If I wanted a fan to help circulate air and keep my office (or any other full-sized room) cool this summer, I’d still grab the $100 Vornado 660.
Granted, when it comes to cooling actual people all electric fans work the same way, creating what’s essentially a wind chill effect that evaporates sweat on your skin. This makes you feel… cooler. Of course, a good fan can also be used to promote air circulation if placed right. The air stream that a sufficiently powerful fan produces can either help equalize the overall temperature of a room (i.e. eliminate hot and cold spots) or be used to move cooler air from another part of the house/apartment/world into your room, pushing the hotter air out the window. It’s important to remember that a fan alone will not cool a room. In fact, electric fans introduce heat to a room. (Although you could use a fan to make a homemade air cooler.)
How We Picked
Unfortunately, pretty much no one “reviews” fans. And those that do tend judge them purely on their aesthetic qualities. There are, however, thousands of user opinions online, and we based our recommendation partly on those and partly on in-home testing. While it’s true that in many ways a fan is a fan, hours of research and a few simple tests showed that there are some distinct advantages that certain models have over others—advantages that may be worth paying extra for, depending on your needs.
Unlike other dedicated floor fans, which come in either skinny-tower form factors or ultra-wide industrial ones, the Vornado 660 has both a design and footprint that makes it suitable for use on a floor or a desk. At about a foot wide and 13 inches tall, it’s shaped like a traditional desk fan but is slightly larger and a hell of a lot more powerful. Yes, it’s also more than twice as expensive as many other floor and desk models, but user reviews almost universally say the 660 is worth its $100 price tag.
Timothy on Amazon notes that the 660 “has better air circulation on the lowest setting than many of the smaller $40 fans did on their highest setting.” That lowest setting also happens to be one of four speeds, and it’s whisper quiet, another important factor for many people. Hardly any commercial manufacturers measure the sound output of their fans in decibels, so again we’re relying on user impressions here.
Plenty of users note that there is essentially no vibration or mechanical noise while the 660 is in use. “This is my first Vornado fan,” says K. Hayworth on Home Depot’s site, “and I’m already planning to buy a second one for elsewhere in the house. It’s so quiet when it’s on the first couple of speeds that you can barely hear it.”
It’s also worth noting that in addition to being much louder, most other fans in the $40-100 price range (and even more expensive fans) have only three speeds.
(Editor’s Note: After publishing this article, I toured a research submarine and the engineers had, after testing several fans, chosen a Vornado to keep them cool in the submersible’s tiny cockpit during 8-hour missions.)
The 660 easily tilts between horizontal and vertical airflow positions along a nice looking chrome glide and has push-button controls instead of other fans’ flimsy switches.
Most importantly, though, this fan moves some serious air. The industry standard for measuring this is in cubic feet per minute, or CFM. Many factors inform the amount of air a fan can move: diameter, blade shape, the speed at which the blades turn (revolutions per minute), the motor’s horsepower and the overall design. These specs aren’t listed by the manufacturer, though. In general, a high CFM is a strong indicator of a fan’s ability to move a bunch of air. (Also if you’re wondering, CFM is calculated by air speed [in feet per minute] multiplied by area [in square feet].) The 660 has a CFM of 584, more than enough for a whole room’s air circulation. Compared to other fans in its price range, this is one of the highest CFMs we could find. In fact, on its highest setting, the 660 can create an air stream 100 feet long. It also has one of the lowest power-consumption-to-air-movement ratios in its class.
Re-Testing For the Summer
Well, the user reviews weren’t lying. The 660’s noise level on its lowest setting is virtually nonexistant. It’s seriously impressive. Stand five to six feet away from the fan and you really can’t tell the thing is on, save for the gentle whisper of air caressing your face. Its low decibel level puts the HT-908 (which claims to be 20 percent quieter than the competition) and the slightly less expensive 733 to shame. Even on their lowest settings, both produced a typical fan whrrrrrrrr that could be heard across the room. Honeywell, like many other fan makers, doesn’t publish specs for its HT-908 or any of its other fans, but we did find out that the Vornado 660 has a low-speed RPM of 600. That’s 300 fewer revolutions per minute than the lowest setting on their slightly bigger 733, which may account for the sound increase. Still, the difference in the actual amount of air moved on lowest settings was less than 100 cubic feet per minute (257 CFM on the 660 versus 351 CFM on the 733). Not a heck of a lot. Bottom line? If you care about fan noise, or perhaps want to use the fan at night while sleeping, the 660 is a great choice.
