How to Troubleshoot an Attic Fan

Erin Easley

Written By Clint Bird

Published 10/02/23
How to Troubleshoot an Attic Fan

An attic fan pulls the hot air out of the attic and helps cooler air be drawn through the house. If the weather isn’t outrageously hot, they can help lower energy bills by minimizing the use of the air conditioner. However, attic fan problems are possible, like the fan can become faulty, it can be costly to have them repaired. But, once repaired and working correctly, compared to what electric bills can run, they are worth that expense.

Yes, Attic Fan Maintenance Is Worth The Expense And Time

If your home has an attic fan installed, congratulations! These are not found in newer homes, but at one time, you would be considered lucky to have an attic fan. And those who did have an attic fan realized that regular inspection and maintenance was key in not experiencing their attic fan ever stopped working.

Today, homeowners want to make sure their HVAC is working properly so they don’t have to repair or replace it. When attic fans were popular, homeowners were of the same mind when it came to avoid replacing an attic fan. Fortunately, attic fans aren’t as complicated as an HVAC system and a homeowner can often repair an attic fan themselves.

Understanding the Importance of Attic Ventilation

Before we dive into troubleshooting, it's crucial to understand why attic ventilation is vital for your home. Attics can become extremely hot during the summer months, and without proper ventilation, this excess heat can seep into your living spaces, making your home uncomfortable and increasing cooling costs. Inadequate attic ventilation can also lead to:

Moisture Problems: A lack of ventilation can trap moisture in your attic, which can lead to mold growth, rotting wood, and damage to insulation.

Roof Damage: Excessive heat can damage your roofing materials, leading to premature deterioration and the need for costly repairs or replacements.

Reduced Energy Efficiency: Hot attics can make your HVAC system work harder, resulting in higher energy bills.

Shortened Lifespan of Shingles: The excessive heat in your attic can cause your shingles to age prematurely, reducing their lifespan.

Given these potential issues, troubleshooting and maintaining your attic fan is essential to keep your home comfortable and in good condition. Let's get started with the troubleshooting process.

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Safety First

Before you start troubleshooting your attic fan, ensure your safety. Follow these precautions:

Turn Off Power: Switch off the power to the attic fan to prevent electrical accidents. This usually involves disconnecting the power source or turning off the circuit breaker.

Wear Protective Gear: When working in your attic, wear appropriate protective gear, including gloves, a dust mask, and safety goggles. Attics can be dusty and have sharp objects.

Use a Stable Ladder: Ensure your ladder is stable and positioned securely before climbing into your attic.

Work in Adequate Lighting: Attics can be dark, so bring a portable light source to see clearly.


What If Your Attic Fan Isn’t Working Properly?

There can be several issues that could cause an attic fan not to work properly. Here, we are going to offer a brief overview and suggestions on how to fix some of those issues:

1). Attic Fan Won’t Turn On

An attic fan that won’t turn on is usually an electrical problem, but it can also be an issue with the fan motor or the thermostat. First, check the circuit breaker that controls the attic fan.

If the fuse has blown, this can be as easy to fix as replacing the fuse in an older home or resetting the circuit breaker in a newer wired home. If the circuit breaker or fuse are working properly, check the thermostat next by manually turning the fan on and off. If the fan turns on, this is an indication there is a problem with the fan thermostat.

After determining that the circuit breaker, fuse, and thermostat are working, check the fan motor – which will be the most expensive repair of an attic fan. If there is an attic fan humming noise, this could very well be the problem. A motor can be replaced but replacing an attic fan may be the more cost-effective step to take.

2). Blades Aren’t Moving

If the fan motor is running, but the fan blades aren’t moving, this is usually a belt issue. Remove the fan’s outer casing and inspect the belt. They can be cracked and dried from the changing temperature, and over time with wear and tear, they may begin to sag, even break. This can be fixed by replacing the belt.

3). The Airflow Is Lacking

If you have the fan on high, but it is sluggish or seems to be struggling, this is often an exhaust or intake problem. Check for any debris that has gotten sucked in and stuck in the intake and make certain the fans are still securely attached to the roof.

4). Attic Fan Humming Noise

If the attic has a humming noise while running on the high setting, lowering the setting will often take care of that. If the attic fan is missing blades, replacing them can eliminate that hum as well.

5). Loud Noise Coming Is From Attic Fan

When an attic fan isn’t getting enough air, it sometimes will begin to rattle or shake. Make sure the attic windows are open and have the proper distance from the attic fan so there is an airflow for the attic fan to pull in. Attic fans and windows should be at least thirty feet apart.

6). Attic Fan Has A Burning Smell

If you have noticed a burning smell coming from the exhaust, it is usually the fan motor. Sometimes greasing the motor gears or replacing the belt will fix this, but if the smell is still there, replacing the motor is the next solution.

7). Attic Fan Won’t Turn Off

If the attic fan won’t turn off, raise the thermostat setting up. If the fan still won’t turn off, check the power source to make sure it has been wired correctly. Every attic fan should have a switch in the attic, but if you don’t see one, turn it off at the circuit breaker before you climb up in the attic.

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A well-functioning attic fan is essential for maintaining a comfortable and energy-efficient home. Regular maintenance and prompt troubleshooting can help ensure your attic fan operates optimally and extends its lifespan. By following the troubleshooting steps outlined in this guide and conducting preventive maintenance, you can keep your attic fan running smoothly, promote proper attic ventilation, and prevent potential issues that can arise from poor attic airflow and temperature control. Remember to prioritize safety, turn off the power when working with electrical components, and seek professional help when needed to keep your attic fan in top shape and your home well-ventilated.  Take the necessary steps to protect it with a home warranty from Liberty Home Guard today


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