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My ceiling fan that has been installed for 11 years will pop 1 time when I turn it on. Yesterday it popped when I turned it on then a few minutes later it started to make a sizzling noise followed by a burnt smell. It stopped turning but came back on a few minutes later when I pulled the chain to a slower speed.

Is the fan safe to operate? What should I check for?

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Is the fan safe to operate?

A burning smell from an electrical appliance (other than a toaster) is a sign that it is time to replace the item.

Sizzling sounds combined with burning smells are sometimes a precursor to burning the house down.

Melted electrical insulation reduces the electrical safety of the item and could lead to electric shocks (and possibly death).

I'd stop using it until it is removed (with power off at circuit breaker) and repaired or replaced.

What should I check for?

I'm not familiar with these units but, from your description, it is probably a fault in a switch operated by the chain. It may be that dirty contacts at one position are causing arcing. Arcing causes a sizzling sound, Arcing causes heating and that causes barning smells as nearby non-metal parts are burned (eventually they may melt or catch fire)

Arcing is when sparks are jumping across a small air gap where the switch contacts are pitted, corroded or dirty.

In principle it may be possible to clean-up the contacts (which may only be a temporary cure) or replace the switch (if spare parts are available). You might need to replace any other parts damaged by heat.

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