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.
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 $17 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.
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 (check out 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.
It all comes down to your budget and airflow needs.
Pedestal fan design.
These 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 and go up to more than $300, and the median price of a pedestal fan is around $69.
One type of tower fan design.
Tower (or column) fans
These 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.
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These 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.
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.
Adjustable height and angle
Blades or no blades
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.