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6 Signs Your AC Fan Needs to Be Replaced

air conditioning fan

The AC fan is the hardest working component in your air conditioning system. It constantly works to circulate air throughout your home by forcing it through your ducts.

As the workhorse of your AC system, it’s not uncommon for the fan to encounter issues or break down. There are some telltale signs all homeowners should be aware of so they can know when it’s time to replace their AC fan. Let’s take a look at some of the key indicators.   

What is an Air Conditioning Fan?

It might be helpful to understand what an AC fan is and its motor before attempting to figure out if there’s something wrong with it. This component can be located in the condenser unit outside of your home. You’ll notice the blades situated near a grated barrier either on the top or the side of the compressor unit. The motor itself will be attached at the base of the fan blades.

ac fan graphic

The AC fan and its motor are fairly uncomplicated. They are tasked with pushing air through your system to regulate the climate of your home. The fan delivers cool air throughout your home; this is no easy feat. Your AC fan is always working to push air through so it’s subject to a lot of wear and tear. 

What Signs Point to a Faulty AC Fan? 

There are a few signs to look out for that indicate a faulty or broken AC fan. If you notice any of the following signs, it might be time to replace your AC fan and its motor.  

No Cold Airflow 

Oftentimes the first thing you may notice when your fan starts to break down is a lack of cold airflow. This is a surefire sign that something is wrong with your AC. It might not be your fan but you will definitely have to investigate further when this happens. Be sure to double-check that your thermostat is on and tuned to the proper setting before you roll up your selves and investigate the AC unit.  

The Fan is Constantly Running 

If your fan is constantly running, this might mean there’s something amiss with the system at large. When this issue occurs, the fan will run even if the air conditioner is turned off. There are two issues that tend to be the culprit. 

It could point to an issue with the relay switch. This is the component that opens and closes the electrical circuit within the AC unit. When it gets stuck, the fan is fed a constant stream of electricity. Even though the AC is technically off, that relay switch is signaling the fan to stay on. 

The second and more common issue when your fan won’t turn off is that there’s something wrong with the thermostat. When your thermostat is on the fritz, a range of strange issues can crop up, including a non-stop fan working 24/7. This makes sense because your thermostat is directly connected to your HVAC system.

Fan Won’t Turn On 

You might encounter the opposite issue when your fan is busted. If your fan doesn’t turn on even when you select the correct settings on your thermostat, that is another sign that there is something amiss. Eventually, if your system continues to run without the fan, your evaporator coils may freeze. Be sure to address the issue at hand pronto.

Fan Stops and Starts Irregularly 

When your fan runs intermittently, this is another indication that your fan is not functioning properly. This might mean the motor is overheating which will typically cause the fan to stop for safety purposes. Sometimes this is due to loose wiring, sometimes it means that the motor itself has run its course. Either way, it’s best to further evaluate the issue as soon as possible. 

Fan Is Rotating Slowly

When the blades of a fan are rotating slower than usual, you might have an issue on your hands. This will result in a weak airflow and could cause other issues with your system. First, be sure the fan isn’t set to a low-speed setting. If it’s not, you might need to oil the motor bearings with synthetic or mineral oil. If you do so and the blades are still moving slowly, the capacitor might be falling and you’ll need to replace the fan. 

Rattling or Buzzing While Fan is On 

Is there a constant rattling or buzzing clattering in the background? Strange noises from your AC can indicate unit failure. Take a look at your condenser unit. A rattling noise might be the result of sediment near the fan or a loose, unbalanced blade. Clean out the area and adjust the blades to see if that solves it. Buzzing is usually associated with the fan motor. If you notice a buzzing coming from your fan, it might need to be serviced or replaced.

What to Do When You Notice an Issue

When you encounter issues with your fan, you should jump into action quickly. When one component of your AC starts to break down you’re at risk of jeopardizing other parts as well. Every component of your air conditioning system is interconnected and relies on a tuned-up system to stay in good working order. When you notice an issue with your AC fan, here’s what to do.  

Double Check Your Air Filter

Air filters are a deceivingly important part of an HVAC system. A clogged air filter can cause a host of problems. When the filter is obstructed by too much dust, air won’t be able to flow through properly. That can cause the fan motor to overwork itself and break down. Be sure to change your air filters out at least once a year (preferably twice a year) to avoid causing damage to your system. 

Investigate Potential Tripped Circuit Breaker

Sometimes the solution to your problem might be more simple than you think. Tripped circuit breakers can result in parts of your AC system turning off. Be sure to check this to confirm that the issue isn’t an external energy problem. 

Look at Outdoor Unit

Opening up the condenser unit can give you a hint as to what is going on with your AC. If you notice that the fan is not running but the rest of the outdoor unit is, there’s likely an issue with the motor. If you notice that the fan is working but there’s a noise, clean the inside of the unit. 

The outdoor unit of your AC is exposed to dirt, dust, leaves, and debris. Over time, this gunk can collect inside the unit. As we discussed, debris can cause issues with your fan. Clear it out to remedy any issues with rattling and to keep your system running smoothly. 

Call Your Trusted HVAC Technician 

Whether you identify the issue or are at a loss for what the issue is, the best next step is to call your preferred HVAC technician to investigate the situation. They will carefully inspect your entire system until they track down the bug. The sooner you get a technician over to check out your system the better! You don’t want to inadvertently cause more issues by running a faulty fan. 

How to Prevent Premature Fan Motor Issues

Your AC fan will break down eventually – that’s a guarantee. This pivotal component puts in a lot of work to keep cool air flowing through your home. All that wear and tear will catch up to it eventually. But you can still take steps to prolong the life of your AC fan. Take these recommendations to keep your AC fan running smoothly: 

  • Clean and dust in and around the fan housing unit. The grime can enter the motor and cause damaging friction.
  • Don’t ignore any strange issues with your AC. Putting off repairs is bad for the entire system. 
  • Get on an HVAC maintenance plan. WM Buffington offers a robust Planned Maintenance program to keep your system running smoothly year-round.

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