Best cooling fans of 2021 | CNN Underscored




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If you’re looking to keep cool during the hottest months without running up your energy bill, a great cooling fan is your best bet. Used alone or along with your A/C, you can stay cool and alert on long Zoom calls in your home office or study sessions in your dorm room, and keep your house or apartment a whole lot more comfortable.

We researched hundreds of models, and brought in 13 highly rated options for testing. Over the course of four steamy summer weeks, we found that all of the fans did a similarly good job of keeping our test space cool, but varied widely in features, build quality and usability. So while you’ll likely be happy with whichever fan you choose, we’ve picked out the best tower, pedestal, and floor fans to suit your space.

Best cooling fan overall

The Honeywell tower fan has a small footprint and sleek design, a sturdy base and 8 speed settings, plus it’s quiet and affordable.

Best pedestal fan

This Rowenta fan had the sturdiest base and rod of the pedestal fans we tested, a clearly labelled control panel, and easy-to-assemble and maintain metal grilles.

Best floor fan

This Vornado fan is compact, sturdy and powerful, with a tiltable head and adjustable speed knob that is easy to use.

Honeywell HYF290B fan

Suzanne Kattau

Honeywell HYF290B fan

A tower fan gives you great cooling performance with a small footprint, so it’s easy to place in a living room, bedroom or anywhere you’d prefer to tuck an appliance out of the way. The Honeywell Quietset Whole Room tower fan is well-built, quiet and affordable, with a solid, stable build and a beautiful, colorfully laid out panel that was simpler to figure out and use than the competition.

The Honeywell Quietset was easier to assemble than the other tower fans we tested, with tool-free construction and a simple connection to the base that was a lot easier to deal with than the other tower models we looked at, and once we put it together, despite the Honeywell’s light weight, it was more stable than its competitors — some other lightweight towers, like the Lasko, wobbled with a push.

8 speed settings — more than the other tower fans we tested — give you the ability to fine tune, though the three lower speeds were very similar in our testing. The clearly-labeled controls and comfortable remote made it easy to click through the settings; other models were more finicky and difficult to adjust.

As a unit that’s likely to be placed in a bedroom, we especially appreciate that the Honeywell let us not just dim its panel lights, but turn them off entirely. None of the other fans we tested offered this kind of control, which let us choose whether we wanted to sleep in total darkness or to just dim the controls so they weren’t distracting.

Rowenta VU5670 fan

Suzanne Kattau

Rowenta VU5670 fan

While a pedestal fan isn’t as easy to slip into your decor as a tower, it gives you better coverage in larger rooms since the blades clear your furniture. The Rowenta Turbo Silence Extreme VU5670 was the sturdiest, best built, and easiest to adjust of the pedestal fans we tested, and with the tallest extension, it should be usable in larger spaces than the other towers.

The Rowenta was easier to put together than the other pedestal fans, taking us less than 15 minutes to assemble, and it came better packed than any other fan we looked at — there was so much cardboard packaging that it gave us pause, even if it is sourced from recycled materials.

Once put together, the heavy base, secure connections and solidly built extension rod made it the most stable of the towers we checked out, even though it adjusted to a taller height than the Black+Decker, Lasko, and Honeywell models. The head unit was easy to adjust, with soft clicks indicating the four available angles. The other towers were all stiffer feeling and more difficult to tweak to a desired position.

Controls were straightforward and easy to use, and the Rowenta’s remote control (which replicates all of the front panel controls) fit nicely in our grip; the remote stores in a slot on the back of the head unit when not in use. Some of the others lacked anywhere to stow the remote, meaning it’s likely to be lost.

Vornado 533DC fan

Suzanne Kattau

Vornado 533DC fan

A floor fan (which can be placed on a desk or table as well) is easy to place almost anywhere, making it great to have on hand to cool a space like a kitchen, office, or bath when needed. The Vornado Energy Smart 533DC was lighter than the others we tested, and easier to carry around our testing space, even though it was more sturdily built and easier to adjust than its competitors.

