The bathroom fan is more important than most people would like to admit, as it provides the equally critical functions of ventilation and “covering” noise. They keep the room fresh, free from mold and mildew, and preserve paint by removing moisture from the room. Ironically, most people don’t really notice them until they’re broken or excessively noisy. Here’s a closer look at your options when this happens.
No Power to Bathroom Fan
This is a common problem that could be the fault of either the fan assembly or the switch. If the power to the fan is intermittent, then the problem is likely to be in the wall switch – most likely the wiring is loose. It may be that the fan’s motor has burned out, which of course will require replacing the motor or the whole fan assembly. A qualified electrician will be able to replace the parts in less than an hour, but should you choose to install a whole new fan, the costs vary quite a bit. A new switch will cost $81 to $173.
Strange Noise from Bathroom Fan
If your fan is excessively noisy, emits a grinding or intermittent scraping sound, it may have a foreign object in it or have become misaligned. You may also have an electrical problem if you hear a low hum. It’s most likely time to get a new fan, and they have noise output measured in units called Sones. As a fan’s speed goes up (and there are many multi-speed models), the noise/Sones rating will go up as well. Remember, it’s not a bad thing to have a little noise in a bathroom fan, but the quieter it is, the more expensive it is (and many are marketed as “noiseless.”). Many shops, including The Home Depot, have displays where you can compare fan noises. Replacing one involves removing the old unit, testing and reattaching the wiring, fitting and testing a new one (possibly involving cutting ceiling components). For this job, figure $88 to $187 depending on the model and the complexities of your installation.
If your lights go out when you turn on the fan, you may have an overloaded circuit breaker. Many times this happens in older homes (built before the 1960s) where the wiring needs upgrading from 40 to 100 amps, for example. Ranges or microwaves that are on the same circuit as the bathroom can push it to its capacity; when you flip the fan switch, the breaker trips. Your electrician can fix this by adding an upgraded breaker (although this may require extra wiring) or by moving the bathroom’s circuit to a different breaker. You may consider a replacement with less power draw – consult with your electrician. To replace a fan, expect to pay from $83 to $214.
Bathroom Fan Duct ProblemBecause your fan is attached to a metal duct, you may experience a problem where the ducting becomes disconnected or loosens, resulting in a rattling noise or moisture escaping into the ceiling, or both. Excess moisture may cause your ceiling to warp, discolor or disintegrate over time. When you have ducting repaired it is an excellent time to consider replacing the fan as well, since the old one must be removed. For duct repairs, budget a minimum of $86 to $163.
Bathroom Fan Not Stationary
Your fan may shake, rattle and roll if the mounting hardware has loosened over time, and this may contribute to noises as we discussed earlier. Remember that bathrooms have lots of moisture in the air, so the wood and ceiling materials into which fans are mounted can swell, shrink or warp as a result. You’ll likely need an installer to look at your mounting and ducting hardware and reinstall it. Plan on about $78 to $126 for a job like this. TIP: Whenever you’re working with bathroom hardware, use screws instead of nails. They’re less likely to loosen due to moisture.