Do Ceiling Fans Cause Fires?

As a homeowner, there are preventative measures we can take to ensure that our ceiling fans don’t catch fire. By routine checks and yearly cleans, we can prevent wires from sparking and catching fire. However, some of these methods are a little bit more complex.

Before you freak out, don’t worry and read on to find out how to prevent this from happening.

A ceiling fan is an electrical appliance, and while it does have a chance of catching on fire, it rarely happens and when it does, it’s likely it could have been avoided. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help prevent a fire by wiring the fan correctly. These steps include wiring, cleaning, and catching damaged wires.

Common Causes of Ceiling Fan Fires

Fans can easily catch fire if the electrical wiring isn’t set up correctly. Most times, homeowners won’t even suspect an issue because their ceiling fan won’t give off any warning signs. The problem is, there doesn’t have to be a sign for a fire to start.

The leading cause of a ceiling fan fire is due to improper wiring, damaged cables, or even a buildup of debris:

1. Improper Wiring

Improper wiring often happens upon installation where two wires were either not appropriately connected or connected to the wrong wires. There are multiple types of ceiling fans, each with its own wiring methods. To ensure reduced risks to a fire, you’ll need to install the ceiling fan correctly.

2. Damaged Cables

Damaged cables are another issue because wiring can become damaged over time. We’ve all witnessed our earbuds or charging wires unravel over time - the same applies to ceiling fans. Wires can wear down with consistent use.

3. A Build-up of Debris & Dirt

Lastly, a prevalent cause of fires is improper cleaning. A ceiling fan will need to have maintenance cleaning at least once each year. If not, a ceiling fan can get clogged and overheat, resulting in a fire.

Dusty ceiling fan

How Can You Prevent Ceiling Fan Fires?

There are a few things you can do to help prevent a fire from occurring. However, you can’t completely reduce those chances to zero. There is always a small chance that parts will break or malfunction.

However, here is a shortlist of methods to reduce the chances of a ceiling fan fire:

1. Ensure Proper Installation

If you haven’t installed the ceiling fan yourself, you can always double-check to see if it was installed correctly. Some fans have also been installed wrong with the wrong wattage/light fixture combo. The best method to do this is by contacting a professional electrician or by doing the following:

1. Head over to your circuit breaker and turn the power off to your ceiling fan.

2. Open up the primary motor area of the ceiling fan and check for the right wire connections.

3(a). If a single switch is installed, the blue wire will need to be connected to the black fan wire and the ceiling wire. The ground wires (green, yellow, or copper) will need to be attached. Lastly, the white wire will need to be connected.

3(b). If a dual switch is installed, check to see that the ceiling fan’s black wire is connected to the fan’s black wire. Then, connect the blue wire to the second live wire (red or black). Lastly, connect the white ground wire from the ceiling to the white wire on the fan.

4. Close the unit back up and test to see that everything is working.

However, we can not stress enough only to do this yourself if you have previous wiring knowledge. If not, contact a professional electrician so that you don’t accidentally damage your unit.

2. Clean Vents & Fan Blades

Next, take a wet towel and clean off any of the vents or fan blades. You’ll need to dust behind the fan blades and even in the light fixtures. Remove as much dirt and grime that you can from the unit both inside and out.

3. Oil Older Models of Ceiling Fans

You may be wondering if you need to oil your ceiling fan. The truth is, you will only need to oil older models of fans that have ball bearings. Most modern day fans don’t have this installed anymore, so you generally won’t have to worry about oiling the ceiling fan.

How Rare are Ceiling Fan Fires?

The chances of a ceiling fan starting a fire is extremely low. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best to prevent a fire from starting. With simple maintenance, you can easily prevent such a situation.

Why does my ceiling fan smell like it's burning?

There’s a few reasons that your ceiling fan could emit a burning smell. One is generally nothing to worry about but two are causes for concern, so if this happens to you, make sure you act quickly to resolve the problem before it potentially escalates. The other is quite common with new ceiling fans and less of a concern as long as it is not persistent.

Never attempt to work on or inspect a ceiling fan unless all power has been cut off.

Causes for concern which need to be resolved:

Faulty wiring
The smell is caused by the faulty wires creating a spark between them and a conductive surface (a metal fitment or surround for example). If your circuit breaker that is connected to the ceiling fan has tripped, it is highly likely this is the cause of the burning smell. If you see any black sooty markings on the fan near the wires, this is also another indication that faulty wires are to blame.
Be sure to fix the faulty wiring before using the fan again, as this is a major fire hazard.

Motor overheating
If your ceiling fan hasn’t been cleaned in a while, there’s a chance you could find a build up of dust and dirt around the motor vents.
If this happens, the motor can find itself overheating as it can’t expel heat through the vents because of the dust. It’s very important that you clean your ceiling fan regularly to avoid this.

We've got a whole article about ceiling fans overheating and how to prevent it.

Less of a concern, but not to be ignored:

If you smell burning on a newly fitted ceiling fan, it is slightly less cause for concern. Generally when first running a new ceiling fan, this smell can come from the excess oil used to lubricate the parts. Generally this should subside after running the fan for a while.

If the smell continues however, you should look into it some more as this shouldn’t happen.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s a meagre chance that your ceiling fan can start a fire. Prevention is critical when it comes to an electrical fire. Properly caring, cleaning, and maintenance will be able to prevent any surges or sparks. Hopefully, we’ve helped you understand a bit more about how you can prevent a ceiling fan fire.