At 3.44 pounds, the Vornado was significantly lighter than some of the other fans, like the 9.25-pound Lasko Wind Machine 3300. Rubber grips on its underside kept it stable on any setting, anid it resisted toppling when we tried to jostle it, unlike some of the other lightweight models like the Black+Decker BFB09W.

The Vornado’s directional settings were easy to select and secure in operation, and while it wasn’t quite as adjustable as the Lasko Wind Machine 3300, it gave us a good range of usable settings. We also preferred the Vornado’s silver speed dial, which let us adjust settings with one continuous, smooth, quiet motion, to the controls on the other circulators.

The one downside we found was that technically, the Vornado Energy Smart 533DC was the loudest of the bunch, though all of the fans we tested were quieter than our reference Conair 1875 hair dryer set on low, and we didn’t find even the Vornado’s noise distracting enough while we worked, read, or slept nearby in the same room.

Lastly, the Vornado Energy Smart 533DC circulator fan is covered by a 10-year limited warranty, which is much longer than the 1-year warranties of the BLACK+DECKER BFB09W, the Honeywell HT-900, and the Lasko 3300 circulator fans we tested.

Dyson HP09 fan

Suzanne Kattau

Dyson HP09 fan

The Dyson HP09 impressed us with its effective cooling, quiet performance, solid build, and ease of use — plus it doubles as a space heater and air purifier, and can even monitor levels of VOCs and formaldehyde (thus the name).

As you’d expect (and likely demand given the price), the Dyson was more solidly built and stable in construction than any of the other tower fans we looked at. It also offered more fine-grained control over its various settings than any of the other units. Tool-free assembly made it simple to put together, and along with nicely engineered front panel controls including an LCD screen and a slick remote that attaches magnetically for storage, the Dyson offers an app that not only lets you control the unit, but monitor pollutant levels.

It’s radically different from everything else we tested, but if you’re interested in all of its features and your budget allows for its stratospheric price, it may be worth the splurge if you’re interested in all of the features, which potentially let you replace three separate appliances.

While all of the fans we tested performed well at their fundamental job — moving air around efficiently and saving you from having to crank up your window air conditioner — the type of cooling fan you’ll want to purchase depends on the size and type of space you want to use it in, the size of the fan and your budget. Whatever you select, a fan is a cost-effective way to cool your home, but we have some tips.

A floor fan is great if you need something that’s compact enough to fit on a table or desk, and it’s something you can move around to use as needed. Circulator fans — the design made familiar by Vornado and also found in units like the Black + Decker and Honeywell floor Vornado models we tested — are great examples of personal fans that don’t take up a lot of space.

If you want something more powerful and plan to use it all the time but don’t have a ton of space (and don’t want to make your fan a visual centerpiece in your room) a tower fan is a great choice. With a small footprint and plenty of cooling power, a tower fan is great for a living room or bedroom, where you want to keep the air moving without a lot of visual distraction.

A tower fan, which places a traditional fan-blade head on top of a long extension pole, is a more in-your-face design choice, but because the blade unit is place high enough to clear your furniture, it can circulate air through a larger space — it’s great for everything from patios to basements to rec rooms.

Since most fans within a given category work pretty well, budgeting more gives you more features and better aesthetics. You can find super affordable basic units like the approximately $17.00 BLACK+DECKER circulator, or scale up to the striking, feature-laden, multipurpose Dyson tower at just under $770.

Whichever you choose, you’ll benefit from better air circulation and should find yourself depending less on your air conditioning.

We tested 13 fans over four summer weeks to find the most effective and efficient indoor fans available. In our testing pool, we included oscillator/oscillating fans, bladeless fans, and other electric fans that were adept at circulating the air in our basement. Some fans had a battery-powered remote control, and some did not.

To test the fans, we unboxed, assembled, and ran the fans for hours while we were sleeping, reading, and writing in the room. We took notes on ease of setup, design and features, customization, performance, energy efficiency, noise level, battery, warranty, user manual, ease of cleaning, price, and more.

