Best Fans 2018: Beat the heat with these ace desktop and tower coolers

With the hot weather showing no sign of abating, you need a fan to keep you cool and make it easier to sleep at night. To help you make the right decision, we’ve tested and reviewed a bunch of models, so we can definitively tell you which ones are the best to buy.

We’ve tested 17 fans, but this guide contains the ten best that are worth buying. There are two that stand out. If you want something small and light that can keep you cool while you work or sleep, the Evapolar Personal Air Cooler is the model for you. For use all year round, the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link is a great choice, cooling in summer and heating in winter.

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How we pick the best fans

A fan is an efficient way to keep cool in warmer weather, aiding the evaporation of sweat to reduce your body temperature. How much air a fan can move helps dictate how good it is for cooling, and how big a room it can be useful in. To test this, we use an anemometer to measure air speed in metres per second, testing fans at their minimum and maximum settings at a distance of 15cm and 1m.

While these measurements are important, we base our opinion on the type of fan reviewed: we’d expect large tower fans designed for whole-room cooling to push more air than a smaller personal desktop model.

To a certain degree, it’s easy to make a fan that can move more air by spinning its blades faster; this has the downside of making greater noise. To that end, we measure the sound that fans produce at the minimum and maximum speeds at a distance of 15cm and 1m. The ideal fan moves a lot of air quietly, so that you can use it comfortably at night while you’re sleeping. We also measure power usage at minimum and maximum, to determine the most efficient model from the least.

In this guide, we’ve also reviewed some evaporative coolers, which cool the air using a tank of water. For these, we measured the temperature difference between the air input and output to see how well they could cool.

1. Evapolar Personal Air Cooler

Pros:

  • Intuitive controls
  • Neat lighting
  • Keeps you cool

Cons:

  • No cartridge replacement warning
  • Replacement cartridges are relatively expensive

If you spend a lot of time at a desk or need something to keep you cool while sleeping, the Evapolar Personal Air Cooler could be for you. This sleek-looking cube is an evaporative cooler, which means it uses a tank of water, cooling via evaporation. In other words, it’s more effective than a plain fan, particularly in dry heat.

A neat LCD screen displays the current temperature and the output temperature, showing you how effectively the Evapolar Personal Air Cooler is working. Using the dial on top, you can control the fan speed.

Testing in a room with an ambient temperature of 22.8ºC and 53.2% relative humidity, I measured the output from the Personal Air Cooler at a cool 16.3ºC. The cooling effect is fairly narrow, so you can’t move too much if you want to keep cool.

For the desk-bound among us, or for keeping cool while sleeping, the Evapolar Personal Air Cooler is a great choice.

Buy Now: Evapolar Personal Air Cooler from £296 / $172 from Amazon

2. Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link

Pros:

  • Smooth air output
  • Plenty of modes
  • Heats and cools just as well
  • Nice remote control
  • Great app

Cons:

  • Few onboard controls
  • Very expensive

The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link is more than just a traditional fan. As well as blowing cold air, it can heat up the air and monitor air quality, too, automatically purifying it. And, best of all, the fan is completely controlled via the Dyson Link app.

Dyson’s Pure Hot + Cool Link looks fantastic. It has the traditional Dyson bladeless design, giving the floorstanding fan a central hole through which you can stick your head – if you wish.

The front of the fan is home to a power button, leaving the remote control – which attaches magnetically to the top of the unit – for most features and settings. From here, you can adjust fan speed (ten settings), set cool mode or heat (up to 37ºC), toggle oscillation and set the sleep timer.

With so many fan settings, the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link goes from almost silent, with a gentle breeze, to a full-on rush of air. Even at the maximum setting, the fan isn’t too intrusive, and there’s little noise from the motor itself. It’s more air movement that makes the sound.

Thanks to Dyson’s Air Multiplier technology, the airflow from this fan is far smoother than that of a traditional fan. Heating is impressive, too, quickly bringing the temperature of a room up to a comfortable level.

You can control every feature of the fan through the app, and it also lets you monitor your home’s air quality. Dyson claims the Pure Hot + Cool link can remove about 99.95% of allergens and particles down to 0.1 microns. The fan is sensitive, kicking into life when we started cleaning and spraying chemicals. This soon turned our air quality from ‘moderate’ to ‘good’.

