I am in the market to buy two large ceiling fans to cycle air within and potentially cool my master bedroom. The room is about 16x27 feet, and it gets pretty hot during spring, summer, and early fall. I have wired both mounts into the ceiling, and tried out a single 52" Harbor Breeze fan in one of them. The fan produced a very audible motor hum, similar to that described in this question, however strait off of my native power. Cranking the fan up to high speed would drown out the sound of the hum, but then I have the fan noise itself to deal with. I've had an electrician come out and check the wiring, and everything is solid according to him.

From a wiring standpoint, I used a Harbor Breeze remote control with the fan, which was nicely designed to fit within and work perfectly with the Harbor Breeze fan itself. Wiring the remote control receiver was a no brainer...every connection was color coded. I did notice, however, that the wires from the fan itself were solid core, where as the wires from the remote receiver were stranded aluminum. I am not sure if this might cause a problem, and introduce motor hum? Having a remote is important (see background below for why.)

I did some searching, and there seem to be a variety of complaints about Harbor Breeze fans and motor hum (and an even broader search indicates that motor hum is not an infrequent problem.) Do ceiling fans of high enough quality, with large enough motors to run the fan silently, actually exist? Is it possible to get a ceiling fan that works with a remote without motor hum?


I have severe sleep issues, one of them being high sensitivity to noise. When its hot, I have even more trouble sleeping, and I expend a considerable amount of money running my air conditioner to keep my home cool during the summer. I am close to desperate to find a way to cool my room without the need to run my air conditioner as much, and ceiling fans seem to be the ideal solution. I've lived in apartments in the past that had truly silent ceiling fans, and I was able to sleep well with them. I'm largely just lacking information and knowledge about what brands I should be looking at, what price point I should be looking at (I think I spent about $200 on the one 52" Harbor Breeze before, from Lowes, but I'm willing to spend twice that or more per fan if it gets me a quiet one without motor hum.)

Given my sleeping issues, I need to be able to turn the fan on or off without getting out of bed. Generally speaking, if I get up once I've finally started to fall asleep, my night is over...I don't sleep at all. I used a remote with the Harbor Breeze, however I think that may have made the motor hum worse...as the wiring of the receiver was really cheap. Are there any known high quality remote receivers that use proper wiring and support the right kind of electric load for a large ceiling fan?

  • The fan will never be silent, unless it's off (or it's one of these fans that work via magic). The blades swinging through the air will certainly make noise.
    – Tester101
    Mar 7, 2012 at 23:12
  • @Tester101: I know there will be some sound, however I am not concerned about the quiet wind noise made by such a fan at low speed. My mind tends to latch on to electronic hums and similar sounds, like the rumble of an idling engine in the distance. I need to deal with that, the sound of fan blades passing through the air is not a concern, and why its not the topic of my question.
    – jrista
    Mar 8, 2012 at 1:41
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    BTW, the Dyson rings just use an impeller embedded in the ring to move air. I've tried those...they make FAR more noise than a ceiling fan even at their lowest setting. Its not so much magic as it is cheap at high cost. ;)
    – jrista
    Mar 8, 2012 at 1:45
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    I'd also recommend a fan with a timer on it. Some of the models with remotes have timers, and if you're hardwiring you can use an in-wall countdown timer. Personally I like the fan on while falling asleep, but hate it in the morning when it's colder (or the cold fan wakes me up too early), so the timer that shuts it off sometime after I fall asleep is perfect.
    – gregmac
    Mar 9, 2012 at 19:01
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    I have pretty sensitive hearing as well and can easily hear motor hums. These are some tips to use to find quieter fans. First stores typically too noisy to be a gauge on quietness. Also look for fans that use less energy for the same size of blades. Those typically have better motors in them. I've personally have had good luck with Hunter fans in the $100 range.
    – diceless
    Jun 4, 2014 at 20:43

16 Answers 16


You might look into ceiling fans with DC motors. While I have not seen a manufacturer talk about quietness, some reviews I've read talk about quietness. The biggest attraction to DC motors is the efficiency of the motors, getting more air movement with less power.

My suggestion would be find a local fan / light showroom that has some of these on display that you can try.

