I was working in my office, trying hard to concentrate, but there was a repetitive clicking sound that seemed to be growing louder by the moment. It finally became too much, and I had to shut off the ceiling fan. Once the heat and stagnant air made the room uncomfortable, I realized that I needed a fix for my noisy ceiling fan.
There are many different reasons why ceiling fan making noise. Luckily, there are also many ways to fix the problems that are causing frustrating noises. In this article, we’ll explore what noises your fan might be making, what might be causing those sounds, and even several ways to fix your fan and curb the offending noises.
For information on how to quiet some other household noises, please see our articles 5 Ways to Stop a Door from Slamming, and How to Quiet a Noisy Refrigerator Compressor, and How to Soundproof a Dishwasher.
Common Noises Your Ceiling Fan Might Make
Ceiling fans are machines that are in constant motion, so they’re always going to make some noise. At the very least, you can expect to hear the sound of the air being blown through the room.
But there are some sounds fans commonly make that aren’t necessary, and they can get downright annoying. The following sounds are noises you shouldn’t hear from your ceiling fan, but you probably will. These can be fixed, or at least mitigated to some degree.
One of the noises that ceiling fans make most often is a repetitive clicking sound. This sound is only while the fan runs. It will speed up or slow down with the speed of the fan.
Rattling can be heard most commonly on older ceiling fans that have been in use for quite a while. It can come as a constant rattling that doesn’t stop, or it might come and go, only rattling in spurts. The volume can also range from barely audible to loud enough that you don’t want to run your fan anymore.
If you hear a sound like metal parts rubbing together, it’s not a great sign. This grinding sound will occur at all fan speeds and might be worse at higher or lower speeds.
One of the most common sounds that ceiling fans make is buzzing or humming. This is usually electrical related and can happen just as often in new fans as older ones.
If you’re controlling your fan with a dimmer switch, then you’re more likely to experience buzzing or humming issues. It’s also more common in fans that have remote controls, or if you’re running several fans on the same electrical circuit.
Rubbing noises are usually rhythmic, moving in time with the circulation of the fan blades. They’ll speed up and slow down with the fan, instead of just making a constant sound. It sounds just like two non-metallic pieces rubbing together.
Why Is My Ceiling Fan Making Noise?
Now that we know what sounds you might hear from your ceiling fan, let’s discuss causes. Each sound has certain root causes that could be the culprit. With a ceiling fan, there are many moving parts, so there are plenty of things that can go wrong over time and start to cause the noises that we want to silence.
The Fan Mount
The fan mount is where your fan mounts to the ceiling. It can cause noise problems with both new and old fans, in different ways.
Sometimes, a new ceiling fan has been mounted directly to a ceiling joist. While this may seem like a safe and stable place to mount a ceiling fan, it’s a terrible place as far as noise is concerned. The vibrations from the ceiling fan spinning can be transferred through the ceiling joist, being amplified along the way. This makes the fan seem extremely loud inside your home.
With older fans, it’s possible for the ceiling mount to come loose. After years of spinning at various speeds, it’s not uncommon for screws to loosen up a bit and start causing noise as pieces that were once firmly held together now have room to move and hit each other or rub against one and other.
When dimmer switches are used to control fan speed, they’re often the cause of buzzing and humming sounds. While the switch may operate the fan and change its speed, it’s not meant to do so. Conflicting voltages between the dimmer switch and ceiling fan can cause the buzzing sound you hear.
The Screws are Loose
Fans are in nearly constant motion. They have motors spinning blades at high speeds, so they’re subject to a lot of forces. Over time, this can cause all of the screws to loosen up. Some of these screws are used for mounting, others may attach important parts such as the fan blades.
All of these screws can get loose over time and start to cause rattling noises. Plus, if they get too loose, it can become a hazard or even potentially lead to other problems down the road.
Remote Control Receiver
Many fans are controlled by remote these days. While this is a great convenience, the remote receivers can also be the cause of many noise complaints.
The remote receiver inside the fan is one of the most common parts to go bad. When it does, it will make a loud and annoying buzzing or humming sound, indicating that there’s an electrical issue.
This problem is often accompanied by a malfunctioning remote control, a telltale sign when accompanied by the buzzing or humming noise.
Remote control receivers aren’t the only electrical part on a fan that can go wrong. The capacitors are another part that commonly goes bad.
If the capacitor goes bad, you’ll get similar symptoms as when the remote receiver dies, namely, buzzing and humming noises. So, how can you tell if it’s the capacitors or remote receiver? If the remote is malfunctioning, it’s likely the receiver. If the fan itself is malfunctioning, you probably have a bad capacitor.
Fan Blades Rubbing
The most common cause of repetitive rubbing noises is from the fan blades. This can happen with newer or older fans.
You can easily check if your fan blades are rubbing. Turn the fan off and manually turn the blades while listening closely to hear if they rub. You can also visually see if they’re rubbing anywhere.
There are several likely causes for rubbing fan blades. If your fan is new and you’re getting rubbing issues, it’s very likely that the blade holders were installed upside-down, which isn’t allowing the fan the room it needs. But it could also be as simple as dust that has built up over time causing the fan to run unevenly.
How to Quiet a Noisy Ceiling Fan
At this point, we know what types of noises ceiling fans commonly make, as well as the sources of those sounds. But knowing is only part of the part battle. What are we supposed to do to finally free ourselves of the offending ruckus? Well, you could always turn off the fan. But if you still want some airflow but without the annoyance, then you could try the following eight ways to fix a noisy ceiling fan.
1. Thorough Cleaning
It may seem too simple and completely obvious, but the first step to fixing a noisy ceiling fan is to give it a good, thorough cleaning. Sometimes, dust that has accumulated over months or even years can unbalance the fan, which can lead to all sorts of problems, including unwanted noises.
