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5 mistakes you might be making with your electric fan

Read our top tips for using your electric fan to keep cool at home in the hot weather

5 mistakes you might be making with your electric fan

Temperatures are set to stay high all week. While that might be great news if you’re heading to a park or pub garden, it’s a different story if you’re stuck in a warm, stuffy home. 

A good electric fan can work wonders by wicking heat and sweat away from your body. But, to get the most out of it, you should be strategic about how and when you use it.

Here are our top five tips for making sure you’re using your electric fan properly.


Still looking for the perfect electric fan to keep you cool? Jump straight to our electric fan reviews to discover the best.


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1. Not thinking about where you’re placing your fan

We surveyed* hundreds of people who own electric fans – and we know that most owners aren’t making the most of their fan.

  • 84% told us that they don’t place their fan next to a window to draw in colder air from the outside
  • 93% told us they don’t use two electric fans to create a crosswind.

However, both of these can be sensible things to do, so long as you get it right.

If the air is cooler outside than inside – usually in the evenings – you can place your fan next to an open window, facing into the room, and it will draw cool air into your home.

If you have another window open at the same time, a fan facing that window will push the hot air out.

This isn’t worth doing if it’s hotter outside than in, though, as you’ll be drawing hot air into your home.

You shouldn’t point a fan directly at your body, according to Public Health England.

2. Pre-cooling your room ready for sleep, or running your fan overnight

Woman struggling to sleep in hot weatherRunning your electric fan in your bedroom to pre-cool your room before bedtime might seem like a good idea, but you’re actually just wasting energy. Fans don’t cool a room: they move air around, which helps cool your body. If you’re not in the room, there’s no benefit to leaving the fan on.

Don’t leave your fan on while you sleep either. Safety organisation Electrical Safety First says that you shouldn’t leave your fan running overnight or while you’re out (and, as we said before, leaving your fan on when you’re not at home is pointless).

Some people also find that running a fan in their bedroom overnight dries their mouth and nasal passages, and that the noise keeps them awake anyway.

If necessary, choose one with a timer, and set it to turn off after a short period of time.

Other ways get a better night’s sleep in a heatwave include:

  • avoiding exercise in the few hours before bed, as exercise will increase your body temperature
  • having a cool or lukewarm shower before bed, or simply soaking your feet in cold water
  • avoiding hot, heavy, spicy meals before bed
  • wearing lightweight pyjamas or a nightdress, made from natural fibres
  • using lightweight, cotton sheets. Leave your feet out, if you can, as you’ll lose heat more quickly through your extremities
  • going to bed and getting up at the same time each day so that your body gets into a pattern. Take only a short nap (and in the early, rather than late, afternoon) if you feel sluggish after lunch and need a siesta.

Find out more about sleeping better, including the pros and cons of tracking your sleep with a fitness tracker.


3. Forgetting to clean before setting your fan up for summer

It’s wise to dust and vacuum before you set up your fan for summer.

As a fan circulates air around a room, any dust or pollen that’s in the air will be circulated too: not what you want if you suffer from allergies.

Like any other object, fans can gather dust when not in use – the built-up dust will be circulated round the room when you switch the fan on.

If you’re using your fan for the first time in a while, give it a quick clean. Instructions will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer (you may need to unscrew the back of the fan to access the blades), but will normally involve using a soft dry cloth to wipe the blades.

Make sure you don’t accidentally bend the blades or get liquid in the motor.

You can help lessen your workload by storing your fan in its box or bag to protect it from dust in autumn and winter.

Some fans can’t be opened up for cleaning, which isn’t ideal for allergy sufferers. All our Best Buy electric fans can be cleaned without too much effort.

4. Not putting ice or cold water in front of your fan

Ice cubes in a bowlSome of our survey respondents told us they put a bucket of ice or cold water in front of their fan. If you’re not doing this, you’re missing a trick, as the fan will push air over the ice, cooling the air as it passes over it.

You’re basically getting your fan to work a bit like an air conditioner, where ice absorbs heat from the air. This won’t be as effective as using an air conditioner, but it’s both cheaper and friendlier to the environment than buying an air conditioner.

5. Choosing the wrong type of fan

There are two main types of fan: desk fan and tower or pedestal fans. We test both types (but not ceiling fans, as they’re a rare sight in UK homes).

Desk fans are designed to be placed on a desk or table. A desk fan will cool you down if you’re right next to it, but it won’t create a strong breeze – otherwise it would be blowing all your papers about.

A pedestal or tower fan stands on the ground, and is designed to cover a whole room.

Pedestal fanA few fans can extend into a pedestal fan or collapse into a desk fan, although not many. Only 2% of the electric fan owners we surveyed had one of these.

Make sure you buy the right type of fan for your living situation.

If there are two of you working from home at separate desks in the same room, for example, you may well need two desk fans, or a tower or a pedestal fan.

It might sound obvious, but no one wants to spend the summer fighting over who gets the desk fan.

Fridge freezers have a tendency to break down in hot weather. If yours is suffering, we’ll help you choose the best for your budget – see our fridge freezer reviews.

Working from home with an electric fan

Electric fans and Covid-19

As a final point, you may be wondering whether it’s safe to use an electric fan at present.

If you’re meeting others inside, keep windows open and follow the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance on using electric fans at home during the pandemic.

The WHO says: ‘Air blowing from an infected person directly at another person in a closed space increases the risk of the virus spreading from one person to another.

‘If Covid-19 is circulating in your community and the use of a table or pedestal fan is unavoidable, it is important to regularly bring in air from outside by opening windows or doors, while minimizing how much air blows from one person (or group of people) to another person (or group of people).’

There’s much less risk of catching Covid-19 from meeting someone outside than inside, of course.

Public Health England advice on coping with heat and Covid-19 states that you shouldn’t use a fan if anyone in your home has Covid-19 symptoms.

Find out everything you need to know about buying an electric fan.

*Survey: 700 Which? members who own electric fan owners, March 2021

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