Also, fan speed controls have a lot to do with the fan noise. A fully variable wallbox style speed control can cause motor noise, but the fan speed controls that have preset "clicks" that you feel when adjusting are made for quiet operation. I don't know if the remote set you got was matched by the manufacturer or just off the shelf, but that could make a difference.

You also have to remember that some people leave their fans on for a "white noise" effect, which helps them (me) sleep. My wife insists that we keep a floor fan on for the noise. Because of this, when it comes to trouble shooting a loud motor then you might not get as much help as you think you would get.

Again, try a fan specialty shop. The salespeople will know which are quieter and should know more about them than a box store.

  • 2
    My wife likes the white noise from fans as well, so much so that we burned out a box fan and I'm now shivering through the night with the ceiling fan on high until I knuckle under and buy another box fan. BTW, my Harbor Breeze ceiling fan, which has a remote speed control, is inaudible as far as motor noise until you put it on its highest setting.
    – KeithS
    Mar 9, 2012 at 15:55
  • Thanks for the insight. Looks like DC motor is probably the way to go. Interestingly, I had to spend a lot of time researching online. In the big local lighting stores and warehouses, I really did not get much help from the employees. They knew what brands they sold, which ones most people liked most, and which were most expensive. No one knew anything about how quiet any of their ceiling fans were... :\
    – jrista
    Mar 31, 2012 at 21:38
  • I sat in a training meeting given by Broan/Nutone Thursday and they are starting to use the DC motors in vent fans. No motor sound, just fan cage disturbing the air. Add the grill and ducting and there is still not noise either. While these motors are smaller than a ceiling fan, I believe that 90% of the noise would be the blades. The motors that Broan was using are designed for 24/7/365 continuous usage.
    – lqlarry
    Apr 1, 2012 at 4:31

Most electronic noise is made by the AC cyclic voltage, which is audible whenever that wave is transferred into something that can vibrate. That noise generally becomes more prominent (changing from a hum to a buzz) when there is something that changes the waveform to produce sharp "corners" (a "square wave"). A particularly noisy combination is a TRIAC wall dimmer and an electric motor; the TRIAC only allows current to pass when the voltage is above a certain (adjustable) threshold, creating an extremely "jagged" waveform. The motor then gets these sharp spikes of current which can induce sympathetic vibrations in the armature.

So, if you're trying to avoid fan noise, the first step is to remove any wall dimmers on this circuit. You should instead use a fan control module that is specifically designed for fans; it will step down the voltage in a way that won't create such a jagged waveform.

Second, yes, some fans are quieter than others. Generally the beefier the motor is, and the newer the fan, the less it will hum. As the fan ages it will begin humming more, especially if you don't reverse the motor direction during the winter (it's as much a maintenance thing as it is circulating air in the "proper" direction). But, I installed a Harbor Breeze fan, one of the cheapest in the store, and it's hum-less until you put it on high.

  • No wall switch dimmers of any kind...just your standard light switch. I did, however, use a Harbor Breeze brand three-speed remote control and light dimmer with the Harbor Breeze brand fan. The receiver device for the remote, which fit inside the top part of the fan assembly, used what appeared to be extremely cheap stranded aluminum wiring, while the fan itself and obviously the wiring from the wall switch was all solid core. Could the remote receiver have introduced the hum, even though it was the same brand?
    – jrista
    Mar 10, 2012 at 1:23
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    When you say "no dimmer switches", are there any AT ALL on the breaker circuit? A dimmer, when turned down, will turn the power on and off on that branch. That will affect the waveform of other parallel branches of the same circuit. "Noisy" power is a big concern in pro audio (which I'm familiar with) because it's sensitive to the "backwash" effect that a dimmer has on the entire building's power service (even different breakers). Your fan motor won't be that sensitive, but a dimmer for the lights in the next room might be causing "noisy power" to your fan on the same breaker.
    – KeithS
    Mar 12, 2012 at 23:33
  • Yup, no dimmers at all on this particular branch. I wired most of it myself at this point, and I know where my "virgin power" is, and whats using it. At the moment, its a three-gang light switch with the original outlet-controlling switch, two additional wired by me which lead up to the ceiling mounts for the fans, and a fire alarm. (Actually, I believe the fire alarm is pulled off of its own branch now, independent of the light switches.) There is a single dimmer on a switch for one room that pulls off of an entirely different circuit, but its never even on, let alone dimmed.
    – jrista
    Mar 15, 2012 at 3:21

The fan will never be completely silent. As Tester101 said in the comments, the even if the motor is silent, the blades moving in the air will still make noise (sometimes a lot!).

