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How to Fix an Attic Fan

Whole house or attic fans are a wonderful thing to have and often replace air conditioning units for people in climates where the evenings are cool in the summer. When the attic fan is working properly, it provides an air exchange for the entire house and encourages breezes to flow freely through the rooms.

If the fan has stopped working, you may think you have to call in a repairman, but the job may be simple enough to do yourself.

  1. Identify the problem. This may sound simple enough, but the way you proceed depends heavily on the source of the problem. Many fans have either motor malfunctions or troubles with a thermostat.

  2. Diagnose electrical problems with an extension cord. If your fan plugs into a standard outlet, simply bring an extension cord and a small lamp up to the attic with you. Keep the extension cord plugged into another outlet, plug the fan into it and see what happens. If the fan works, then you’ve probably got an electrical problem. Try plugging the lamp into the outlet dedicated to the fan; if it doesn’t work, you’ve identified the problem.

  3. Check the thermostat. Many attic fans stop working because of a problem with the thermostat. If your fan has an "off/on" switch that can bypass the thermostat, try that and see if the fan turns on. If it does, you’ve found the problem. If it doesn’t have that option, remove the thermostat to see if the fan still functions. Be sure to disconnect any electricity at this point.

  4. Get the right parts for the job. If you’ve diagnosed a motor or thermostat problem, you should be able to get the parts at your local home improvement center or from the make of the fan.

  5. Replace the parts. Once you’ve got the parts, you can easily follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacing the problem part.


Remember that your fan is an electrical appliance. Use every precaution when dealing with electrical items and turn off the electricity from the circuit breaker whenever you are working on them. Check your paperwork for a warranty before you begin your repair. Your fan’s problem may be covered and you may get a free replacement part, service or even a new fan if yours is still covered. Check your prices; sometimes it’s cheaper and easier to replace the fan than it is to repair it. While doing it yourself is very satisfying, you don’t want to pay more for the parts than you would to get a brand new fan.


If your problem is within the electrical system of your house and you don’t have experience with wiring, seek professional help. Electrical work can be tricky and dangerous and if you feel you are in over your head, you probably are.