Best of the Test

The Best Room Fans to Keep You Cool

From tabletop to tower fans, here’s to keeping your chill.

March 16, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

Welcome to Best of the Test, a thoroughly tested, expertly vetted, only semi-serious product recommendation series. Join us as we sleep with a dozen different bed sheets, make gallons of ice, air fry all the wings, and more in pursuit of the very best things to buy.

I never thought much about room fans until my husband and I experienced a weeklong power outage in the middle of summer…right after we moved into our house and before we’d learned that our generator was not powering our air-conditioning. It was unbearably stuffy, and opening our windows made things even muggier. In a moment of desperation, we went to the nearest Home Depot and grabbed the first fan we saw—or rather, the only one that was left on the shelves, because our neighbors were quicker at the draw than we were.

Cut to a few years later, and I’m surrounded by fans of about every style and budget as I research and test room fans and air circulators for the latest edition of Best of the Test—and just in time for the warm weather that’s heading our way. I’m still no cooling expert after weeks of windburn, but at least I’ll know which fan we should buy if we lose power again.

How we tested the best fans

I identified the most common types of modern room fans—tower fans, tabletop fans, box fans, and air circulators—and researched the best-sellers from our readers’ favorite online stores—Amazon, Walmart, The Home Depot, and Wayfair. I don’t have the proper wiring or equipment to install and test ceiling or wall-mounted fans, so those weren’t a part of my testing pool. I also polled our community and checked in with Schoolhouse merchandise manager Jess Callantine for her favorite room fan as well.

After weeding out popular room fans that had sketchy reviews and ratings (which can be paid for), I ultimately tested seven fans over several weeks. With each one, I noted first impressions, prices, and online availability (because supply chain issues), as well as the parameters below.

Ease of setup, use, and cleaning: For fans that needed to be assembled, I put together each one, noting the time it took and how easy it was. For the ones that didn’t, I just plugged ’em in. As I tested each fan, I noted noise levels, how easy it was to switch between speeds, if I needed to adjust the fan’s position to get the right comfort level, and any special features like predetermined run times or oscillation. I also took the fans apart to see how easy it’d be to clean them, though there wasn’t a need to actually clean them out after just a few weeks.

Noise level: I set each fan on its highest setting, stood about 10 feet away, and measured the decibel output with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Sound Level Meter (NIOSH SLM) app. It’s a free app developed by acoustics engineers and hearing loss experts, and I decided to use it instead of buying a sound level meter because, let’s be real—it’s much more likely that folks will use a free and accurate app than buy a gadget that’d get misplaced after being used once.

Literally how cool I felt: I used each fan for three consecutive days in my living room that also doubles as my home office, keeping them about 10 feet away for a real-life setup and consistency throughout testing. For the tabletop styles, I placed them on a folding chair from the same distance because my desk just isn’t that long. For reference, I have a 70.5-inch Autonomous SmartDesk Core that has enough space to fit two monitors—it’s wide but not wide enough. During the testing period, I noted how cool I was (and in some cases, just downright cold), and if nearby papers went flying around to gauge how wide the breeze was dispersed.

Of the fans that I tested for this guide, three didn’t make the cut. I was able to test one air purifying fan, but since there's nothing to compare it to, I look forward to testing more in future updates to this story. There also aren’t any runners-up this time around because of a more limited testing pool (hello, supply chain issues) and because there are several different sizes of each of our top picks based on your needs and preferences. Same-same, but different, you know?

For the TL;DR version of our testing and results, check out this handy chart below. For all the deets, keep on reading.

Photo by Angelyn Cabrales

1. Best tower fan: Lasko Wind Curve 42" Oscillating Tower Fan

Photo by Lasko

Price: $66.99
Noise Level on High: Like a robot vac doing its rounds
Oscillates: Yes

Quiet, easy to use, and sleek (well, as far as tall tubular appliances are concerned), this Lasko tower fan quickly became one of my favorites to test. There are several best-selling Lasko Wind Curve models online at stores like Amazon and The Home Depot, but this was the best of the best in terms of ratings across various retailers. If you’re looking for something that might blend into your space more, this one is all black save for a faux-wood accent.

