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Kevin, Licensed Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3660
Experience:  30 years Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, Adjunct College Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma: Digital Electronics, FCC Technician License
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The exhaust fan in my bathroom stopped working

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The exhaust fan in my bathroom stopped working name is XXXXX XXXXX I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question. My goal is to exceed your expectations on Just Answer!


1) Did you measure for 120 volts AC electrical voltage at the fan ceiling splice connections using a 2-prong AC voltage tester or an AC voltmeter?


2) Does the fan also have a light or only a fan?


3) What brand of fan? Broan or NuTone? If so, can you provide me with the model number?


4) Any idea as to the age of the fan?


5) Is the fan installed with an attic area above or is it installed on a 1st floor with no access from above?


6) Has any recent electrical work been performed in the bathroom such as replacing receptacles, switches, etc?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Going to pick up a voltage tester. Need one anyway. Light is separate from the fan. Don't know the brand. Had the fan for 12yrs. Worked for the first 8 years. Time to fix it. Installed on the first floor. No electrical work has been done in the bathroom. Will get back with you.

1) Thanks for the replies Rick. Reply back when you have an opportunity.....Thanks....Kevin!


2) Here are a few links for a 2-prong AC voltage tester available at Home Depot. These are also available at Lowe's or Ace Hardware store. Do NOT purchase a Pen Type "Non-Contact" tester as these are not sufficient for electrical troubleshooting. The voltage tester must have 2 wired leads. Either of these types will work.



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hey Kevin. Bought a volt tester, and it shows no voltage coming from the fan.



1) Just to confirm Rick, you measured at the ceiling fan hot and neutral wires and no 120 volts, correct?


2) If no voltage at the ceiling, is this fan connected to a GFCI breaker or a GFCI receptacle in the bathroom? Check to see if you have a GFCI that may have tripped.


3) Have you checked for 120 volts in the wall switch box? One side of the wall switch will be a constant 120 volts measured to either a neutral and/or a ground wire in the wall box. Let me know if you can measure 120 volts feeding into the switch?


4) Do you have any other lighting fixtures (vanity lights, ceiling lights, etc.) and/or receptacles that are not working on this circuit?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hey Kevin. What I did was, I unplugged the fan from the fan housing and stuck the volt meter in the plug. Didn't measure any current. There is a double switch on the wall. one for the fan and one for the light. The light works. It's not connected to a GFI. All other lights are working. Which wires do I check? The green or the black or both.

1) The fan has a cord that plugs into an internal 2 prong receptacle on top of the fan housing, correct and no voltage measured there?


2) Are fan and light switch (2) two separate Single Pole Single Throw (SPST) switches or do you have a combo switch such as the one shown in the picture below where 1 switch controls the fan and the other switch controls the light?



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Two separate switches.

1) Very good.... thanks for the replies.


2) OK, temporarily turn the breaker to the "OFF" position and back out both of the SPST wall switches from the wall box. Do NOT remove any wires from the switches at this time. Both of these switches will have 2 side screws (same side)and 1 green screw terminal. Turn the breaker back to the "ON" position. Using your 2-prong voltage tester, place 1 probe on one of the side screws and the other probe to either a bare copper ground wire or to a white neutral wire or to the metal wall box (if the box is metal and not PVC plastic). On one of the screws, you should measure a constant 120 volts to ground or to a neutral, whether the switch is ON or OFF. Once you determine which wire is constantly hot, take 1 of the voltage tester probes move it to the other screw terminal. Turn the switch ON and OFF. If the switch is working correctly, you should see 120 volts on the tester going ON & OFF. Refer to pic below for a SPST wall switch. Most likely, the feed from the circuit into the switch will be a black wire. The switched loop wire leaving the switch and going to the fan may also be a black or a different color wire.


3) Check if you have wire terminations located on the back of the switch and not on the side screw terminals. If you have wires located on the back, these are called 'back-stab's" and they are known to provide faulty connections. Do NOT use any "back-stab" terminations, only use the 2 side screws.


4) The fan has a cord that plugs into an internal 2 prong receptacle on top of the fan housing, correct and no voltage measured there?


Let me know what you find.





Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Got voltage from wires on fan switch. Bad switch maybe?

1) Do you have a constant voltage on 1 screw and an alternating voltage on the 2nd screw when turning the switch ON & OFF?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.


1) OK, this proves that the wall switch is functioning properly and is not the problem.


2) Process of elimination now......... you either have a faulty splice or the fan motor is faulty and needs replacement or the plug/receptacle in the fan housing has a faulty connection.


3) Depending on how the bathroom was wired, the switched loop hot wire leaving switch will hopefully be a "home-run" directly to the fan splice in the ceiling and not a loop thru splice located at another ceiling or vanity light.


4) Turn the breaker OFF. You should have a few screws that you can access from below to remove the metal housing where the plug is connected. This should be your splice box for the switched loop hot, neutral and ground wire going into the fan. You can temporarily remove the hot and neutral wire at the fan splice. Once the wire nuts are removed, carefully spread the hot and neutral wire apart from each other. Do NOT let these wires touch anything as this will cause a short and will trip the breaker. Turn the breaker back to ON. With the switch in the ON position, measure the un-spliced house hot and neutral wires together. If you measure 120 volts here, this means the switch and the wires going to the ceiling are working OK and the house wires are OK.


5) If 120 VAC measured without the fan connected to the house wires (switched hot & neutral), either the fan motor is shot or you have a faulty plug or cord.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Let's recap. I turned the fan switch on and measured voltage in the fan housing receptacle.

1) OK, my mistake, I thought that you only measured voltage at the wall switch.


2) If measuring voltage at the fan housing receptacle, then this proves the switch is functioning properly and the house wires leaving the switch and going to the fan are good then. Also proves the fan receptacle is OK.


3) Then the problem is either with the fan cord connection to the motor or the fan motor itself is faulty. Another possibility is that the fan cord plug is not making correct contact with the receptacle. Try to pry the 2 blades on the cord a little bit in order to make a tighter connection into the fan housing receptacle.


4) If not able to gain access to the cord connection at the motor, the fan unit should probably be replaced. If replacing just the fan motor, the replacement motor will need to be identical. Best recommendation rather than attempting to locate a replacement motor and the hassles involved would to replace the entire unit.


5) Broan & NuTone are the most common bathroom exhaust fans installed in homes. GE & Panasonic also manufacture these. The prices will vary by the SONE rating of the fan. The lower the SONE number, the quieter the fan and the more expensive it will be. An exhaust fan with a higher SONE rating will be noisier but cheaper cost.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hey Kevin. Thanks for the info. Going to replace the fan. I will contact you tomorrow.

1) No problem Rick........your question will remain open. Just reply back to me. I'm logged on the JA site during late afternoons and evenings Central Standard Time.


2) Here is a link to Home Depot for bathroom exhaust fans. I do not recommend Hampton Bay brand as these are cheap and their quality is questionable. Stick with either a Broan, NuTone, GE or Panasonic.


3) In the meantime, have a great remainder of the evening and we'll talk at you tomorrow......Thanks............Kevin!

1) Also, when purchasing a replacement fan, don't purchase one that has a built-in heater. Otherwise, you will need to install a dedicated circuit just for the heating portion of the fan.
1) Rick........FYI........If your existing fan is either a Broan or a NuTone, they sell a retrofit kit that will replace just the inside guts, motor, etc. Yet the existing housing can remain in place.
Kevin and other Electrical Specialists are ready to help you

Hello Rick............Thank you for the excellent service rating..............much appreciated!


If you have any other questions, just let me know.


Take care and have a great weekend..............Thanks.................Kevin!