Bathroom fans come in all shapes and sizes. Many of them offer additional value by including a built-in light to make your bathroom brighter while maximizing ventilation. But what would cause that bathroom fan and light combination to stop working?
Your bathroom fan and light aren’t working because its circuit breaker has tripped or its wall switches are defective. In both cases, the bathroom fan unit can’t receive the power it needs for the fan motor or the light. Besides that, blown light bulbs and a burned-out fan motor can also cause the unit to stop working.
This guide will show you why your bathroom fan and lights aren’t working and provide you with the solutions you need.
Why Aren’t My Bathroom Fan And Light Working?
There are 4 problems you’ll want to troubleshoot when your bathroom fan and light aren’t working.
They are the following:
Tripped Circuit Breaker
About this: Your bathroom and its electrical fixtures are protected by a circuit breaker. Most homes have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breaker inside the bathroom, while others rely on standard circuit breakers in the main electrical box.
Like any circuit breaker, the GFCI will trip when there’s an electrical fault. That’s done to protect you from electrocution and to stop your electrical fixtures from getting destroyed.
When that happens, find the bathroom outlet with the GFCI. It’ll have a button you can press to reset the tripped circuit.
What’s wrong: The first and quickest reason to troubleshoot is that your bathroom’s circuit breaker has tripped. As you read above, that happens when something like a power surge or short circuit occurs.
The breaker will prevent any power from flowing to the bathroom fan and light, preventing it from working.
How to fix it: Tripped circuit breakers can be easily reset. That’s especially true with a bathroom’s GFCI because the reset button is on one of the wall sockets in the bathroom.
Push the reset button to turn your bathroom’s circuit back on and power your bathroom fan and its lights.
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About this: Your bathroom fan and lights are most likely hard-wired to your household’s electrical system. Because of that, it’ll also have switches mounted on the wall to let you control it.
The configuration of those switches can differ between bathroom fan models. For example, some will only have one switch controlling the fan and the lights together.
Meanwhile, other models will have separate switches for the bathroom fan and lights.
What’s wrong: A defective switch can also cause the problems you’re facing. For example, turning it on won’t power the bathroom and its lights when the switch isn’t in good working order.
The defect could be a result of an incorrect installation. For example, the wires connected to the switch might be loose or have come completely undone.
Besides that, the switch could be of poor build quality and be defective once it came out of the factory.
Whatever the case, a defective switch will stop your bathroom lights and fan from working even if all other components work fine.
How to fix it: You’ll have to engage in electrical work to solve this problem. Firstly, remove the switches connected to your bathroom fan and lights. Then, check the connections to ensure they’re attached correctly and tightly.
Next, test the switch for electrical continuity using a
Its absence means the switch does not work anymore and must be replaced.
Burned Light Bulbs
About this: When you buy a bathroom fan with lights, that means the unit can hold one or more light bulbs inside. The bulbs are held in a different housing separate from the fan components, such as the motor and blower wheel.
The kind of lightbulb base inside your bathroom fan will differ between models. So, be mindful of that when you want to buy new light bulbs.
What’s wrong: When both your bathroom fan and lights aren’t working, it’s also possible that those parts have failed individually. For example, the lightbulbs inside could have burned out, while the motor could have also failed (discussed in the next section).
The failure of these components could happen simultaneously if there was a voltage surge or something similar. Unfortunately, those electrical faults can cause damage to multiple components in your bathroom fan simultaneously.
When it comes to your lights, the bulbs are likely burned out.
How to fix it: Burned or blown light bulbs must be replaced, as there’s no way to recover them. However, you must be cautious when you go shopping for new light bulbs.
As you read earlier, the type of lightbulbs in a bathroom fan can differ between models. So, you’ll have to ensure that you’re replacing them with the correct ones.
The easiest way to do that is to remove the existing light bulbs and purchase identical replacements.
Faulty Fan Motor
About this: The fan motor is designed to spin the fan blades or blower wheel. In doing so, the motor creates the force necessary to drive air to wherever it’s needed.
For example, the fan motor could pull air in to ventilate the bathroom. Or, the fan could blow hot air into the bathroom to make it more comfortable in winter.
As such, the fan motor is the heart of the entire fixture.
What’s wrong: In the previous section, you read how the bathroom fan and lights can fail at the same time. An electrical surge could cause the motor to burn out, preventing it from working normally.
Besides, the fan motor can also fail due to excess wear or because it’s old after many years of working.
How to fix it: No matter the cause of the faulty fan motor, a total replacement is the only solution. You can purchase a replacement motor for your bathroom fan instead of changing to a new unit.
Just be sure to choose a motor compatible with your bathroom fan housing. Otherwise, it won’t fit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Next, let’s take a quick look at a few other helpful questions and answers:
Does A Bathroom Exhaust Fan Need To Be On A GFCI?
Bathroom fans above a bathtub, shower, or otherwise near wet areas typically connect to a GFCI. Because there’s a higher risk of electrocution, manufacturers and installers prefer placing the fan under the GFCI’s protection.
How Can You Tell If Your Bathroom Fan Is Working?
You can tell your bathroom fan is working by seeing if its fan blades are turning. Alternatively, you can use the toilet paper test. That’s to see if there’s enough airflow to move a piece of toilet paper you hold up to the fan.
Can You Replace The Light In A Bathroom Fan?
Yes, the lights in a bathroom fan are replaceable. You can purchase them at your local hardware store. Just be sure to buy identical replacement light bulbs.
Can A Bathroom Fan And Light Be On The Same Circuit?
Building codes don’t specify if a bathroom fan and light should be on the same circuit, so it’s up to you. However, remember that bathroom fans and lights are in the same unit, so putting them on the same circuit might be more practical during installation.
Should My Bathroom Fan Have A Light?
You don’t need to buy a bathroom fan with a built-in light if your bathroom already has enough lighting. However, purchasing a bathroom fan with its own light could be a convenient way of adding light to your bathroom if necessary.