How to Check if Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan Is Working

Bathroom exhaust fans play a critical role in improving your home’s indoor air quality by removing moisture and odors from bathrooms to maintain a clean and ventilated environment. These workhorses prevent moisture or condensation from damaging bathroom fixtures, walls, and paint, while stopping the formation of mold and mildew.

If your bathroom fan isn’t working properly, or at all, you’ll need to have it fixed as soon as possible to prevent damage. A couple of years ago, a house in Zionsville caught on fire from a faulty bath exhaust fan. If the motor gets hot, the lint and dust on the fan provides perfect kindling. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it caused a lot of damage.

Many homeowners, though, don’t know if their bathroom exhaust fans are actually working or not. In some cases, it’s pretty simple to tell by turning on the switch. If nothing happens, it’s apparent there’s something wrong. But in other cases, your exhaust fan may turn on and run, giving off the appearance that it’s working, when it actually is not. In these cases, the motor may be running without the fan actually sucking any of the moisture or odors out of the room. We’ll touch more on this in a bit.

In our most recent blog, the professionals at B&W Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Drains discuss how to check if a bathroom exhaust fan is working and some common reasons it might not be.

Common Reasons Bathroom Exhaust Fans Stop Working

In most cases, the entire bathroom fan doesn’t need to be completely replaced if it’s not working properly, depending on the issue at hand. Here are a few common issues with bathroom exhaust fans and how to fix them.

  • Tripped circuit breaker: If an exhaust fan isn’t working at all, the issue could be as simple as a tripped circuit breaker. If this is the case, simply reset it.
  • The fan switch: If a tripped circuit breaker isn’t the issue, your fan’s switch can be checked with a voltage tester. When the switch is flipped on and off, you should see 120 volts when the switch is on. A bad switch will need to be replaced. This is a task that’s best left to a professional electrician.
  • Issues with the fan motor: If the motor isn’t spinning properly, the assembly may need to be cleaned, while the motor should be lubricated. This is another task that should be performed by a professional.
  • Burnt-out motor. If the motor is completely burnt out, it will need to be replaced. Oftentimes, you can replace the motor without buying a completely new exhaust fan assembly. Usually it will take more time to find the correct motor unless it is one of a few national brands, and the cost will not be significantly less. Most of the time the reason you want to change just the motor is the footprint of the fan. If you change the entire exhaust fan, you may have to repaint the ceiling or touch up drywall.
  • Vent pipe problems: All bath fans use a vent pipe to remove moisture and odors from the home. If the vent pipe is plugged, the bath fan can’t properly exhaust moisture and odors. Unfortunately, vent pipes clog up for a variety of reasons, including bird nests, dead rodents, leaves, branches and other debris. You may need to hire a professional to unclog the vent for you.
  • Dirty fan housing: Over time, a large amount of dust can accumulate inside the fan housing, reducing airflow. A clogged fan cover can block as much as 90% of airflow. Using a vacuum with a small brush hose can typically clear the dust out of the fan. Before cleaning, make sure to shut off the power to the fan at the circuit box.

How to Test that Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan Is Working

If you flip the switch and the unit comes on but it’s not working properly after you’ve already tested the circuit breaker, switch and motor, etc., it’s likely an issue with the suction and not the motor.

The easiest way to check if the van is ventilating properly is to take a Kleenex or single square of toilet paper and place it along the fan while it’s running. If the fan holds up the paper and keeps it attached, then it’s working properly.

To improve the fan’s ventilation, remove the grill and fan motor and use an old brush or a vacuum with a small brush to clean the motor housing and fan blades.

Contact B&W for Bathroom Exhaust Fan Repairs and Installation

If you’ve tried everything we’ve mentioned and your bathroom exhaust fan is still not working or not properly ventilating the room, call the experts at B&W for quick and reliable service. We’ve been in business for more than 50 years serving the residents and business owners of Indianapolis and Central Indiana and know a thing or two about exhaust fans. Give us a call, or contact us online to schedule service.