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Old 01-29-2014, 04:37 PM   #1
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another triac / ceiling fan question


My ceiling fan (Hampton Bay, couple years old), when running on low or med speed, makes a slight humming noise. I think what maybe makes this a bit different from a million other threads I've seen is that this noise is not continuous, its more a sort of a "pulse", that happens with each full rotation of the blades (every full turn, for just a second, then nothing). This is a 3-speed fan (with reverse) all controlled with the remote. The fan's controller (receiver) unit is a separate module, with wirenuts, that hides under the canopy cover. I believe all the electronics are housed in this little plastic box.

I've read a hundred threads and come to the conclusion that the controller in my ceiling fan is likely some form of a cheap TRIAC, and possibly the culprit for the issue. What has me wondering, though, is why the humming noise is not constant, why does it pulse? There is no visible wobble, everything is tight. On low speed it turns very slow, so vibration isn't likely adding anything, but the "hum - hum - hum" is still noticeable. Also I also don't know what a TRIAC has to do with reversing the direction - I don't know how it all actually works, but reverse is also controlled via the remote.

I'm thinking of some sanity checks to try. The fan is wired through a wall switch junction box (currently just a normal single pole on-off switch there to kill the power to the fan if I want). I flip the switch and the fan turns on to whatever setting it was last at, then I can use the remote if I want to change things up (which I only do at change of season e.g. to reverse the direction of the airflow). Maybe I could remove the fan's remote control unit completely and wire the power directly to the unit. I assume this would mean that when I flip the wall switch, it goes into full speed. Then maybe I wire in a 3rd party wall mounted speed controller to basically do what the old unit mounted up in the fan was doing. I don't care about remote control, or "variable speeds" - just need the usual 3-speed options for low, med, high and the ability to reverse it a couple times a year.

Is there a certain fan speed controller that would to this, or one that is recommended? Possibly not even a TRIAC (or maybe a TRIAC of better quality)? Maybe this just isn't going to happen, but that pulsing hum is really annoying late at night when everything else is really really quiet. Otherwise I love this fan, it looks great, and moves just the right amount of air in that room.

Thanks in advance for the patience and any thoughts on this....

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Old 01-29-2014, 04:45 PM   #2
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another triac / ceiling fan question


Most probably the bearings. Low end fans use oil impregnated bronze bushings that wear out over time. Better fans use ball bearings.

Replace it with a Hunter or Casablanca.

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Old 01-29-2014, 11:21 PM   #3
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another triac / ceiling fan question


The noise is caused by the form of electronic switching used by the
electronic speed controler !

The only way to get rid of it is to NOT use electronic speed controlers !
Use the old style five position choke style speed controler !
No noise with them !

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An old or worn fan will exsaserbate the problem,
but most forms of electronic speed control cause more noise
from electric motors.
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Old 01-30-2014, 10:18 AM   #4
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another triac / ceiling fan question


thanks folks for the replies. as a quick sanity check, I can give the fan a spin (by hand) and it is completely silent. Or if I run it on the usual speed, then hit the wall switch to shut off the power, it continues to spin for a bit but the noise immediately stops. So I'm guessing it's related to the power. FWIW the fan is relatively new (couple years) with mostly weekend use.

I would be happy to toss the remotes in a drawer and disconnect the electronic controller and use one of the "choke" style, but I don't know how I could reverse the spin - I'm not sure how this works with the remote control units or if there's a way to get it to work with the remote controls disconnected.

I wonder if the fan running on full speed takes the speed control right out of the loop (in other words, runs as though there was no speed control)...? maybe I could leave it connected, keep it on full speed, and use a wall mounted speed control to choke it down? Then use the remote to reverse the fan direction at the change of seasons? Does that even make sense?
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Old 01-30-2014, 04:16 PM   #5
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another triac / ceiling fan question


Why not just use a wall switch and use the fans own pull chain speed control to adjust it's speed?
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Old 01-30-2014, 08:53 PM   #6
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another triac / ceiling fan question


Fan has no chains - uses a remote control.
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Old 01-30-2014, 09:54 PM   #7
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another triac / ceiling fan question


For what it is worth...have you double-checked/tightened the housing screws on top of the fan? Also, my bedroom fan had the same symptoms you described and I traced it back to the small down rod not being fully seated into the bracket from the electrical box. Just my two cents... :-)
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Old 01-31-2014, 08:38 AM   #8
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Thanks RunningSparky - yeah I was extra cautious when installing these fans (got 2 of them - both exhibit same symptoms). Everything is tight and solid.
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Old 01-31-2014, 10:54 AM   #9
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another triac / ceiling fan question


The problem here is simply a cheap brand of fan. Hampton Bay is made especially for HD and meant to achieve price points in terms of quality. As with all bottom-of-the-line units, they'll hum/buzz at lower speeds. They cheap out on the quality of speed control and as you stated, there's no pull chain switches. Likely, the mechanicals like the bearings have suffered "value engineering" as well. The only solution is to get a better fan if you wish to have quieter slow speeds. Your fan is marketed specifically for ease of installation. On the plus side, Lowes sells low priced Hunter fans that seem to do well with external speed controls, but I'm afraid the low setting and the "ambiance" setting are still accompanied by a slight buzzing sound. (Ambiance is a new, super-slow speed) Fine for a livingroom or den, a bedroom not so much. In the end, you get what you pay for...
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Old 01-31-2014, 11:15 AM   #10
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another triac / ceiling fan question


Thanks IslandGuy - yeah I have no illusions about the quality of the HD merchandise (fans and otherwise), but these particular fans cost over $200 apiece. The design is what my better half wanted (not trying to throw her under a bus here, she looked at hundreds of fans from many manufacturers and none had anything close enough aesthetically). I have to agree with her, they are beautiful to look at.

I was just hoping that I could replace the included remote control electronics with quality wall mounted control, which would work fine for me. This would not fix any bearing noise as you say, but my hope was that it could at least eliminate any electrical "noise" from the cheap triac on low speed. I really only run them on low speed, and reverse them for winter / summer use.

Other than the slight intermittent noise, they work flawlessly as far as moving the air. In a bedroom it would drive me insane. But they hang in a great room so it's not horrible - ambient noise hides the fan noise, until late at night when things are really quiet. Anyway, guess I'll live with it until they croak. Thanks everyone for the replies...

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