The Best Fan
After close to 60 hours of fan research, nearly a week testing products in an overheated house, and 9 hours measuring air-blowing output with equipment from the HVAC industry, we found that the $60 Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan was the best fan for most people.
The Seville simply circulated more air than any other fan we tested, as measured both in a controlled test environment and in a home living room and bedroom. It has a compact 11.15 by 11.6 by 40.1-inch footprint, and a stable design that was the hardest to tip over of any we tried. It comes with the best remote control in our test group, a 7.5-hour sleep timer, and an oscillating mode that makes it easy to share the breezy wealth with your sweaty, overheated friends and family. It wasn’t the quietest fan we found—it put out 67 decibels on its highest setting—but it was quieter than an extremely pricy competitor. It’s also difficult to take apart to clean internally, but that was a problem with every tower fan we tested.
If our main pick proves unavailable when the warm weather hits, pick up the $100 Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator. The 660 was our main pick for the last iteration of this guide. It can’t move as much air as the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine fan (in our tests, the 660 produced a CFM reading of 406 compared to the Seville’s 550). It’s also significantly louder, has a larger footprint (15 by 11.75 by 13.5 inches versus 11.15 by 11.6 by 40.1 inches), can’t oscillate, and doesn’t come with a sleep timer or a remote. But it does have easy-to-use controls, a robust build quality, and an industry-leading 5-year warranty.
If you’re looking for a cheap, powerful fan to use at your desk, the $20 Holmes Lil’ Blizzard 8-Inch Oscillating Table Fan is a great choice. When running on its highest setting, the Lil’ Blizzard produces 70 decibels of sound, which admittedly is a little loud. But, as its name suggests, the fan can oscillate or be locked into place. It comes equipped with two different speed settings, is easy to clean and, with its small 8.1 by 8.9 by 11.8-inch footprint, won’t hog all of the space on your desktop or side table. And while it might not be the most powerful personal-sized fan that we tested (we’ll get to that in a minute,) for $20, the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard is a capable fan at a great price.
The very best desk fan we found—as you’d hope at this price—is the Dyson Air Multiplier AM06. During our testing, the $250 AM06 moved more air than any other desk fan. On its highest settings, this 4-pound 5.8 by 12 by 19.7-inch fan could put out as much air as some of the room fans we tested—and it often worked as well as they did, despite being much smaller. The AM06 can oscillate in a 45° arc and it comes equipped with more speeds than any other fan—10—to help you dial in exactly the right level of air. While it isn’t the quietest piece of hardware we tested, the noise it generates is of such an even quality that it helped me, a legendarily light sleeper and insomniac, drift off to a restful slumber. Other design details, like a sleep timer and a nicely shaped, small remote that clips to the side of the fan via a magnet, add up to a product that feels very polished. Last, it’s just handsome—that may sound superficial, but when you’re looking at something for three months straight, it’s nice to find it attractive. If you’re looking for a small fan that can fulfill multiple roles in your home (and you can get over its steep price), check it out.
Table of contents
- How we picked
- How we tested
- The best room fan
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Best personal fan
- Best of both worlds
- Best fan for making a Darth Vader voice
- The competition
- What to look forward to
- How fans work
- Wrapping up
How we picked
I’m not going to lie to you: Researching hardware for this guide was a pain. Walk into any store or browse online and you’ll be confronted by an endless array of very similar fans. Fans often look the same, work the same, and cost the same, or at least it’s all close enough that most people would just buy one and get on with the rest of their life. Even if you consider bells and whistles like remote controls and sleep timers, it’s always the same bottom line: Most any fan will circulate some air and help you feel cooler.
The search for a great fan is further complicated by the fact that no one bothers to write much about the things. Consumer Reports had nothing. Real Simple gave lip service to fans’ looks and features, but didn’t do any comparison from model to model. Geek went a little deeper, comparing three different desk fans, but without explaining how they chose the models. That said, one site did well: Top Ten Reviews went down the rabbit hole with tower fans, comparing a wide range of hardware specifications and metrics before declaring the $400 Dyson AM07 their favorite. But reading over the reviews of each fan they feature, I got the impression that they didn’t do hands-on testing—and so it came down to me.
The first thing I did, before devising a test plan, was break down the hardware into two different groups: room fans, designed to cool a larger space (bedroom, living room), and desk fans, designed for use in smaller, personal spaces (cubicle, bedside table). I then took to the internet to see which fans from each category were most popular on sites like Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, and Costco. To trim down the massive number of fans, I decided that only products with more than 100 reviews would be considered, and of those, I’d only include items with an average rating higher than four stars on Amazon (other online stores carried far fewer items in the category, making comparisons difficult).
