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Why Does My Ceiling Fan Keep Tripping the Breaker?

Ceiling fans are typically wired to circuit breakers that prevent overheating and electrical overload. If the circuit breaker keeps tripping every time you use the fan, there’s an electrical issue between the fan’s motor and the breaker. It’s important to find out what’s causing the issue since it could damage the capacitor.

A ceiling fan keeps tripping the breaker for these reasons:

  1. Overloaded circuit breaker
  2. Damage internal components
  3. Loose fan wires
  4. Malfunctioning capacitor
  5. Broken GFCI
  6. The motor overheated
  7. Faulty light switch
  8. Damaged or exposed wires

Throughout this article, we’ll show you why your fan trips a breaker or blows a fuse, what you can do about it, and why it’s essential to take action as soon as possible. Enjoy!

1. Overloaded Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers are designed to handle a specific amount of electricity. If they’re overloaded with too many volts, watts, or amps, they’re trip. If your ceiling fan uses a lot of energy or shares a circuit breaker with several devices, there’s a high chance that it’ll trip the breaker. This issue is quite common with old breakers.

Check the circuit breaker’s voltage and amperage on the breaker. It should be 120v or 220v, then anywhere between 10 to 50 or more amps. Multiply the amps by the volts to know how many watts the breaker can handle. You can contact the fan’s manufacturer to know how many watts it uses.

How To Fix

It’s best to limit the number of watts straining the circuit breaker. Add the total wattage from every appliance on the breaker, then find out if it’s over or under the breaker’s limit. For example, if you have a space heater, ceiling fan, and microwave on the same circuit breaker, it’ll likely overload.

Overloaded circuit breakers need to be replaced if they don’t have the labeled voltage. Here’s how you can replace a breaker:

  1. Turn off the breaker and the main electricity supply to the house to prevent shocks.
  2. Pull the breaker out gently, ensuring both prongs release from the bus bar (the main electrical strip that provides power to all of the breakers).
  3. Detach both wires from the breaker by unscrewing them with a flathead screwdriver.
  4. Purchase a like-for-like circuit breaker with the same amperage and voltage as the previous one.
  5. Connect the old wires to the new circuit breaker in the same spots that they were on the old model.
  6. Push the circuit breaker onto the previously mentioned prongs to secure it.
  7. Turn on the main power supply, then flip on the breaker and check if the ceiling fan and other appliances work.

2. Damaged Internal Components

Circuit breakers and fuses prevent your fan from damaging the breaker box or causing a fire. If there’s internal damage, these protections can safeguard the fan’s motor. Damaged batteries, motors, bearings, wires, and other parts will almost always trigger the circuit breaker or fuse.

Damaged components are typically accompanied by sounds or visual differences. For example, grinding bearings need lubrication and cause screeching sounds. A drained battery will slow the ceiling fan, preventing it from moving the air. Keep an eye out for these common symptoms if the fan keeps tripping the breaker.

Note: Not all internal damage has external symptoms. It’s a good idea to thoroughly inspect and maintain your ceiling fans annually to prevent wear and tear.

How To Fix

Follow these tips to diagnose and repair damaged ceiling fan parts:

  • Use a multimeter at the circuit breaker to ensure it provides enough power. If it’s not, follow the instructions above to replace it.
  • Test the wire heads at the fan’s motor to check if they have 120v to 220v, depending on the necessary voltage. If there’s not enough power, the motor might need to be replaced. If the motor is broken on a ceiling fan, it’s worth getting a new fan since the motors are often close to the same price.
  • If your ceiling fan has a lubrication inlet for the bearings, add oil as often as the manufacturer recommends. All bearings are unique to the fan, so it’s important not to neglect them.

3. Loose Fan Wires

Loose wires are common culprits. The previously mentioned fuses and breakers require a steady electrical connection. Without these connections, there’s a possibility of fire, sparks, smoke, and shorts. If the breaker senses the wires are loose, it’ll trip every time.

So, how do you know if your fan has loose wires?

  • Look above the motor base to see if any wires are exposed.
  • Check in the attic to find tangled wires.
  • Keep an eye out for loose wires poking through the porous fan base.
  • Open the motor annually to check if there are loose wires.

A loose wire can lead to severe damage, so it needs to be replaced immediately.

How To Fix

Loose wires are typically easy to deal with unless they’re stripped or broken. All you have to do is adhere to these instructions:

  1. Turn off the power to keep yourself from getting shocked by the wires.
  2. Loosen the wire nodes to remove the wiggling wire.
  3. Trim the wires if necessary, then crimp the ends of the wires and wrap them around their respective nodes.
  4. Tighten the nodes’ screws and tug them lightly to ensure they’re snug.
  5. Seal the ceiling fan, turn on the power, and check if the fan runs properly.

If you perform this process and it doesn’t work, there might be a broken or stripped wire in the ceiling or wall. Rodents and other pests chew on the wires, and they might be exposed to rust. If you think this is the case, we suggest hiring an electrician to handle the repairs.

4. Malfunctioning Capacitor

According to Appliance Analysts, your ceiling fan’s capacitor can trip the breaker. A worn or damaged capacitor doesn’t transfer enough power to the motor. When the motor can’t perform optimally, it triggers an electrical signal that the fuse or break can’t handle. This signal is often a sign that it’s time to replace the capacitor.

