- The right fan can boost the comfort level of your living space.
- Vornado’s 660 is our favorite fan overall for most spaces.
- It’s small, quiet, and has four distinct settings for everything 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.
Even in the dog days of summer, the right fan, or the right system of fans, will eliminate hot spots and help you save big 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). Spoiler: they have become quieter, safer, more energy-efficient, and more effective, thanks to overlapping blades and bladeless designs with built-in HEPA air purifiers.
Here are the best electric fans in 2021
- Best fan overall: Vornado 660 Large Whole Room Air Circulator Fan
- Best budget fan: Genesis 20″ Max Cool
- Best tower fan: Genesis Powerful 43″ Tower Fan
- Best desktop fan: Genesis 6-inch Clip Convertible Table-Top
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: We wish it came with a 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 really sets the Vornado apart from the competition. From a light, cool breath of air to an absolute calamity, the Vornado 660 can offer relief from 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 six-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.
The best budget fan
Genesis’ Max Cool 20″ 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, and 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. It’ll get you through anything a pricier fan will, but, again, it can be a little too noisy, and you may want to invest in something quieter, like Dyson’s Pure Cool TP04, which also comes with a built-in HEPA air purifier (though it’s quite pricey).
The best tower fan
The Genesis Powerful 43″ 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 even 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 a couple of nuts and bolts to be removed.
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 to work 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.
The 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 table tops, largely because they’re a lot less likely to meet their demise by getting knocked 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 it 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 three feet of distance is more or less appropriate, though we still easily enjoyed the relief it offered at six feet.
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why:
Genesis Twin Window Fan: This fan works perfectly well and will likely fit in most windows, (you can also install it vertically), but 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 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 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, and 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 quite as much in the way of settings and programming.
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.
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 and/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 six 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.
What we’re testing next
Dyson Pure Cool TP04: This fan is so popular at the moment that we couldn’t even get our hands on it for this round of testing, so we left it out for now. It’s bladeless, and comes with a built-in HEPA air purifier. It’s on the pricey side, but it’s supposed to offer some of the best airflow with almost no noise. We’ll report on our findings once we’ve tested it in the coming months.
Holmes Lil Blizzard: An oscillating table fan, this might be a contender for our table-top pick, but we’re wary of oscillating fans in general, let alone more budget-friendly ones. Still, it’s a favorite around the web, and we reckon that’s for a reason, so we’ll be giving it a go soon too.
Check out our other heating and cooling guides