Setting up the Lasko Wind Curve took all of 5 minutes—just screw in the circular base, plug in the fan, and select your speed. Because tower fans are a bit more tech-forward than others, it comes with a small remote and has special features like a timer and fresh-air ionizer (the latter of which I tested and felt no obvious difference when it was on). The remote and timer mode came in handy during testing—I didn’t have to get up to turn it on/off or switch speed settings throughout the day. Call me lazy, but I prefer efficiency. That efficiency would come back to haunt me as I tried to take the tower fan apart to clean it. The brand doesn’t recommend taking out the panel and instead suggests vacuuming the griddles and using compressed air to remove dust every two to three weeks. But plenty of reviewers do it anyway—and, of course, I did, too. You’ll need a star screwdriver or bit to take off the back panel and clean the filter more efficiently. It’s a specialized head for electronics, but one that comes with most screwdriver bit starter sets—and it’s way cheaper than replacing an entire tower fan.

The front griddle is pretty narrow to prevent injury, but be aware that the taller height could do more damage to the floor or little ones should it topple over. On the other hand, since tower fans are inherently taller than most other styles (besides old-school pedestal fans), the room generally felt cooler while testing the Lasko, because more air was being circulated. The wider distribution also made the breeze feel more gentle and pleasant than being on the receiving end of strong gusts of air; papers were ruffled but never fully blew up, up, and away. The oscillating tower is smooth and quiet, and you have the option to keep it static, too.

This Lasko tower fan sounds like your trusty robot vacuum when it’s on high; on low, it’s just above the low hum of your fridge. It registered the highest at 58.3 decibels on the NIOSH app when I stood about 10 feet away from the fan; the noise isn’t obtrusive, and you’ll likely forget the fan is on after a while. See? Told you the timer function would come in handy.

2. Best tabletop fan: Vornado VFAN Jr. Vintage Air Circulator Fan

Photo by Amazon

Price: $59.99
Noise Level on High: Like your fave white noise
Oscillates: No

When it comes to tabletop fans, it needs to look good and work well, too—and this cute lil' Vornado VFAN Jr. Vintage Air Circulator Fan fits the bill. The old-school look hasn’t changed much from the original Vornado fan from the 1940s, though the griddles on the front and back of the fan have gotten narrower to prevent injury to little fingers. The mint green color is also true to the original design, but the white and chrome are just as easy on the eyes. This is the one fan where I feel comfortable saying that it’d fit into any room’s vibe.

There’s no assembly needed for this tabletop fan—just plug in, choose one of two settings, and chill out. Disassembly for cleaning, however, requires a small Phillips screwdriver and an Allen wrench. Once the griddles are taken out, compressed air or a damp cloth should get rid of dust easily.

If you need to adjust the fan’s position, pivot the fan head up or down; the mechanism is smooth and allows for a full 360-degree turn. Unfortunately, it doesn’t oscillate left to right, but you can easily turn the slim base if you need—the rubber feet won’t scratch your table. Unlike the Lasko tower fan, there’s no timer, so you’ll have to turn it on and off manually. Since the controls are on the back of the fan, you’ll want to place it a bit away from a wall to be able to reach around easily.

Even on the highest of the two settings at 10 feet away, the VFAN Jr. sounded like a white noise machine—subtle and almost hypnotic—and the breeze was just strong enough to feel cool but not whipping my skin or nearby papers. It was also by far the quietest fan I tested, at just 44.7 decibels, which OSHA categorizes as just barely above a whisper from 5 feet away.

The VFAN Jr. is available at a lot of online stores such as Amazon, Walmart, and Kohl's, and there are also several styles in the VFAN line, from mini tabletop sizes to taller pedestal styles that all work and look the same. The Jr. should be a great size for most rooms because it doesn’t take up too much space and still moves enough air in the room to cool you down; anything smaller might be more decorative than functional. But maybe that’s not a bad thing with a design like this?

3. Best box fan: Lasko 20 in. Power Plus Box Fan

Photo by The Home Depot

Price: $29.98
Noise Level on High: Like a hair dryer
Oscillates: No

While it doesn’t get any points for aesthetics, this Lasko box fan is the most powerful that I tested. It’s also the loudest at about 58 decibels on high from 10 feet away, which I thought sounded almost like a hair dryer—and because it tangled my hair and blew half a ream of printer paper I had on the floor. Because of its power, I had to wear a bathrobe while testing on high, so I kept it on low for most of the time.