Doing this dramatically reduced my pool of potential test hardware, but I still had 12 devices to test—seven fans for a large room and five for small personal spaces:
- Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator ($100)
- Vornado 733 Full-Size Whole Room Air Circulator ($80)
- Lasko #2554 42-Inch Wind Curve Fan with Remote ($65)
- Dyson AM07 Tower Fan ($360)
- Honeywell HT-908 Whole Room Air Circulator Floor/Table Fan ($25)
- Ozeri Ultra 42 Inch Wind Fan ($100)
- Seville Classics UltraSlimline Tower Fan ($60)
- Honeywell HT-900 TurboForce Fan ($16)
- Vornado Zippi Personal Fan ($20)
- Lasko Personal Fan 2002W ($16)
- Holmes Lil’ Blizzard 8-Inch Oscillating Table Fan ($20)
- Dyson Air Multiplier AM06 ($265)
How we tested
A fan’s raison d’être is to circulate air. In order to measure the power of our test fans, I turned a 20 by 9-foot area of my home into a makeshift wind tunnel. Within this space, I designated a set point for the room fans and desk fans, measured out markers at 5 and 10 feet, and tested the amount of wind each fan could generate and how far away that wind could be felt from its origin point. Five feet is a reasonable distance to set up a fan in a living room or bedroom, and it’s enough space for any oscillation to blow on more than one person (during a heatwave, that’s the humane way to go).
We used a handheld digital anemometer to measure each fan’s cubic feet per minute (CFM) of airflow, which is a standard unit of measurement used by HVAC specialists, among others, to determine the volume of air moving through a space like a duct system. It’s worth noting that CFM isn’t a precise metric, since gas is compressible—so when I moved back to the 10-foot mark, I combined the anemometer data with qualitative observations of whether or not I could still feel any wind.
“How did you account for the different sizes of the fans? How big of an area did you use to estimate the velocity? For example, would your test be able to tell the difference between a fan whose diameter is 14” and a fan whose diameter is 140”? Let’s assume the velocity you measure is exactly the same between the two; but clearly the overall CFM for each of these scenarios would be drastically different.”
I also looked at how much energy each fan used over the space of a month, as well as whether or not each device drew any power while switched off. Some people will care about this. A lot won’t. I mean honestly: When it gets hot enough to give you swampass sitting down, do you really care how much running a fan costs? I sure don’t.
For a real-world test, I spent 5 days and 6 nights living with all of the fans in my test group to see how they handled themselves in the heat. During the test, it was an average of 55°F outside where I live, which I’m sure you’ll agree isn’t warm enough—so, for a week, I kept all of the windows closed and jacked up the heat to 78°F. Each day for 5 days I used one of the desk fans to stay cool as I worked in my office. For 6 evenings, I used one of the room fans while I cooked, ate, read, and watched TV. At night, I moved the room fan into my bedroom to see what it’d be like to sleep with it (get your mind out of the gutter). In each instance, I took note of how easy the fan was to control, how wide an arc it could rotate while oscillating, how loud each one was, what the quality of the noise was like, and whether the breeze from each fan was cooling and pleasant.
Finally, I checked the safety of each fan. Was it easy to pick up and carry? Did its operating temperature get dangerously hot after running all day? Did the safety grate surrounding the fan bend enough, or were the holes big enough, for me to fit my index finger in up to the second knuckle (or, worse still, touch the blades)? This was mostly a consideration for anyone with children around—curious little fingers and spinning blades don’t mix.
The best room fan
If you’re looking to cool down or circulate the air in your living room, dining room, or other large area in your home, the $60 Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan is your best bet. It’s the most powerful, most stable fan we tested (with the best remote, too). Its low noise level and pleasant wind quality are on par with the best fans we found—but this one comes at a better price.
When tested on its highest setting at a distance of 5 feet away from its grill, the Seville proved to be the most powerful fan out of everything we tested.
