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Question DetailsAsked on 6/10/2016

My attic fan quit working a year ago, just quit coming on. Do I need to go up there & unplug it? is it a fire risk?

Attic fan in home when we moved in, used to come on when stat called for it. No switch to manually turn on or off. Didn't really do much good, so I don't care to replace it, but should I go up there (do I HAVE to?) to unplug it? I worry that even though it doesn't work, it may be TRYING to come on & be a possible fire risk? I have never looked at it or been in the attic thus far!

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Voted Best Answer

While one cannot say with a certainty without seeing the actual wiring and unit, I would not be overly concerned if I were you:

1) unless quite old, most attic and whole-house fans are "stall rated", "current limiting" or thermally protected, meaning either they can stall out indefinitely without overheating or will not exceed a certain safe electric current (though of course in those cases it will be burning through electricity constantly as if it were constantly trying to start), or have a built-in circuit breaker. However, if it has a thermal circuit breaker, those commonly are made to reset automatically - so if the fan is coming on for awhile then shutting itself off, that breaker is likely detecting an overheating situation and the fan should be depowered. Unfortunately, it could be sitting up there stalled or with internal wiring or contact brushes partly burned out and constantly running hot - you just don't know without checking it.

2) if it has not caused a fire sitting there for a year, probably not likely to now, but no promises.

Things you can do about this:

3) if not up to getting into the attic, do you have a friend or home-handy neighbor who might help you out, or do it in echange for some pizza and beer on the patio ? Not that I am suggesting a friend/neighbor do any actual wiring modifications unless you have good reason to know they are electric-savvy, but there might be an on-off switch on or next to the unit, an off switch on the thermostat up there, a dial-type thermostat that can be turned to OFF or turned up to so high a temperature (like over 150) that it will never call for cooling (though not many thermostats go that high), or a plug-in power plug feeding it that can be pulled out (many have no plug - are hard-wired).

4) check your breaker box - not required to be separate from other uses, but there might be a separate breaker just for the fan that you can turn off - if your breakers are labelled.

5) check around for an apparently unused "mystery" wall switch (likely more or less under the unit but located on the top living space floor of the house, commonly as part of a gang row of switches in the hall) which might actually control that. More likely up in the attic near the unit if there is one, but not always - depends on code when it was installed because generally the switch is supposed to be with 10 feet of the unit and visible from it for maintenance workers to be able to see it and turn it off, but some areas require such switches to be in the living space as close to the unit or its access hatch as practical so occupants can turn it off without going up in the attic.

6) last resort for peace of mind if above options not workable - get a Handyman or Electrical contractor (handyman cheaper) to disconnect the wiring and cap it off in the connection box at the fan.

BTW - good idea for SOMEONE to go into the attic every couple of years or so, just to be sure you do not have vermin living up there, mold or staining or other signs of roof leaks, etc.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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