There are two sources of noise you need to minimize - the motor and the blades.

Fans are loudest when at full power and tend to get quieter when the power is reduced. What I've been successful with is purchasing a fan that is larger/more powerful then needed but running it at reduced power by means of a fan speed controller. A higher quality unit is likely to be quieter too. I don't know about the brand you are referencing, but you might want to check with a more specialized supplier, and you should definitely experiment with different brands (big box store return policies make this relatively easy).

The different configurations (size, material, angle, number of blades) of fans will affect noise level as well. Again, experimenting might help you find the best solution.

I would worry about how to remotely control it last - there are a lot of options for this.

Check the unit specifications, you might get lucky and find some information on the amount of noise (in dB). If not try asking the manufacture.

  • At low speeds, the sound of the fan blades through the air is not an issue...different kind of noise, one that does not bother me. Consistent, repetitive hums and rumbles are a huge problem, hence the question being about eliminating the electronic hum.
    – jrista
    Mar 8, 2012 at 1:42
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    While a more expensive fan does not assure it will be quiet, a cheap one will far more likely be loud. I agree - go to a fan shop, where they know their stuff.
    – user558
    Mar 8, 2012 at 9:03
  • Yeah, I plan to hit up a fan shop or two this next weekend. I think I've found a couple with good reputations around here.
    – jrista
    Mar 12, 2012 at 19:32

Fan motor noise is greatly amplified if the fan motor housing is fastened directly to the ceiling. Instead, using even a short 4" down pole will dramatically reduce motor noise. Without the down pole, motor noise is hard coupled to the ceiling, which then acts like a giant speaker cone.

The size and composition of the connector wires has no effect on motor noise. Motor noise is caused by low quality bearings, loose windings in the motor, and poor vibration isolation.

Fan blade wind noise is affected by the shape of the blades. The most common flat blades are probably the worst. The molded blades that are formed more like a genuine air foil propellor are probably the quietest. Look for the inner part of the blade to be wider and more curved than the tip, which should be thinner and flatter.

  • Thanks for the feedback. Interesting about mounting to the ceiling. I don't have the option of using a 4" pole. I had some fans for a while, I've actually had a couple...returned all of them due to one kind of noise or another. None of them would have worked with a 4" pole...far too low...I'd get my head knocked off if I did that.
    – jrista
    Jul 6, 2015 at 20:56
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    One thing I will say...on a couple models that supported third-party remote control adapters. When I wired the adapter in, that DEFINITELY added an electronic buzz to the fan. Removing the wireless receiver eliminated that buzz. I figure it's just cheap electronics that's causing that.
    – jrista
    Jul 6, 2015 at 20:57
  • Putting foam between the ceiling and the fan massively dropped ceiling noise. But as soon as I added the fan blades, the blades acted as speakers.
    – JoseOrtiz3
    Aug 29, 2020 at 6:46

The sounds associated with a ceiling fan can be extremely annoying, as you say in your post, you dont expect the fan to be completely silent, just to have a good sound profile that can easily become white noise, (for me, this means to excessive noise & no deviation from rhythm)

I can think of the following factors causing noise:

Air Flow: This is associated with the fan pushing the air - solution: more ergonomic fan blades.. see sycamore fan

enter image description here

Bearings: Quality bearings on the fan will reduce the friction associated with the rotation, generally this is not the source of the noise, only on old worn fans. - Factors for consideration: to minimise noise here, a heavy fan-motor/housing base will cause both the bearings and noise absorption to be improved. Also, make sure that the fan blades are not bent or unbalanced. since an unbalanced fan will definitely send noise through to the motor. You can test for this type of noise if you hold the fan motor base with your hand while the fan is on low speed (please be careful here) or take each blade off and measure the weight with a kitchen scale.