For a tower fan, it’s very stable, with a balanced, well-built body that was harder to topple over than the other tower fans; we tested. One of my biggest complaints about tower fans (like the Lasko, Ozeri, and Dyson fans) is that because they’re so tall and thin, they tend to be wobbly. By comparison, the Seville fan felt stable on carpeted or tiled floors. The other tower fans I tested could all be pushed over with little more than a fingertip’s worth of pressure. Doing the same thing with the Seville took perhaps 50 percent more force. This is due in part to its weight—at 10.7 pounds, it’s the second heaviest in the test, behind the 12.4-pound Lasko #2554. But beyond that, it simply has a more solid build quality than the competition. Nothing on the fan feels loose or flimsy, and there’s very little give when you knock into it. It even feels solid when compared to the $360 Dyson AM07, and that makes the Seville seem like a much better deal at its $60 price (plus, the Seville comes with a 1-year warranty).
For being solid and heavy, it’s not bulky. Other contenders in this category have more compact footprints (the Dyson AM07 and Ozeri Ultra 42 inch Wind Fan are 9.1 by 9.1 by 39.6 inches and 9.5 by 7.2 by 38 inches respectively), but the Seville’s svelte 11 by 11.25 by 39-inch dimensions can still fit into most spaces without getting too much in your way. The Seville was one of only six out of the 12 fans we tested that oscillates, providing 45 degrees of coverage, so it will deliver that 550 CFM of air to a large area of the room, making it an excellent choice for staying tucked out of the way in a room used by multiple people.
The fan’s remote control was the most powerful one we tested—it worked in sitting and standing positions up to 13 feet away and in an arc of roughly 40°. The remote is not backlit, but it has clearly marked buttons and an LCD display that makes it easy to see and use in all but the darkest of conditions. If you’re not using it, you can store the remote on a (poorly designed) hook at the top of the fan’s cowling. If you don’t need the remote (or if you lose it), you can get up and change the fan’s settings with fairly easy-to-use onboard controls instead.
The Seville is the third quietest of the six room fans we tested. At 67 decibels, it was only bested by the Lasko #2554 42-Inch Wind Curve Fan with Remote (63 decibels) and the Ozeri Ultra 42 Inch Wind Fan (65 decibels.) But the Seville does generate 2 decibels less noise than the Dyson AM07 tower fan—a $400 piece of hardware that prides itself on making 60 percent less noise than its earlier incarnation. Part of the testing included watching TV at volume of 70 decibels (a regular conversation with someone next to you is between 60 and 70 decibels). With the TV at 7.5 feet away and the fan 5 feet away (with no obstacles between it and my ears) the noise of the fan was certainly noticeable, but I had no trouble understanding the TV and never needed to turn the volume up. The same was true when talking on the phone with the Seville on its highest setting: Yes, it makes some noise, but not enough to ruin your life.
On the topic of settings, the Seville has four, which was the norm for fans in this category. (The only exceptions were the two Dyson fans, which had 10.) During the day, the Seville’s maximum power setting easily kept me feeling cool in my 78°F test environment; at night, running the fan on its second lowest setting in my bedroom kept me comfortable enough to doze off. One nice bonus feature is a built-in shutdown timer that works in 30-minute intervals up to a maximum 7.5 hours. A few of the other fans we looked at came with timers as well, but they all came up short against the Seville in other areas.
Safety isn’t a problem with this fan. I couldn’t bend the grate holes with my finger, and I couldn’t get a finger anywhere near the blades, so I doubt any small children in your house could, either. Plus, the stable design described earlier should stay standing if a toddler tries to push it down (or it could at least buy you some time to tell the kid, again, to stop pushing the fan).
Not a lot of trusted editorial sources review fans, and the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan is no exception. That said, it has a respectable 4.2-star average on Amazon, with 134 five star reviews out of a total of 225. It was also reviewed favorably on Seville’s homepage and Overstock.com. The biggest complaint most Amazon reviewers had was that the fan grows louder over time—a problem that seems to have more to do with the gears that make the Seville oscillate than the fan’s impeller. I’ll be watching for this issue cropping up during long-term testing.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
There are only two real complaints I can level at the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan.
The first is that while dusting the surface of the machine or the nooks and crannies of its front grate or back plate is easy enough with a feather duster or Swiffer-style duster, it’s staggeringly difficult to take apart and give it a thorough cleaning (but just about every other tower fan out there is just as difficult to clean inside of as the Seville is too). You can get in there with a Q-tip and clean out a lot of holes, but it’s a lot of work. A determined individual posted a step-by-step video on how to do it on YouTube, but it’s so involved that I’d say it’s likely more trouble than you’ll want to tangle with unless you’re dead serious about the cleanliness of the air you breathe or have someone in your home who suffers from a dust allergy. If the latter’s the case, I’d recommend taking a look at our Also Great pick, the Vornado 660: its blades can be exposed and cleaned by removing three screws.