You can use the fan right out of the box, like with the Vornado VFAN Jr., and to clean, just remove the Phillips screws on the four corners. It comes with two plastic feet you can clip at the bottom for extra stability. I didn’t experience any shaking without using the feet on the highest setting, and I don’t have kids or pets who’d push it over, but it doesn’t hurt to have that peace of mind. The last thing you want when even thinking about moving makes you sweat is to, well, move to pick up the fallen fan.

The handle and light weight makes it easy to transport between rooms or reposition as needed, though I never moved it from the corner during testing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t oscillate like its cousin, the tower fan, but because of its large 20-inch frame, the breeze was pretty wide and kept me cool throughout the day, despite being tucked into a corner.

I also tested the Lasko 20 In. 3 Speed Box Fan, another popular and more wallet-friendly model with an extremely similar name, and it was fine all around. It’s a good option if you can’t find the Power Plus (which seems to be only currently available at The Home Depot), though I definitely recommend using it with the feet for stability—it was pretty shaky on the highest setting.

4. Best affordable fan: Honeywell HT-900 TurboForce Air Circulator

Photo by Amazon

Price: $18.99
Noise Level on High: Like a microwave before it starts beeping
Oscillates: No

At less than $20 at full price, the Honeywell HT-900 is a surprisingly powerful room fan. It's also one of the most widely available online at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and even Office Depot, though prices vary. Once out of the box, you just plug it into an outlet and choose from three speed settings. On the highest setting, it registered at 48.7 decibels on the NIOSH app and reminded me of a microwave hum—right up until it starts beeping incessantly and everyone in your house knows you’re making a midnight snack.

To adjust the airflow, just move the fan head up or down like with the Vornado VFAN Jr.. However, it’s not as smooth, clicks loudly into preset positions, and you’re limited to a 90-degree angle. Not major deal breakers, but you’re more limited in terms of your preferences for airflow.

While you could use it as a tabletop fan, it has a wide base that eats into side tables and desks, and the rubber feet aren’t useful at preventing surface scratches. It’s also much less aesthetically pleasing than the VFAN Jr., one of the more important criteria for something you’d want on display. You can mount this on the wall, too, but I didn’t have the proper hardware, and I’d assume that most people are looking at tabletop options when it comes to small fans.

Instead, I had the Honeywell HT-900 on the floor pointing upward to circulate the air, and was surprised at how cool the area around my desk—not just my body—felt. Honeywell claims that it can move air up to 25 feet away, and at 10 feet away, the air felt like a steady gust of wind. For something a bit more powerful, the slightly larger Honeywell HT-908 claims it can move air up to 35 feet away.

If you have little ones, I’d keep this one far away—the griddle has a vortex design that widens as it moves outward so fingers will definitely get nicked. I was able to fit my finger up to the second knuckle in the griddle. The design also means dust builds up more quickly in the center of the fan than others I tested, but just pop open the back griddle with a Phillips screwdriver and give it a quick rinse or burst of compressed air.

5. Food52 Community Fave: Vornado VFAN Jr. Vintage Air Circulator Fan

Photo by Amazon

Price: $59.99
Noise Level on High: Like your fave white noise
Oscillates: No

When we asked our Instagram community about their favorite room fans, nearly everyone name-dropped Vornado. Now, they didn’t quite specify which Vornado fan, but if we had to guess based on our readers’ aesthetics and preference for the right balance of form and function, we’d put money on the Vornado VFAN Jr. It’s a room fan with a heritage look and story that they’d be happy to show off, and we’ll bet that some of them might even have vintage Vornados passed down from loved ones or thrifted at antiques stores.

6. Schoolhouse Buyer Fave: Zonix 52" LED Ceiling Fan

Photo by Schoolhouse

Price: $509
Noise Level on High: Like it's not even there
Oscillates: Yes

As much as I’d have loved to test ceiling fans, I unfortunately don’t have the proper electric ceiling box for installation. So, I reached out to Schoolhouse merchandise manager Jess Callantine for her fave. “It can be difficult to find an attractive ceiling fan, and this one from Zonix is beautiful, minimal, and functional,” says Callantine. “There are lots of ways to customize it, like multiple lengths and an optional LED lighting feature. The white tends to ‘disappear’ against the ceiling, so it’s a great choice if you want the benefits of a ceiling fan but don't want it to be the focal point of your room.” Callantine also teases that Schoolhouse is launching a shorter blade length in April, perfect for smaller spaces.


