Ceiling fan repair -- bad capacitor


T

TomR

A friend of mine was asked to repair a Harbor Breeze ceiling fan. He was
told that the pull chain for the fan switch had pulled out and was missing.
When he opened it up, it was true that the chain for the fan switch had
pulled out. It's a 3-way 4-wire fan switch and he bought a replacement
switch but hasn't put it in yet.

But, when he opened up the ceiling fan he found that the capacitor had
burned and melted. Here are 3 photos (in .jpg and URL link form) of the
damaged capacitor:


http://i45.tinypic.com/j9o5g5.jpg

http://i47.tinypic.com/102jry9.jpg

http://i50.tinypic.com/kdk7l2.jpg



http://tinypic.com/r/j9o5g5/6

http://tinypic.com/r/102jry9/6

http://tinypic.com/r/kdk7l2/6



It turns out that finding Harbor Breeze support or parts through the
manufacturer is apparently a virtual impossibility. The Harbor Breeze
ceiling fans are sold at Lowes, and Lowes has some parts such as switches,
but Lowes does not sell capacitors.



We found at least two online third party sources that sell ceiling fan
capacitors, and my friend just ordered the replacement capacitor. It should
arrive next week.



I didn't even know that ceiling fans had a capacitor in them, and I don't
know what the capacitor does. We just saw the burnt and melted part and
figured out through some Internet searching that it is a capacitor.



My question are:



1) Given the burnt and melted condition of the capacitor as shown in the
photos, is it possible (or likely) that the ceiling fan motor itself is also
bad?;



and,



2) What does the capacitor do; and do capacitors sometimes just burn and
melt like this one did without that being caused by something else such as a
bad motor?
 
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T

TomR

TomR said:
A friend of mine was asked to repair a Harbor Breeze ceiling fan. He was
told that the pull chain for the fan switch had pulled out and was missing.
When he opened it up, it was true that the chain for the fan switch had
pulled out. It's a 3-way 4-wire fan switch and he bought a replacement
switch but hasn't put it in yet.

But, when he opened up the ceiling fan he found that the capacitor had
burned and melted. Here are 3 photos (in .jpg and URL link form) of the
damaged capacitor:

http://i45.tinypic.com/j9o5g5.jpg
http://i47.tinypic.com/102jry9.jpg
http://i50.tinypic.com/kdk7l2.jpg

http://tinypic.com/r/j9o5g5/6
http://tinypic.com/r/102jry9/6
http://tinypic.com/r/kdk7l2/6

It turns out that finding Harbor Breeze support or parts through the
manufacturer is apparently a virtual impossibility. The Harbor Breeze
ceiling fans are sold at Lowes, and Lowes has some parts such as switches,
but Lowes does not sell capacitors.

We found at least two online third party sources that sell ceiling fan
capacitors, and my friend just ordered the replacement capacitor. It
should arrive next week.

I didn't even know that ceiling fans had a capacitor in them, and I don't
know what the capacitor does. We just saw the burnt and melted part and
figured out through some Internet searching that it is a capacitor.

My question are:

1) Given the burnt and melted condition of the capacitor as shown in the
photos, is it possible (or likely) that the ceiling fan motor itself is
also bad?;

and,

2) What does the capacitor do; and do capacitors sometimes just burn and
melt like this one did without that being caused by something else such as
a bad motor?

P.S. The photos were taken with a high megapixel camera, so zooming in on
each photo for a close up view is possible if that would be helpful.
 
T

Tomsic

TomR said:
P.S. The photos were taken with a high megapixel camera, so zooming in on
each photo for a close up view is possible if that would be helpful.
Capacitors are a weak link in any electronic device. They're sensitive to
heat, age, voltage surges and are easy to manufacture in large quantities
with poor quality which means they work for a while and then fail. The
capacitors in the pictures appear to be the ones used for the fan speed
selection. It's certainly not uncommon for capacitors to fail and to heat
up, melt plastic and turn black before they do.

Tomsic
 
B

Bill Gill

A friend of mine was asked to repair a Harbor Breeze ceiling fan. He
was told that the pull chain for the fan switch had pulled out and was
missing. When he opened it up, it was true that the chain for the fan
switch had pulled out. It's a 3-way 4-wire fan switch and he bought a
replacement switch but hasn't put it in yet.