My second beef is that on the back of the fan, behind its on board control panel, you’ll find a plastic hook sticking out that’s designed to hang the remote control. Everything else about the Seville seems so well-considered, but the hook feels like a clunky afterthought. The hook works well enough so long as the fan’s stationary. But you’ll want to stash the remote in your pocket if you plan on picking up the Seville to move it to a different location in your home. And I don’t trust the remote to not go flying off the hook were the fan to be pushed around or knocked over.
Runner-up room fan
The $100 Vornado 660 Whole Room Air Circulator was the winner of the last iteration of this guide. If you find that our main pick is sold out, or you are looking for a fan that can be taken apart and thoroughly cleaned, the 660 is a well-built axial-flow fan capable of generating a respectable amount of wind.
Tested from 5 feet away, the Vornado 660 produced a CFM reading of 406 on its maximum setting. That’s 144 less than what the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan was capable of cranking out. It’s also less than our Lasko, Dyson, and Ozeri candidates (they had CFM readings of 418, 431, and 492 respectively.) But despite having slightly less circulatory power than these other fans, picking the 660 over these other fans as the runner-up for this guide was a no-brainer, for a number of reasons.
For starters, the 660 is built like a frigging tank, with 7.32 pounds of tough black plastic and stainless steel. The fan and its cowling sit and pivot on a single arc of stainless steel. Adjusting the fan to circulate air up or down on any angle along this arc is easy enough. There’s no knobs to turn and, as far as I can tell, no internal gears holding the fan housing and motor in place on the pivot arm. It’s all done with friction. Even the five buttons on the top of the fan that turn the 660 on/off and allow you to change between its four different power levels have a feeling of quality about them. Vornado is confident enough in the robust construction to give the fan a 5-year warranty.
The fan is easy to clean (both its grates as well as its propeller) because the housing is relatively easy to remove. Just remove three screws, pop the grill off, and wipe the blades down with soapy water. Done.
That’s the good stuff. Now let’s talk about the downers. In addition to providing me with a lower CFM reading than the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan, there were some areas where I found the Vornado 660 lacking when compared to our main pick.
For starters, the Vornado 660 doesn’t oscillate. If you’re using the fan to draw cooler air from another area of your home or from outside, that’s not a big deal: the inducement and entrainment of air created by the fan will cool down the room via circulation. The fact that 660 doesn’t oscillate isn’t a big deal if you live alone, either. When the weather turns warm, point the Vornado directly at the chair you’re sitting in and it’ll fool your body into believing the temperature around it is dropping. But if you need to share the breeze, no oscillation is no good.
It’s also worth mentioning that the fan doesn’t come with a remote control. Is that a dealbreaker? No. But it’s definitely a drawback when you consider the 660’s feature set against everything that our main pick has going on for it. In addition to this, it doesn’t have a sleep timer. No like.
Finally, there’s the money: The Vornado 660—which isn’t as powerful as our main pick, doesn’t oscillate, and has no sleep timer or remote control—costs $100. That’s $40 more than the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan. Altogether, it doesn’t seem like you’re getting more for the extra money.
Best personal fan
If you need a fan for a small space like a desk or a bedside table, check out the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard 8-Inch Oscillating Table Fan ($20). While it wasn’t the most powerful personal fan I tested, it proved to be the most pleasant to use, thanks to the fact that I found the breeze it produced to be quite steady at both 5 and 10 feet, with less buffeting than anything else in its category. In addition to this, you get a pivoting head, two power settings, and the ability to oscillate in a wide 40° arc—these features aren’t unique to this fan, but the combination gives you more than you get with any other fan at this size and price. For just $20, this thing is a steal.
In my 5-foot CFM test, the Lil’ Blizzard produced a CFM reading of 274 on its highest setting. That’s a respectable amount of circulation for a device designed for cooling down a personal space such as the area around a desk. That said, it wasn’t the most powerful personal fan I tested. The $16 Honeywell Turboforce HT-900 bested the Holmes with a CFM rating of 361 at a distance of 5 feet. But here’s the thing: at my 10-foot test marker, I found the breeze produced by the Honeywell fan to be heavily buffeted and unfocused—it was more distracting than cooling. The breeze produced by the Lil’ Blizzard, on the other hand, had enough strength behind it to cool me down in a manner that felt comfortable and natural at 10 feet.
