I added a ceiling fan to an existing circuit with GFCI protection. I know, I know, they say you shouldn't because the inductance from the motor can trip the GFCI. I figured I'd risk that minor inconvenience rather than the major inconvenience of putting in a whole new circuit for one fan.

The fan worked fine for about 8 months. Despite turning it on and off many times, it only tripped the GFCI twice, which never seemed to cause it any harm.

However, today I came home and the fan no longer works. It makes a humming noise, but the fins don't spin. I read online that it could be due to a burned capacitor (why does a fan need a capacitor?), in which case pushing fins by hand to get them spinning should work. It doesn't.

So my question is:

  1. Could the GFCI tripping as the fan started up cause the capacitor (or any other part of the fan) to burn out?
  2. Do these symptoms point to any obvious cause? Is it fixable?
  • Most likely is does not belong there. There isn't a design aspect and a large repair component. But we can flag this for the DIY site for you.
    – placeholder
    Jul 15 '14 at 20:39
  • Let's keep this for a day or so here on EE.SE . If it doesn't get traction, then I'll migrate it to DIY.SE (the home improvement stack).
    – Nick Alexeev
    Jul 15 '14 at 22:06
  • 1
    Needs a start capacitor as it needs a method of producing a phase shifted magnetic field to give the rotor kick to start the rotor turning. Single phase is not self starting like the magnetic vortex of three phase. Several different ways of accomplishing the phase shift, Shaded Pole where a shorted copper loop magnetically induces a magnetic field gradient, position shifted start winding with centrifugal switch and capacitor start where the current lead phase shifts the magnetic field in the start winding to produce rotational force. Jul 17 '14 at 1:50

From the perspective of a motor, a GFCI looks exactly the same as any other circuit breaker. The only difference is that a GFCI has extra circuitry which senses an imbalance between the black and white wires (plus control circuitry to trip the breaker)—nothing more.

Many modern ceiling fans seem to be cheaply made. I suspect the failure is a quality control issue or an intentional cost cutting measure of the manufacturer. If it is still in warranty, get it replaced.

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