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As temperatures soar and Americans are encouraged to stay at home or must do so if their offices or workplaces are still closed, there’s one thing on many minds: how to beat the heat. Whether you don’t have access to a robust air conditioning unit, are looking to keep AC costs low or are in need of something that can move with you, it may be time to enlist the help of a new fan. Although the types and styles of fans differ, a fan's main function is simple when it's aimed at us humans: help blow away hot air in our immediate vicinity, in turn enabling our sweat — which traps heat — to evaporate from the surface of our skin. “When our internal temperature is higher than the air around us, heat is transferred to the surrounding air, so that temperature may actually feel even hotter than what the number of the degrees on the thermometer reads,” explained Sabina Rebis, MD, internal medicine provider at Yale New Haven Health. “Fans allow air to carry that heat off, effectively cooling you off.”
SKIP AHEAD Best fans to shop
So if you’re in need of some extra cooling off, a new fan is likely worth the investment. “They come in a variety of styles to accommodate almost any situation, whether you're out and about or sitting at home or in the office,” said Carl Prouty, tech expert at Abt Electronics. “They're much quieter than window or wall air conditioners and they use far less energy so their operating costs are much lower.” And there are really lots of options when it comes to fans, from simple and compact models to elevated fans with built-in air purifiers and smart home features.
Best fan for your needs
If your utility bill is out of line with your expectations, different styles of fans can help reduce that cost while keeping you comfortable and cool. “Fans are one of the few tools you have to make your life more comfortable, both economically and instantly,” said Ward Schraeder of HGTV’s Bargain Mansions.
When I want a fan blowing directly on me, such as when I’m working in my shop, I opt for a floor fan.
Ward Schraeder, HGTV’s Bargain Mansions
When shopping for fans, you’ll come across some distinct styles, each ideal for different needs:
- Ceiling fans are permanently installed on a room’s ceiling. They move air around, keeping rooms cooler in the summer or warmer in the winter by reversing airflow — some models also incorporate lights.
- Tower fans or floor fans are portable units that can be placed in different rooms and are tall, as well as narrow. “When I want a fan blowing directly on me, such as when I’m working in my shop, I opt for a floor fan,” said Schraeder.
- Window fans also offer localized airflow but can be inserted into certain window frames and utilize outdoor air to cool a room more so than a traditional fan would, depending on the temperature. However, these fans need to be removed when it gets cold out and can cause leaks when it rains.
- Table fans or desk fans are standard, personal fans that sit on a desk or table. They typically stand about 2 feet high. “This fan is great to have at eye level, can be bought at an affordable price and is a standard way of cooling you while sitting at a desk, lying in bed or even sitting on a couch,” noted Brandi Andrews, founder of National Air Warehouse.
- Stand-up fans, also known as pedestal fans, are similar to table fans but stand on the ground, are typically larger and can throw off more cold air while still being portable. The benefit to this fan is you can take the cool air with you from one room to the next and enjoy an ever-revolving breeze from a large fan, Andrews explained.
- Handheld fans will not cool as much as a table fan, but they are cordless and can be directed wherever you’d like. They fit into your hand as well as your pocket. “Take the cool air with you out of the house and on a walk,” Andrew added, “and you can purchase them for an affordable price.”
Table fans and stand-up fans are usually needed when a space doesn’t have air conditioning or a central air system. “They would go great in a home that uses only ceiling fans, has windows open often and just needs air to be circulated,” explained Schraeder. On the other hand, handheld fans are ideal for travelers, those who work outside or those who simply enjoy cool air while on the move.
Features to look for in a fan
Once you decide what type of fan you’re interested in, there are specific features the experts we consulted recommend keeping in mind.
- Remote control. Get access to a cool breeze without having to move. “Remote controls have become a must-have for many fan buyers, no matter if it’s a ceiling fan or stand up fan,” said Andrews.
- Smart controls. Sophisticated fans can connect to voice-activated smart devices for hands-free use as well as to your smartphone for air quality reports and additional features.
- Filters. Fans also can come with a range of filters that help purify the air to remove allergens and improve overall quality. “If your need is in a kitchen to get rid of smoke and odors from cooking, then a fan with a HEPA filter, charcoal filter or both is something you might want to look for,” said Schraeder.
- Oscillation. This feature allows fans to move from side to side or up and down (or both, about which there’s more below) to help circulate cool air throughout a room instead of directing it into one set spot.
Best fans to shop
To give you an idea of the broad scope of fans available now, we compiled some of the best fans out, guided by the experts we consulted.
