Most of us love summer, but trying to stay cool in the unbearable heat can be challenging. No one likes sticky sweat, and it’s hard to be productive (and difficult to sleep!) when the room is too warm or stuffy. Air conditioners are not for everyone – they can be noisy, and expensive to run — which makes portable electric fans an ideal solution to feeling more cool and comfortable. They are cost-effective, easy to set up, and can be moved from room to room if necessary. They come in a variety of different styles to suit the room and your needs.
The Good Housekeeping Institute regularly tests cooling home appliances from portable air conditioners to smart ACs and electric fans. The fans here represent a cross-section of the market, and we’ve picked a range depending on their design and function. We look at things like the range of the fan (how far the air flow can reach) and its noise level while running. We also take note of how many speed settings each fan has, and whether the direction of air flow can be adjusted – if the stand can be raised or lowered, and if the head can pivot or tilt. We also look at how easy it is to adjust the settings or angle of the fan, and if it can be easily moved from room to room.
Here, we’ve rounded up our top picks based upon categorical Lab tests, road tests of some newer models, and industry expertise:
630 Mid-Size Whole Room Air Circulator Fan
The Vornado 630 circulates the air through a mid-sized room, and has three speed settings to adjust the airflow for your comfort. The head pivots, so you can direct the air to where you need it most. Its squat design and sturdy base lets you set it up on the floor, or on your dresser to cool your bedroom while you sleep. During our tests, we were impressed by its range – the manufacturer claims the airflow has a 70 foot reach! We also loved how easy it was to remove the grill for cleaning. To cool a larger room, the Vornado 660 would be ideal. The five-year warranty, longer than standard, gives great peace of mind.
- Floor or desktop use
- 70-foot airflow reach per Vornado
- Generous warranty
- No remote
HT-900 TurboForce Air Circulator Fan
This lightweight budget-friendly Honeywell HT-900 is (ahem) a fan favorite – over 10,000 Amazon reviewers gave it a five-star rating. Set it on a table, or on the floor, the head can pivot to angle the airflow wherever you want it – Honeywell says you can feel it 25 feet away! For optimum air circulation throughout a small- or medium-sized room, angle the head at 90 degrees. Three speed settings let you choose between gentle air circulation, or more powerful cooling. The grill is removable, making it easy to clean.
- Manual controls
VU5670 Turbo Silence Oscillating Pedestal Fan
This Rowenta has been designed to be powerful but still quiet. You can adjust the height of the of the pedestal stand from 42-54 inches, and the angle of the 16 inch diameter head is adjustable too, so you can direct the air flow to where you want it. Let it oscillate, or leave it stationary – that’s your choice. A handy remote control lets you stay seated while you switch between the five speed settings.
- Remote control
- Not compact
T42950 Portable Electric 42″ Oscillating Tower Fan
When we tested this Lasko, we loved that it has three speed settings (accessible via remote control) and the option to choose between oscillating or stationary. The manufacturer says the built-in ionizer makes the air feel fresher. It also has a timer, so you can set the fan to run for up to seven and a half hours. A handy nighttime feature dims the lights on the fan and gradually decreases the speed of the fan (and volume). A built-in carry handle, plus onboard storage for the remote, makes it easy to move the fan to another room that needs it.
- Narrow design is a space saver
- Auto-off timer
- Grill and blades are not washable
Dual 8″ Blade Twin Window Fan
The Holmes window fan is designed to fit most double-hung and slider windows – installation is very simple, and extender panels help secure the fan. We loved the three options for circulating the air: Both fans can pull fresh air from the outside into the room, or reverse the motors to exhaust stale room air outside, or switch only one fan motor for a complete air exchange. Even without a remote, two speeds and an adjustable thermostat make it easy to cool a room.
- Easy to install
- Intake and exhaust options for fresh air
- No remote control
HYF290B QuietSet Whole Room Tower Fan
A favorite with Amazon customers, the Honeywell’s whole-room tower fan has a small footprint and a lot of power to cool a medium to large room. Eight speed settings and optional oscillation let you select between intense cooling (with slightly more noise) to a gentle almost-silent breeze – ideal for cooling a bedroom when you sleep. Adjustable lighting keeps the controls unobtrusive at night. A handy remote control means you don’t have to get up from where you are to adjust the settings, and the timer lets you set the fan to turn off automatically at the end of the cooling period. If you need to relocate the fan, a built-in carrying handle makes that easy – and a holder for the remote helps prevent it from getting lost.
- Takes up little space
- Timer with auto shut-off
- Grill and blades are not washable
783 Full-Size Whole Room Air Circulator Fan
This Vornado cools a large room or an entire apartment by circulating air throughout it so you can be more comfortable. It doesn’t oscillate but the pivoting head lets you direct the air flow where you want (Vornado says it reaches up to 100 feet), and the stand’s height can be adjusted from 28 inches to 40 inches. There’s no remote, but manually switching between the three speed settings is easy. The grill is removable, making it easier to clean the blades.
- Cools a large room
- Pivoting head and adjustable height
- Manual controls
2264QM 20″ High Velocity Floor or Wall Fan
The Lasko’s powerful motor has three speed settings, to help you get just the right amount of cool flowing through your space. Over 2,700 Amazon customers rave about this fan and give it a five-star rating. The pivoting head can direct the breeze exactly where you want it, and the optional wall mount helps free up floor space. The grill can’t be removed for cleaning – you’ll need to rely on your vacuum’s soft brush attachment for that. It’s not a quiet fan, but it’s a powerful cooling machine.