We set up all the fans, one at a time, in the same spot and plugged into the same outlet in our approximately 1,250-square-foot finished basement. We tracked the falling temperature of the room during our tests using the SensorPush HTP.xw Wireless Thermometer/Hygrometer with its iOS app on an iPhone 11; the SensorPush device was calibrated using a Boveda One-Step Calibration Kit. This was the same SensorPush we used when we tested the best dehumidifiers. This time, we noted the temperature of the basement before and after our 2-hour tests by examining reports sent from the SensorPush.

To track energy consumption, we plugged each fan into a P3 International Kill A Watt EZ electricity usage monitor while running them for 2 hours at their highest speed, without oscillation. We noted the amps and watts used during those 2 hours.

We also recorded the fans’ noise levels by using the Sound Level Meter (SLM) app from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on our iPhone 11, which was set upon a table 36 inches away from the fan. We measured the noise levels produced by each fan over a 1-hour period while running at its highest speed without oscillation (if the fan was capable of oscillating) in our quiet basement using the NIOSH app.

While all the models we tested made an audible hum in operation, in the end, each unit measured at an average level of around 52.6 decibels (dB) — no louder than the hum of a running refrigerator and not loud enough to interfere with conversation or sleep. Therefore, any of the fans we tested would be suitable for most spaces around your house, home office or dorm room.


Here’s a breakdown of all the tests we conducted:

Setup

  • Plug and play: Can we unbox an assembled fan and immediately plug it in?
  • Ease of assembly: Is the fan easy to assemble?
  • Tools required: Can you assemble the fan by hand, or do you need tools of any kind? Are those tools included?
  • Downloadable app: Is there an iOS and Android app available?
  • Smart plug: Can the fan work with a smart plug?


Design and Features

  • Footprint: Does the fan have an upright, vertical build?
  • Materials: Are the fan parts made of plastic or metal?
  • Buttons: Are the fan’s buttons easy to reach and intuitive to learn?
  • Cord: How long is the fan’s power cord?
  • Extension cord: Does the manufacturer recommend using the fan with an extension cord?
  • Oscillation: Does the fan move from side to side, or does it oscillate within a fixed base?
  • Fixed or oscillating: Does the fan give you the choice between oscillating or stationary?
  • Oscillation angle: Can the fan’s oscillation angle be customized between 45, 90, 180 and 350 degrees?
  • Control panel: Does the fan have one and does it show ambient temperature readings?
  • Autopilot mode: Does the fan have this mode, and does it work when the room temperature hits a certain threshold?
  • Voice controls: Does the fan support Alexa or Siri and the like?


Customization

  • Control via an app: Can you control the fan using a mobile app?
  • Scheduling: Does the fan offer you the ability to set a custom schedule?
  • Adjustable height: Can you adjust the height of the fan’s stand?
  • Pivot or tilt: Does the fan’s head pivot or tilt?
  • Air flow: Can you adjust the direction and angle of the air flow?
  • Settings: Is it easy to adjust the fan’s settings?
  • Mobility: Can the fan be moved from room to room with a built-in carrying handle?


Performance

  • Reliability: Does the fan work as intended?
  • Room size: Can the fan cool off a medium-to-large room on a hot day?
  • Programmable timer: Does the fan come with a sleep timer? For how many hours can you pre-program it to run before turning off?
  • Settings: Does the fan have a mode that simulates a natural breeze?
  • Remote control: Does the fan come with a remote control and are batteries included?
  • Docking: Does the fan provide a docking option to keep the remote control stored when not is use?
  • Speed settings: How many speeds does the fan operate in?
  • Noise level: Do the settings range from a near-silent, 26dB Sleep setting and a comfortably quiet, 28dB White Noise setting up to more powerful settings?
  • Range: How many feet does the fan’s airflow reach?
  • Night mode: Does the fan’s control panel have a night mode so you can turn off the screen or buttons when napping or sleeping?


Energy Efficiency

  • Watts used: Is the fan energy efficient? Does it draw 36 watts or less at full blast?


Battery

  • Requirement: Does the fan require batteries?
  • Type: What kind of battery does the fan or fan’s remote control use?


