Bathroom fans are more than a convenience; they are an essential part of our bathroom. We often take our bathroom fans for granted. But once they stop working, we begin to realize just how important they are.
Your bathroom exhaust fan was not built to last forever. Other factors can shorten its lifespan. Once a bathroom fan fails to do its job, foul odors will linger, and you will see an increase in moisture, mold, and possibly even water damage.
This article will aid you in diagnosing why your fan is not working. We will discuss ways to test your bathroom fan and, most importantly, how to fix it so you can get rid of this problem and get back to having a fully functional bathroom.
Why Is My Bathroom Fan Not Turning On
There could be many reasons why your bathroom fan is not turning on.
Popular fan manufacturers like Delta, Nutone, Panasonic, Broan, and Veent all have similar issues.
Regardless of who made your fan, the problems below affect all bathroom fans.
Most people do not regularly clean their bathroom exhaust fans, leading to a buildup of dust.
While dust accumulation is normal for most fans, this dust can build up to the point that your fan won’t even be able to turn on.
Fans expend the most energy when they first startup, and it is possible that a large number of dust bunnies can stop this from happening.
Loose or Faulty Wiring
If your bathroom fan works fine one day, refuses to turn on the next, and then goes back to working normally, then loose wiring is likely to blame.
You may have loose or faulty wiring connected to the fan or the switch that turns it on. While wiring is not a common cause for a fan to malfunction, it is still worth looking into.
Burned Out Motor
After about ten years, your fan’s time will be up, its days will be numbered, and its motor will burn out.
A burnt-out motor is one of the most common reasons why a bathroom fan fails to turn on. Unless your fan is new, the motor should be the prime suspect as to why your fan is not working.
In addition, certain factors like leaving your fan on all day can shorten a fan’s lifespan.
Bad Fan Switch
Besides the motor going bad, having a switch that turns the fan on and off to go out is another common cause of this problem.
The switch might just not be getting electricity because it’s faulty, or a wiring issue is to blame.
There is also a ground fault interrupter that prevents you from getting electrocuted. This interrupter may be malfunctioning or need to be reset.
A Tripped Circuit Breaker
A common yet overlooked issue is that the circuit breaker for your bathroom fan got tripped and needs to be reset.
Depending on how your electrical system was set up, you can trip the fans circuit and still have power in your bathroom, or you may lose power to half of your house.
How to Test Your Bathroom Fan
Toilet Paper Test
With both modern and green fans, they run so quietly that it can be hard to tell if they are even on. This is where the toilet paper test comes into play.
Place one square of toilet paper on the fan cover while it is on. The toilet paper should stick to the fan’s grille cover due to the suction the fan produces.
After turning off your fan, the toilet paper should fall to the floor. If the toilet paper does not stick to the fan’s cover while you have it turned on, your fan either has some serious suction issues or is not working.
Electric Voltage Test
You can perform this test using any type of voltage tester, but a MultiMeter would be best.
With the power running, you would apply your voltage tester to different components of your fan and see what type of readings you get.
This test is a great way to determine if your fan’s motor, switch, or wiring are working properly or are getting the electricity they need.
This test also helps narrow down solutions when your bathroom fan is not working, but the light is.
How to Fix a Bathroom Fan That Won’t Turn On
Tools You Will Need
- Protective Eyewear
- Dust Mask or Face Mask
- Voltage Tester
- Step Stool
- Wire Cutters
Clearing Out Dust Buildup
Equip your protective eyewear and face mask, and make sure your fan is turned off.
Remove your fan’s cover plate. These cover plates are usually secured with Phillips screws. Use a step stool if necessary.
With the cover removed, use your brush to remove the dust buildup. Make sure your eyewear and mask are firmly secured as things will get messy.
Once you have removed all the dirt and dust buildup, turn your fan on and see if it’s working.
If the fan is running, let it run with the cover off for 5 to 10 minutes to remove any dust you missed.
Afterward, turn the fan off and reattach the cover.
Checking for Loose or Faulty Wiring
Equip your protective eyewear and inspect the wiring between your fan and your switch.
Any frayed, damaged, or loose wiring is an obvious sign it’s gone bad.
If you have first checked your fan’s motor, switch, and circuit breaker but are still certain your wiring is the issue, you can test the wiring.
Using wire cutters, you can remove the wire’s cover, then, using a multimeter or other voltage tester, check the wire’s reading. A reading of zero indicates a bad wire. Then repeat this process for your other wires.
If you find bad wiring or a bad fan switch, you are best off contacting a professional electrician to have it replaced.
Replacing Your Fan’s Motor
Begin by equipping your protective eyewear and turning off all power to your fan through the circuit breaker.
Use a screwdriver and remove the cover or grille.
Unplug the wiring from the fan’s housing.
There may be a bracket you can unscrew to get the motor out. If not, you can unscrew the metal plate.
With the old motor removed, you should be able to find the motor’s model number and then find a proper replacement.
Install your new motor and put it back together with your bracket or plate, and plug back in your wire housing. Then turn back on your power and test your fan.
Resetting Your Circuit Breaker
Resetting your circuit breaker is an easy, straightforward process.
Begin by locating your circuit breaker box.
Sometimes the switches in your breaker box will be labeled, but if not look for any switch that is out of place and is not lining up with the switches above and below it.
You can turn any switch that is off back on. You can also turn off the main breaker which will reset everything in your home.
If your circuit breaker was the cause of your issue, then your fan should now be working.
On average, a bathroom fan will last for 10 years before the motor gives out. Depending on how often the fan is used, you can shorten or extend a fan’s lifespan.
Paying a professional to replace your bathroom fan can cost you anywhere between $70 to $150 or more. On the other hand, you can do the job yourself for the cost of a replacement fan motor which costs between $20 and $60.