- Fans are useful all year long, and having the right one makes all the difference.
- Vornado's 660 is our favorite fan overall for most spaces and budgets.
- It's small, quiet, and comes with four distinct settings, from a gentle breeze to a blast of wind.
Fans are great for in-between weather and shoulder seasons when you're not quite ready to lug out the air conditioner. Depending on where you live and how your home is situated, they can also serve you well all year long.
Even in the dog days of summer, the right fan, or the right system of fans, will eliminate hot spots and help you save on your electricity bill, relatively speaking.
We tested several types of fans, measuring everything from average wind speed and electricity consumption to decibels. We also spoke with Duncan Freake, a mechanical engineer at Epam Continuum, to learn what, if anything, has changed about fans in recent years (or decades).
They have become quieter, safer, more energy-efficient, and more effective, thanks to overlapping blades and bladeless designs with built-in HEPA air purifiers.
The most modern, state-of-the-art fans will cost you and don't suit most budgets, but you can read our other recommendations below. Below are picks meant for all budgets, because we don't think the more modern technology is worth the price jump for most people.
Here are the best electric fans in 2021
- Best fan overall: Vornado 660 Large Whole Room Air Circulator Fan
- Best budget fan: Genesis 20-Inch Max Cool Box Fan
- Best tower fan: Genesis Powerful 43-Inch Tower Fan
- Best desktop fan: Genesis 6-inch Clip Convertible Table-Top Fan
We tested seven fans side-by-side for two weeks to determine which ones offered the best combination of airflow, speed, and energy efficiency. We also spoke with Duncan Freake, a mechanical engineer at Epam Continuum who likes taking apart home appliances in his spare time, about qualities to look for in a fan.
Here's what we looked for in our top picks:
Ease of use: Most fans are fairly easy to use, but the convenience of visible controls or a remote made a big difference.
Durability: More features often mean more problems, and while we still recommend oscillating fans (like our tower fan pick), they're not the sturdiest.
Power: We measured airflow in feet per second using a wind meter at 6 feet away to determine the average wind speed coming off of each fan.
Energy consumption: We used a basic digital energy consumption meter to measure fans' consumption at their lowest and highest speeds.
Volume: We used a decibel meter to measure how loud fans were at their lowest and highest settings.The best fan overall
The variation in speed, five-year warranty, and convenient size make the Vornado 660 the best fan for most spaces.
Pros: Small, quiet, lots of speed variation, smooth 90-degree tilt mechanism
Cons: No remote, a bit large to put on a desk
When you take price, wind speed, energy efficiency, and noise into account, Vornado's 660 Whole Room Air Circulator is the electric fan that fits the widest range of needs and living spaces.
Its comprehensive variation in wind speed is what sets the Vornado apart from the competition. From a light, cool breath of air to an absolute calamity, the Vornado 660 can offer relief for everything from mild discomfort to, say, a bad spill or even a flood.
Because of its high velocity, it is the fan I turned to after a recent roof leak, and I've also used it to dry wet bicycles after a day in the rain.
Admittedly, it gets a little loud at top speed, but you probably won't find yourself sitting too close to it at that level. And it's not outrageous; its noise level is on par with that of any high-powered blade fan.
On the other hand, you can barely hear it running when it's at its lowest setting, which offers just enough air for a small room.
The relatively long 6-foot power cord is also appreciated, as it allows you to reposition the fan as needed.
Considering the Vornado's size and might, we think a couple of these fans would address most anyone's needs, and storing them is completely manageable.Best budget fan
Genesis' Max Cool 20-Inch Box Fan is a great budget option because it moves a lot of air and doesn't take up much space.
Pros: Easy-to-use design, more child-safe than some other options we tested
Cons: Loud, dial could be better marked (but there are only three settings)
A box fan stirs up a lot of air and can be stored easily, while other types of fans may fall short when it comes to output or stowability. Box fans also tend to be more affordable, and while Genesis' 20-inch option isn't the cheapest out there, it's steady, sturdy, and powerful.
It's also relatively loud, though, so keep that in mind if you're looking for something a little more discreet.
We especially like box fans for home-improvement projects that require drying out a room, and they're great for keeping mosquitoes at bay outdoors.
The Genesis is one of the prettier models we've encountered. Thanks to the location of the speed-setting knob, it doesn't have any awkward parts sticking out to prevent it from being stashed away in the attic.
If you want to invest in something quieter, Dyson's Pure Hot + Cool series also heats (at that price, you may as well get a heater, too) and comes with a built-in HEPA air purifier.Best tower fan
The Genesis Powerful 43-Inch Tower Fan offers 18 settings and a sleep timer, as well as the lowest noise levels and the best energy efficiency of any large fan we tested.
Pros: Quiet, easy to use, lots of settings, highly efficient
Cons: Takes up a lot of space, tower fans aren't terribly durable
Tower fans are efficient; often remote-controlled; and covert enough that apart from a relatively subtle drone, you'll hardly notice they're there.
Of the tower fans we tested, the Genesis Powerful 43-inch performed best across the board. It's quiet; offers 18 settings; comes with a programmable timer; and so far, oscillates without any trouble.
We should note that tower fans do have their drawbacks. They tend to break after a few years or as soon as they're mishandled. They are also notoriously difficult to clean. This one requires you to remove a couple of nuts and bolts.
That being said, tower fans tuck away neatly in corners and closets. They're typically quiet, and they usually come with programmable timers and remotes, which are great features for those who don't want to sleep with the fan running (or get up to adjust the settings).
