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How to buy the best pedestal and tower fans

Not just spin: some fans are better than others.

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You can buy perfectly functional pedestal or tower fans for a few tenners these days, and some are good value for money. Unlike air conditioners which chill the air, fans work well in moderately humid conditions as they help speed up evaporation from perspiration, which cools you down. 

A 2019 University of Sydney study suggests that in a dry environment, fans are less effective, but using a wet towel or spraying your face with water while a fan is on will help you cool down from evaporation.

Here we look at running costs, the differences between pedestal and tower (or column) fans, and features worth looking out for if you're in the market for a new fan.

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How much do fans cost to run?

Running a fan on low for eight hours a day and on maximum speed for two hours a day throughout summer will cost less than $10 for many fans, and most fans could be run 24/7 all summer and you'd only pay about $30 for the electricity used.

Pedestal and tower fans generally aren't expensive to buy, and your basic $15 model with plastic blades could still do the job. There are some very expensive models out there – apart from their sleek, stylish features, some now include functions beyond cooling such as heating and air purifying, as well as controls via an app.

What are the benefits of pedestal, floor and tower fans?

Apart from cheap running costs, fans can make for good cooling options for several reasons.

  • You can choose exactly how and where to position them (unlike ceiling fans) and have multiple units around the home if necessary.
  • Spend a little more on a pedestal or tower fan and you'll get features such as variable speed settings, remote controls and flexible timers. Some are also compatible with smart home automation systems, which means you can control them from almost anywhere.
  • You can use a pedestal fan or tower fan in conjunction with your air conditioning system to maximise efficiency, like to help circulate warm air in winter (see our air conditioner energy saving tips for more details).
  • Fans are also handy when you want to clear the air in a room due to damp carpet, wet paint, or smoke from a burnt dinner.

Which are better: pedestal fans or tower fans?

It all comes down to your budget and airflow needs.

Home Cooling Pedestal fan

Pedestal fan design.

Pedestal fans typically sit on a height-adjustable stand and can be useful if you want air directed at a height above ground or at a certain spot in the room, like blowing directly onto your face, across a bed's surface, or angled up toward the ceiling for an indirect breeze. They usually have three or five blades and our tests show they generally have a more powerful airflow than tower fans. A pedestal fan gives you a direct airflow – you can see the blades at work.

Pedestal fans can cost as little as $12 up to more than $300, and the median price of a pedestal fan is around $69.

Home Cooling Tower fan

One type of tower fan design.

Tower (or column) fans have a minimalist, slimline design and take up less room on your floor than traditional pedestal fans. This means they can be less obtrusive and easier to fit into a corner or narrow space (their base is around 20–23cm as opposed to 46–51cm for a pedestal fan). 

They tend to have a long rectangular outlet for air and are available at various heights, and some have louvres to direct the airflow up and down. They're suitable for areas that require a gentle, consistent breeze. 

Tower fans are also either bladeless (like the Dyson models) or have concealed blades, which can be a safer option if you have small children, or curious pets. They can also have more features and functions than standard pedestal fans like in-built thermostats, heating fans or air purifying capabilities (which also often means a higher price tag).

The median price of a tower fan is roughly $135, with some cheaper options at around the $39 mark, while others can cost as much as $799.

Floor fans are designed, as the name suggests, to sit on the floor. They come in various shapes and sizes and have a base for support, and usually a handle that makes them easy to reposition or carry from room to room. As they're close to the ground, they may not be a safe option if you have small children or pets.

In our testing, pedestal fans with large blades are usually more effective at cooling due to their increased airflow.

 Number of fans tested   Type of fan  Average CHOICE Expert Rating
 56  Pedestal fan  81%
 31  Tower fan  70%

Should you buy a smart pedestal or tower fan?

Many fans, even those at the cheaper end of the scale, boast smart features which mean you can operate them using an app on your smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or through your smart home system. This means you can remotely control and program the fan to operate while you're in another room or away from home. That being said, a simple remote control might be all you need.

Key features to look for

Keep in mind that because our test results for pedestal and tower fans focus purely on airflow, you might want to look at some additional features like Wi-Fi compatibility, air purifying, timers, or heating capabilities. We've highlighted some of these below.

Noise

The quieter the better, especially if you're using the fan on a low speed at night while you sleep. The noisiest fans can be as loud as a normal conversation on their maximum setting (up to 61dB), while some on quiet mode are only 26dB (the equivalent of a whisper). A constant "white noise" may be less annoying than thrumming, whining or buffeting noises. It may be a good idea to see how the fan sounds in the store.

Adjustable height and angle

These features will give you more options on how and where you can use the fan. Angling the fan head allows you to create an indirect breeze, which can be useful if the fan speed is too powerful for a direct breeze.

Fan modes

Some fans have a mode (usually called 'natural' or 'sleep' mode) which varies the fan speed to simulate a natural breeze.

Some also have a reduction mode, which switches the fan to the next lowest speed after 30 minutes. This is handy if you use the fan at night in your bedroom – on a hot night you might want to go to sleep with the fan on, but you won't want it to be too noisy. A gentle mode like this might suit you better than simply putting the fan on low speed.

Remote control

A remote control is handy for changing settings from across the room. Some are Wi-Fi enabled, letting you control functionality through an app on your smartphone.

Timer

Some models have a timer to switch the fan off after a set period.

Display

Some fans have LCD screens or electronic indicators to show the different fan settings.

Style

The humble pedestal or tower fan comes in an array of different colours, shapes and sizes to suit your home decor. But don't be swayed by its appearance as not all of them perform alike.

Blades or no blades

A bladeless tower fan can be easy to clean, and suitable for a home with small children. Pedestal fans with blades can attract dust over time, so you'll need to make sure it's not a fiddly process to remove and clean the cover.