If your bathroom exhaust fan has become ear-splitting over time, it's probably in need of a simple tune-up.
While some bathroom exhaust fans
are noisy right off the bat, others can develop maladies with age. If your fan's always been a bit on the deafening side, it may simply mean that you've got an inexpensive model. (Although cheaper models still tend to do the job as well as pricier versions.)
But if the noise has worsened with age, it can be addressed with some simple cleaning. In fact, it's best to try to fix the problem yourself, before heading out to buy a new fan -- which is, incidentally, a more expensive and complicated task.
So, switch off that circuit breaker
(oh yeah, and the fan) and get to work!
1. Try the lid.
First, check to see if the cover is attached tightly enough to the ceiling and/or the fan's housing. Often times, a tightened screw will eliminate any vibration. (If the cover is spring-loaded, try pressing both prongs inward so they'll more securely grasp the cover.)
2. Remove the cover.
If step 1 doesn't work, try the cleaning and lubricating method. First, remove the cover. An exhaust fan's cover is usually attached to its housing in one of three following ways. Identify your type and remove it accordingly.
• With metal springs:
Gently pull down on the cover until you see the springs (they're held in with long prongs). Detach springs by pressing both prongs inward, toward the center of the fan body.
• With one screw behind the light bulb:
Just pop out the plastic protective sheeting and unscrew the bulb. Remove the screw; the light assembly and cover will come out as one, revealing the motor.
• With recessed screws:
They're usually located within the cover's grille. If you can't readily see them, a flashlight will help you locate them. Loosen the screws just enough so that the cover can be turned counterclockwise, then gently pull down to release it.
3. Banish dirt and grime.
Buildup of dust and grime creates needless resistance for a fan's moving parts, and is often a likely culprit in the noisiness department. Dirt also puts undue stress on the motor, makes it work overtime and brings it one step closer to burning out. To clean the inside of the fan, you'll first need to unscrew and remove the bracket (the frame that holds the motor in place) and unplug the motor. Use your vacuum's crevice tool
to suck debris off fan blades and from within the housing (compressed air works, too, although it's messier). Remove the blades, take them to the sink and wash them with soap and water. Wipe dry with a soft cloth and replace.!
4. Grease the skids.
Lack of lubrication may also cause ungodly squeaks and squawks. Before you replace the fan's cover, apply one or two drops of oil to the area where the motor and the fan's shaft meet. (Sewing machine oil
is ideal; WD-40 will actually further dry out joints.) Turn the shaft through a few rotations, replace blades, turn a few times, and wipe off excess drips. Plug the motor back in, reattach the bracket to the housing, and replace the cover. Turn on the main circuit, flip on the fan's power and get ready for the moment of truth.
Of course, there's always a slight chance these fixes won't totally silence your bathroom exhaust fan. If it still sounds like a low-flying plane, the motor could be going kaput. In that case, a new fan might be the way to go. Although it's not necessarily cheaper to replace only the motor
, doing so is relatively easier (skill-wise) and less labor-intensive than completely removing the old fan, housing and all.
When looking for a new motor, be sure it can adequately ventilate your bathroom. The right size fan is crucial in mold-, mildew- and excess-moisture prevention
. To determine the right fan for your needs, consult the Home Ventilating Institute
. Its recommendations are based on room size and the number of fixtures within.