The 9 Best Fans to Beat the Heat, According to Our Testing
We tested 31 fans in our Lab to determine the best to buy, evaluating them on air speed, design, portability, effectiveness, and value. We also spoke to Matt Brown, merchant of ACs and fans, air quality, and floorcare at The Home Depot, for expert tips on what to look for when shopping for fans.
Our top choice is the Vornado 660 Large Air Circulator because it effectively moves air around the entire room, as opposed to simply blowing intermittent gusts of air.
For more of our top fan picks, keep scrolling. Plus, find tips on how to shop for a fan depending on your cooling needs.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall Fan: Vornado 660 Large Air Circulator
- Best Budget Fan: Honeywell TurboForce Air Circulator Fan
- Best Quiet Fan: Honeywell QuietSet Whole Room Tower Fan
- Best Pedestal Fan: Pelonis 16-Inch Pedestal Fan
- Best Tower Fan: Lasko All Season Comfort Control Tower Fan & Heater
- Best Box Fan: Pelonis 3-Speed Box Fan
- Best Portable Fan: Sharper Image GO 9 Rechargeable Portable Fan
- Best Window Fan: Genesis Twin Fan High Velocity Window Fan
- Best Desk Fan: Crane 10-Inch Circulating Desk Fan
Our top pick is the Vornado 660 Large Air Circulator because it can effectively move air around a large room, eliminating hot and cold spots as well as the need to stand directly in front of the fan in order to feel its airflow.
For a less expensive option that's better suited for small spaces, the Honeywell TurboForce Air Circulator Fan also works as an air circulator and creates a surprisingly powerful breeze relative to its size.
Our Testing Process
We researched and acquired 31 of the best fans on the market to put them through a series of diligent testing. First, we used an anemometer to record the air speed of each fan. We also took note of how many speeds each fan is equipped with and its noise level at the highest and lowest settings.
Next, testers evaluated the design of each fan, considering its build, quality, features, and adjustments. During testing, we also assessed the portability of each fan, taking note of its weight, handles, and overall footprint.
For our final test, we marked spots on the floor directly in front of each fan at six inches, six feet, and 20 feet. Testers turned the fan on its highest setting and stood at each spot, taking note of the strength of the airflow from each distance in order to measure its effectiveness. Finally, testers received the price of each fan and scored it based on its value, considering both cost and performance.
How to Shop for Fans Like a Pro
Fans vs. Air Circulators
You'll notice many modern fans are referred to as "air circulators." Turns out, this is more than just semantics. Traditional fans work by blowing cool air directly in front of it, while air circulators work by keeping the air in the room constantly moving. This helps to eliminate hot and cold spots, particularly in spaces with poor ventilation. Traditional fans require you to be in the direct path of the airflow, and they tend to provide a more immediate cooling effect.
There are many different types of household fans to choose from, ranging from small desk fans for personal use to powerful floor fans for large spaces. Consider the space you intend to cool before choosing a type of fan.
Table/Desk Fans: For small spaces such as a bedroom or office, a tabletop or desk fan will deliver just the right amount of cooling power. Their smaller footprint means they can go from room to room with ease, making them a great choice for an office or dorm setting.
Pedestal Fans: Also known as stand fans, pedestal fans feature a large fan head mounted on a tall, adjustable stand. They typically come with an oscillating feature that widens the range of their airflow. Pedestal fans are designed to provide a more wide-reaching and powerful airflow without taking up too much space. "High-powered pedestal fans are ideal for large indoor and outdoor spaces like patios and living areas," says Brown.
Tower Fans: These fans are most often used in bedrooms because they are slim and quiet, while still providing a powerful airflow. Most tower fans are oscillating and feature adjustable speed settings and remote controls.
Floor Fans: Floor fans have an extremely powerful airflow and come in a variety of styles, including square-shaped box fans and round air circulators. They can cool large spaces such as open floor plans, garages, large bedrooms, kitchens, and more. Unlike pedestal or tower fans, floor fans are portable and lightweight so they can easily go from room to room.
Window Fans: Window fans are the most space-saving type of fan, as they are designed to be tucked into window frames. They make an affordable alternative to a window air conditioning unit by pulling in outside air to cool a room (some can even exhaust stale indoor air). Keep in mind that it's generally not recommended to operate window fans in rainy weather, which means you'll need to remove the fan and stow it elsewhere from time to time.
Cubic feet per minute (CFM) is the measure of how much air a fan can move every minute. The higher the CFM, the more air the fan will circulate. Small desk fans can have a CFM as low as 100, while more powerful household floor fans can go upwards of 1500 CFM. Keep in mind that a powerful fan isn't necessarily better, particularly for small spaces, as it can make the room uncomfortably windy. "The general rule of thumb is 1 CFM = 1 square foot of room coverage, so a 500 CFM fan could cover a 500 square foot room," says Brown.
A quality fan should not rattle or overwhelm a space with noise, even on its highest setting. This is especially important if you're looking for a fan for a bedroom or nursery. We took the noise level of each fan into consideration during our testing.
Oscillation: An oscillating fan is one that rotates from side to side (and sometimes up and down) while blowing. This can help to widen the scope of the airflow for traditional fans. Keep in mind that air circulators do not oscillate, but rather circulate air around the entire room.
Speed Settings: Most fans feature more than two speed settings, so you don't have to choose between a barely-there breeze or an uncomfortable wind.
Adjustable Fan Head: Look for a fan with an adjustable head that can be pivoted at different angles to adjust the direction of the airflow without having to move the whole unit.
Remote Control: A remote control allows you to adjust speed settings or turn the fan on or off without ever getting up—a particularly useful feature for a bedroom.
Power Source: "Units can be wall powered, USB powered, battery powered (C or D cell batteries), and also rechargeable (built in battery)," says Brown. "Fans can also be hybrid—powered both by wall/USB and battery/rechargeable."
More Fans to Consider
Vornado VFAN Jr. Vintage Air Circulator: This fan features Vornado's signature air circulation, but with a more stylish, vintage-inspired design that will elevate the look of any space. However, it only has two speed settings and the airflow is just average.
Rowenta Turbo Silence Extreme Stand Fan: This fan is very quiet, effective, and comparable to our best oscillating fan pick, but we didn't include it on our list because it costs twice as much.
Better Homes & Gardens 3-Speed Tower Fan: With this tower fan, you get an impressive variety of air speeds and settings for the price, including three speed settings and three oscillation settings.
Questions You Might Ask
How should you clean a fan and how often?
The blades on fans can attract dust and dirt, which then become airborne and affect the quality of your air: "Blowing air one way means that fans can attract air—as well as dust and other floating particles—from the opposite direction," says Brown. "Dirty fan blades and motors work less effectively and need to be dusted once a week."
To clean your fan, make sure the fan is unplugged and use the brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner to clean the grill. Then, use compressed air or a hair dryer to blast away the remaining dust from both the front and back of the blades. Finally, wipe down the exterior of your fan with a damp cloth.
Where is the best place to set up a fan?
To get the most out of your fan, position it facing the opposite wall so that the air will bounce off and mix with the other air in the room, helping to cool the space. During intense heat waves, you can also open a window at night and place one fan facing the window to let the warm air out. Place another fan facing inwards, to circulate the air in the room. Be sure to keep your windows and blinds closed during the day to repel the sun as much as possible.
Take Our Word for It
This article was written by Melanie Fincher, associate commerce editor for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile this list, we tested 31 fans in our Lab and evaluated them based on their air speed, design, portability, effectiveness, and value. We also consulted Matt Brown, merchant of ACs and fans, air quality, and floorcare at The Home Depot, for expert tips on what to look for when shopping for fans.