Warranty

  • Length: How many years is the included warranty good for?
  • Type: What does the warranty cover?


User Manual

  • Languages: How many languages is the user manual available in?
  • Usefulness: Does the user manual help you with setup and use?
  • Type: Is a printed user manual included out of the box and can it also be found online?


Ease of Cleaning

  • Removable grille: Does the fan have grilles and are they removable to clean?
  • Blades: Does the fan have blades and are they accessible to clean?
  • Filter: Does the fan require a filter, and does it come with one filter replacement out of the box?
  • Filter replacement: How easy is it to order another filter?


Vornado Whole Room 184 tower fan ($96.99; amazon.com)

We found this Vornado fan simple to set up as it slid in almost one solid piece out of the box, but we needed to assemble its two base halves together and then screw them tighter together using a screwdriver. A screwdriver was not needed to assemble the Honeywell Quietset Whole Room HYF290B tower fan, which was the easiest tower fan for us to set up. Our winning Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Formaldehyde HP09 tower fan did not require us to find a screwdriver either. We thought the Vornado Whole Room was quite sturdy and powerful as it cooled off our basement testing area, but we quickly realized that it does not oscillate from side to side; rather, it circulates the room’s air from within the unit. This is unlike the Honeywell Quietset Whole Room HYF290B tower fan, which we set to oscillate on 8 different speed settings. The Vornado Whole Room 184 is also taller than the Lasko 36-Inch 2511 tower fan and is much taller than our winning Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Formaldehyde HP09 tower fan. The Vornado Whole Room 184 is also just slightly taller than the Honeywell Quietset Whole Room HYF290B tower fan. This makes the Vornado a fan that’s a bit more difficult to include in your room without it being in the way.


Lasko 36-Inch 2511 tower fan ($52.69; amazon.com)

This Lasko fan was easy for us to set up, but once set up, we found the unit to be a bit wobbly in its base, unlike the sturdy bases of the Honeywell Quietset Whole Room HYF290B tower fan and our winning Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Formaldehyde HP09 tower fan. The wobbling action of the Lasko did not happen on its own during testing, but rather, after we gently pushed the tower from side to side; it rocked from side to side as a result. It was not sturdy and rigid like the other towers we tested, which gave us pause in recommending it to anyone with pets or small children, for example. We did like the remote control of this fan, which let us turn it on and off, select its three speed settings, set it to oscillate, and set the timer for 1, 2 and 4 hours. This timer button was surprisingly missing from the remote control of the Honeywell Quietset Whole Room HYF290B tower fan, even though the Honeywell includes a timer on its control panel on top of the unit.


Honeywell Double Blade Whole Room HSF1640B standing fan ($40.49; amazon.com)

This Honeywell fan was simple for us to assemble, and we found it sturdy as well. We could easily make it oscillate from side to side, and we thought it provided good airflow during testing. Its construction and materials are markedly similar (almost identical) to that of the BLACK+DECKER Dual Blade BFSD116B standing fan. The only differences we found during testing was that the Honeywell Double Blade Whole Room standing fan has a shorter rod/extension rod, but its front and rear plastic grilles are much simpler to assemble than those of the BLACK+DECKER thanks to the Honeywell’s five well-placed and well-designed clips on its rear grille.


Lasko 16-Inch Oscillating 2521 standing fan ($29.08; amazon.com)

This Lasko fan was easy for us to assemble, too. It also operated quietly enough in the room that we didn’t notice it made much noise while we tested it. But we noticed it was shorter and weighed less than the other pedestal fans we tested, making it less durable and sturdy. We also noticed that it was quite easy for us to pull up on the fan’s rod (to lift the fan up to carry it across the room) but have the entire rod lift out from its base when we did so. Luckily, we only tried moving it when it was turned off, but we could see how this could be a potentially dangerous action should anyone try to move it even a foot away while it’s turned on.