Yes, this fan is expensive, but it’s also exceptionally good. If you need a fan that you can use all year round, and you want to improve the quality of air in your home, this is the ultimate model.

Buy Now:Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link at £ 439 / $575 from Amazon

3. MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator

Pros:

  • Up/down and left/right oscillation modes
  • Good airflow
  • Low noise

Cons:

  • Quite large

The MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator looks completely different to the other fans on the list, thanks to its almost-round body. This isn’t just an aesthetic choice, but part of the design that lets the fan circulate air more effectively around an entire room.

While most fans have a simple left/right oscillation mode, the MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator has an up/down mode as well. Each can be controlled individually, but with both oscillation modes in operation the fan can bounce its stream of air off walls and ceilings, circulating more air. On a still day, in particular, the Air Circulator can help refresh the air in a room more effectively than a traditional fan.

The downside is that the MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator is quite large, at 305 x 308 x 425mm, so you’ll need a fairly big table to keep it on.

The MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator ships with a circular remote control that magnetically attaches to the front of the fan. It has all of the same controls as on the main fan body, plus the night-light control that toggles the integrated light on and off; it’s a shame that this control isn’t included on the fan’s main body.

Using the controls, you can toggle the oscillation modes; adjust the fan speed (there are 12
settings); set the power-off timer (this operates in hourly increments between one and 10 hours); and turn the fan on or off.

There’s also an Eco button, which adjusts the fan speed automatically based on the temperature of the room: the hotter it is the faster the fan will run. Neatly, the current room temperature is displayed on the fan.

The MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator is a powerful fan. At minimum fan speed I measured its airflow at 1.6m/s at 15cm and 1.4m/s at 1m; at maximum fan speed it was a powerful 4m/s at 15cm and 3.3m/s at 1m. These are the best distance results that I’ve seen.

Impressively, the fan is quiet, too, measuring a whisper-quiet 43.5dB at 1m on minimum and just 57.2dB at maximum speed. Only Dyson’s fans are quieter. Power usage of 3.8W on minimum and 19.6W on maximum are also very competitive.

If you want something that can shift a lot of air, circulating a stuffy room for better all-round cooling, the MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator is a great choice. The only downside is that it’s fairly large.

Swan Retro Desk Fan

4. Swan Retro Desk Fan

Pros:

  • Great styling
  • Good airflow
  • Low noise

Cons:

  • Needs a lower speed

Those who have a penchant for 1950s styling will appreciate Swan’s 12-inch Retro Desk Fan. It’s certainly one that you’ll be happy to have out on display. Available in nine colour options including cream, blue, orange, black and red, it will be easy enough to find a model to suit your decor.

As is typical for this type of product, some assembly is needed. Aside from the single screw that holds the metal cage together, the rest of the fan uses plastic thumbscrews. I had my sample built and ready to go in only a few minutes.

The bottom of the fan sits 140mm from its base, which is just about right for desk use. Height adjustment is possible, plus there’s an oscillating switch that makes directing air comfortably simple.

This fan has three speed settings. The minimum speed produced airflow of 2.9m/s at 15cm and 1.2m/s at 1.5m; at maximum, the fan produced 4.1m/s at 15cm and 1.8m/s at 1.5m. If anything, the Retro Desk Fan could do with having a slightly slower bottom speed for more gentle cooling.

Noise wasn’t too much of an issue, and is more a result of the whoosh of air moving rather than the fan motor. I measured the fan as producing 56.8dB on the minimum setting at 15cm and 63.9dB at the maximum setting. This fan is quite power-efficient, too: it drew 41.4W at max speed and just 32W at minimum.

If you want a stylish fan for your desk, available in a decent selection of colour options, then the Swan Retro Fan is a great choice.

Buy Now: Swan Retro Desk Fan at £52/ $99 from Amazon

Fine Elements Oscillating Remote Control Tower Fan

5. Fine Elements Oscillating Remote Control Tower Fan

Pros:

  • Remote control
  • Low noise
  • Takes up little room

Cons:

  • Needs slower minimum
  • Airflow drops at range

Tower fans are a great choice where space is at a premium. The large Fine Elements Oscillating Remote Control Tower Fan (model ES2017) is designed to cover a room. Built from grey and black plastic, this smart-looking fan looks great and should blend in with most people’s decor.

