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As a nation that broadly eschews air conditioning as unnecessary, using an electric cooling fan can be a cost effective, efficient, and, these days, whisper-quiet way of keeping you cool. They’re ideal for circulating air and providing a cooling breeze to help you sleep at night and think straight during the day.
You don’t have to break the bank if you’re after a standard oscillating fan: one that blows air and helps the room feeling fresh can be nabbed for under £35 and do the job well.
If you’re after higher levels of functionality - something that circulates air, mimics a natural breeze, purifies or has various speed settings and an impressively strong motor, you’ll be looking at something more spendy, up to around £350 - entirely worth it if you can stretch to it and want to beat the heat.
Best fans at a glance:
- Best tower fan: DYSON PURIFIER COOL TOWER FAN, £499 from Currys
- Best desktop fan: MEACOCOOL 1056 AIR CIRCULATOR, £99 from Amazon
- Best budget desktop fan: B&Q Chrome-effect 12" 45W Desk Fan, £32 from B&Q
- Best oscillating pedestal fan: Swan Retro 16 Inch Stand Fan, £59.99 from Amazon
- Best personal, portable fan: MeacoFan 260c Cordless Air Circulator, £34.99 from Amazon
Should I choose an air conditioner or an electric fan?
You may think that it’s worth investing in an air conditioner for summer - after all, air conditioning units are able to reduce the temperature of the room, while an electric fan works by pushing the air around. Yes - air conditioners cool rooms more effectively than a fan. But fans are cheaper to buy, and to run, and considering our summers are generally dry, mild, and not humid, they will be sufficient to keep you comfortable.
How to choose the best fan for you
Consider the size of the room you are looking to cool. Desk fans are sufficient if you’re just after a stream of cool air in your face as you work, but if it’s a larger room, such as a bedroom, you’ll need a standing fan - there’s a wide range of these, from tower to pedestal fans.
Oscillating fans are useful if you’ve a crowd to cool - these days they have progressed beyond moving from left to right and can even tilt up and down.
The issue with larger fans is weight, and hence portability. If you’re looking for a fan you can lug from room to room throughout the day, you’ll want to avoid a heavy model - it can be worth the trade off of sacrifice in power to know you can actually move the fan around!
NOISE. This is a key issue if you’re hoping your fan can help you sleep. Light sleepers need to seek out models with energy-efficient motors, blades designed to dampen noise. Some fans come with a ‘night-time’ mode - a low, slow, steady setting that won’t wake you through the night.
There are also models with voice-activation, remote controls to help them operate. Absolute not a must-have, but a delightful addition if you don’t want to move from the sofa while hitting the perfect temperature.
What are the different forms of electric fans?
Cooling fans come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from tall pedestals, to floor, tower fans and desktop models.
All of the models reviewed here are equipped with a number of fan speeds and most oscillate for wider room coverage.
They will all do a grand job of keeping you more comfortable in warm weather.
Dyson produces a fan-only version called the Cool but we are featuring this more expensive model because it cleans the air at the same time (you can read about this facet in our guide to Air Purifiers) and is more readily available to buy.
Along with its air cleaning tech, the tall-standing Purifier Cool also happens to be one of the most stylish and efficient fans in the industry.
Being of Dyson origin, it uses a powerful and very convoluted Air Multiplier to ram the rushing air through invisible vents on the inside of its empty elongated portal.
This not only creates a much more consistent breeze without any buffeting, but the whole bladeless assembly is really easy to keep clean – simply wipe down with a damp cloth.
The Purifier Cool comes with 10 fan speeds though it has to be said that the highest setting is fairly loud. It can also be controlled using the supplied magnetic remote control or the excellent Dyson Connect app.
One of the very best things about this fan is its wide-span oscillating function which ranges from 45˚ to a remarkable 350˚.
Figure in the wherewithal to have the airflow pushed in a diffused fashion to the rear of the fan when you don’t want to be cooled and you have one of the finest – albeit most expensive – fans currently vying for your attention.
The 1056 Air Circulator is available in two variants – a tall pedestal version and this slightly less obtrusive floor or desktop-mounted model.
For a shade under £100, it is one of the most effective and feature-filled fans on the market. It’s also exceptionally quiet, even when used at full speed.
The 1056 comes with 12 fan speeds and produces one of the strongest direct breezes of any model on sale – at full pelt it shifts 1,056 cubic metres of air per hour – and you can really feel the effect from several metres away.
It also comes with an amazing three-way oscillation function – horizontal, vertical and close to 360˚ of circular motion. The latter setting is a great way to keep air moving around an entire room.
No matter the budget, if there’s one fan that really excels at moving large volumes of air without making a racket about it, then this is it. For sheer effectiveness and full surround breeze production, the MeacoCool 1056 Air Circulator is almost in a class of its own.
The popular Swan’s main USP is its classic retro design which looks perfect in homes already equipped with period-style Smeg, Dualit and KitchenAid appliances.
At full bore, this oscillating three-speed pedestal fan whips up a veritable gale that you can feel from many metres away.
However, it is pretty loud on its highest speed setting so consider turning it down a notch if watching TV or listening to music.
The Swan is available in nine striking colours and is very easy to assemble. It does, however, consume around 50 watts of electricity at full bore so perhaps avoid running it all day.
If you think a tall-standing 16-inch fan like this is too large for your room, consider its stablemate, the Swan Retro 12-inch Desktop version instead. It’s not as powerful but it has a smaller footprint, is £20 cheaper and it comes with exactly the same functions.
Although it looks like it’s made from polished steel, this 12-inch desktop fan’s plinth is actually chromium plated plastic. But that shouldn’t put you off because it still looks authentically retro-esque and, more importantly, it blows a decently stiff breeze.
Like the similarly-styled Swan reviewed above, this model comes with a 90˚ oscillating function, three fan speeds and simple vertical adjustment by grabbing the fan housing and pulling it down our pushing it up.
Sold under the B&Q brand name, this is an excellent budget-priced desktop and kitchen option that looks more expensive than it is – at least from a distance.
If you’re a fan of Dualit’s range of classic silver toasters, kettles and Nespresso machines, then this is the fan that best compliments them.
This personal battery and USB-powered portable fan has many great uses, whether it’s cooling yourself while working at a desktop, placing on the bedside table, helping cool a computer during a heatwave or taking it away with you on a camping trip.
The 260c has four fan speeds and it runs for up to 14 hours on a full USB charge. That’s an impressive stat that you will come to appreciate when you’re nowhere near an electricity source and your skin is melting in the heat.
You’d think a fan than measures just 16cm in diameter wouldn’t have much cooling effect but, with an air-shifting stat of 260m³/hour, the MeacoFan 260c is surprisingly plucky for such a dinky thing, especially when positioned close to your face.
Granted, it doesn’t have automatic oscillation – you simply angle it to the most appropriate position – but it’s cheap to buy and highly practical. It even comes with a built-in night light.