Motor Driver and speed Control: modern motors use a chopper driver (traic) to regulate the speed (therefore torque) of the motor, this may cause a whining hum. this noise may get louder at low speeds (low torque) - A good quality driver should not make noise, so this would be as a result of the build quality of the fan.

Motor Windings (stator) Most of the noise comes from the ac current running through the windings (copper wire on the stator) . noise will come be generated from the ac frequency vibrating each strand slightly (to the hz of the ac pattern)... there is a technique called dipping, where these coils are coated in a non conductive epoxy or tape, where the noise profile is improved substantially. (this would not a recommended solution since its quite technical.. just added for information see Epoxy Resin for motors

enter image description here


There is such a thing as a silent fan. We have a 25 years old Hunter Fan in our bedroom. It is absolutely silent and I can hear a pin drop at night. We have two other Hunter Fans that are quiet but not silent. So you have to research which style Hunter Fans are the silent ones.

  • I like this answer .... all the advice about DC motors and various other approaches is excellent and worth pursuing. But I have purchased bargain ceiling fans (a couple of brands) from big box stores that are dead silent at low speed. 4 out of 5 in fact. Maybe OP just has a dud and could replace it with almost anything.
    – jay613
    Mar 8, 2021 at 16:07

you can solve all issues for quietness by purchasing a midpriced CASABLANCA FAN - they have FOUR speeds and among the quietest fans i have ever used. I had replaced all past bedroom fans as they continued to hum or make noise even when new. finally an electrician advised use casablanca fan....it worked!! yes more expensive but will last 25 years and even on highest speed which will blow your room out, its super duper quiet ! look at casablanca on AMAZON.com LASTLY DC motor fans are amazing, min cost i think around 300.oo or so but absolutely quiet and will (and should) last a lifetime - hope that helps signed someone who is light sleeper and has tried every ceiling fan model out there!

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    I'm curious why this was down voted. While the quality of the writing is not great, are there any discrepancies in the facts? I have actually still not purchased a fan...once winter hit, I decided to hold off. I still need one, though...
    – jrista
    Mar 8, 2013 at 17:00
  • 1
    @jrista, I think it was down voted because this answer is giving a "product recommendations, or brand specific advice." which is considered off-topic per the FAQ. Though, I could be wrong. Mar 8, 2013 at 17:37
  • What about this fan makes it so quiet? Brand availability depends greatly on location so don't expect that anyone else on this site can purchase that exact fan.
    – Steven
    Mar 8, 2013 at 19:17

Solved this by filtering the mains!

You are right that at very low revolutions, the main noise is the power hum. I tried to solve this for years, and eventually realized the hum is actually not the 50/60 Hz of the mais: that frequency is very low and can not be easily heard. What you hear is HARMONICS, the higher, audible overtones created by the distortion of regulator, when chopping small bits of the mains power wave. Solution was filtering the mains by a so called LC filter: basically, an inductance used in bar fluorescent lights as ballast (just any size will probably do), in series with a motor running capacitor (edited: not a starting capacitor). 4 uF value in my case. The filter is connected in series with the fan itself. The filter also substantially reduces the power that gets to the motor in proportion to the capacitor value, serving INSTEAD of a regulator. You can add a switch to short circuit this filter to get the fan back to full power in daytime.

  • I'd use a capacitor rated for continuous duty, such as a motor run capacitor, instead of the motor start capacitor you used Sep 2, 2017 at 13:28
  • Yes, it should be rated at mains voltage, alternated. I used 400V one just in case. The uF value can be chosen to set it to the right speed. With 4 uF, it was just right for a 220V, 50W fan. Actually the original 3 speeds of the fan still do work controlling the speed, just at substantially reduced revolutions. Sep 3, 2017 at 14:13
  • Personally, I'd use a 250-300VAC X1 or X2 safety rated cap there, but that's just me :) Sep 3, 2017 at 14:20
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    thanks threephaseEel for pointing to it, did not realize starting and running cap isn't the same. It should be rated and continuous alternate current use. Editted the original post to not induce anybody into getting a smoking cap and a fire hazard :) Sep 3, 2017 at 14:32

