Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Bathroom Exhaust Fan Safety
In the past four weeks, Hillsboro Fire Department has responded to two residential fires that investigators say were caused by faulty bathroom exhaust fans. Both fires caused sufficient damage to force the families to move out while the home was being repaired. A couple of neighbors asked us what actions they should take to ensure the same thing doesn't happen in their own homes.
The answer is two fold:
1. Keep it clean and lubricated. Most people don't think about the accumulation of dust that occurs beyond the plastic or metal grill or housing visible from where you stand. Over a period of years, dust can accumulate causing the motor to work harder and even seize. That seized light-weight motor continues to generate heat, yet doesn't pull enough amperage to trip the circuit breaker. After enough time, sufficient heat will be generated to ignite the lint, wiring, plastic fan blades or housing. Solution: Periodically, shut off the circuit breaker and remove the fan cover or housing. Clean the fan's motor to ensure air flow can cool the windings. Clean the fan blades to reduce the drag on the motor. Reassemble and restore the circuit breaker to its normal position.
2. If it gets noisy, replace it. Over time, all electric motors will fail. If you have been in your home for 15 or 20 years and have noticed the noise level of a fan increasing or a vibration occuring, have it replaced by a qualified electrician. For information on selecting a replacement exhaust fan, visit ConsumerReports.org.
Posted by Storm Smith, Information Officer at 1:00 PM