But, when he opened up the ceiling fan he found that the capacitor had
burned and melted. Here are 3 photos (in .jpg and URL link form) of the
damaged capacitor:


http://i45.tinypic.com/j9o5g5.jpg

http://i47.tinypic.com/102jry9.jpg

http://i50.tinypic.com/kdk7l2.jpg



http://tinypic.com/r/j9o5g5/6

http://tinypic.com/r/102jry9/6

http://tinypic.com/r/kdk7l2/6



It turns out that finding Harbor Breeze support or parts through the
manufacturer is apparently a virtual impossibility. The Harbor Breeze
ceiling fans are sold at Lowes, and Lowes has some parts such as
switches, but Lowes does not sell capacitors.



We found at least two online third party sources that sell ceiling fan
capacitors, and my friend just ordered the replacement capacitor. It
should arrive next week.



I didn't even know that ceiling fans had a capacitor in them, and I
don't know what the capacitor does. We just saw the burnt and melted
part and figured out through some Internet searching that it is a
capacitor.



My question are:



1) Given the burnt and melted condition of the capacitor as shown in the
photos, is it possible (or likely) that the ceiling fan motor itself is
also bad?;



and,



2) What does the capacitor do; and do capacitors sometimes just burn and
melt like this one did without that being caused by something else such
as a bad motor?
That is a fairly common cause of fan failures. I have had it happen
more than once. The failure shouldn't cause any other damage to the
fan. Replace it and the fan should be as good as new.

My problem the last time I replaced one was that they are hard to
find locally. It used to be that most hardware stores carried them,
but they don't any more.

Bill
 
T

TomR

Capacitors are a weak link in any electronic device. They're
sensitive to heat, age, voltage surges and are easy to manufacture in
large quantities with poor quality which means they work for a while
and then fail. The capacitors in the pictures appear to be the ones
used for the fan speed selection. It's certainly not uncommon for
capacitors to fail and to heat up, melt plastic and turn black before
they do.
Thanks. That's good to know.

In the second photo of the three which shows the back of the capacitor, in
the center of the area where the plastic is melted there is a silver area
that is some kind of melted metal -- lead, solder, or whatever.

Hopefully, replacing it with the new capacitor will fix the problem.
 
D

Dave M.

Tom,


Possible yes, likely no.


Without going into theory these are "motor run" capacitors and maybe a
"motor start" capacitor. They help to shift the phase of the magnetic field.
You get more torque to spin the motor.

and do capacitors sometimes just burn and
Yes, capacitors fail with age. They are a common point of failure.

Dave M.
 
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D

DA

responding to
http://www.homeownershub.com/maintenance/ceiling-fan-repair-bad-capacitor-705530-.htm
DA wrote:
TomR said:
A friend of mine was asked to repair a Harbor Breeze ceiling fan.
damaged capacitor:
http://i50.tinypic.com/kdk7l2.jpg
Don't waste your time trying to find a Harbor Breeze capacitor (or any
other replacement part for that matter). Harbor Breeze as well as its
cousin Hampton Bay (sold at HD) are just brands owned by marketing
companies that themselves appear to be nothing more than fronts for a
conglomerate of Chinese manufacturers. It's quite possible that both are
in the end manufactured in the same place, just the US fronts are
different. The whole setup is not geared towards repair of any kind, just
replacement of the entire unit if still under warranty or, they hope,
purchasing a new one if the warranty had expired.
1) Given the burnt and melted condition of the capacitor as shown in the
photos, is it possible (or likely) that the ceiling fan motor itself is
also bad?;
I think the motor is fine. The melting of the capacitor is suggestive of
over-current condition or a manufacturing defect which quite possibly was
there from the beginning. In either case, the motor's windings are capable
of withstanding higher currents and the motor's metal body parts are
capable of losing excess heat much better than a resin-encapsulated
capacitor. So, the capacitor is likely to go first.
2) What does the capacitor do; and do capacitors sometimes just burn and
melt like this one did without that being caused by something else such
as a bad motor?
There's always a reason but it may be a transient one and may be hard to
pinpoint, especially if it's the first occurrence which may end up being
the only one. It could have been something that was obstructing the blades
during a start at one time or perhaps some dust made its way into bearings
and made the start harder. Best course of action right now is to just
replace the capacitor (a $15 item) and see if the problem persist.

