warm air more efficiently).

Solution -- Increase the fan speed if appropriate. Check the direction of the fan blade movement and use the "reverse" switch to change it if necessary.

TIPS TO PREVENT COMMON CEILING FAN PROBLEMS

Always flip the circuit breaker to "off" before working on a ceiling fan.

Never try to remove a fan from the ceiling alone. The heavy apparatus is more safely handled by two people.

To avoid broken pull chains and make ceiling fans easier to use, buy models which are operated by a remote control device or install a remote in an older fan already in place in your home.

Professional electricians warn: never use a dimmer switch to control a ceiling fan, as it can damage the motor.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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