Nowdays with the newer govt energy standards, you will find many hi-performance fans, meaning 12-14 degree blade pitch will have a slight motor hum. Others from box stores will most likely be more noisy based upon the quality of copper in the motor and the capacitor ratings. Most of the money to build box store fans is put to the aesthetics, and not performance. DC fans to tend to be quieter, but any electrical imbalance can give the motors a growling sound. Given too, they are much more complicated electronics, and nearly all are hand held remotes only! Some of the old US made Hunter original fans with the oil bath bearing, were indeed pretty quiet. Today all Hunter fans are made in China, made for a price point, to retail at builder box stores. My 35 years in the fan industry I've seen many changes, some good and many not so good....

  • This answer includes useful information but it's hard to pick out the relevant parts from the whole. I think you're saying that it's difficult/impossible to find quiet fans anymore, and that DC fans would be the best bet to get a quiet one, is that right? If you edit your post you can add a brief summary at the top or bottom to help people find the important parts of your answer. Apr 25, 2022 at 18:33
  • I'll give +1 because you're the only one who mentions blade pitch. Write more about why pitch matters! When comparing fans with lower and higher blade pitches, one will usually find the higher-pitch blade moves the same amount of air at lower RPM. That means less wind noise from the blade whooshing through the air and less mechanical noise because the bearings are turning slower. It takes more effort to push a higher-pitch blade too. I believe that leads to a fan built with better controls, motor, and bearing parts, and higher sticker price on the shelf.
    – Greg Hill
    Apr 25, 2022 at 20:56
  • In the last decade I've bought several ceiling fans. Before I even look at the displays on the ceiling I read the specs printed on the boxes on the shelf. Only the ones that bothered to show the blade pitch deserve to be considered. I've consistently ended up with DC fans around 14° pitch and, if I get the blade balance good enough, virtually silent operation at the lower 3 out of 6 speeds.
    – Greg Hill
    Apr 25, 2022 at 21:02

I recommend you check out Big Ass Fans.


There is a new fan on the market called the "Exhale Fan" it takes everything we are wanting and talking about to a whole new level. DC motor, blade less fan, toroidal air flow, ultra quiet.

  • Thanks for the reply. Any idea if there is some richer information out there about these fans? I couldn't find anything about sound decibel levels on their site...and I'd really need that to know if this is quiet enough for me. (As a side note, it looks like most of those fans are backordered at least 100 orders deep, some several hundred... :o...)
    – jrista
    Jun 4, 2014 at 19:59
  • Update: I did find sound levels. I thought the chart at the bottom of their home page was a comparison with other fans. Turns out this thing is 34dB at it's quietest...far too loud for me. I need something in the 10-20dB range. I used to live in a place that had standard ceiling fans that were close to 10dB on the lower two settings...you couldn't hear a thing unless you got up to them and pointed your ear right towards the fan. That's what I need...34-40dB...wow, in the dead of night that's like a jet engine! :P
    – jrista
    Jun 4, 2014 at 20:50
  • I think that's wind movement not motor noise. I'm buying one so I'll give you a review once I have it up and going.
    – Rob Wayman
    Jun 9, 2014 at 1:06
  • Yeah, it is wind movement noise. If the wind sound is 34dB at the lowest setting, that is LOUD. I've had ceiling fans that were less than 20dB at their lowest or even lowest two settings...no wind sound, no motor sound, just a very light breeze. That's what I need...but I don't think it still exists anymore.
    – jrista
    Jun 9, 2014 at 4:16

Even with an 8' ceiling, you can use a 4" drop down pole for silence. Buy or make a cage. It can be mounted to the ceiling. It can be open on the sides for easy access for cleaning and maintenance. This would be only a bottom screen to guard the blades.


For what it's worth, I put in three ceiling fans when I moved in (the house already had two), and normally I barely hear motor noise from them -- the whoosh of the blades, and the occasional quiet rattle of something in the air flow, are louder. These are wired directly, using only the three-step speed control built into the fan.

So I tend to agree that the fancy-but-not-fancy-enough speed controllers are likely to be your problem. Or much older or cheaper fans. (Though these three are middle-of-he-line from a decent manufacturer, they are less than a decade old.)