Look for 4.5/6/6 capacitor on the Net, there should be some on offer. A
quick search on Amazon yielded this:
http://www.amazon.com/BM-Ceiling-Fan-Capacitor-wire/dp/B004QOY0I4/ which
is a 4.5/5/6 mkF, not an exact replacement but should work. Also, your
original one is 350V for the 4.5 mkF capacitor (there are three individual
capacitors in there) and that seems to be a bit hard to find. I think your
best bet would be to either stick with 250V for all three (it's a 120V
device anyway) or perhaps get three individual ones of proper value and
connect them as indicated on the original capacitor (grey is common for
all three and the rest are color coded).

Since you have the fan down and accessible, be sure to use the opportunity
to check and oil the bearings.
 
T

TomR

DA said:
Don't waste your time trying to find a Harbor Breeze capacitor (or any
other replacement part for that matter). Harbor Breeze as well as its
cousin Hampton Bay (sold at HD) are just brands owned by marketing
companies that themselves appear to be nothing more than fronts for a
conglomerate of Chinese manufacturers. It's quite possible that both
are in the end manufactured in the same place, just the US fronts are
different. The whole setup is not geared towards repair of any kind,
just replacement of the entire unit if still under warranty or, they
hope, purchasing a new one if the warranty had expired.


I think the motor is fine. The melting of the capacitor is suggestive
of over-current condition or a manufacturing defect which quite
possibly was there from the beginning. In either case, the motor's
windings are capable of withstanding higher currents and the motor's
metal body parts are capable of losing excess heat much better than a
resin-encapsulated capacitor. So, the capacitor is likely to go first.


There's always a reason but it may be a transient one and may be hard
to pinpoint, especially if it's the first occurrence which may end up
being the only one. It could have been something that was obstructing
the blades during a start at one time or perhaps some dust made its
way into bearings and made the start harder. Best course of action
right now is to just replace the capacitor (a $15 item) and see if
the problem persist.

Look for 4.5/6/6 capacitor on the Net, there should be some on offer.
A quick search on Amazon yielded this:
http://www.amazon.com/BM-Ceiling-Fan-Capacitor-wire/dp/B004QOY0I4/
which is a 4.5/5/6 mkF, not an exact replacement but should work.
Also, your original one is 350V for the 4.5 mkF capacitor (there are
three individual capacitors in there) and that seems to be a bit hard
to find. I think your best bet would be to either stick with 250V for
all three (it's a 120V device anyway) or perhaps get three individual
ones of proper value and connect them as indicated on the original
capacitor (grey is common for all three and the rest are color coded).

Since you have the fan down and accessible, be sure to use the
opportunity to check and oil the bearings.
Thanks. That's all good and helpful information.

I just ordered the replacement capacitor from this company:

http://crs-industries.com/Capacitor...t_info.html?osCsid=jvld385rn0tupp5hlhe76k9qo0 .

As you mentioned, they didn't have one that said 350 VAC, but since it is a
110 VAC circuit the 250 VAC replacement part made sense to me too so I just
ordered it.

There were only 3 online ceiling fan capacitor companies that I had found so
far. One didn't appear to have this size capacitor. Another (which had the
part) requires a $25 minimum order plus a $10 minimum shipping charge. The
company above that I ordered from was the least expensive and has a direct
online ordering system that worked. The part was $13.50 plus $4.96 for UPS
shipping for a total of $18.46.

From what you and others wrote, I have a feeling that this will fix the
problem. I assume that it will take about a week to get the part and then
I'll post back how it worked out.
 
A

Art Todesco

Thanks. That's all good and helpful information.

I just ordered the replacement capacitor from this company:

http://crs-industries.com/Capacitor...t_info.html?osCsid=jvld385rn0tupp5hlhe76k9qo0 .

As you mentioned, they didn't have one that said 350 VAC, but since it is a
110 VAC circuit the 250 VAC replacement part made sense to me too so I just
ordered it.

There were only 3 online ceiling fan capacitor companies that I had found so
far. One didn't appear to have this size capacitor. Another (which had the
part) requires a $25 minimum order plus a $10 minimum shipping charge. The
company above that I ordered from was the least expensive and has a direct
online ordering system that worked. The part was $13.50 plus $4.96 for UPS
shipping for a total of $18.46.