What are the most popular types of room fans?

The most popular types of modern room fans are tower fans, box fans, tabletop fans, air circulator fans, and ceiling fans. Mark Heard, lead design engineer at Dyson, says air purifying fans have also gotten increasingly popular, especially in the last two years as the pandemic continues and I look forward to testing more for our next update.

What’s the difference between a fan and a cooling fan?

In my research, I came across "cooling" fans, but Heard says it's typically referencing the same thing as a regular room fan.

What’s the difference between a fan and an air circulator?

A fan is technically anything with a rotating blade that moves air around for ventilation. Traditional fans don't cool a room effectively and certainly don’t cool your body unless it's directly pointed at you. An air circulator is a type of fan with better aerodynamics to cool a room more efficiently. In fact, most modern fans market themselves as “air circulator fans” for this very reason.

Where do you position a room fan or air circulator?

For optimal cooling, it's best to aim an air circulator so that the stream of air hits halfway up the opposite wall without any obstructions, like furniture. For tower fans and box fans, just position it wherever you want to cool. You can also place air circulators and box fans near air conditioner, heating vents, and even windows to help distribute air more efficiently.

How do you clean a fan or air circulator?

For specific details, follow the manufacturers' instructions. Generally, you'll want to disassemble the fan and then wipe each side of the two griddles down with a dry or damp cloth (depending on how dusty they are), wash with a bit of soap and water, or spray with compressed air. If the motor and blades can't be removed from one of the griddles (usually the back), you'll have to use compressed air.

For bladeless tower fans, it's much easier. Most manufacturers like Lasko suggest only using compressed air otherwise you risk damaging the electrical components. Dyson recommends wiping down the exterior surface with a damp cloth or duster, and then just replacing the HEPA and activated carbon filter about once a year.

What are your favorite room fans? Let us know below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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Jada Wong

Written by: Jada Wong

Jada is the market editor at Food52 with a decade of experience writing and editing for online publications such as Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, and Insider.


Granny S. March 22, 2022
Well, this article is nice for people that need a fan for air, or to cool off, however, we have central air and only use our fan at night for sleeping. The fan noise blocks out the house settling noises, refrigerator, ac blower, etc. We cannot sleep without it so we buy the noisiest fan we can find.... usually a $20 cheap box fan at Home Depot or Lowe's. BBB has them too bur for a greater price. I have ran into sooo many ppl that cannot sleep without their box fan at night. All of our family uses them too and the kids/grandkids all grew up using them.
K.C. March 21, 2022
About the Vornado. Consider trying to clean those blades... I couldn't. Next stop = Dyson. Expensive, but the air quality and silence were worth the pop. We have them in small and (air sanitizing) tall.
Smaug March 16, 2022
If you really want to move some air- like for whole house ventilation- turbine style fans are quieter and more efficient (tower fans are actually turbines, but I'm talking about the compact types favored by contractors, garages etc. ). They produce a more concentrated air stream, though- not really something you go stand in front of for long. I'm rather fascinated by those Dyson passive fans- no moving parts. They do produce an airstream- I've seen them demonstrated in stores- but I'm not sure how. There's an explanation oof sorts on their website, but it seemed to be missing some vital information.
Bill March 22, 2022
The Dyson fans are "fans" and do have moving parts - they're just not visible, being in the base. A nice explanation is at
I have two models and like them a lot. I think that they should have been included in the ratings. Their major drawback is price but I'd say their performance is outstanding especially with the issue of buffeting, which I find particularly irritating with rotating fans.. If you include the ceiling fan price range, why not the Dysons? Also why didn't you include the actual db noise ratings of all the fans you tested? The touchy-feely descriptions are OK but oh-so-subjective. I have some doubts about the accuracy of a cell phone app for measurement but I suppose that's a different issue (e.g. how accurate is the microphone in the phone, how dependent in how you happen to hold it etc.)
I understand that it's important that you get revenue from purchases made from purchases made from links from your website. But, to be fair to your readers, I'd like to understand how much that influences your choice of items to review.
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