Vornado Whole Room 783 standing fan ($129.99; amazon.com)

This Vornado fan did not require us to do much assembling other than putting its head onto its rod and curved U-shaped base. It doesn’t come with a remote control, and it doesn’t feature a control panel. It simply has a 3-speed dial on the back of the unit’s circular head, much like the Lasko 16-Inch Oscillating 2521 standing fan. The whole look of this Vornado Whole Room 783 reminded us of the Vornado Energy Smart 533DC circulator fan (the winning floor fan) as its head is basically the same, just larger, and it sits on a long metal pole and base. Though powerful and well made, we think the other fans we tested would look better in a home or dorm environment, as the Vornado is kind of bulky and hard to miss visually.


BLACK+DECKER Dual Blade BFSD116B standing fan ($66.22; amazon.com)

This BLACK+DECKER fan was easy to assemble — that is, until we tried to attach its rear and front grilles together. There is a plastic ring that secures the two grilles together, but we found the fan’s one flimsy clasp on the front grille was not enough to firmly secure the two grilles together. We kept wrestling with the three parts of the fan to make them work; it took us about 20 minutes longer to assemble this fan than it did all the others in our testing. Once assembled, though, we were able to set the fan to oscillate and found it cooled off our testing room nicely. However, we cannot recommend this fan due to its unnecessary difficulty in assembling what should be a simple grille attachment.


Lasko Wind Machine 3300 circulator fan ($48.90; amazon.com)

This Lasko fan was easy for us to set up since, like the other circulator fans we tested, it requires no assembly; we just lifted it out of its box and plugged it in. We liked its fully tiltable head, which we were able to push all the way around (almost 360 degrees) to cool off either side of our testing area. But we found its blue control knob on the back of the fan to be a bit cumbersome to reach as we had to tilt the fan down to access it, and even then, the knob felt a bit wobbly in our grip. This was unlike the firm, smooth motion we enjoyed while turning the knob on the winning Vornado Energy Smart 533DC circulator fan. The Lasko Wind Machine 3300 circulator fan is also much bigger than the other floor fans we tested, so we had trouble sitting it atop our desk, which quite frankly, it isn’t designed to do. This is unlike the Honeywell Turbo Force HT-900 and the BLACK+DECKER 9-Inch BFB09W circulator fans we tested since they’re compact enough to fit atop a desk or table as well as the floor. Even though we appreciated Lasko’s built-in carrying handle on top of the fan, its 9.25-pound weight made it more difficult for us to carry from one part of our testing area than our winning 3.44-pound Vornado Energy Smart 533DC circulator fan.


Honeywell Turbo Force HT-900 circulator fan ($18.79; walmart.com)

This Honeywell fan is powerful for its size and provides a good, cooling airflow. We tilted its head to see how many angles we could direct its airflow in but found the circular motion of the tilt to be choppy and loud, unlike the smooth, silent tilting action of the winning Vornado Energy Smart 533DC circulator fan. The Honeywell also has a small speed dial on the back of its head that only fits the tips of our index finger and thumb comfortably. The dial let us turn it to set three different speeds, and with each turn, we heard a loud clicking sound. This was unlike the dial on the Vornado, which lets you grip it comfortably as you smoothly and quietly rotate it around clockwise and back.

BLACK+DECKER 9-Inch BFB09W circulator fan ($17.08; amazon.com)

This BLACK+DECKER fan was able to fit onto our testing desk with ease, its footprint taking up less space than the other circulator fans we tested. Its 3 speed settings were easy for us to adjust during testing; all we had to do was simply turn the small manual dial on the lower right-hand side of the fan in a clockwise direction. Its dial was easier for us to reach than was the blue dial on the back of the Lasko Wind Machine 3300 circulator fan, but we found the clicking sounds the BLACK+DECKER 9-Inch BFB09W circulator fan’s dial made as we turned it through its three speed settings to be loud — as loud as the 3-speed dial on the back of the Honeywell Turbo Force HT-900 circulator fan. In contrast, we were able to adjust the winning Vornado Energy Smart 533DC circulator fan’s speed dial with one continuous, smooth motion — with just a barely audible click when the fan is turned from the “Off” position.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing:



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