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12 best fans for keeping cool this summer

·16-min read
Choose from different modes, hi-tech designs and smaller, portable options (The Independent)
Choose from different modes, hi-tech designs and smaller, portable options (The Independent)

Fans have come a long way over the past 10 years. Gone are the rubber-bladed, handheld horrors the cool kids touted at school, and the whirring monstrosities rolled out to cool our homes once the summer heatwaves kicked in.

Today’s fans are slick, silent and stylish, capable of cooling a wide range of rooms with minimal noise and with versatile modes which allow us to crank up the cooling depending on the setting.

We’re pleased to report we had the perfect testing conditions. Namely, a baking-hot week in June and a two-storey house with very different requirements, including a first-floor office with minimal space, and a large living room prone to greenhouse-like heat retention.

There were multiple revelations. We gained a whole new appreciation for portability – fans that can be quickly moved from one room to another are a godsend. We also realised just how handy it is to have settings designed for night use – not just because these allowed us to programme the fan to shut down after a certain amount of time, but because of other night time-specific aspects that minimise the risk of disturbance, whether it’s reduced screen brightness on digital displays or special, ultra-quiet modes.

A top tip to supercharge air circulation while keeping your home deliciously cool? “To really reduce the temperature of a room, you’ll need two windows in the room and two fans,” says Chris Michael, managing director of air conditioner manufacturer Meaco. “Point one out of one window to exhaust the hot air and the second one near another window to circulate fresh cool air. This works best when the outside temperature is cooler than the indoor temperature and it’s also a great way of keeping germs at bay when meeting friends indoors.”

Read more:

The best cooling fans for 2021 are:

  • Best for powerful cooling – Tower Scandi 16in metal pedestal fan grey: £59.99, Towerhousewares.co.uk

  • Best for low noise levels – Duux whisper flex smart fan: £153.96, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for high-tech homes – Boneco F220 air shower floor fan: £159.99, Dunelm.com

  • Best for desks – Tower 12in metal desk fan copper: £38.99, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for style – Russell Hobbs Scandi desk fan in white and wood effect: £43.99, Russellhobbs.com

  • Best for gadget geeks – Dyson purifier cool purifying fan: £499.99, Dyson.co.uk

  • Best for fun – Menkind LED clock fan stand: £12, Menkind.co.uk

  • Best for stylish lounges – Russell Hobbs Scandi pedestal fan in black and wood effect: £74.99, Very.co.uk

  • Best for children and teenagers – MeacoFan 260c cordless air circulator: £29.99, Beaconelectrical.co.uk

  • Best for large spaces – Swan 16in desk fan: £44.99, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for lounges – Swan silence 16in stand fan: £74.99, Swan-brand.co.uk

  • Best for versatility – Beldray high velocity floor fan 16in: £35, Wilko.com

Tower Scandi 16in metal pedestal fan grey

Best: For powerful cooling

  • Speed settings: Three

  • Format: Floor

  • Oscillation: Yes

  • Timer: No

This is a fan that is incredibly easy to put together – with a few turns of a crosshead screwdriver it was complete. It’s incredibly sturdy, with a wide base which allows it to strike the perfect balance between being top-heavy and too light (it seems somewhat ironic that so many pedestal fans topple over with the first hint of a breeze), and simple controls – push the button on the top and the fan will move from side to side (it tilts upwards and downwards, too) or scroll between three-speed settings. It’s also surprisingly quiet – we tested it during a particularly nail-biting episode of Corrie and could easily hear Fiz’s caustic rebukes to cheating Tyrone. Finally, we love its portability, thanks to a wire handle and an extending mechanism which means the upper section of the supporting arm won’t pop out if you pull it too enthusiastically.