I can sleep easily with the Genesis, thanks to its "natural" and "wind" modes, which are soft and softer, respectively. I find the natural mode works best at night because it's barely audible, and it doesn't wake me with a chill, even with the fan placed at the foot of the bed.Best tabletop fan
The most practical and effective fan for small spaces and desktops, Genesis' 6-inch Clip Convertible Table Fan is quiet, adjustable, and moves plenty of air for one or two people.
Pros: Compact, powerful, convertible between clip-on and stand
Cons: Kind of loud, can be too strong if positioned closely
Clip-on fans are ideal for tabletops, largely because you're a lot less likely to knock them to the ground. The Genesis Convertible Table-Top and Clip Fan offers both a clip and stand (easily switched out with a screw and nut), so you can place it wherever and however you like. This comes in handy on desks and in smaller rooms where space is a precious commodity.
We like this fan because it is sturdy, doesn't have an overly ambitious oscillating mechanism (but does rotate manually and clicks firmly into place), and is easy on the electricity bill.
The only real downside is that it does run on the loud side for a small fan, even at the lower setting. But it's still not as loud as most larger fans.
Otherwise, it's great for just about anywhere you might place it within a small room. About 3 feet of distance is more or less appropriate, though we still enjoyed the relief it offered at 6 feet.What else we tested
What else we recommend and why:
Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Cryptomic HP06: This bladeless fan comes with a built-in HEPA air purifier and also works as a heater, which makes it tempting. Our initial notes are that it offers the best airflow with almost no noise. While that's all great, we find that the price tag doesn't justify that alone. It does work wonderfully as a heater, though, and while we can't say we really noticed a difference in air quality, the filter seemed to be working by the looks of it. If you're looking for the quietest fan possible and happen to need a space heater, too, you'll be happy with this fan. Note: This fan is often out of stock due to its popularity.
Genesis Twin Window Fan: This fan works perfectly well and will likely fit in most windows (you can also install it vertically). However, we prefer using a smaller model like the Genesis 6-inch Clip Convertible Table-Top as a window fan because you can angle it.
Honeywell Quietset 8-Speed Tower Fan: We highly recommend this fan, which came extremely close to beating out our top pick for a tower fan. The only issue so far is that it's a little on the loud side, topping out at 60 dB, about that of a refrigerator compressor or normal conversation. We're going to keep testing this one for longevity, and it may well knock our pick from Genesis out of its standing.
Honeywell Table Air Circulator Fan: A highly functional fan, this is a great option for small bedrooms, offices, and all budgets. Still, it's a little on the noisy side compared with most desk fans, so you won't want to place it too close to you.
Honeywell TurboForce Tower Fan: We've recommended this fan in the past, but it's relatively loud, and we've since found quieter tower fans. Still, we like the design, and it's powerful, so if you're looking for a tower fan for a particularly large room, it's worth considering.
Lasko Outdoor Living Oscillating Tower Fan: We're testing outdoor fans for next year because they seem to work better than citronella candles at keeping bugs away. So far, we've only tried this one. While we like and recommend it, we need to perform a little more testing.
Lasko Wind Curve: We've never had any trouble with Lasko's fans (and we've tested a number of them). This one works perfectly well. If you want to save a few bucks, it will certainly suffice in the place of our tower fan recommendation. But it doesn't offer as many settings and programming, especially compared to the Genesis model we recommend above. It's also slightly louder, which might affect light sleepers.
Rowenta Turbo Silence Oscillating Fan: We've recommended this fan in the past, but considering the price, we bumped it out for more efficient, technologically advanced options.
Vornado 173 Whole Room Tower Fan: With Vornado being such a favorite with regular fans (see our recommendation above), we hoped this design would offer something other tower fans don't: a better solution to oscillation. Most oscillating tower fans we've come across eventually start making a clicking noise. Sometimes it's repairable. But it's annoying, especially when you're trying to sleep. This fan has a grate set on a spiraling angle, so it's supposed to cool the whole room without oscillating. While it did span a great deal of the room, it just wasn't powerful enough to compete with our other picks.What we're testing next
Holmes Lil Blizzard: This might be a contender for our tabletop pick. But we're wary of oscillating fans in general, let alone more budget-friendly ones. Still, it's a favorite around the web, so we'll be giving it a go soon.
Lasko's Xtra Air: An extraordinarily thin tower fan with four different speed settings plus LCD dimming and nighttime settings, this fan is designed and priced well to compete with the Genesis, our top recommendation for a tower fan.FAQs
What is the quietest fan?
Generally speaking, the quietest type of fan is a tower fan, which also tends to be the most energy-efficient and has the smallest footprint. The only problem with tower fans is that they tend to be more delicate than basic box fans. Still, they pack the most punch for the most compact unit.
If you want the absolute quietest fan we've tried, that'd be the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Cryptomic HP06. Otherwise, our picks above should more than suffice.
What is the best fan placement for optimal air circulation?
Depending on the type of fan and the shape of your room, there are several ways to optimize circulation.
A window fan tends to be the most effective option when you have a cross breeze and cooler outdoor temps. Obviously, those sit in your window. Multiple fans (of any type) can also help create a cross breeze, especially with as many interior doors open as possible.
For all other fans, including desk and tower fans, face them opposite the wall where you will be the least. This causes the air to disperse and create a wind chill as it mixes with the stagnant air in the room.
Here are a few more tips for cooling down the house.
Check out our other heating and cooling guides