Design and Adjustability
Again, the 660 wins hands down. Instead of a slide bar or a tilt head that pivots, the 733’s base has three fixed positions, forcing you to use the fan at predetermined angles. Its speed controls are awkwardly placed on the very back of the unit—right behind the motor—making adjustments difficult. The HT-908’s controls are also on the back of the fan, although slightly higher up on the grille. In fact, in addition to being the only fan with four distinct speeds, the 660 was also the only one with electronic push-button controls on the top of the fan. Like the 660, the Honeywell can be rotated up to 90 degrees, but it features a much wider base that essentially takes up the entire width of the fan. It’ll fit on a desk, but it’s definitely more cumbersome. It should also be noted that none of these fans come with a remote. You’ll typically have to purchase a tower fan for that convenience.
Arguably the most important measure of a fan is the volume of air moved. Here’s where the 660 really shines. My informal test reinforced what hundreds of other user reviews have already said: this fan blows hard. The floor plan of my house happens to be pretty open—you can stand in the entryway and look all the way down the hall into the bedroom (with the door open). All told, it’s about 50 feet away. I placed each fan in the same location at a common angle and selected their highest speed settings. For the Honeywell, I stopped being able to feel moving air once I backed up about 30 feet. Only the air columns from the Vornados could be felt while standing all the way back in my bedroom. What’s even more impressive is that the 660, despite having a lower RPM on its highest setting (1,375), still seemed to move as much air as the bigger 733 (which is bigger both in blade diameter and overall size). And the 660 was much quieter while doing so. Both can supposedly move air up to 100 feet, but to pull that off the 733’s blade has to rotate much faster (1,550 RPM). To my mind, this makes the 733 better for use in garages and workshops—locations where you’re going to place the fan on the ground anyway and probably not care too much about noise.
What about a standing fan?
The major direct alternative to a tower fan is a pedestal fan, a circular fan atop a pole. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is reliability and stability. Powerful fans are often too heavy for the skinny poles they stack them on, leading to instability and oscillation that is mediocre, broken or rattly. That’s the good scenario. Otherwise, the fan is underpowered to save weight. You can get this type of fan for cheap—the decently-rated Lasko 1827 is only $32—but reviewers pretty much say you get what you pay for: a top-heavy fan with a flimsy base prone to tipping over.
It’s hard to find a standing fan that manages to balance a strong, supportive base and a powerful fan without spending a small fortune. The Soleus Air FS2-40R032, which costs $90 and has generally good reviews, is easily knocked off balance and tends to break due to an unstable plastic connector holding the fan to the base, according to reviewers. The same issue plagues the Optimus F-1760. Because of their uniform width, tower fans aren’t typically susceptible to this problem. Some of the best-rated fans on Amazon—the Rowenta VU5551U1, Hunter 90405 and Whirlpool WF183SM1—still don’t have stellar ratings despite costing $100 and above. The Whirlpool is well-reviewed, but doesn’t come with a remote and some reviewers say it dies quickly. Industrial fans like the $160 Air King 9420 are the best bet if you absolutely must have a pedestal fan.
I picked up the Lasko 2554 and another top-rated tower fan (the $100 Ozeri Ultra 42″ Wind Fan) for testing. To select them, I looked at the best-reviewed fans across the web and Amazon’s own best-rated fans. There are a ton of options out there, and in a full-featured test we’d get to look at a lot more, but I chose the Lasko 2554 and the Ozeri because they’re both well-reviewed and reviewers didn’t mention a lot of the problems that seemed endemic to the genre: clicking, loud and poor oscillation, and rattly, poor construction.
The Lasko 2554 handily beat its more-expensive competitor: its oscillation pattern is smoother, its lowest speed is quieter and its breeze is more powerful. Ozeri doesn’t publish the Ultra’s CFM, but the Lasko 2554 advertises a blustery 710 CFM. The Ozeri might seem better on paper, with a fancy control panel that displays the current temperature and two pre-set airflow patterns, one for sleeping and one symbolized by either a tree or three green arrows whose purpose I never quite understood. But the patterns constantly switch between different speeds, making them more annoying than useful. And sprinkled among the many 4- and 5-star Amazon reviews were complaints about the fan shortly breaking down or loud clicks during oscillation.
The Lasko 2554 packs a lot of features into a compact passage without going overboard. It only has three speeds, but there’s a lot of difference between the lowest speed and the highest without the lowest being useless and weak. It’s quiet even on the highest speed, and the lowest is almost inaudible from 5-10 feet away. It’s cold, too: one reviewer said it felt just like air conditioning, and I’m inclined to agree to an extent. Of course a fan can’t substitute for a full-featured air conditioner, but the Lasko 2554 does an impressive job of cooling the air. It does have a nebulously useful “ionizing” feature intended to filter very fine particles and allergens in the air. Whether it works or not is up for debate, and there’s some evidence it might actually be harmful. According to Consumer Reports, ionizers can produce ozone, which can decrease lung functions and aggravate asthma. But it’s an easy feature to turn off and ignore. The fan’s design is simple and functional; a five-button control pad on top controls speed, oscillation, ionization, the timer function and power. Below, there’s a simple information panel and a toggle to control the direction of the blades—a feature the Ozeri surprisingly lacked. You can hide the remote inside a pocket in the back for offseason storage.