Buy now £59.99, Towerhousewares.co.uk

Duux whisper flex smart fan

Best: For low noise levels

  • Speed settings: 26

  • Format: Floor

  • Oscillation: Yes

  • Timer: Yes

This is the quietest fan we’ve come across – even when blasting us with powerful gusts of deliciously chilled air (the power settings range from zero to 26), it was wonderfully quiet. Rather than being extendable, this remote control fan can be shortened by simply removing a segment from the main supporting arm. We loved the ease with which we could tweak the controls, using either the app, the remote control (for which you’ll need to purchase a battery) or the ingenious dial on the base. Simply press the dial, which doubles as an LED display (the latter is in the dial’s centre) then tweak the settings, whether you’re cranking up the power or activating one of its brilliant modes, such as the night setting, which doesn’t just mean lower noise levels, but a dimmed screen and a quieter beep. The best bit? Not only is it wonderfully easy to assemble but the crosshead screwdriver you’ll need comes with the fan. The packaging is pretty sustainable, too – there was no plastic, only paper and fabric coverings for the individual components.

Buy now £153.96, Amazon.co.uk

Boneco F220 air shower floor fan

Best: For high-tech homes

  • Speed settings: Four

  • Format: Floor

  • Oscillation: No

  • Timer: No

The first thing that came to mind when we saw this fan? A stormtrooper – and we’re pretty sure any self-respecting Star Wars fan will agree with that sentiment. It’s seriously sleek, with a monochrome, minimalistic design stabilised by an ultra-sturdy base. It’s also the easiest fan to assemble – you don’t need any tools, and the separate parts simply click together, making it ideal for storage. A dial handily placed atop the main support pole (why aren’t more dials placed in such logical spots?) makes it easy to flick between the four settings, and it can be manually rotated to cover 270 degrees. However, this is another fan that covers a huge area even when left pointing in one direction. It’s also incredibly quiet – we’re somewhat sensitive to noisy fans but we were more than happy to leave this going during a four-hour Netflix binge.

Buy now £159.99, Dunelm.com

Tower 12in metal desk fan copper

Best: For desks

  • Speed settings: Three

  • Format: Desk

  • Oscillation: Yes

  • Timer: No

There’s a supersized dose of retro styling to this beautiful desk fan, with its lustrous copper finish and sculpture-like blades. Its size – it’s got a compact base but large, wide blades – makes it more than capable of dealing with a range of room sizes, from corner workspaces to larger offices. The three settings are more than enough to cover all bases, whether you’re using it in the evening to cool down sweatbox-like bedrooms or to boost airflow in rooms with less efficient air circulation. As well as the choice of three-speed settings, we could plump for left-right oscillation across an 80-degree angle. Although there are fans that have wider oscillating angles, its efficiency means that if you choose to use it in a fixed position, it’s more than capable of quickly cooling larger areas.

Buy now £38.99, Amazon.co.uk

Russell Hobbs Scandi desk fan in white and wood effect

Best: For style

  • Speed settings: Three

  • Format: Desk

  • Oscillation: Yes

  • Timer: No

Since when did wood effect fans become a thing? Either way, it’s a development we’re somewhat smitten with, and this stylish 12-inch-wide fan is a brilliant example. With four wooden blades that look like they’ve been whittled from Swedish spruce, it’s a short squat fan that is perfectly suited to desks, although the ultra-efficient blades (modelled on the aerofoil design on plane wings, apparently), combined with three-speed settings and an oscillating function allow it to effortlessly cool larger spaces, too.

Buy now £43.99, Russellhobbs.com

Dyson purifier cool purifying fan

Best: For gadget geeks

  • Speed settings: 10

  • Format: Floor

  • Oscillation: Yes

  • Timer: Yes

Although we’re standing by our assertion that this Dyson fan will be a hit with gadget geeks, we’re keen to emphasise its broad appeal. It’s incredibly hi-tech but simple to use and assemble – no tools required. It’s controlled using an app and remote (there’s also an on/off button on the fan itself), and does much, much more than the average fan, not only helping to cool the air but clean it too. But don’t take our word for it – simply glance at the digital display which lists data relating to everything from air quality and temperature to humidity and tree pollen presence. Although it looks similar to its predecessors, Dyson recently updated the fan’s tech, adding HEPA H13 filtration (it’s also 20 per cent quieter) which means it captures 99.95 per cent of pollutants as small as 0.1 microns. Its bladeless fan technology means it’s wonderfully quiet and takes up minimal space – we enjoyed a blissful, cool night after placing it in the corner of a hot first-floor bedroom and switching it to night mode, which meant low noise levels and a dimmed screen.

