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The Home Depot

Exhaust Fan Repair Guide

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Electrical > Exhaust Fan Repair Guide
Exhaust Fan Repair Guide

Most homes have an exhaust fan setup in one form or another. Most all bathroom fans are exhaust systems, and some homes sport attic ventilation fans to keep fresh, cool air circulating throughout hot crawlspaces.


If you’re aware of your exhaust fan, you know the benefits of a well ventilated home. Exhaust fans can do wonders for your living environment during the hot, summer months – and can save you money on expensive air conditioning costs.


From time to time, exhaust fan systems need to be serviced. Yes, we know, they seem durable and quite simple in design – but these setups run off of electricity and mechanics – two elements that require proper installation and maintenance.


If your exhaust fan is being loud, sounding strange, not circulating enough air or simply not working – not to worry! We’ve provided this quick troubleshooting guide, with tips on how to identify your problem so a professional can get you up and running quickly and efficiently.

    If your exhaust fan is being loud, sounding strange, not circulating enough air or simply not working – not to worry!
  1. 1.Understanding Exhaust Fans

    An exhaust fan is exactly as its name implies: a systematic device whose sole purpose is to pull air out of your home, allowing for fresh air to enter. A typical exhaust fan setup might include a grille, motor, blower wheel and ventilation chute that stretches outside of your structure.


    In pulling that old, stagnant air out of your home, your exhaust fan is actually helping to cool the home with circulation of air, while simultaneously protecting it from mold and growth that can occur in damp areas where there is no proper ventilation.


    Exhaust fans come in two varieties: standard and inline. Standard exhaust fan systems are comprised of one fan installed in the ceiling of your home, with a vent or chute leading to the outside. Inline systems function in a similar manner to the standard exhaust fan system, but use multiple vents that lead to a fan mounted somewhere in the attic (or sometimes on the roof) that pulls the air through these multiple vents.

  2. 2.Tinkering with Troubleshooting

    While it is perfectly fine to call your local electrician to come and check out your exhaust fan situation (and in some cases even recommended), there are a handful of things you can do on your own to inspect your exhaust fan system before calling professional assistance.

  3. 3.My Exhaust Fan isn’t Running at All!

    There are a number of causes for an exhaust fan not running at all, and a couple ways to inspect it. If your exhaust fan is a combination system with a light fixture attached to it – check the light! Chances are if the light bulb has not burned out, but the light isn’t turning on, it may be your circuit breakers or a wiring issue.


    Take the grille and fan cover off of your exhaust fan and check the power cord attached to the motor. Is it securely plugged into a working outlet? Even if it is, unplug it and wait 30 seconds before plugging it back in and turning on the breaker. If there’s still no life in your exhaust fan, and you happen to have a voltage meter handy, you can check to see if the required 120 volts are getting to the fan. If it isn’t, let’s check those breakers! If it is, than more than likely you’ll need a new fan motor.


    Inspect the motor and look for a model number, then call the manufacturer of that particular brand of motor. Do they sell replacement parts? Excellent! How much? Use that figure when talking to contractors about doing the replacement work.

  4. 4.Jeez! This thing is so LOUD!

    Perhaps your exhaust fan is “running” but not sucking air properly (or at all!). Not to fear, here’s what we can do:


    Grab a square of toilet paper or a single sheet paper towel and hold it up to the grill while the fan is running. Holding the paper flat against the grill, see if the fan is indeed sucking up enough air to hold the piece of paper in place. If you can hear the motor running, but your paper isn’t being held up there – you could be looking at an exhaust issue – that is, the exhaust line leading outside could be clogged or damaged.


    You can try removing the cover to the fan and cleaning out the dust and lint that gathers on the motor and blow wheel. Take your time and focus on dusting the fan blades as well. Then do your newly patented “Awesome Paper Towel/Toilet Paper Foolproof Suck Test” once again and see if that generates any improvement. If it doesn’t, it’s time to call the professionals who are trained to safely and securely clear out the exhaust lines.

  5. 5.It Sucks Because it Doesn’t Suck!

    Ah, the dreaded dull roar of a noisy exhaust fan. A bother to everyone, this issue doesn’t have to be complicated to investigate. Go through and check the fan cover, grille, mounts for the motor and any other connectors securing the fan in place. Often times a motor will come loose from its housing and will vibrate off the metal cover, generating an awful roar while in use. Additionally, a warped or busted fan blade can create an unbalanced machine, which could generate noise (think washing machine with too many jeans on one side during the spin cycle).


    If everything looks snug and secure, and the blades are intact and healthy-looking, there may be something going wrong internally with the motor. This usually merits replacement.

  6. 6.Exhaust Fan Repair Service

    After taking a few minutes to diagnose the problem, schedule an appointment for exhaust fan repair. Most electricians are veterans of exhaust fan situations, and many are well qualified and know exactly how to handle your situation. Be specific, and let them know the make and model of your fan as well. The more information the better! Than sit back, relax, and look forward to your new and improved exhaust fan set up!

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