How they're mounted may also make a difference, though mine are mostly attached directly to the ceiling with at most a short, rigid standoff.

Shop around, try in stores, try in friends' 'homes... It is possible. Good luck.


Everything I've read and seen point for electronic hums point to too-rapid-switching of the 60Hz current -- with some dimmer switches not designed for fans making the problem worse.

But first, lets say you are using the 3-speed switch that was designed for fan, and that it is properly designed (bit assumption, but looking at best case first). In that case, its the pure 60Hz (60 full sine-waves/second) current. In this case, you need to smooth out that out (with result of slightly less fan power though that's usually not noticeable). To do that, use a capacitor. I'm looking at one I salvaged off of a good (no audible hum) floor fan that died after 15 years of use. I'm hoping to transplant it onto a Chinese special that has both vibration (physically caused) AND hum. I can't find evidence that it contains a capacitor, so I hope for it to be a good test of this relatively easy fix.

The capacitor is rated at 4 µF (microFarads) with a max voltage of 250V (@70C). A capacitor buffers current -- on each side of zero (since AC current goes from 0 -> 60V -> 0 -> -60V ->0). When circuit is high, will buffer positive and as switch goes negative, capacitor will bleed off and slow the change such that the peaks will be lessened and change will be slowed. The result: with less force generated by current changing direction more slowly, the hum will lessen, possibly becoming inaudible.

The fan unit I salvaged this from put the capacitor on the same 2 poles that led to the power switch in parallel with the switch.

If you need more specifics, google for details. With all the examples, you'll be in the best position to decide how much more detail you need.

Some recommend DC motors -- with a good DC current, they should also be quiet. But that's the trick: getting a good DC current --- since there are at least a few circuits that can do that -- so you could get hum from the AC->DC converter. Would have to research how to solve that, but from what some say even in this "thread", its sufficiently less as to be inaudible or quiet with many such motors.

Related: I found a great online ref for types of light-dimmer circuits that tells why some are good and some are bad at http://www.epanorama.net/documents/lights/lightdimmer.html. The author of that section has a whole site of electronic related info.

FWIW, I've found capacitors on fans that I found to have low-hum which is why a make a point of this cause, as you can have the tightest physical install of a lower vibration fan and still have the electrical problem.

Hope this helps...


I think it's just "luck of the draw" -- we paid to have 2 identical hunter fans installed. The one in my office is so loud we had to take it down ($90 down the drain for the installation) -- the other (same fan different color) is much quieter -- has a slight hum, but is "sleepable". Prior to that one I had paid to have a harbor breeze fan installed in that room -- another $90 down the drain -- as it hummed and pulsed. None of these fans have remotes or dimmers. We had several harbor breeze fans (with remotes or dimmers) in our old house that were silent -- I really want to get another fan for my office but I am paralyzed by indecision because I don't want to pay to have another fan installed just to have the same problem -- very, very frustrating. BTW -- the electrician who installed the 2 hunter fans said that fans with a DC motor were quiet -- but good luck finding one that you will like. The selection is very limited.

  • 1
    The "hum" could be improper installation resulting in vibration rather than noise from the electric motor.
    – gnicko
    Mar 8, 2021 at 15:29
  • If you're hanging out at a DIY site, I'll let you know that installing a ceiling fan is dead easy, especially if you have one to take down as an example. No need to hire someone to do it for you. Your first one will take a couple of hours as you work really carefully, the next one could take as little as 30 minutes. I've installed/replaces several in my house and it takes about as much time to assemble/attach the blades as it does to do everything else. Loads of questions here about how to do the wiring. Key item: take pictures of all wiring before you start!
    – FreeMan
    Mar 8, 2021 at 15:36

I have 3, 40 yr old Hunter fans that are absolutely silent. Bought a newer hunter fan because I wanted an led light and it hummed. Hunter replaced it with a more expensive one and it hums too. I agree with an earlier writer that it is the triac speed controls that are the problem and I don’t know if the problem is solvable. The 40 yr old fans change speed thru switching motor windings so you can’t use the fancy remote controls but I sure like them better. Of course, Hunter probably isn’t happy that they lasted 40 years and are still going strong

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