Buy now £499.99, Dyson.co.uk

Menkind LED clock fan stand

Best: For fun

  • Speed settings: One

  • Format: Desk

  • Oscillation: No

  • Timer: No

Keen to avoid clutter? Then this Menkind fan is for you, which has combined two bedroom essentials – a bedside fan and a clock – to create a USB-powered gadget guaranteed to supercharge your summer. Don’t panic about the lack of protection either – the blades are made of soft rubber, and the flexible neck means you can change the direction of the air flow in a nano-second. Easily disturbed by annoyingly bright LED displays? You’ll be pleased to know that the clock only appears once the fan is in motion – activate both by flicking the tiny switch on the base of the fan.

Buy now £10.00, Menkind.co.uk

Russell Hobbs Scandi pedestal fan in black and wood effect

Best: For stylish lounges

  • Speed settings: Three

  • Format: Floor

  • Oscillation: Yes

  • Timer: No

Say hello to another wooden wonder from Russell Hobbs, which is on a mission to alleviate the stress of sweaty summers with its gorgeous pedestal fan. The Scandi style doesn’t just apply to the main support – the curved blades and the centre of the fan are both oak-effect too. Although a certain amount of assembly is required (but nothing too taxing, and that’s coming from a tester who struggles to replace batteries in toys), it’s absolutely worth the effort. The tilt range is wider than on most fans, and the three-speed settings did a great job of cooling a sauna-like living room on a swelteringly hot day.

Buy now £74.99, Very.co..uk

MeacoFan 260c cordless air circulator

Best: For children and teenagers

Speed settings: Four

This fan was a reminder that we should never make assumptions based on appearances. Despite the overload of white plastic, there’s something subtly stylish about this minimalistic fan, which has become a staple of our first-floor office. USB-powered fans are increasingly popular, but we’d bet our bottom dollar that you won’t find one as powerful as this. Four settings (stick to the more-than-adequate lowest one and you’ll barely hear it), ridiculously simple controls (the single button on the base acts as an on/off switch but also allows users to scroll through the modes) and a bafflingly low weight (just 490g) makes it one of the most versatile small fans we’ve come across. It’s particularly suitable for children’s bedrooms, partly because of the great blade protection and the ingenious nightlight at the base.

Buy now £29.99, Beaconelectrical.co.uk

Swan 16in desk fan

Best: For large spaces

  • Speed settings: Two

  • Format: Desk

  • Oscillation: Yes

  • Timer: No

This is a brilliant fan for anyone wanting to cool large spaces in record time. It’s extremely quiet, producing 60dB in turbo (read: strangely-enjoyable tornado) mode and just 42dB in silent mode, and with a turbo setting and a silent setting alongside two speeds, it’s easy to adjust the power depending on your requirements. The combination of the fan’s 16in diameter and the 60W motor allows it to cool large rooms quickly, but its ergonomic design, courtesy of its squat build and surprising lightness, means it’s easy to move from room to room. We also love the simple controls, which take the form of a chunky bright dial on the front of the base. This one is currently out of stock, but the smaller 12in version (£49.99, Swan-brand.co.uk) is currently available.

Buy now £44.99, Amazon.co.uk

Swan silence 16in stand fan

Best: For lounges

  • Speed settings: Three

  • Format: Floor

  • Oscillation: Yes

  • Timer: Yes

This became the most important fixture in our very hot lounge during one of the hottest weeks in June, although its lightweight design meant we could simply move it into our bedroom at night time when we relied on the timer setting (choose to leave it going for anywhere from between 30 minutes to 7.5 hours). If we’re honest, we’d like this fan to accompany us everywhere we go. It’s powerful and stylish, with three modes and three settings, all of which can be programmed using the tiny remote control. It’s also one of the more compact fans we’ve come across, with a slim but sturdy extendable main support. The timer setting makes it a brilliant option for bedtime and we also loved the control panel mounted on the fan – it’s refreshingly simple to use and its angled design makes for unbeatable accessibility. Owing to demand, this is not currently available, but you can sign up to be notified by email when it’s back in stock.

