Why Fan Smells Like It’s Burning (Old, New Fan)

Why is a burning smell coming from a new fan

Sometimes, one of the first things that you notice when you turn on your new ceiling fan (or standing, exhaust or any other kind of fan) is an odor coming from it that smells like chemicals or plastic burning (Sometimes it is like burning rubber). While this could be alarming, it’s likely nothing to worry about, and there are quite a few possible explanations as to why your ceiling fan gives off an oily, weird smell.

Is it normal for new ceiling fans to smell?

It is common for new fans to have a slight plastic-burning smell when they run. The components of the fan, like the motor and bearings, and electronics, have a protective coating that heats up when you first run the fan. The plastic burning smell you experience is the result of this.

This is often called ‘new electronics smell’ and is common in all new electronic appliances. Most often, it will vanish after a few hours. Leave your ceiling fan on for a few hours and see if the smell disappears or not.

If the smell doesn’t fade or disappear, it could be caused by a faulty motor or wiring. In this case, turn off the fan immediately. Any strong and persistent smell is of concern and needs appropriate investigation.

Common reasons for burning smell in new and old ceiling fans & Fixes

There are numerous reasons why your fan, whether new or old, could have an electrical burning smell. The wiring that connects the ceiling fan to a power source is probably faulty, while in rare cases, the fan motor might have a problem. In case of wiring issues, there’s nothing wrong with your new ceiling fan, and you don’t need to replace it. However, to know for sure what’s going on with your ceiling fan, you might have to take it down to inspect and repair the wiring.

Initial troubleshooting to determine smell cause

The burning smell from old ceiling fans can be because of a worn-out motor or wiring issues. While in the case of new fans, the burning smell’s probable cause is faulty or improper wiring. First, you have to determine the odor source to solve this issue. Check if the burning smell is coming from the fan or the ceiling where the wiring is coming out. The smell can also come from the wiring behind the wall or the switchboard. This initial investigation is crucial in determining your next course of action.

Safety precautions when working with fans

Ceiling fans can be dangerous if not wired correctly. For that reason, it’s always essential to make sure you have basic safety precautions in place before working on your ceiling fan wiring. It might be wise to flip off the power at the circuit box to ensure that any accidents don’t result in catastrophic injuries. Also, ask for assistance when taking down the ceiling fan. 

If you need to open the fan housing, be careful when working near the fan’s capacitors. They may still hold some residual charge even when the circuit breaker is turned off. More importantly, it is better to hire a professional if you are not knowledgeable about electric wiring and repairs. 

Faulty wiring can cause the burning smell

In most cases, when a burning smell comes from your electrical system, it’s due to something like a broken wire or an overloaded circuit. So, it usually results in tripped circuit breaker as well. However, you can solve these issues with proper electrical repairs. The burning smell comes from an electric arc when two wires or a wire and a conductive metal mixture produce a spark. A black and sooty wire and the adjoining area confirm the faulty wiring. To fix this fault, you’ll have to rewire the fan properly.

In the case of standing and exhaust fans, it is not often possible to fix electrical issues because it is possibly located inside the motor housing. If you have enough expertise, you can remove the housing and check for any loose wires. Otherwise, the best practical option is to replace it.

Worn-out motor

If the ceiling fan smells burnt and is hot to the touch, then a worn-out motor or dry bearings may be the cause. Also, the circuit breaker won’t trip in this case. To fix this issue, you can replace the motor, apply some lubricant to the dry bearings, or replace any other faulty part, such as the capacitor. If you don’t want to invest in an old fan’s restoration, buying a new ceiling fan is the best option.

Can a ceiling fan catch on fire?

The good news about ceiling fans is that there’s minimal risk of catching on fire as long as you install them correctly. The bad news is that many accidents happen due to poor wiring. Burnt wires or electrical components could damage even worse if left unchecked for too long. Also, an unsteady ceiling fan running at high speed with a shaky mount can result in loose and exposed wiring, becoming a fire hazard.

What causes a ceiling fan to overheat?

One common complaint about ceiling fans is that they overheat, causing a burning smell. If you keep your ceiling fan on over a prolonged period without lowering the speed, the fan motor will overheat. Moving parts inside the fan can generate friction even if they are well-oiled. Thus, friction may generate heat that gives off a burning smell. So, keep giving your ceiling fan some rest to avoid damage to the fan. According to experts, you can keep your fan on continuously for 18 hours on average without fear of damage to the fan due to overheating.

Final thought

Relax, if you’re experiencing that telltale burnt odor and wondering if it could be coming from your ceiling fan. It’s not uncommon for new ceiling fans to develop an odor. Typically, it means that some of the plastic components are still being broken down or off-gassing. 

However, it would be best to double-check a strong burning smell that is not going away to make sure it isn’t due to something more serious such as faulty wiring. It’s better to attend to such issues quickly instead of letting things get out of hand due to negligence. Burning smells are bad news, so call in professional help if you notice one while operating your brand-new ceiling fan.

Charles John

Experienced HVAC technician with 8 years of experience in the industry. Capable of handling all sorts of heating and cooling equipment as well as proficient in operational management, construction-related techniques such as preventative maintenance, electrical troubleshooting and AutoCAD

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