Best tower fan: Lasko
With a slim profile, oscillation, remote control and wood-grain finish, this tower fan quietly circulates cool air in style. Not only is the price point a relatively budget-friendly alternative to AC, but at 42 inches, the high-reaching tower can circulate a refreshing breeze throughout an entire room. As you sleep, you’ll appreciate not only the ability to adjust the three speeds from a remote, but also how quiet the machine is —you don’t have to deal with noise in order to get a cool night’s sleep.
Best oscillating tabletop fan: Woozoo
At under 4 pounds, this small-but-mighty globe fan delivers a cooling breeze from the touch of a remote control. The space-saving desk or tabletop fan is versatile with five different speeds and the option to direct airflow or oscillate not only from side to side but up and down as well, with enough configurable options to help you find the exact style of fan circulation you’re looking for at any given moment.
Best affordable air purifying fan: Blueair
Not only does this fan remove dust and pollen from the air as it delivers a soothing breeze, but it also cools across a 90-degree range without needing to oscillate. Plus, it’s portable for tabletop and floor use, has five different color filter options to give your space a personal feel and boasts three different speeds.
Best stylish fan: Vornado
Although it depends on your preferred style and the vibe you’re going for, Andrews loves the look of Vornado's retro fans. Whether you opt for the “vintage” pedestal fan or stick to something smaller with the personal size fan, these timeless designs elevate decor instead of taking away from it. “These provide a classy, '80s look to the room and are available in different colors, but they also give a nice breeze,” she said.
Best smart fan: Dyson
This robust air purifier cleans air throughout the entire room and attacks pollutants with carbon and HEPA filters. Its LCD display shows the amount of pollutants around it in real time and this machine automatically reacts, adjusts and sends a report to your Dyson Link app. It also works with Amazon Alexa for easy voice activation — as well as with a remote — if you prefer hands-free control. “If you're in need of a fan that also purifies the air, this is the one to try,” said Prouty. “It's powerful, compact and has a ‘purify only’ mode in case you want to clean the air without being cooled off yourself.”
Best fan with built-in air purifier: Dyson
Although fans that also purify are more of an investment, Dyson has the best options and they’re worth the investment, according to Andrews. With a HEPA filter that removes 99.97 percent of allergens, this tabletop fan cools with purified air instead of recirculating pollutants. In the winter, it also serves as a space heater. It can be voice-controlled with an Amazon Alexa, and it includes options to direct airflow or oscillate up to 350 degrees. Also consider its larger cousin, the Dyson Pure Cool TP04 - HEPA Air Purifier and Tower Fan.
Best commercial-strength fan: Royal Sovereign
This 30-inch Royal Sovereign pedestal fan is actually a commercial model but at a price that makes it affordable for home use, said Andrews. “If you are serious about cooling your home without AC, then purchase a fan like this. It will circulate the air, throw off a really great breeze and keep doing it for hours and hours,” she noted.
Best window fan: Comfort Zone
This twin speed window fan has two air output options, as well as a reverse airflow mode to push out stale air. “Have you ever overcooked something and the smoke or odor created is offensive?” This fan “helps with that when a hood isn’t enough,” said Schraeder, adding it’s “simple to install” and “reversible, making it perfect for a variety of applications.”
Best versatile fan: Snawowo
From a stroller or car seat to a bike or desk, this adaptable tripod fan is ideal for hooking on to hard-to-reach places and for people on the go. Both a USB and battery can power this mini personal fan for up to eight hours — depending on the speed — and it has a bendable silicon tripod for extra flexibility.
Best heavy duty, affordable fan: Lasko
An industrial fan that’s also budget-friendly, this high-velocity Lasko fan will impress with its cooling capabilities. Not only does it easily convert from a floor mount to a wall mount, but this fan also has three powerful speeds and a pivoting head that allows you to direct its airflow.
Best fan for the pros: Lasko
For those looking for a professional-worthy fan, this pivoting utility fan cools, ventilates, dries and exhausts. Whether you’re on a job site or at home, you’ll likely find use in the high velocity air stream powered by three fans, as well as in the built-in twin 120V accessory outlets to power any additional devices.
Best desktop fan: Vornado
Add a sleek touch that packs a cooling punch to your desk or tabletop with this modern desk fan. With a pivoting axis, this compact fan allows you to enjoy multi-directional airflow from three different speeds. Plus, it comes in four different contemporary color combinations, from Champagne to Rose Gold, letting you complement your aesthetic.