Buy now £74.99, Swan-brand.co.uk

Beldray high velocity floor fan 16in

Best: For versatility

  • Speed settings: Three

  • Format: Floor

  • Oscillation: No

  • Timer: No

Yes, this resembles the kind of wind machine fans used on the set of Hollywood films, but there’s something undeniably stylish about the glossy chrome finish and precision-engineered blades. Its short squat design makes it one of the most stable floor fans we’ve come across, although its tilting head – partnered with three speeds – means it’s great at chilling large, open-plan areas as well as specific areas of smaller rooms.

Buy now £35.00, Wilko.com

Fan FAQs

What are the most common types of fan?

Tower fans: These tall, thin fans have an oscillating cooling device stretching vertically. They are good for cooling down a whole room while taking up very little floor space.

Stand or pedestal fan: These floor fans feature a traditional cooling unit that sits on an adjustable stand. Many allow you to direct the airflow to where it’s needed.

Desk fan: These compact styles are designed to sit straight on your tabletop and offer a short-range directional airflow for personal cooling. They are both space and cost efficient.

Handheld fan: Great for travelling, you can slip these battery-operated fans into your pocket or handbag and bring them out as required.

Ceiling fan: These fans, which consist of a rotating blade that hangs from the ceiling, circulate air at different speeds whenever required. Great for those who want a more permanent option.

Bladeless fan: Available as freestanding or desk varieties, these new-age fans work with an electric motor that pulls air in through small vents in the base, then forces it upwards and out at high speeds through the circular ring above. Good for efficiency, modern looks and safety.

What features should I look out for?

Oscillating: Instead of focusing the air in a single direction, oscillating fans sweep the airflow across the room. Some fans give you the option of different oscillation patterns and speeds.

Speed settings: Most fans have at least three settings so you can adjust the amount of cool air you get, with some offering significantly more.

Adjustable height and angle: This is particularly useful if the fan doesn’t have oscillating capabilities.

Timer: A programmable timer enables you to set your fan to start and stop running at certain times – great if you want to come back to a cool house after work.

Auto shut-off: A useful safety feature, particularly if you’re likely to fall asleep with the fan running.

Remote control: A great solution if you don’t want to get up to change the speed, set the timer or auto shut-off.

Noise output: While some people can easily ignore the white noise of a fan, others find it highly irritating, especially in bedrooms, so you might want to look for a model designed to be quiet.

Size and weight: This is important to consider if you want a fan that is easily transportable and that you’re able to store away in the winter months.

Built-in heater: Some fans combine heating and cooling capabilities in a single model. You’ll pay more for it, but it will save you the trouble of buying a separate heater in wintertime.

Built-in air purifier: This can be a saviour for people who have allergies to pollen or dust, although be warned it will increase the price tag.

Safety: If you have young children or pets, it’s worth bearing in mind the hazards of getting fingers or paws caught in the blades of a full-speed traditional style fan.

The verdict: Cooling fans

We were blown away (excuse the pun) by Tower’s Scandi 16 inch metal pedestal fan, which ticked all the boxes without any compromise: it did a brilliant job of keeping us feeling as cool as this pedestal fan looked, and it was both incredibly light and refreshingly easy to assemble. Duux’s whisper flex smart fan is one the quietest fans we’ve come across, and did a brilliant job of cooling larger areas while being incredibly easy to use, thanks partly to the presence of a slickly engineered app and a remote control. Finally, there’s Dunelm’s boneco F220 air shower floor fan, which is one of the most stylish fans on the market, and – especially for such a compact fan – was surprisingly efficient at keeping the largest of rooms wonderfully cool.

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