Beyond the power, the big distinguishing detail is that the Lil’ Blizzard can be set up to oscillate in a 40° arc, or it can pivot and be locked into place to blow in only one direction. None of the other small fans that I looked at could do this, with the exception of the Dyson AM06. The Lil’ Blizzard has two power settings, which are controlled by a chunky, easy-to-turn knob on the back of the fan’s housing. On its lower setting, I found the Lil’ Blizzard to be perfect for keeping cool while I worked at my desk.
Unfortunately, as with the our other picks in this guide, I wasn’t able to nail down any positive or negative feedback on the Lil’ Blizzard from a trusted editorial source. But I can say that it received a four-star average on Amazon, with 180 five-star reviews out of a total of 364. I also found a couple of reviews at Costco for it, but there are so few and all of them award the fan five stars, so it’s almost not worth mentioning.
Most of the complaints about the Lil’ Blizzard concern the build quality of the fan. People complain that it’s made of flimsy plastic. I’m not going to lie to you—it totally is. It costs $20!
It’s also worth noting the Lil’ Blizzard was the loudest fan in its category. From 5 feet away, I was able to register a reading of 70 decibels. At night, the quality of the noise it makes could be an issue too. I found that it had enough peaks and valleys in the frequency of the noise it generated that it was distracting to sleep with. That said, if you want to cool your bedroom, you’ll likely want something a little larger with a little more power than the Lil’ Blizzard can provide anyway, like our main pick.
The best of both worlds
In my experience, the return you get on a Dyson product has seldom been worth the price. There are usually less expensive, more capable devices out there. But I think I’ve finally found an exception to this rule. If you can afford it, the $265 Dyson Air Multiplier AM06 is actually kind of great. It was the very best desk fan we found (and, at this price, you’d hope so).
First of all, it’s powerful enough to be considered alongside the whole-room fans. Yet, sized at 5.8 by 12 by 19.7 inches, the AM06 is compact enough to be set up on a desk. The Dyson generated a CFM reading of 419, which goes far beyond anything in the desk fan category,and even beat several room fans we tested.
The 60-decibel noise it produced was a pleasant, steady white noise hum. Most fans we tested made a distracting, alternating pitch, but this one sounded different (possibly because it doesn’t have blades disrupting as much air). The sound never distracted from the volume of the TV, and it proved to be the best fan to help me sleep at night—its 60 decibels is 10 fewer than the noise generated by the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard and seven fewer than the Seville.
Like the rest of Dyson’s fans and heaters, the AM06 comes equipped with a IR remote control that allows users to turn the fan on or off, control its various power levels, set it to oscillate, or activate its sleep timer. I found the remote to be just as responsive as the one that comes with our main pick, the Seville Classic. The remote is compact, simple, and attractive, and it magnetically clips to the top of the fan’s circular exterior (which is good, because it’s small enough to easily lose otherwise).
The Dyson’s sleep timer, like its speed settings, is among the most versatile we found. It can be set to turn the fan off in a range anywhere from 15 minutes to 9 hours. And the oscillating feature is nice as well—it turns over a 45° arc and can be stopped at any point along the way to focus its stream in a single direction.
Keeping the Dyson AM06 clean is a cinch. As there’s no grill or external fan blades to clean, it can all be wiped down with a damp cloth or dusted. That said, like the larger Dyson AM07, the hardware isn’t designed to be opened up and cleaned on the inside. So anyone with a dust allergy might want to steer clear of it.
Unlike the other fans that I’ve profiled here, the Dyson AM06 has received a lot of attention from editorial reviewers that I feel comfortable in trusting. CNET’s Ry Crist awarded the AM06 3.5 stars out of five, citing the fact that the hardware is “…so quiet that the Noise Abatement Society awarded it with the Quiet Mark, an award for noise-conscious product design. On top of that, the AM06 claims to be the more efficient appliance, consuming 30 percent less energy than its predecessor.”
Samuel Gibbs of The Guardian newspaper commented on the AM06’s quiet operation as well, saying, “On low levels, around the one to three out of 10 mark, the fan is particularly quiet and sounds like a quiet laptop fan. As the power is cranked up it does get louder, but the noise isn’t annoying and easily blends into the background.” PC Magazine’s Will Greenwald called the fan excellent and summarized his experience with it by saying that, “the Dyson Cool AM06 is a remarkable desk fan that stands at the top of the heap in both quality and price.”
Last, it’s just handsome—that may sound superficial, but when you’re staring at something for 3 months straight, it’s nice to find it attractive. If you’re seeking a small, striking fan that can effectively cool several different spaces in your home (and you can get over its steep price), check this one out. It’s rare that such a premium product actually feels as nice as the price tag suggests, but this item really makes a strong case for itself.
