As we write this, the UK is in the grips of potentially its biggest heatwave ever, and legions of confused Britons are suddenly looking for ways to keep cool in the sort of heat usually reserved for summer holidays and countries with widespread air conditioning.
For most of us that means buying a fan, but if you've looked at the market even briefly, you'll have realised that there's a lot more to consider in buying a fan than you might first think. We're going to break down the main types of fan here and what you need to consider when buying one for your home.
Desk vs tower vs stand
The first thing to consider is the style and size of fan you want to buy. There are three main types: desk, tower, and stand.
Desk fans are smaller, designed (believe it or not) to sit comfortably on a desk. They'll generally be good at keeping you cool if you're close, but will likely struggle to chill a whole room. It's worth noting that many desk fans are still quite large, and might take up a lot of your desk - there are smaller ones, some of which are even USB-powered, but naturally these will tend to be weaker. There's always a tradeoff.
Stand or pedestal fans are pretty much desk fans on a taller stand, with the same circular design, but raised to be five or six feet tall. The fan element itself is often a bit larger, to allow for more power, meaning they're the best type of fan to cool large rooms. The downsides are that the large fan heads can take up quite a lot of space, and they don't always look stylish enough to want on display in your living room.
Finally, tower fans tend to be a similar height to stand fans, but have a slimmer design with the fan elements inside the main body, rather than with the fan blades on the top and mounted to a stand. Tower fans are usually a bit weaker because of size constraints, but can be smaller overall, often look more stylish, and are more likely to boast additional features like air purification - more on that below.
Bladed vs bladeless
The next consideration is bladed or bladeless designs. Bladed fans are the standard design, while bladeless fans are the style popularised by Dyson. Technically bladeless fans do still have blades, but they're hidden inside the fan body so they aren't visible.
The benefits of bladeless designs (beyond looking super cool) are that they can be quieter and safer - no risk of hair, pets, or kids' hands working their way between the blades. There's only one real downside, but it's a biggie: bladeless models tend to cost a lot more, especially if you stick to a big brand like Dyson, so you'll have to decide if the safer, slicker design is really worth the premium.
Heating, purifying, and more
Finally, many modern fans boast extra features beyond simply blowing air about the place. Dyson, for example, offers Hot + Cool models that work as both fans in the summer and heaters in the winter, saving you from buying two pieces of kit for different seasons.
You can also buy combined air purifiers and fans, which will filter the air in your room to remove pollutants and allergens before blowing out the filtered, purified air into the room. The Dyson Pure Cool fans are the most prominent examples, but there are similar products from competitors too.
You'll also find an increasing number of fans with basic smart features or virtual assistant support. These might let you set up schedules for when the fans should turn on and off, remotely control intensity and oscillation, or even turn the fan on or off using your voice through Alexa or the Google Assistant.
Best fan reviews
Dyson Pure Cool Tower Fan
Whether you're interested in the Pure Cool because you want an air purifier, or just want a Dyson fan and are willing to spare the extra cash for the air purification features, the Pure Cool tower is fairly easy to recommend.
Designed to filter a variety of different types of pollutant, the Pure Cool will also give you real-time feedback on the current air quality, courtesy of both a small built-in display, and the connected smartphone app - which you can also use as a remote control.
You get lots of options to tweak power and oscillation, a scheduler, a quieter nighttime mode, and even the option to blast the air backwards - essentially giving you the purification without the cooling element if you want to use it in the winter. Best of all though is the clever automatic mode, which will adjust on the fly to variations it detects in air quality.
The Pure Cool is efficient, it's quiet, it looks bloody cool, and - most importantly - it just works. Yup, even the smart features, which are usually the first thing to go wrong in connected tech.
If there's one criticism we have for the Pure Cool, it's the same one we have for most Dyson tech: it's expensive. £500/$550 is a lot to pay for any fan or air purifier, and it's hard to say for sure whether Dyson really adds enough to justify the price. You can at least save a little by opting for the smaller (and cheaper) desk version.
Read our full Dyson Pure Cool review.
Dyson Cool Desk Fan
The Dyson Cool is currently the cheapest fan in the Dyson lineup, and correspondingly the most stripped back. There are no smart features, air purification, or heating, but you do get the slightly sci-fi bladeless design and a remote control to control the power, oscillation, and a nighttime scheduler to automatically turn the fan off after a set time.
This really does what it promises: it’s a no-frills take on the Dyson fan that’s not quite wallet-friendly, but it’s at least a bit more wallet-amicable than the company’s flagship devices. Still, this is an awful lot to spend on a plain old fan, and the price is a bit hard to swallow.
Read our full Dyson Cool review.
Honeywell QuietSet Stand Fan
This great stand up fan is a bit like a desk fan on steroids. Set up is a tad tricky thanks to the unhelpful instructions but once working it proves itself a good choice if you want to spend less than £100.
With remote control it has five settings that vary in speed and levels of quiet (setting 1 is sleep mode and you can barely hear it). You can also set timers of 1, 2, 4 or 8 hours and easily adjust the height.
It stands at 58.5cm at its highest setting, and this coupled with the oscillating action means it can effectively cool large rooms and areas whether stationary or turning.
If you want something more powerful and quiet than a desk fan but don't want to break the bank then this is the fan for you.