How to buy the best electric fan
A good electric fan will create a pleasant breeze to make a hot or stuffy room feel much more bearable.
We run through all the key things to consider when you're choosing a cooling fan, including the type of fan you need, the features that matter and whether it's worth splashing out on a Dyson electric fan.
Do I need a desk fan or a tower fan?
Electric fans fall into one of the following types:
Desk fans are compact models, designed to sit on your desk (as the name suggests) and to cool you down without blowing away all your papers.
Desk fans are generally cheaper than tower fans (unless you're going for an expensive brand) and could be the best choice if you only need a fan to cool a small area.
Pedestal and tower fans
Pedestal or tower fans are likely to be a better choice if you're looking for a fan to cover a whole room, such as your living room or bedroom. These are more likely to come with a remote control so you can change the settings from a distance.
They're larger and bulkier than desk fans, so you'll need to have the floor space to fit one in without constantly tripping over it, plus the storage space to tuck it away when you don't need it.
Pedestal fans look very similar to large desk fans, but with a taller base, while tower fans are shaped like a column.
You can also buy ceiling fans, like those you might see in an office or hotel room, but we don't test these as they're not commonly used in UK homes.
Which? electric fan tests
We put desk and tower/pedestal fans through exactly the same tests. However, because they're designed to serve slightly different purposes, we evaluate the results slightly differently for desk fans vs tower/pedestal fans.
Some electric fans are designed to either compress into a desk fan, or extend into a pedestal fan; we evaluate these as pedestal fans.
How much should I pay for an electric fan?
Electric fans can vary dramatically in price.
The cheapest electric fans cost less than a tenner for a basic model with just two or three speed settings and no extra features.
Whatever price you pay, your new fan could prove little more than scrap metal if it doesn't do a good job of cooling down the areas you need it to, so read our reviews to avoid buying an expensive (or even a cheap) dud.
Best electric fans: features to look out for
Having a choice of fan speeds is really useful; of all the features listed here, it's the one most worth paying more for.
More control over the air movement means you're more likely to be comfortable, and not feel either irritated by a too-powerful blast (and the accompanying noise) nor to feel like your fan isn't doing anything to cool you.
Light dimming mode
Some electric fans give you the option to dim any lights at night. This could be handy if you plan on running a fan in your bedroom while you sleep.
A couple of lights are less likely to keep you awake than an electric fan that's too noisy, though, which is why we check for fan quietness in our tests.
Fan oscillation function
If the fan turns from side to side, it can distribute air across a wider area. This should also be high up on your list of features to look out for, although it's unusual for a fan not to offer this.
This gives you the ability to adjust the settings without moving from your sofa or bed; it's arguably more important for pedestal or tower fans that are designed to cool a whole room.
Some electric fans allow you to store the remote tidily away on the fan itself. We wouldn't say this is essential, but it's a nice extra if you're prone to losing things.
A fan timer allows you to set the electric fan to automatically switch on or off after a set period of time – handy if you want to save on energy by having the fan turn itself off once you've fallen asleep, for example.
Should I buy a Dyson electric fan?
These fans are blade-free, doing away with the risk of hair or fingers getting trapped in rotating blades, and both feature what Dyson calls Air Multiplier technology. This is designed to direct an even airflow across the room, so one part of the room doesn't end up significantly breezier than another.
They come with Quiet Mark accreditation, meaning the UK Noise Abatement Society charitable foundation has given them its seal of approval.
They also have a sleep timer and remote control, and are designed to be easy to clean and to offer smoother oscillation.
Electric fans vs air conditioners
The best electric fans create a refreshing breeze that will make you feel cooler – however, they don't actually cool the air in your home.
If a breeze alone just isn't enough on the hottest days of the year, you could consider investing in a portable air conditioner instead.
These pump out cooled air, so will reduce the temperature inside your home.
Some of them also come with features such as dehumidification and smart control (from your smartphone app), both of which can be useful extra features – though if dehumidification is your top priority, take a look at our reviews of the .
Downsides of portable air conditioners
Portable air conditioners are usually more expensive than fans; the cheapest we've tested costs more than £300.
Be aware, too, that portable air conditioners are hefty, bulky appliances that can take up a lot of space; not ideal if your home is on the small side. They can be a faff to set up too, and the hot air needs to be vented out via a hose, so you'll need a suitable window for the hose to go through.
Realistically, British weather being as unpredictable as it is, many people will be better off with an electric fan that can be more easily tucked into a cupboard when it's not needed.
Which? electric fan reviews
What electric fans claim they can do, and how effectively they deliver against these claims, can be different things. This is where our reviews come in.
We've tested electric fans from popular brands including Dyson, Meaco and Honeywell.
Our lab experts put each fan through its paces to make sure they'll do a great job of keeping you cool and refreshed. Our test criteria include:
- The range of fan speeds available
- How pleasant the breeze is
- How noisy a fan is
- How easy a fan is to use
- Whether a fan is safe to use.