It offers a smart design, too, with a large LCD showing the current time. All of the fan’s controls sit beneath a flap at the top, which also houses the remote control (no batteries supplied).

With either set of controls, you get the standard options: you can turn the fan on or off; choose between the three speed settings; and toggle oscillation. There are some more advanced settings, too. Using the Timer button, you can set the sleep timer in increments of 30 minutes up to 12 hours.

There’s also a Mode button, which adjusts the fan’s output. In General mode, fan speed is constant. In Natural mode, fan speed is occasionally ramped up to make it feel more like ‘real’ wind. Sleep mode dials down fan speed, before cycling back to the preset speed. I have to say that the constant speed mode is the best option; I found the other modes a little distracting.

At 15cm, I measured airflow at 4.2m/s at maximum and 3.2m/s at minimum. That’s an average range for a fan of this size, but I’d like to see a more gentle minimum. At 1.5m, I measured fan speed at 1.4m/s at maximum. That’s a bigger drop-off than with a blade fan, which will be more powerful. As such, this fan is better suited for close-range operation or slightly smaller rooms.

Noise wasn’t too much of an issue, at 60.4dB at maximum speed and 56.2dB at minimum speed from a distance of 15cm. The Oscillating Remote Control Tower Fan doesn’t produce an annoying sound, with air movement being the main culprit. Power consumption is good, ranging between 27.9W and 38.3W.

If you want a room fan that won’t take up a lot of space and offers plenty of options, this is a great choice.

Buy Now: Fine Elements Oscillating Remote Control Tower Fan from £59 / $74 from Amazon

Fine Elements Mini Tower Fan

6. Fine Elements Mini Tower Fan

Pros:

  • Small
  • Efficient and quieter

Cons:

  • Fan speeds give little variation in airflow

Tower fans are a great choice where space is limited, and the Fine Elements Mini Tower Fan is the smallest model we’ve seen. Its tiny column is ideal for a desk, since the fan doesn’t take up anywhere near as much room as a traditional bladed model.

Although it has a plastic body, the Mini Tower Fan feels well made, and its matte finish makes it quite unobtrusive. Three simple controls sit on the top of the fan; the power button cycles through the two speed settings before it turns the Mini Tower Fan off. A blue LED indicates which setting you’re currently using; it’s quite bright, so you may want to put a bit of tape over the light for use in a bedroom.

It’s nice to see a sleep timer. Tapping the button lights up the indicators beneath the 1h, 2h and 4h labels. Fine Elements has used a binary system, so the sleep timer goes 1h, 2h and then 3h (1h and 2h) – and so on, up to a maximum of seven hours. Finally, there’s a button to toggle the oscillation mode on and off. As is usual for tower fans, there’s no height or pivot adjustment.

I measured the air speed of the fan at 3.4m/s at 15cm on the max setting. Moving to the lower setting, this dropped to 3.1m/s. A little more variation in fan speed would have been nice. Moving to 1.5m away, airflow dropped to 1m/s at the maximum setting and a similar 0.9m/s on the slower setting.

The Mini Tower Fan is relatively quiet. While not reaching Dyson levels, fan noise at maximum was 61.5dB at 15cm; the slower setting produced a similar 59.2dB. I didn’t find the sound annoying either, with the whoosh of air responsible for much of the noise, with little sound from the motor. This is an efficient fan, too, using 26.9W on maximum power and 19.6W on the minimum setting.

You get more control and airflow from a desktop fan, but if space is at a premium, then the Mini Tower Fan is a great alternative.

Buy Now: Fine Elements Mini Tower Fan from £20/ $30 from Amazon

Logick 16" Gun Metal Pedestal Fan

7. Logick 16″ Gun Metal Pedestal Fan

Pros:

  • Classic looks
  • Excellent price
  • Lots of airflow

Cons:

  • Needs a slower minimum speed
  • Quite noisy

As smart as tower fans and Dyson’s models can be, there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned pedestal fan. This is particularly true when the fan looks as good as the Logick 16″ Gun Metal Pedestal Fan. With its dark metal finish, this fan has a smart art-deco look to it, making it an object to appreciate in a room, not one to hide away.

Some assembly is required, but I found that the Pedestal Fan went together easily enough. The four fan blades feel a little thin to the touch, so handle them carefully as you assemble. A height adjustment between 930 and 1250mm means it’s easy to line up the Pedestal Fan, no matter whether you’re sitting at a desk or on a low sofa. A pivot option enables the fan head to be tilted down, too.