Here are the three most common symptoms of a malfunctioning capacitor:

  1. Slow, unreliable fan blade rotation
  2. Randomly triggered circuit breakers
  3. The fan stops and starts on its own

If you notice any of these issues with your ceiling fan, it’s time to check the wiring, motor, and capacitor.

How To Fix

Here’s how to replace a ceiling fan’s capacitor:

  1. Turn off the circuit breaker.
  2. Dismount the fan from the ceiling with a screwdriver.
  3. Open the capacitor assembly with a flathead or Phillips screwdriver, depending on the make and model.
  4. Label each of the capacitor wires with color-coated tape to prevent them from getting mixed.
  5. Disconnect each of the capacitor wires (there are usually at least four wires).
  6. Place the new capacitor in its spot, then connect each of the color-coated wires to their designated locations.
  7. Tighten the capacitor assembly and secure the fan to the ceiling.

Ceiling fans need specific capacitors, so it’s essential to get the correct part number. If you’re uncomfortable performing this procedure, you can contact a fan repair shop, the manufacturer, or a local electrician.

For a video tutorial, review this YouTube clip:

5. Broken GFCI

If your ceiling fan is plugged into a GFCI outlet, it might trip the breaker. Malfunctioning GFCI outlets can trip quite often. Water spills, loose outlets, wiggled plugs, and many other things can trip the GFCI. When the GFCI is tripped, there’s a chance it could trip the circuit breaker responsible for the ceiling fan.

Remove and Replace shows that sometimes all you have to do is click the test button below the GFCI to reset it. However, it shouldn’t keep tripping. If the GFCI or circuit breaker trips every time you use the ceiling fan, there are a few things you might have to do. Let’s discuss them in a quick tutorial below.

How To Fix

Replacing a damaged or tripped GFCI is quite straightforward. Try these methods:

  • Click the test or reset button on the GFCI outlet to restart it.
  • If the previous tip doesn’t work, turn off the power and replace the GFCI.
  • To replace the GFCI, disconnect the faceplate, remove the rear wires, then connect them to a like-for-like new GFCI.
  • If these tips don’t work, it’s time to consider connecting the ceiling fan to a different outlet since the GFCI might not provide enough power.

The potential lack of energy in a GFCI can trip a circuit breaker, so you might need to wire the fan directly to the breaker with an electrician.

6. The Motor Overheated

Long-term use of a low-quality or worn ceiling fan can overheat the motor. This process trips the circuit breaker because its sole purpose is to prevent overheating and electrical issues. If the breaker trips, you can place your hand on the fan to feel if it’s hot. The motor shouldn’t be warm, so excessive amounts of heat is a direct sign of motor concerns.

Most ceiling fans don’t overheat for several years (if ever). They’re quite literally designed to cool the room, so the motor stays cool. However, dust and debris can cover the vents, causing the motor to get too hot.

How To Fix

As mentioned before, a damaged motor almost always calls for a new ceiling fan. Many models have soldered motors that can’t be replaced. Even if it can be repaired or replaced, the motor often costs close to the price of a new ceiling fan.

However, you can prevent the motor from overheating by dusting your fan’s blades weekly. The dust trickles down the blades and covers the vents, leading to excess heat buildup. If the dust gets on the motor, you can use compressed air to remove it.

7. Faulty Light Switch

Some ceiling fans use a light switch to turn on and off. If your ceiling fan is wired to a switch, it’s important to maintain the switch. Below, we’ll discuss a handful of reasons why a light switch connected to a ceiling fan can trip a breaker.

  • Loose or damaged wires connected to the light switch cause electrical shortages.
  • An old, faulty light switch can’t provide enough power to the ceiling fan.
  • The switch could be tied with other appliances, which overloads the circuit breaker.
  • The light switch might not be rated to handle a ceiling fan or other high-wattage appliances.

How To Fix

If the light switch can’t handle the ceiling fan from the start, the fan should be wired to a dedicated circuit breaker. However, if the issue is random or gradual, you might only have to replace the light switch.

To replace the switch:

  1. Turn off the power at the breaker.
  2. Remove the retaining screws from the switch.
  3. Remove the four wires from the back of the switch and label them.
  4. Connect the four wires to the corresponding nodes on the new switch.
  5. Secure the new switch to the wall, turn on the power, then flip on the switch.

8. Damaged or Exposed Wires

Home Arise mentions that exposed wires can get damaged and trip your ceiling fan’s circuit breaker. These wires can get damaged by stripped screws, improper installation, pests chewing through them, and more. Failure to fix damaged wires can lead to electrical arcing, which sends electrical shocks from one wire to another.

If your circuit breaker trips and the wires are exposed, they need to be replaced right away. These wires will worsen, which can damage the ceiling fan, light switch, GFCI, and circuit breaker. You’ll have to replace each of the parts if you don’t handle the wire issues when you notice them.

How To Fix

Damaged wires have to be replaced. You can trim them if there’s enough excess wire.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Use wire cutters to cut them down until there’s about an extra few inches, then crimp about ¾ of an inch off of the end.
  2. Wrap the crimped, exposed wire around the node and secure the screw to prevent the wire from wiggling around.
  3. Test your work to ensure there’s power going to the ceiling fan.

Author

  • Jonah Ryan

    Jonah has worked for several years in the swimming pool industry installing and repairing equipment, treating pools with chemicals, and fixing damaged liners. He also has plumbing and electrical experience with air conditioning, ceiling fans, boilers, and more. When he's not writing for Temperature Master, he's usually writing for his own websites, LawnCareLessons.com and DIYByHand.com.

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