Break out the duster or even just an old rag and a ladder. Make sure to clean the tops of the fan blades and around the motor and even the fan mount. While you’re up there, give the fan a good look over and make sure that there are no obvious signs of wear or damage. If there are, then it may be time for a new fan.
2. Inspect the Blades
We gave the fan a general check while cleaning it down, but it now its time for more direct inspection of the fan blades specifically. If there’s a noise coming from your ceiling fan, it’s very often originating at the fan blades.
The first thing to check for is if the fan blades are rubbing anywhere. With the fan off, get up on a ladder and manually turn the blades by hand. Listen close to the fan motor and see if you can hear any rubbing from the blades as you turn them.
Next, continue turning the blades by hand, but start inspecting where they turn to see if there’s anywhere where they are rubbing the upper or lower housing. Even if they’re not quite rubbing, but they’re getting close, that spot could be causing a rub when they’re moving at speed.
If you find anywhere that looks like the blades might be rubbing, turn the fan on low and see if you can see or hear them rubbing. Keep your head away from the moving fan blades!
3. Tighten Fan Blade Screws
If the fan blades are rubbing, it may be because of loose screws, which is the second thing to check on your fan blades. The blades are attached to the blade holders using several small screws. These screws can loosen up over time, allowing the blades to drop a bit lower, which could cause rubbing issues.
Check each screw on each fan blade with a screwdriver and make sure they’re all tight. Tighten any loose screws and check the blades again to see if they’re rubbing. If they’re still rubbing, you may need to bend one or more of the fan blades back into proper position. Or, it may be time for a fan replacement.
If any screws were loose, they could have been causing the fan blades to spin out of balance. Over time, this can cause other problems, or even loosen up other screws on the fan.
4. Ensure all Remaining Screws are Tight
Since you’re already on a ladder with your screwdriver in hand, let’s use it to check over all the remaining screws on the fan. There are several screws on the fan other than the screws that mount the fan blades. Find them all and check if they’re tight. Loose screws anywhere on your ceiling fan can be causing many different noises.
5. Check the Fan Canopy
The part that covers where your fan mounts to the ceiling is called the fan canopy. This part can easily become loose over time, causing rattling and vibrating noises if it does. It can be easily tightened with a common screwdriver, but you’ll have to get high enough up on a ladder to reach it, which might be intimidating for some people.
While you’re up on the ladder at the ceiling, you should remove the fan canopy to check the ceiling mount. First, check to see if everything is still mounted tight. If the main fan mount is loose, it could be the cause of many different types of noises, as well as much bigger issues further down the line.
Also, check to see if your fan is mounted directly to the ceiling joist. If it is, this could be the reason that you’re experiencing so much noise from your fan. If this is the case, you’ll want to re-install your ceiling fan with a fan hanger. This hanger mounts between the ceiling joists so that your ceiling fan is essentially suspended and the vibrations and sounds won’t be transferring directly into your ceiling joist, which amplifies the sound and transfers it farther into your home along any touching hard surfaces.
6. Lubricate/Oil Your Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans have many moving and mechanical parts that create a lot of friction when they rub together. Many people are unaware, but a ceiling fan needs to be oiled regularly just like other machinery.
If you look around your fan, you should find an oil valve. If you insert a pipe cleaner into the valve after removing the bolt, you can test to see if you need to add oil. If the pipe cleaner comes out dry, it’s time to add oil.
Special oil is made for ceiling fans and you’ll need to use the proper stuff. Don’t try to use WD-40 as it’s not appropriate for a ceiling fan and may cause damage.
7. Remove Receiver
If the noise that you’re experiencing is mainly humming and buzzing, one of the first things to do is to remove the remote receiver. It’s located in a different place on each fan, so you’ll have to check your fan’s manual to know exactly where it’s located.
Once you remove the receiver, the buzzing or humming should stop completely. If it doesn’t then the remote wasn’t the culprit and you’ll need to try something else. Often, this means the capacitor has gone bad, which means it’s most likely time to replace the fan.
8. Replace With a Quieter Fan
If you’ve tried all of the other methods for fixing a noisy ceiling fan and you still can’t seem to fix the issue, then it may be time for a replacement. Sometimes, what’s wrong with the fan may be such a hassle to fix, or so pricey, that it’s more advantageous to simply replace the fan with a newer, quieter model.
Especially if your ceiling fan is a bit older, getting a newer fan can be a massive upgrade that makes a bigger difference than you may realize. Technology is constantly improving, and newer fans are made with much quieter motors and better dampening that stops sound from being transferred as easily.
But don’t worry, replacing a ceiling fan with a newer, much quieter one doesn’t have to be very expensive. Today, there are some great options available that are very affordable and will do wonders for quieting your house.
If you’re at this point, then the ceiling fan that I suggest is the Transitional 42” Low-Profile Ceiling Fan from the Hunter Fan Company. This fan is packed with excellent features at a very affordable price. But most importantly, it’s dead silent.
This fan is powered by a Whisper Wind motor, which can deliver powerful currents of air without the noise of traditional fan motors. The blades are pitched for an optimized air stream, and when combined with the powerful motor, it makes for incredible circulation.
One of the great features of this fan is the reversible motor. You can choose between updraft and downdraft. The updraft mode is great for the winter when you want circulation without cooling. The downdraft is the perfect mode for summertime when you want the fresh air and the cooler temperatures it brings.
The Hunter Fan company stands behind its products, and it really shows with a limited lifetime warranty protecting the motor for its entire lifespan. But this fan is built very well and I don’t anticipate a need for using the warranty. It’s nice to have for peace of mind though!