Three speed settings are available. If anything, the minimum speed is still a little fast, pushing air at a considerable speed of 3.2m/s at a distance 15cm; the max setting is only a little faster at 4.1m/s. At 1.5m, I measured the minimum setting at 1.1/m/s, and 2.3m/s at maximum.

Such high fan speeds have an impact on noise, and the Gun Metal Pedestal Fan is quite noisy: 61.5dB on the minimum setting. Power consumption is good, ranging from 37.2W to 47.6W.

Given its great price, top looks and adaptability, the Logick 16″ Gun Metal Pedestal Fan is a top choice for hot days when you need plenty of air movement. A slightly slower minimum speed would have been nice, though.

Benross Portable Air Cooler 60 Watts

8. Benross 42240 Portable Air Cooler

Pros:

  • Cools the air
  • Large water tank
  • Efficient operation

Cons:

  • Basic-looking
  • Confusing controls

If you want to cool down a room, you need something that will actually lower the air temperature. The Benross Portable Air Cooler 60 Watts can do just that. It’s an evaporative cooler that uses a 7-litre tank of water to turn dry, hot air into wet, cool air.

Since evaporative coolers are most efficient in dry climates, the Portable Air Cooler has two additional cooling methods. First, it ships with four freezer bottles that you fill with water. You can attach any bottle to a cord, and drop it into the main reservoir to cool the water before it’s evaporated. Second, there’s an ice cube tray on the rear: when full, air is expelled through the ice, cooling it further.

The Portable Air Cooler is about the same size as a bit of carry-on luggage; it looks like a portable air-conditioning unit. It’s a lot lighter, though, particularly when it’s empty of water.

Filling up is a little fiddly, as you have to pour water through the spring-loaded flap on the side. I found it easiest to use a 2-litre drinks bottle. With water consumption at 0.45 litres per hour, the 7-litre tank gives a runtime of 15hrs 30mins, which is enough to get you through a hot night.

On top of the cooler are the controls. The speed setting dial is a little confusing – it has the numbers 0 to 3 written twice. All this means is that you can turn the dial in either direction to get your speed setting. The fan vents at the front are manually controlled, letting you direct air up or down, and there’s a swing button to activate a mechanical sweep. A sleep timer lets you automatically shut off the cooler, stepping up in 10-minute intervals up to one hour.

In basic mode, it’s only the fan that operates; you need only turn on the Cooler switch to engage the evaporative cooler. I measured airflow at a speedy 5.5m/s at 15cm on maximum power, and a fast 4.6m/s on the minimum setting. Moving back 1.5m, the Portable Air Cooler managed 2m/s on the maximum setting and 1.8m/s on minimum.

Performance depends on the relative humidity. Measuring in a room with relative humidity at 50%, with an ambient temperature of 20ºC, the Portable Air Cooler output air at a temperature of 16.8ºC. This was using water, ice in the tray and an ice pack.

In terms of running costs, the Portable Air Cooler uses just 53.8W at maximum fan speed. An air conditioner will cool a humid room faster and further, and a fan is a good choice for cooling your body. If you want something low-cost to output colder air to keep the temperature of a room under control, the Benross Portable Air Cooler 60 Watts will do a good job.

Buy Now: Benross 42240 Portable Air Cooler from £44.99/ $50 from Amazon

Dyson AM08

9. Dyson AM08

Pros:

  • Very quiet
  • Easy to position
  • Smooth and comfortable airflow

Cons:

  • Few controls on the fan’s body
  • Expensive

It’s so easy to spot a Dyson fan, with the bladeless head sticking out immediately – there’s something exceptionally cool about being able to stick your head through the gap. The Dyson AM08 doesn’t only look good, it’s practical, too. With no blades on display, cleaning is just a matter of wiping a cloth around the edges. More importantly, the design uses Dyson’s Air Multiplier technology, which creates a smoother jet of air than a traditional fan.

It certainly works, and the AM08 is far more comfortable to sit in front of than a regular fan. At a distance of 15cm, it’s harder to take an air-movement reading, since the fan creates a thin blast of air from around the outside of the head. Even so, I measured air movement at 3.5m/s on the max setting and 0.8m/s on the minimum setting. Moving to 1.5m, the airflow dropped to a reasonable 1.8m/s at the max setting. Bladed fans typically have a larger drop, showing the power of the Air Multiplier system.