For all of the great things about the Dyson AM06, it has some drawbacks. For one thing, without the remote control, it’s not possible to control the fan’s sleep timer or oscillation. So if you lose that little remote down the crack of your couch, you’re hooped. (You can still turn it on and adjust the speed settings onboard.)
And then there’s the elephant in the room: its price. That’s a topic that everyone of the reviews I’ve cited here touched upon. As much as I like the performance, aesthetics, and even the sound of the AM06, anything around $300 is a lot of money to spend on a piece of hardware when you consider that a device that costs $60 or even $20 will serve you just as well, if not better in some circumstances. I’m certain that, for most people, myself included, our main pick, the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan is the best choice. And if you need to keep cool while sitting at your desk, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with the $20 Holmes Lil’ Blizzard. It’s close to 21 times cheaper than the Dyson AM06. You can buy a whole lot of ice cream with the cash you’ve got left over.
The best fan for making a Darth Vader voice
The Vornado 660. Of all the fans I tested, it provided the most tremolo when I spoke into the back of it. But despite this, I found that each of my words was still clearly understandable.
The Vornado 733 ($90) was the second most powerful fan that we tested. At a distance of 5 feet, I measured a CFM reading of 544. That’s close enough to the amount of wind power generated by the Seville Classics fan that’d it’d be tempting to call it a tie. However, the power of the 773 is just about the only thing I liked about it. Like our Also Great pick, the Vornado 660, the Vornado 733 lacks the ability to oscillate. Unlike the 660, the 733 can’t pivot. Instead, users are limited to three different positions. That’s pretty far from ideal. What’s more, the build quality of the Vornado 773 I tested seemed inferior to that of the 660. Its plastic felt more brittle but at the same time had more flex to it—in fact, I was easily able to bend the grate aside to reach my index finger in up to the second knuckle. I hated the placement of the fan’s controls too—on the back of the fan, as opposed to the top of front—so I had to lift the fan up if I wanted to turn it on or off. Finally, with a $90 price tag, the Vornado 733 is $30 more expensive than our main pick. Considering its shortcomings, at such a steep price, I don’t feel comfortable in recommending it.
I’m just going to say it: The Lasko #2554 42-Inch Wind Curve Fan with Remote is ugly as sin. It’s decked out in faux-wood panelling that wouldn’t look out of place in a 1989 Ford Econoline travel van. I can’t get behind that. More disturbing than this is its shoddy build quality. The fan’s body is made from thin, cheap-feeling plastic. When I went to assemble it, I discovered that a chunk of the fan that mates with the base and one of the cable guides in the base and a cable guide had broken off in transit. While the damage in no way affected the fan’s operation, it left me wondering about how long the hardware would stand up to the casual abuse that would heaped on it over the course of a few years in an average household. The plastic felt kind of slippery too. Even though the Lasko comes with a built-in handle (which does double duty as a place to store its remote control), I always felt like it was going to slip out of my grip when I moved it around my home. The Lasko’s remote control felt just as shoddily constructed. I found that despite having a clear line of sight between where I was sitting and the fan, I often had to press a button on the remote several times in order to get the fan. Oh, and while it costs $4 more than our main pick, it had registered a CFM reading of 451, compared to the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan’s reading of 550 cubic feet of air per minute. No thanks.
Then there’s the Dyson AM07 Tower Fan ($400). Like all Dyson products, it looks like it’s from the future. As it lacks spinning blades, the AM07 is about as safe as a fan can get. And as having no exposed blades means there’s no need for a safety grate or cowling, it’s a cinch to wipe clean with a dust mop or rag. I loved the AM07’s 9-hour sleep timer and ten different power settings. But that’s where my romance with it ends. The base of the fan, where its impeller and electronics are, feels sturdy—but the top two thirds of the fan felt just as flimsy as the Lasko Wind Curve. If it were to be dropped or knocked over on a hard floor, I’m not confident that the fan would survive the ordeal intact. And knocking over the Dyson feels devilishly easy to do. While the fan might be bottom-heavy, its base isn’t very wide. I was able to make the fan wobble back and forth with the tip of my finger on the tile floor of my test area. Its stability was even worse when I set it up on the carpeted floor of my living room. Finally, on its highest setting, I found it to be less powerful that our $60 favorite, the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine 40” Tower Fan. When measured from 5 feet away, the Dyson produced a CFM reading of 431. All of these problems in a fan that costs almost $360? I can’t excuse that.
