Noise: A Guide To Silencing A Noisy Ceiling Fan
Noise is the most frequent complaint about ceiling fans. Lying in bed on a hot summer’s night struggling to get to sleep with your ceiling fan clicking, whirring or grinding away is one of life’s more annoying experiences. This simple guide is designed to help you diagnose the causes of your ceiling fan’s noise and where possible suggest ways to silence it.
Modifications made to any electrical appliance should be undertaken with the appropriate level of safety precautions; this includes calling an electrician where potentially dangerous electricity is involved. When working on a ceiling fan that is connected to live electricity switch OFF the power to the circuit on which the appliance is wired at the switch box.
Be mindful that making alterations to your ceiling fan may void your manufacturer’s warranty. If your fan is still under warranty contact its manufacturer before attempting any alterations.
Symptom: Type of noise
Cause and Solution:
1. Wobble related clicking noise
Clicking noises are often the result of ceiling fan wobble. If your ceiling fans sways when on, which is usually most apparent on high speed, then this may be the cause of your noise. There are two methods to stop wobble related noise.
Balance the ceiling fan: For detailed instructions on how to balance a ceiling fan read our article on Stopping ceiling fan wobble.
Silence the noise: Check that the hanging bracket is firmly attached to a rigid structural member. Attach it more firmly if needed. Once this is done determine if the down rod is striking the ceiling canopy or the ceiling canopy is striking the ceiling as the fan rocks backwards and forth. Adding a small piece of padding between the parts making contact may prevent the noise.
2. Rubbing or ticking mechanical noise
A rubbing or inconsistent mechanical noise is usually caused by either a loose or out of place part which can often be fixed, or a poor design or manufacturing issue which can’t be fixed.
Packaging materials: Check that all padding and packaging materials used to resist damage in transit have been removed.
Rotor contact: Start by turning off the power to the fan and gently rotate the blades. As they spin carefully check around the fan to see if there is a place where the rotor (revolving part of a fan body), blades or blade irons are coming into contact with other non-moving components. If there is contact it may be possible to slightly bend the non-moving parts of the fan away from the moving parts to prevent further contact. Most ceiling fans are made from relatively thin or soft metals which are easily manipulated with a little encouragement.
Remove any light fixtures and light globes. Hold the unit carefully to prevent damage to ceilings, mountings or further damage to the unit and apply a force to the non-rotating component that is rubbing to bend it away from the moving part. Avoid trying to bend the moving part as this can result in fan wobble. If you feel you are applying a lot of force and are worried about damaging the fan contact the manufacturer.
Do not apply force to the blades. Blades are not structural items and may be damaged.
Loose lighting wires: Many fans are equipped for a light even if one is not installed. To allow for the light to be added, leads are often mounted inside the bottom cap of the fan. Check these are away from moving parts. If this is the problem check the protective casing of the wire is intact. If it has been damaged seek advice from an electrician.
Proud fasteners: If fasteners like screws or bolts have not been properly inserted resulting in them sitting proud they may rub against other parts of the fan as it spins. Check all fasteners are correctly installed.
Axial alignment: Poor or old bearings or worn manufacturer tooling can result in a fan being out of axial alignment. This may result in non-concentric rotation and cannot be cost effectively fixed. If your fan is within its warranty period contact the manufacturer.
3. Consistent mechanical grinding noise
This is usually the result of dry or damaged bearings. Modern ceiling fans should have good quality maintenance free sealed bearings that last beyond the life of the unit. If the fan is under warranty contact the manufacturer. If not it may be possible to replace the bearings however this is often more costly than purchasing a new fan.
4. Constant mechanical hum
Mechanical hum is often the result of two elements of the motor housing vibrating together very quickly. It is often mistaken for electrical hum because of the high frequency of the vibration. Check that all of the components are very firmly attached. If the source of the vibration can be isolated, adding a little padding between the vibrating parts will usually silence the noise.
5. Whooshing chopping noise like a helicopter
A whooshing noise or something that sounds like a helicopter is caused by the blades moving through the air creating turbulence. This is a result of the aerodynamic properties of the blades and can only be fixed by replacing the blades with a better designed blade set. For more information on this phenomenon read Noise: Air Turbulence written by our in-house fluid dynamics guru.
6. Constant electrical hum
A constant electrical hum is usually caused by a fan being used with an incompatible controller. Quality ceiling fan manufactures will provide controls that are designed for use with their motors. It is generally not good practice to use solid state controllers or light dimmers with ceiling fans. Ensure the controller supplied with the fan was installed. If you can’t be sure, request a new controller from your fan supplier and have it replaced.
The second most likely cause of electrical humming noise is a poor quality motor. Motor quality is an area of cost saving when manufacturing budget fans. There is nothing that can be done to fix this.
7. Intermittent electrical hum at specific times of the day
Intermittent electrical hum at specific times of day, or more likely in the evening or night, is likely to be caused by ripple control noise. For more information on this and how to solve it read our article Noise: Ripple Control.
8. Intermittent electrical hum at non-specific times of the day
The interaction of electrical devices that are close to one another on the same electricity phase can cause noise from electric motors. This can be difficult to isolate because the cause of electrical interaction can be neighbouring houses or apartments using electric hot water systems, washing machines, air-conditioners or any other electric device. If you suspect this is the cause of your noise you may be able to fix this problem by requesting that your power company switch you over to one of the other 2 available electricity phases.