Long-Term Test Notes
Our founder, Brian Lam, has been using our Vornado and Lasko fan picks continuously for a year in Hawaii, which varies in temperature between 75 and 85 degrees on average, with varying levels of humidity. He found that the Vornado draws some phantom power, which is odd for a fan (about 1.4 watts, or less than $2 a year, according to the Belkin power meter he used). Other things he noticed: the Vornado’s soft buttons make it incompatible with timers and remote controlled outlets because the fan’s on/off switch can’t be controlled at the outlet level. The process of cleaning the fan is fine, but not the easiest. The small footprint does make it convenient for storage when you’re not using it, too. Even though it can be a little loud at its maximum setting, this is still a great fan to buy.
The Lasko tower fan makes ticking/creaking noises when oscillating, which is a common complaint of oscillating tower fans. It’s definitely not pretty, but it gets the job done and works well to keep you cool at a desk or bed where it makes sense to point the airflow horizontally, directly at your body, rather than upward.
A Step Down
The 3637 has a pivoting head, so you won’t be locked into just a few positions, much like the 660 — you can turn the head into whatever position suits your fancy. The controls are on the side, making them a little difficult to access, but the handy remote makes that basically a non-issue. Be aware, though, that some users complain that the remote has to be aligned just so in order to effectively control the fan, and from our experience with Lasko, we believe that to be an accurate assessment.
It’s super strong — stronger, even, than the 660 when you compare them spec-to-spec (787 CFM vs. the 660’s 584). Granted, we haven’t tested this model, and a high CFM doesn’t mean it performs well on low speeds — and reading customer reviews, it looks like this is the case with the 3637. If you’re looking for a fan that can pull off a wide range of speeds, with tons of differentiation between low and high, this isn’t it.
Not to mention: It’s loud. Not oppressively so, but many users do complain that while it works fine for white noise it can overpower a TV on medium volume. So if noise is an issue, get the 660, but if you’re looking to spend a little less on a decent fan, the 3637 is a great budget alternative.
Of course if raw power and placement flexibility aren’t priorities, there are plenty of other fans that’ll do the the job. The Lasko 4924 is a tower fan that consistently earns high ratings on Amazon and other sites. It has only three speeds and a CFM of 334, but it costs between $20 and $30 less than the 660. It does have a handy carrying handle built in for easier transport. Me, I’d rather have the Vornado.
A more standard floor model from Lasko, the 3520, is a full 24 inches wide, but it is also only $32 and can produce a metaphoric hurricane in your home (1,987 CFM). That’s a lot of air being moved for cheap. Again, this comes at the sacrifice of flexible placement and quiet operation.
Dyson “Bladeless Fans” aren’t worth it
After the Air Multipliers came out, Vornado went so far as to call BS on the whole gallons/second metric that Dyson more or less invented for these fans. Kuang relays their basic claim: “The Vornado 660 fan costs $90, compared to Dyson’s $330. And while Dyson’s reported figures of blowing 118 gallons of air per second sounds pretty impressive, Vornado says their fan produces 283 — basically hard enough to circulate air in the entire room, and allow you to raise your AC by eight degrees.” The 2014 Dyson model, the AM06, is supposedly quieter and uses less energy, but it’s still $300. If you want to buy a Dyson for its looks, fine. Just remember you’ll be paying in some cases a 400 percent premium and losing a good deal of performance. Again, I’d rather have the power and the extra cash in my pocket.
Wrapping it up
The Vornado 660 is definitely not the cheapest fan you can buy. But it is impressively powerful for its size, it’s super quiet and it’s more flexible than any other fan in its price range. Even better, it comes with one of the best warranties (5 years) of any fan we could find, regardless of cost and size.
4.5/5 stars, 23 reviews. Vornado 660 on Amazon
4.3/5 stars, 16 reviews. "Without a doubt, this is the best Vornado I have ever owned. Not only is the styling and quality first class but this fan is whisper quiet yet still moves a ton of air."
Walmart, Home Improvement Review5/5 stars, 9 reviews. "This fan is QUIET and really moves the air around (better than the big industrial metal thing I had before.)"
4.5/5 stars, 23 reviews. "I did some comparison research on the Vornado web site, and found that this fan (the 660 series) has the lowest "power consumed to air moved" ratio of any other Vornado fan, meaning this is the most energy efficient fan that Vornado makes."
Originally published: May 24, 2012