Since the AM08 has ten speed settings, it’s more flexible than a lot of fans, and can be adjusted for a gentle breeze to circulate air, up to a full-on gust to cool on the hottest day. Such a range in fan speeds means that the AM08 is often far quieter than a traditional fan. On the lowest setting, it measured just 40.08dB. In simple terms, you can have this fan on at all times, and it definitely won’t disturb your sleep. So many fan settings gives a great range of power usage, ranging from just 5.1W up to 50.7W.

The base has a power button only, with everything else controlled via the remote. This attaches to the top of the fan magnetically. You can use it to adjust fan speed, toggle power, turn on oscillation mode and use the sleep time mode (from 15 minutes to nine hours). The AM08 is height adjustable and has a pivot. In both cases, you just pull or push the fan where you want it to go, and there are no fiddly controls or thumbscrews. If you want the most flexible pedestal fan, this is the model to buy – but it is quite expensive.

Buy Now: Dyson AM08 from £325/ $365 from Amazon

Dyson Pure Cool Tower

Pros:

  • Quiet and automatic operation
  • Smooth air output
  • Reversible airflow
  • Provides lots of information about air quality

Cons:

  • Comparatively expensive
  • Few onboard controls

As with Dyson’s other Pure models, the Pure Cool Tower is also an air purifier, cleaning your air as well as cooling it. This time around, Dyson has improved the filter design, making it easier to replace, and has introduced a new mode that blows air backwards, so you can use the purification mode without a blast of cold air. That’s great news if you want to use the Pure Cool Tower in Winter, too.

A screen on the front shows you the current air quality level, so you don’t have to dive into the app as with older models. The app is useful, though, giving you complete fan control, including choosing the oscillation angle: 45, 90, 180 and 350 degrees. And, there’s Alexa integration if you want to turn the fan on using your voice.

I measured air speed at 1.6m/sec at 1 metre and 3.7m/sec at 15cm. With the thin push of air from the fan head’s thin blade, this air is less intrusive and buffeting than with a traditional fan. Of course, this fan is very quiet: 40.2dB on minimum speed at 1 metre and just 62.2dB at maximum speed.

If you want to keep your air clean throughout the year, but have something to cool you in the hotter months, this intelligent connected fan is the model to buy.

Those are our picks of the best fans. If you want to know more about choosing the right model, read on.

Fan buying guide

Best fans – Can a fan cool a room?

A fan can’t change a room’s temperature; it merely circulates air. However, the breeze from a fan on your body aids sweat evaporation, which makes you cooler. In humid environments, fans don’t work so well, as less sweat evaporates. For this reason, you may want to think about buying a dehumidifier, too, which will improve a fan’s performance and make your room feel more comfortable. The increased air circulation can also stop a room from feeling stuffy.

To actually cool a room you need something that can lower the air temperature. Air conditioning is the main option in this instance, but a second option is to use an evaporative cooler. These feature a tank of water, which slowly evaporates to help cool the air, and work best in dry, hot climates.

Best fans – Which fan type is for you?

Desktop fans are the traditional models. These let you tilt the fan to direct airflow; you turn on the oscillation mode to let the fan sweep from side to side.

Pedestal fans look like tall desktop fans, and are designed to stand on the floor. Typically, they have larger blades, so take up more room, but this makes them more powerful. With most models offering height adjustment, in addition to pivot and oscillation, pedestal fans are easier to configure for the perfect cooling breeze.

Tower fans take up very little floor space and blow air out of a tall column. For the reduction in size you do sacrifice some power, and you don’t get height or pivot adjustments either – just oscillation. As a result, you may need to use a tower fan closer to you, but they’re a great choice where space is at a premium.

Best fans – What other options should I look for?

Noise is important, particularly if you want to sleep with a fan turned on. We’ve measured every fan’s sound levels at both maximum and minimum to help you decide.

A fan with a remote control can be a good option if you want to adjust settings on the fly. This is particularly true in the bedroom, where you may not want to get out of bed to turn off your fan. On that note, look for a fan with a sleep timer so that it will shut off after a set time.

More advanced options on high-end fans include air filters to help clean the air, or heating elements so that you can keep warm in the winter.