From what you and others wrote, I have a feeling that this will fix the
problem. I assume that it will take about a week to get the part and then
I'll post back how it worked out.
The 250VAC capacitor should be ok, but remember that 120 volts is the
RMS value; the peak could be as high as 177 volts. There are a lot of
ebay stores that sell parts for fans. I just ordered an new remote
control unit from one of them.
 
B

bud--

The 250VAC capacitor should be ok, but remember that 120 volts is the
RMS value; the peak could be as high as 177 volts. There are a lot of
ebay stores that sell parts for fans. I just ordered an new remote
control unit from one of them.
The voltage across the capacitor and the voltage across the motor
winding are out of phase. Adding the voltages can be much higher than
120V. Just in case the new cap fails....

There is also a big difference between "start" and "run" capacitors.
"Run" caps are much higher quality.
 
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T

TomR

TomR said:
A friend of mine was asked to repair a Harbor Breeze ceiling fan. He
was told that the pull chain for the fan switch had pulled out and
was missing. When he opened it up, it was true that the chain for the
fan switch had pulled out. It's a 3-way 4-wire fan switch and he
bought a replacement switch but hasn't put it in yet.

But, when he opened up the ceiling fan he found that the capacitor had
burned and melted. Here are 3 photos (in .jpg and URL link form) of
the damaged capacitor:

http://i45.tinypic.com/j9o5g5.jpg
http://i47.tinypic.com/102jry9.jpg
http://i50.tinypic.com/kdk7l2.jpg

http://tinypic.com/r/j9o5g5/6
http://tinypic.com/r/102jry9/6
http://tinypic.com/r/kdk7l2/6

It turns out that finding Harbor Breeze support or parts through the
manufacturer is apparently a virtual impossibility. The Harbor Breeze
ceiling fans are sold at Lowes, and Lowes has some parts such as
switches, but Lowes does not sell capacitors.

We found at least two online third party sources that sell ceiling fan
capacitors, and my friend just ordered the replacement capacitor. It
should arrive next week.

I didn't even know that ceiling fans had a capacitor in them, and I
don't know what the capacitor does. We just saw the burnt and melted
part and figured out through some Internet searching that it is a
capacitor.
My question are:

1) Given the burnt and melted condition of the capacitor as shown in
the photos, is it possible (or likely) that the ceiling fan motor
itself is also bad?;

and,

2) What does the capacitor do; and do capacitors sometimes just burn
and melt like this one did without that being caused by something
else such as a bad motor?
Thanks for everyone's help with this. Here's the final outcome.

I ordered the capacitor online for about $13.50 plus $5 shipping. The
person I was helping with this project put it in yesterday. He also
replaced the old pull chain switch that the chain had pulled out of and was
bad.

The capacitor worked like a charm and the fan motor now works perfectly.

Regarding the switch -- at first he thought he did something wrong with the
switch because the lights didn't work. The he figured out that all of the
bulbs were burnt out -- duh. He thinks that maybe the bulbs got damaged
will moving the fan back and forth from his shop etc. He replaced the bulbs
and all is well.
 
K

krw

Thanks for the follow up report. I'm pleased it all worked out.

Ceiling fans are very rough on bulbs -- they may need "rough service" bulbs.
If the blades are properly balanced, they're not too hard on bulbs. In four
years, the only ceiling fan bulbs I've lost were the ones on the back porch,
in a fan that's never used. Three of the four went.
 
B

Bill

If the blades are properly balanced, they're not too hard on bulbs. In four
years, the only ceiling fan bulbs I've lost were the ones on the back porch,
in a fan that's never used. Three of the four went.

When I used 100W bulbs in my ceiling fan which has a globe, I was going
through them practically monthly. When I switched to 60W, I got more
normal bulb-lifetimes.
 
K

krw

Forgot to mention, that the outside fan was one of six in the house with
lights. None of the other lights has failed in that four years.
When I used 100W bulbs in my ceiling fan which has a globe, I was going
through them practically monthly. When I switched to 60W, I got more
normal bulb-lifetimes.
What was the rating on the fixture?
 
B

Bill

Forgot to mention, that the outside fan was one of six in the house with
lights. None of the other lights has failed in that four years.


What was the rating on the fixture?
The rating of the part that held the bulb was/is quite high (I don't
recall the number, but it is greater than 100W). However, it surely did
not take the globe into account. Evidently, it was the heat in the globe
that was giving the bulbs a short lifespan. I am sticking with the 60w
bulbs for reasons of safety. I inherited the lamp as a home-buyer, so I
don't know what it said "on the box" of the fan.
 