- Ultimate cooling capabilities
- Three settings
- Optional wall mount
- Grill is not removable
AM06 Air Multiplier Table Fan
The Dyson AM06’s standout feature is what it doesn’t have: Spinning blades. It’s safer for small children and pets and is really easy to clean. We love how quietly it runs and how compact it is, making it a best fan for the bedroom. Its unique design circulates airflow through a medium-sized room, and its ability to pivot combined with optional oscillation gives you control over the direction of the airflow. Using the remote control, which is magnetized and attaches to the unit, you can select one of 10 speed settings – you can activate a sleep timer via the remote control, setting the fan to turn off after you fall asleep.
- Extremely quiet
- Bladeless design is safe and easy to clean
HGC736501 20-inch Floor Fan
Hurricane’s powerful box fan has three speeds, so you get to control how much cooling you need. At 20 inches across, it takes up quite a bit of space, and it’s not the quietest fan, but it’s serious about keeping you cool and comfortable.
- Three speed settings
Blue Pure Purifying Fan
Why not clean the air while you cool it? This Blueair removes dust and allergens while it cools a medium-sized room. During our tests, we liked how easy it was to select between three speeds, and appreciated the alerts letting us know when to replace the high efficiency filter. The washable fabric pre-filters are customizable to match your décor, so this cutie checks all the boxes for visual appeal. Set the fan on the floor, or on a tabletop, using the built-in handle. It’s a gentle breeze on the lowest setting, and soothing white noise on the highest, to help promote restful sleep.
- Filters and removes dust and allergens
- Chic design
- Operating lights can’t be turned off
Rechargeable Outdoor High Velocity Floor Fan
Whether you need cooling during a power outage, or you want to create a breeze for your summer picnic, the Geek Aire floor fan has a rechargeable battery that gives you around 20 hours of cordless runtime and a battery power indicator lets you know when to recharge. It has a durable water-resistant metal construction, and a built-in handle to make it easy to carry. The brushless motor allows it to operate relatively quietly, making it ideal for use while sleeping. The fan can be tilted to direct the airflow, and the variable speed control gives precise control over the amount of cooling.
- Rechargeable battery lasts for 20 hours
- Water-resistant construction
- Airflow not as powerful as expected
Treva 10-Inch Portable Desktop Air Circulation Battery Fan
O2Cool’s Treva portable personal-sized fan helps you cool off whether you’re at home or outdoors. Battery operated, or plugged into an outlet, this Amazon favorite lets you choose between a high or low speed to meet your comfort. A convenient built-in handle makes it easy to carry to wherever you need it.
- Compact and portable
- Can be plugged in or battery-operated
- Batteries don’t last long
Window fans take up zero floor space and pull in fresh air from outside. On hot days, they can also have an exhaust function that pulls hot air from the house outside. These are great for folks with small living quarters who don’t want to dedicate precious square footage to a fan.
Oscillating fans twist from side to side, directing the airflow across a wider area, instead of straight in front of the stationary fan. Tower and pedestal fans usually have an oscillating option, which helps spread the cooling breeze through the room.
Tower fans are tall and narrow, and have the smallest footprint. They work best if they’re not located in a tight corner. Most of them have an oscillating option, so the airflow is directed across a wider area – even if the fan looks slender, it can cool a larger area.
Air circulator fans do just that – they are specially designed to circulate the air throughout the room, versus simply blowing a breeze straight out from the fan. A feat of engineering, they use a combination of aerodynamic elements in designing the blades and grill which changes the way the air is directed through and from the fan. It’s a more effective way of moving the air through a room.
Pedestal fans are a good option for cooling a larger room. They generally take up more space than other options, but the height of the stand is usually adjustable, and the large head can pivot so you have better options to direct the airflow. Most of them have an oscillating option, so the head can swivel, cooling a bigger area.
Box fans are large and usually not very quiet, but they are very effective at cooling a larger space. To be the most effective, a box fan needs plenty of air behind them – you can set it up on a window sill, or even in an exterior doorway. If it’s a particularly large space, setting up a box fan at each end of the room will maximize the cooling.
Airflow reach: Ideally, the range or distance of the airflow should be as expansive as possible. You don’t want the fan to only reach what’s right in front of it. The manufacturer will usually describe the reach of the airflow, or may give an approximate room size that the fan can cool.
Size: Bigger isn’t always better; the trade-off for a larger more powerful fan (for example, one that’s good for cooling an apartment) is usually more noise than, say, one that’s smaller but powerful enough to cool a bedroom while you sleep. However, if you’re trying to cool a large room, you’ll want a fan that can cope with that demand.
Speed settings: Some fans offer 2-4 settings for ease, others have more variable controls so you can really hone in on how much power you want. Bear in mind that noise levels increase with the faster speed settings. At the very least, the fan should have a high and low speed setting.
Adjustability: While an effective fan should be able to fill a large space without needing to move it around, you still want to be able to angle the airflow where you want. Features like multiple speed settings to control the power, and the ability to adjust the angle of airflow, give greater versatility.
Ease of cleaning: Look for a fan that is easy to disassemble so you can regularly clean the blades and grill of dust and dirt that accumulates over time (especially if someone in your home suffers from allergies!). A bladeless fan eliminates the need to clean a grill and blades, but usually has a filter that needs to be cleaned and/or replaced occasionally.
Timer: If you like the fan to be on for a certain duration (perhaps you’d like it to automatically turn off after you fall asleep), a timer allows you to set a run time for the fan. Some fans are equipped with a sleep option, which automatically steps down the airflow (and noise level) over a few hours until the fan turns itself off.