I had high hopes for the Honeywell Whole Room Air Circulator HT-908. Stout, black, capable of pivoting up and down, and it only costs $25—that would all be great if only it worked well. During testing, it produced a CFM reading of 367. That’s only 6 more cubic feet per minute that the company’s $16 TurboForce HT-900 Fan, which I included as a contender for our personal fan category. I’m not willing to spend $10 extra for such a small increase in power, especially when you throw the rest of the HT-908’s failings into the mix. The plastic on the fan’s front grill bent far too easily, which leads me to believe it could be a safety hazard for anyone with kids in their home. And there’s no other way to say it: It just feels cheap. Gently tapping a finger against it while it was running made the hardware vibrate in its place. Speaking of vibrations, the HT-908 produced 72 decibels of noise, making it the second-loudest fan I tested. the control knob located on the back of the fan wasn’t as hard to get to as I found the one on the Vornado 733 to be, but it was significantly smaller and harder to turn. So the HT-908 might not be the best choice for anyone with arthritis in their fingers or any other issues that affect their manual dexterity. You can argue that it only costs $25. I’d argue that it’s a waste of money. If you need to go cheap, get the HT-900 for 10 bucks less. Or better still, save your cash for a few weeks until you can afford the Seville Classics UltraSlimLine.
The $100 Ozeri Ultra 42 Inch Wind Fan looked promising, with a 4.3-star average on Amazon and five stars from 533 out of 850 reviewers. Unfortunately, I found several things I wasn’t thrilled about almost immediately after taking it out of the box and putting it together. For starters, it’s incredibly unstable. I gave it a gentle push with my finger and it wobbled back and forth like an inflatable punching bag clown.
The $16 Honeywell TurboForce HT-900 Fan is one of the most popular fans on Amazon. With a CFM rating of 361, it’s more powerful that our pick for best personal fan, the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard. But the quality of wind it produced is off—it felt weak and unfocused. In addition to this, the HT-900 is made from the same poor quality materials as the larger Honeywell HT-908. Not surprisingly, the HT-900 failed my safety test, as its grill was easily bent with nothing more than a finger’s worth of pressure. It also has the same annoyingly small control knob as its larger sibling does. Finally, it takes up more space on a desk than the Holmes, our pick, and it can’t oscillate. Pass.
The $20 Vornado Zippi Personal Fan is well-built and feels like it could survive the fall off of my desk to the floor. It has two settings, which is standard for the fans in its category. On its highest setting, it produced a whisper-quiet 51 decibels of sound, making it the quietest piece of hardware that I tested this year. Here’s where things go downhill. Like the other Vornado fan, the Zippi can pivot, but it is unable to oscillate, putting it at a disadvantage when compared to the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard. The Zippi is the only axial fan that I tested this year that doesn’t come equipped with a safety grate and cowl, largely because its blades are made of fabric instead of plastic or metal. This design decision makes it dead simple to clean, as there’s nothing to disassemble, but the fabric blades simply are not up to the task of pushing a goodly amount of air. I was unable to register a CFM reading at the 5-foot mark. It wasn’t until I moved closer, to a distance of 2 feet away, that I was able to register a reading of 108. Could it work for someone cooling themselves off at their desk? The answer is no. While the breeze it created was noticeable while the fan was sitting on my desk next to me while I worked, it simply did not feel strong enough to put a dent in the heat of my office. On top of this, the fan’s controls are located on the rear of the Zippi’s cowling. This forces you to either contort around its spinning, albeit mostly harmless blades, or throw caution to the wind and jam your hand through the blades to turn the fan off. The latter makes a racket that’ll give pause to anyone working in your immediate area. This lack of a safety grate makes it lousy to have around kids, too. You could argue that it doesn’t need one as its blades are made of fabric instead of plastic or metal, but that argument stops holding water as soon as a kid decides it’d be a fun idea to stick his face in it.
The Lasko Personal Fan 2002W costs $16, and despite its 4.6 star average on Amazon, has few redeeming qualities. It provided me with a comically low CFM reading 64 from 5 feet away. That’s stronger than the Vornado Zippi could manage, but the Zippi has blades made of cloth, so it’s not really a fair comparison. Could you use it to keep your cubicle at work feeling cool on a hot day? Sure, why not. Should you? No, not when the Lil’ Blizzard can be had for $4 more.
