Ceiling Fan Maintenance 101

Modern Ceiling Fan
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A ceiling fan doesn’t call much attention to itself, so it’s easy to overlook when you’re taking care of routine home maintenance. Like any appliance, though, your ceiling fan needs a little attention in order to keep performing reliably.

Change the Blade Direction

Ceiling Fan Turned On
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On your fan’s motor housing you’ll find a small switch. This switch changes the direction the fan blades turn. In summer, they should turn counterclockwise to create a downdraft that blows air over your skin, cooling you.

When you turn your heating on in autumn, though, switch the fan blades to turn clockwise and set the fan to the lowest speed. Turning this direction, the blades create an updraft that pulls cool air from the lower part of your room toward the ceiling and pushes warm air out and down toward you.

This prevents warm air from pooling near the ceiling, so more of it flows down where you can enjoy it.

Keep it Clean

Man Dusting and Wiping Ceiling Fan
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A buildup of dust on your ceiling fan blades can cause an imbalance between the weight of each blade, leading to wobbling. Dust can also find its way into the motor housing and motor, which can cause the fan to squeak.

To clean your fan, first lay newspaper under it to catch falling debris. Mix up a solution of soapy water, dip a cleaning cloth in the water, and use the damp cloth to wipe down each blade. Rinse the blades with a clean damp cloth, then dry them with another cloth.

Head Off Problems with Routine Inspections

Man Performing Ceiling Fan Maintenance
© mokee81 / Adobe Stock

The rapid spinning and vibrations your fan’s components are subjected to can cause them to work loose and wear out. Inspecting the fan every two or three months you use it helps keep the fan working efficiently and extends its lifespan.

One of the most common problems is a loose mount, which can cause your fan to wobble. A wobbling fan is unlikely to fall, but it can cause the light fixture to fall, so it’s not something to ignore.

Tightening all visible screws often gets the fan running smoothly again. Tighten not only the screws on the motor housing, but also the ones on the blades and the light.

Remove the canopy (decorative plate) covering the point where the fan’s down rod connects to the ceiling and tighten the screws holding the fan to the ceiling.

Blades that are misaligned or out of balance can also cause wobbling. Over time, one or more blades can become warped, bent or otherwise damaged. Even a minor difference can disrupt the fan’s normal performance, so check each blade closely.

If you notice one blade sits lower than the others, tighten the screws that hold it in place. If your blades seem to be unbalanced and tightening screws doesn’t help, invest in a fan balancing kit.

This low-cost set of weights is designed to help you identify which blade is out of balance and correct the problem. You can also balance the blades by taping coins to them.

For damaged blades, the most economical solution is to replace just the blades rather than the whole fan. A fan that’s wobbled since it was installed may be defective, so if you can’t correct the problem yourself, contact the manufacturer for a replacement.

During your inspection, also check the hanger ball, which is the ball at the top of the down rod assembly under the canopy. It should be seated snugly enough that it doesn’t move around. If it isn’t, correct its positioning or tighten the screw as necessary.

In the worst case scenario, an incorrectly mounted ceiling fan can fall from its mount. A fan like this doesn’t always wobble and can fall with no warning. This is most likely to happen when the ceiling fan was installed to replace an ordinary light fixture without a purpose-designed electrical junction box and fan brace.

If your fan was installed this way, take steps to re-install it correctly.

Top Up the Oil

Oil Being Poured Out of a Container
© sergojpg / Adobe Stock

Check your fan’s owner’s manual to find out if the fan requires oiling. If it does, the manual should tell you what kind of oil to use and how to add it. A ceiling fan’s oil hole is usually on top of the motor housing near the down rod or on the motor itself. If you can’t find this hole, the motor probably doesn’t require oil.

Use a pipe cleaner, toothpick or similar item as a dipstick. Insert the stick 1/2 inch into the hole, and if it comes out dry, your fan needs oil.

Use a non-detergent 10, 15, or 20 weight electric motor oil, ideally one formulated specifically for fans. Avoid automotive motor oil and other oils with detergents that harm electric motors. While 1 to 2 ounces of oil is usually enough, a fan that hasn’t been oiled in years might require somewhat more.

Treat your ceiling fan well, and it will give you energy-efficient cooling in summer and help you stay cozy in winter, too. By cleaning your fan regularly and taking the time to inspect it for wear, you can keep it running efficiently for years.

Posted on Categories HVAC