How to Fix the Exhaust Fan in the Bathroom

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

So your exhaust fan has been making noise for a while or stopped working completely and it has come time to figure out exactly is wrong with it. Here in this blog, we are going to go through all the things that could be wrong with your fan and the courses of action to be able to fix it.

bathroom exhaust fan

The Fan Is Old

This is the most common and you see it time and time again. The bathroom fan is ten maybe twenty years old and needs to be sent the way of the dodo bird. Usually the culprit on most bath fans is that the bearings inside the motor have given out and are making awful sounds as the poor fan tries to spin.

One thing you can try if it is just an older fan is just to take the motor out of the ceiling and give it a thorough cleaning. More than likely, there will be lots of built up grime from years of use.

The fan if it has completely died sometimes will make a humming noise and the motor will cease to move. This is a sure sign that replacement is the suitable option.

In cases like this, a shopping trip is in order to your local hardware store and plan to replace it yourself or time to hire a qualified electrician or HVAC person to take care of this little problem for you.

Misalignment of the Flapper

The second most common thing that could be making noise is the flapper. For people that are reading this are wondering what the flapper is and where is it located on the fan, here is the simple explanation. The flapper on an exhaust fan is located where the fan blows air to the outside inside the fan housing. It opens to allow the air to exit the bathroom and take the moist air with it and stays in the closed position when not in use.

Sometimes for one reason or another, the flapper comes loose and when air hits it..... you guessed it.... a horrible noise. It might be as simple as realigning the flapper again so that it works properly. This is one of the easiest problems to fix.

Problems at the Switch

bathroom fan timer

If you have an ordinary switch installed these can fail too. I have noticed in more recent years that the quality from the manufacturers is starting to slip and they are starting to fail prematurely. Common signs of this would have been noticeable arcing when you turn the switch on and off. You hear a sound as well as the switch connects.

If you suspect that your problem might lie with the controls of your fan, if you are uncomfortable with electricity, fall your friendly neighborhood electrician in to help you out. They will inspect the switches and troubleshoot the root cause of why the fan does not work.

Other Electrical Things to Look at

One other simple thing to check is that if the bathroom fan is protected by the GFCI in your home, you might want to check to see if it tripped. It will a matter of locating the GFCI in your home and making sure that it does not need to be reset. Most commonly they are located in a bathroom, but could possibly be on the panel board in the basement or even as an electrical breaker.

Once you determine that it is not the GFCI, check to see if a breaker has tripped. If a breaker tripped, you will have to determine the cause of why this has happened. Again, if you are completely stumped and have no clue, call your local electrician to help you out. They will have the problem sorted out in short order quickly, efficiently, and safely. Electricity can frankly, be shocking if you don't know what you are doing.

Ductwork Inspection

dirty exhaust fan troubleshooting

If the fan still works properly, but you notice that there is little to air movement in the bathroom, you will have to check the ductwork out. In order to test this, put your hand up to the fan and feel for air movement. You can use something like a Kleenex or piece of toilet paper also to check the suction of the fan on the grill. If it doesn't move air, proceed on reading.

Take the grille off of the fan and with a screwdriver remove whatever screws are holding in the motor. Once you have it pulled out, check for any obstructions entering the ductwork. If there is a lot of dirt and grime, you can something long and flexible to stick into the duct to clean out any grime.

The second and more likely spot that you might find a blockage on ductwork is the location where it exits the home. Look for possible items that are blocking it like birds, leaves or dead foliage. If you find any of these, clear it out and you are done!

So You have Determined that You Need a New Fan

So after all of that troubleshooting that you the motor is no good and you need a new one. If your fan is not super old and is a common brand, you might be able to just take the part number off of the fan and just replace the motor. If it is a common brand some companies make retrofit fan motor replacements so just be aware this might be an option for what you replace it with.

Try to replace your fan with something equivalent to the one that you are replacing so you may not have to cut the drywall or worry about having too small of ductwork. Another Thing to look at when buying a new fan is the sone rating which is the amount of noise a fan makes. The lower the number, the quieter it will be. The other thing to look at is the CFM rating of the replacement fan. You need to buy something that can replace the air in the bathroom 8 times in an hour. For bathrooms that are 50 square feet and smaller they typically use a fan sized 50-79CFM. For and bathrooms that are bigger, 80 CFM and up. Both of these factors will determine what you will buy and make sure that is will function properly for the space and not sound like a jet plane taking off!

If this is something that you are uncomfortable with, need to call in a pro, and live in the Cochrane, Calgary and Area feel free to call Firestorm Electric. We can take care of your bathroom fan needs and make sure that they work properly for you and your family!

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