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A

Art Todesco

The rating of the part that held the bulb was/is quite high (I don't
recall the number, but it is greater than 100W). However, it surely did
not take the globe into account. Evidently, it was the heat in the globe
that was giving the bulbs a short lifespan. I am sticking with the 60w
bulbs for reasons of safety. I inherited the lamp as a home-buyer, so I
don't know what it said "on the box" of the fan.
My fan uses max. 60 watt bulbs and there is (now was) a 190 watt
limiter. When 1st installed, the lights were connected to a wall switch
and not to the dimmer/wireless remote control. I put in 3 60 watt
equiv CFLs. They would blink out in anywhere from 1 minute to 1 hour,
due to the wattage limiter. So, I put in 3 60 incandescent lamps and
reconnected the lights to the wireless remote. Worked good, but because
the fan is very high, it would be nice to have larger lamps. Finally,
the remote control receiver bit the dust, so I replaced it with one that
was CFL friendly, i.e. only on and off. I also put in 100 watt equiv
CFL as they are now available with the mini candelabra base. They
blinked like crazy ... due to the wattage limiter. So, I said, no
problem, I'll remove it ... ah, were is it? ... it's not in the light
kit. After bringing down the fan from 20 some feet up, we found it in
the motor housing. Bypassed it. We now seem to have sufficient light
with the 100 watt equiv CFLs. I do need to adjust the glass bowl as it
is just touching the lamps. So, when you 1st turn the fan on, you can
hear a slight glass to glass noise, but it's hardly noticeable ... but I
still want to fix it right.
 
B

Bill

Art said:
My fan uses max. 60 watt bulbs and there is (now was) a 190 watt
limiter. When 1st installed, the lights were connected to a wall switch
and not to the dimmer/wireless remote control. I put in 3 60 watt
equiv CFLs. They would blink out in anywhere from 1 minute to 1 hour,
due to the wattage limiter. So, I put in 3 60 incandescent lamps and
reconnected the lights to the wireless remote. Worked good, but because
the fan is very high, it would be nice to have larger lamps. Finally,
the remote control receiver bit the dust, so I replaced it with one that
was CFL friendly, i.e. only on and off. I also put in 100 watt equiv
CFL as they are now available with the mini candelabra base. They
blinked like crazy ... due to the wattage limiter. So, I said, no
problem, I'll remove it ... ah, were is it? ... it's not in the light
kit. After bringing down the fan from 20 some feet up, we found it in
the motor housing. Bypassed it. We now seem to have sufficient light
with the 100 watt equiv CFLs. I do need to adjust the glass bowl as it
is just touching the lamps. So, when you 1st turn the fan on, you can
hear a slight glass to glass noise, but it's hardly noticeable ... but I
still want to fix it right.
Technically that probably the right thing to do (since loose bulbs are a
fire-hazard). At least you got an interesting story out of it!

Bill Whig
 
C

clare

When I used 100W bulbs in my ceiling fan which has a globe, I was going
through them practically monthly. When I switched to 60W, I got more
normal bulb-lifetimes.
They sell "ceiling fan bulbs" which are basically rough service bulbs
without the thicker glass. Appliance bulbs are also good. Standard
duty bulbs often have a VERY short life in a fan installation due to
vibration. Particularly at low or medium speed on fans that change the
number of poles to change the speed.
 
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T

Tomsic

TomR said:
Big Snip....

Thanks for everyone's help with this. Here's the final outcome.

I ordered the capacitor online for about $13.50 plus $5 shipping. The
person I was helping with this project put it in yesterday. He also
replaced the old pull chain switch that the chain had pulled out of and
was bad.

The capacitor worked like a charm and the fan motor now works perfectly.

Regarding the switch -- at first he thought he did something wrong with
the switch because the lights didn't work. The he figured out that all of
the bulbs were burnt out -- duh. He thinks that maybe the bulbs got
damaged will moving the fan back and forth from his shop etc. He replaced
the bulbs and all is well.
Incandescent bulbs get more sensitive to shock and vibration as they age
because the filament gets brittle. Halogen bulb filaments are the worst as
they're thin to start with and the coils are closer together than filament
coils in standard bulbs.

Handle incandescent bulbs gently once they've burned for a while.

Tomsic
 

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