For any homeowner, the risk of a fire is something to worry about and take precautions against. It is estimated that there are 51,000 electrical fires per year. A frequently recommended precaution is to regulate the use of electrical devices.
Ceiling fans are one of those appliances that we leave on for long periods of time. But we do so because of the function they serve, and they are designed to perform this function. This means that extended use of a ceiling fan may not be as much of a fire risk as extended use of other appliances or electrical devices.
Ceiling fans are designed to run for long periods of time and aren’t heat-generating appliances, so the risk of ceiling fan fires is low. But it is not impossible. Signs of possible fire include smoke, wire damage, altered operation, and odors. Fire prevention involves proper installation and maintenance.
Can Ceiling Fans Start a Fire?
Since any electrical appliance can start a fire, a ceiling fan is capable of starting a fire.
Most often, electrical fires involving ceiling fans happen because of incorrect wiring or damage to wires. However, a buildup of dust due to a lack of cleaning can cause a fan to overheat, which may also lead to a fire.
Manufacturers are invested in preventing their products from causing harm or damage. In the case of ceiling fan fire risk, they typically take steps to minimize the risk through quality control, detailed installation instructions, and guidelines for use and routine maintenance.
When to Turn the Fan Off?
There are certain signs that, if present, may indicate an imminent ceiling fan fire and you will need to take steps to prevent ignition.
- Visible damage to the wiring or other electrical components.
- Scorch marks on the motor or motor casing.
- Intermittent operation of the fan.
- Flickering lights.
- Noticeable drop in rotational speed.
- Whining sounds.
- Odors (some new ceiling fans do emit a smell, but there are ways to determine if the smell is normal or not).
- Water leaking into the area around the motor or wiring.
Are Ceiling Fan Fires Common?
According to the US government, electrical malfunction caused 6.8% of residential fires in 2019. Furthermore, 7.9% or the fires in which people were injured and 7.5% of the fires that caused fatalities were related to electrical malfunction.
The above statistics were for electrical malfunction in all residential appliances and devices. For fans specifically, we can look at some stats from the NFPA. Between 2006 and 2010, 3,880 home fires were related to fans. In addition, fan fires caused about 13 deaths, 130 injuries, and $77 million in property damage.
While these numbers may look high when you consider that 3,880 homes and families suffered loss due to the presence of a fan, if you look at it statistically (i.e., you consider the number of homes there are in the USA), this is actually a very small number. So, ceiling fan fires are not that common.
Ways to Minimize the Risk of Ceiling Fan Fire
An important factor in avoiding ceiling fan fires is to keep the wiring in good condition as this is the most common cause of ceiling fan fires.
One way to make sure the wiring is in excellent condition is to have a professional install your ceiling fan. This will ensure that it is done correctly and is as safe as possible. They would also be able to pick up any manufacturing defects that could lead to a fire because they know what “normal” looks like.
Another way is to perform routine maintenance on the fan’s wiring. This includes regularly checking the wires themselves for any evidence of damage and paying attention to any signs of a change in the wire condition (loss of power, intermittent operation, flickering lights, etc.).
Installing and Maintaining the Fan as Instructed
The best way to make sure a ceiling fan works as intended without compromising your safety is to closely follow the instruction manual provided by the manufacturer when dealing with it.
If you choose to install your fan on your own, it is best to do so exactly as the manual says, using all of the tools and steps provided and recommended.
In addition, many times the manufacturer will provide upkeep requirements in the manual. These should also be followed to make sure the fan continues to perform correctly and doesn’t become a hazard.
Ultimately, the manufacturer of the fan knows best when it comes to keeping the fan safe and effective and you can be sure that they will pass this information on to you. As I mentioned earlier, no one wants their product to be known as a fire-starter!
Don’t Let the Fan Overheat
Even though ceiling fans are designed to run for long periods of time and, thus, steps are taken to prevent overheating, this can still occur.
Unbalanced or loose blades, a buildup of dust, lack of lubrication, age, electrical malfunction, power surges, and more can lead to undue stress being placed on the motor, the result of which is overheating.
Proper installation, regular maintenance, and addressing things like wobbling and noises when they arise will go a long way to preserving the life of your ceiling fan and preventing the motor from overheating.
Keeping the Fan Clean
Making sure the fan is free of dust, dirt, and particles is extremely important for reducing the risk of fire.
As mentioned, dust can build up on the motor and cause it to overheat, but there are other ways that dust can cause this outcome.
If the moving parts of a fan are clogged with dirt and grime, they will not move smoothly. This means the motor must work extra hard to achieve the required movements.
Run On Low Speed For Longer Periods
If you are running your ceiling fan for several hours at a time, such as overnight, then keep it on the lowest speed setting. This setting places the least amount of strain on the motor, lowing the risk of fire even further.
Happily, this is also the setting that is generally most comfortable to experience for long periods of time, particularly overnight when your core temperature drops.
You should also note that there is a difference between running a ceiling fan for a long time and running it all the time. Its is designed for the former, but can become problematic with the latter.