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Bathroom fan not running

January 17, 2020

Fancy having a go at fixing the silent bathroom fan? You might be making a big mistake. We explain why it’s time to call an expert to the rescue.

What do you do when your extractor stops? For all those years, there it was, quietly (well, usually) chugging away in the background, doing its job of extracting the warm, moist air from your bathroom and now – silence. You may not have even noticed that it stopped – but you’ll quickly notice the fact the condensation staying around on your bathroom mirror (and walls) for longer and, in the longer term, a possible build-up of mould on the walls and ceiling. So how do you fix it?

Diagnosing the problem

The humble bathroom extractor fan is a simple piece of kit and consists of an electrically powered motor which runs fan blades. The warm moist air is then extracted through ducting to the outside of the house (you’ll see a vent on the outside wall). Most extract fans are linked to the lights through a timer, allowing the fan to stay on for a set time after the lights have been turned off – for this they are wired into the lighting circuit.
bathroom fan not running

So what can go wrong? Well, a lot. There are usually two or three areas of common failure. The motor itself might fail, which cannot in itself be fixed and therefore would need a like-for-like replacement. The blades inside the fan housing could begin to seize up – there’s a lot of moisture passing through the fan, and inevitably this is likely to affect resilience. There might also be a failure of the electrical wiring for various reasons.

Find a local electrician

Repairing or replacing a bathroom fan that has stopped working is a task that can be tackled by the homeowner. The main issue you’ll face is trying to diagnose what’s gone wrong with the existing fan. If it’s a case of replacing the existing faulty fan with a new one, you can pick up a new extractor from a DIY store for between £20 – £50 (most extractor fans are 4”, but some electricians do like to install 6” fans for greater power). If you fancy having a go yourself, firstly disconnect the power supply, remove the casing and take a picture of the existing wiring going into the fan as you disconnect it.

Getting the professionals in

A lot of electrical work in the home requires notification to the local building control department or must be carried out by a registered electrician who can self-certify, but in this case – as with simple electrical jobs like changing a lightbulb or replacing a socket, it can be carried out by the homeowner. However – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Wiring regulations do change, and fans that have stopped working in older houses might be 20 years old or more – replacing that wiring on a like-for-like basis would probably leave you contravening modern-day regulations.

So, is it worth it? Replacing or repairing an extractor fan is a satisfying job to solve on a DIY basis, but it’s also one of the more complicated and intricate. Above all, it requires a lot of things to ‘go right’ to fix yourself – from ensuring that the problem is the fan itself and that the wiring can be replaced on a like-for-like basis. Not to mention that dealing with electrical works in the home always brings an element of danger to the inexperienced homeowner.

That’s why, for most people, it makes a lot of sense to call in an electrician to fix the fault. They might be able to spot an easily-rectifiable issue with the fan – mainly if it’s the motor – but more likely will quickly be able to repair the faulty unit and have you up and running in a matter of a few hours. For this type of job, depending on the location, you can expect to pay in the region of £100 for the work – which allows for travelling time – in addition to the cost of the fan itself. Many electricians tend to try to cluster smaller jobs like this in the same area on the same day – the rest of the time they’re in the middle of more significant projects like whole-house rewires – so be prepared to wait a few weeks. But considering the difficulty of the job, and the important role the extract fan plays in keeping our bathrooms pleasant environments, it’s almost always worth the wait rather than tackling the job yourself.

Loving our home improvement insights? Don’t miss out on our other articles in our Home Repair Rescue series:

How to fix a dripping tap

How to fix a radiator cold at the bottom

Hanging wallpaper

Fixing a running toilet 

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