Snap, Crackle, Pop
October 26, 2006 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Our bedroom fan with light bulbs makes a quick snapping or popping noise when it's off. Normal? Bad?

When it snaps I swear I can feel 'it' (something! similar to a shock without the shock) in my body, but maybe I'm just feeling startled. Should we replace or repair the fixture? Fire hazard?

Maybe it does this during the day too, when the lights are on - but I only notice it while I'm lying in bed, reading, and the fan & lights are off.

Thanks for ideas and suggestions!
posted by LadyBonita to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Is it possible that it's one of the flaps, either in the fan housing, or at the vent on the outside of the house, that's flapping due to air pressure changes from wind?

If the fan and lights are both off, there should be no voltage in the fixture to short out and make a snapping or popping , unless something is mis-wired.
posted by Good Brain at 12:54 PM on October 26, 2006

Do you mean a ceiling fan or a window fan? I'd be very worried if a ceiling fan was making noises like that.
posted by JigSawMan at 12:59 PM on October 26, 2006

Yes, a ceiling fan.
posted by LadyBonita at 1:00 PM on October 26, 2006

Turn off the circuit breaker for the circuit the fan is on. See if the noise stops. If it does - leave the circuit breaker off and take the fan down to fix whatever is wrong with the wiring.
posted by odinsdream at 1:03 PM on October 26, 2006

There are lightbulbs specially designed for use with ceiling fans. Could this have anything to do with it?

If not, I'd give an electrician a call. Two systems of your house you don't want to fudge with are plumbing and electric.
posted by Sully6 at 2:16 PM on October 26, 2006

Another possibility, although a bit more remote than the "circuit breaker"-based solutions is simply that some pieces of the fan expand and contract faster in response to heat than others. You may have heard similar snaps and pings after you shut your car off due to this phenomenon.
posted by Xoder at 2:20 PM on October 26, 2006

If you are using a flourescent bulb, take it out and put in an incandescent one. Flourescent bulbs aren't meant for ceiling fans.
posted by parmanparman at 2:30 PM on October 26, 2006

My ceiling fan light bulbs make a similar noise when they cool. It's just the glass shrinking.
posted by kc0dxh at 2:39 PM on October 26, 2006

Thanks everyone. We're not using flourescent bulbs. Nor are we using a bulb specifically designed for ceiling fans (never heard of those); but we use the same regular bulbs in all the ceiling fans in our house (5 others) and haven't noticed this noise with the others.

Xoder, it very well may be the expantion and contraction you mentioned. There are 6 pieces of glass covering each of the 3 light bulbs - and now that I just looked to count, I can see that one pane is cracked. I'll take off the cracked cover before going the circuit breaker & repair route.
posted by LadyBonita at 2:42 PM on October 26, 2006

There won't be any expansion or contraction when the fan and lights have been off for a long period of time. So, if the symptom is described accurately, that can't be the issue.

I think odinsdream has it. Turn the breaker off, then listen for the problem.

Where do you turn it off, wall switch or pull chain on the fixture?

If it is electrical, I'd take the whole thing down and give it a thorough inspection for signs of arching - black carbon spots, mostly, as well as the smell of ozone and burning.

Flourescent bulbs aren't meant for ceiling fans.

Can you back that up?

The electronics in a compact fluorescent might not like the vibration, but it shouldn't be too big of a problem. You might find that a certain brand fails quickly or something.. And, as far as vibration goes, incandescent lights don't like to be shaken either.

I can't think of any other possible issue..
posted by Chuckles at 8:15 PM on October 26, 2006

In general, CFL bulbs can't be dimmed, and ceiling fan light fixtures are often dimming, or at least have 2-3 light levels.

Dimmable CFL bulbs exist, but are a bit hard to a find. I know, been tryin' for a week.

Anyway, this electrical engineer votes for turning off the circuit breaker and seeing if the effect persists.
posted by intermod at 9:45 PM on October 26, 2006

Thanks for the futher help. Tonight I'm just leaving off the glass cover and listening for what happens. If I turn off the breaker then I'll have to read by flashlight. If the problem persists (and it seems like it will), then we'll remove, inspect, and install a new light fixture.

The lights are on a dimmer switch (usually at full power). Fan is on a separate switch and rarely, if ever, turned on. We never use the chains.

I'll update with whatever we discover.
posted by LadyBonita at 10:50 PM on October 26, 2006

Ah, dimmers.. Good point intermod. Funny though, I've known a few ceiling fan fixtures, and none of them have been on a dimmer.. I guess because they were all late additions, with fan and light on a single switch..
(For the record, it is the dimming part that doesn't work with CFL, not the switch. If you always turn it between on full and off full CFLs should work fine.)
posted by Chuckles at 11:14 PM on October 26, 2006

No popping noises heard last night. Maybe the cracked glass was making noises as it cooled off? I'm going to test another night before I become convinced that the glass is the problem.

I'd really like a good excuse to replace the fan with something nicer!

And thanks for the information about CFL's - we've been slowly replacing bulbs throughout the house & it's good to know about the dimmer issue.
posted by LadyBonita at 10:39 AM on October 27, 2006

« Older Time to flip your tape..   |   Will I love L.A.? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.