In addition to its lackluster performance, it feels incredibly cheap to the touch. Its body and blades are made from a white, flimsy plastic that’s kind of porous. Over time, I have no doubt that it’ll begin to collect dirt and grease and will look terrible. The 2002W uses a thumbscrew to keep its head in place once you pivot it into position—and while I was testing the fan, the screw came loose on several occasions, and with all the tightening required, the plastic surrounding the screw will eventually strip out. It’s inexpensive, sure, but it isn’t a good buy.
What to look forward to
In March 2015, Dyson announced the release of a new fan equipped with a glass filter that purportedly removes 99.95 percent of dust, microbes, and other allergens from the air drawn through the hardware by the fan’s impeller—an allergy sufferer’s dream. The fan, called the Dyson Pure Cool, was originally available only in China and Japan but has now been released in the US as well. We have it on our list of models to test.
Seville, the manufacturer of our current top pick, has released the UltraSlimline Energy-Saving Tilt Tower Fan. The new model has a design similar to that of our top pick, and we’re definitely interested in testing it. Slightly taller than our pick, this fan has five settings instead of four, one of which is an energy-saving mode that operates at a lower wattage on high. The new features add $30 to the price, so we’ll have to see whether the promised energy savings are significant enough to merit your spending more.
Jumping on the eco train, Vornado has announced a line of energy-efficient fans called the Energy Smart DC circulators. So far only two of a planned four models, the 723DC and the 610DC, have been released, and both of those models cost more than their less-efficient counterparts. According to Vornado, the brushless DC motor uses 80 percent less energy. And with a 10-year satisfaction guarantee, these fans might last long enough to make your initial investment a worthy one.
How fans work
As the wind from a fan blows on you, it removes a layer of radiating heat from your body (sometimes called a boundary layer). With no boundary layer, the relatively cool room temperature air being thrown by the fan comes into direct contact with much warmer skin, providing the illusion that the room itself is cooler.
The most common fan design—like the Vornado 660 and the Holmes Lil’ Blizzard—is an axial-flow fan. This one has a propeller attached to a central shaft run by an electric motor, like a classic airplane propeller and engine. The blades draw in air from the area behind the fan and push out air around it in a process called inducement. This inducement of the air leads to entrainment, which is fancy talk for the air surrounding the edges of the fan blades being dragged along by the induced air. Between all of the inducement and entrainment going on, the fan circulates the air, making you feel cooler.
The other main type of fan is a centrifugal fan, like the Dyson fans featured in this guide, the Lasko #2554 42-Inch Wind Curve Fan with Remote, the Ozeri Ultra 42 inch Wind Fan and Seville Classics’ UltraSlimline Tower Fan. Instead of an propeller, centrifugal fans use an impeller, which typically sits inside of the fan’s housing on a vertical axis. The impeller is driven around a shaft by an electric motor. As the impeller spins, it draws in air through a small opening in the fan, often found at the base. Centrifugal force then rapidly blows the air back out through a vent in the front of the fan, causing a breeze that’ll keep you from losing your mind during a heatwave.
No matter the technology, sometimes it’s just too hot to use a fan. According to Environmental Protection Agency, it’s a bad idea to use a fan if you find yourself in a room that’s 90°F or higher. When the temperature of the air being blown on you is warmer than your body, it can increase the amount of heat stress your body’s suffering from—and you don’t want that. One exception: Can you set up your fan to draw in cooler air from another area? Game on.
Wrapping it up
If you’re looking for a fan capable of circulating cool air from one area of your home to another, or making everyone in a large space like a living room or bedroom feel a little bit cooler this summer, we recommend the $60 Seville Classics UltraSlimline 40” Tower Fan. If you can’t get your hands on that, the $95 Vornado 660 will serve you almost as well.
For smaller more personal spaces like next to you on your desk or an office cubicle, the $20 Holmes Lil’ Blizzard 8-Inch Oscillating Table Fan is a great choice.
Finally, if money’s no object and you’d like to get your hands on a feature-rich fan that’ll perform well in a number of roles throughout your household, check out $265 Dyson Air Multiplier AM06.
- The Best Fans, Real Simple ,
- Best desk fan: Dyson vs Vornado vs Honeywell, Geek.com, April 10, 2014 ,
- Top Ten Tower Fans of 2016, Top Ten Reviews
- Dyson AM06 Review, CNET, March 5, 2014 ,
- Dyson Cool AM06 Review: Is this the world’s most luxurious desk fan? , The Guardian, July 18, 2014 ,
- Dyson Cool AM06 Review & Rating, PC Magazine, March 7, 2014 ,
Originally published: June 17, 2015