When it comes to keeping your home cool and your utility bills low, you can't beat a window fan. These devices, which mount easily to the bottom of a typical window frame and circulate air to bring in a breeze, consume as much as 60 percent less energy than an air conditioner. In addition to pulling air in from outside, you can reverse the action to push hot indoor air and odors out-one reason window fans are such an asset in the kitchen.
While hardly high-tech, window fans do have a few different features that suit them to specific functions, so it pays to be a discerning shopper. Read on to learn what you should look for in a window fan, and how these criteria informed our four picks for the best window fan:
- BEST FOR REMOTE OPERATION: Comfort Zone Twin Window Cooling Fan with Remote Control
- BEST WHOLE HOUSE FAN: Air King Whole House Window Fan
- BEST BUDGET BUY: Holmes Twin Reversible Dual Blade Exhaust Adjustable Portable Fan
- BEST FOR WEATHER RESISTANCE: Lasko High-Velocity Window Fan
Consider these features when scrutinizing the manufacturer's packaging to search out the best window fan.
Reversibility. Most window fans have both an intake function (to draw in and circulate air from the outdoors) and an exhaust function (to force out indoor air or odors). Reversibility refers to the mechanism that allows you to change airflow direction. You'll find manually reversible and electrically reversible fans:
- Manually reversible fans require you to physically remove the unit from the window, flip it, and reinstall it to reverse airflow.
- Electrically reversible fans let you change airflow direction with the push of a button or flip of a switch, a major convenience if you'll want to use intake and exhaust functions at various times on any given day. For example, you may want to use the intake function while sleeping to draw in cool nighttime air and the exhaust function by day to expel hotter air.
Number of internal fans. Choose from one-fan or two-fan units:
- One-fan units house one large centralized internal fan that enables air circulation. Because one-fan units bill themselves as “whole house” fans to cool the entire home, they tend to deliver a stronger airflow (more on that below). That said, their large single fan makes them bulkier and less efficient on the whole, thus slower to cool an individual room.
- Two-fan (or “twin”) units feature two small side-by-side internal fans. They're more compact, and while they offer a slightly lower airflow on average, two fans work more efficiently, cooling a room faster. Bonus: In a two-fan unit with electrical reversibility and independent control of the two fans via two intake/exhaust switches, you can have one fan perform intake and the other on exhaust simultaneously to maximize cooling efficiency and indoor comfort.
Airflow. The airflow of a fan, an indicator of its cooling power, measures the velocity at which air enters or escapes a space. Airflow will be indicated either on the fan manufacturer's website and on the fan packaging in cubic feet per minute (CFM). While it may seem advantageous to buy a fan with the highest CFM you can find, a unit with a stronger airflow than the room warrants wastes energy. It's more prudent to buy a fan with an airflow sufficient to cool the space where you'll be using it. In general, you need 1 CFM per square foot of space plus an extra 50 CFM.
Remote Operation. Window fans generally have a control panel on the front to turn it on and off, switch between intake/exhaust modes, and adjust air speed and temperature. Some models also come with remote controls for these functions, too, so you needn't get up to operate it manually. This is a boon to folks with limited mobility or if the fan sits in an overly large room or one where most of the seating is positioned far from the window.
Our research and customer reviews agree that these fans blow away the competition!
1. BEST FOR REMOTE OPERATION: Comfort Zone Twin Window Cooling Fan with Remote Control ($54.33)
This two-fan unit lets you turn the air on or off, switch airflow direction, and set airspeed to low, medium, or high with its convenient push-button remote. Set the electrically reversible fan to the intake mode to bring in fresh air from the outdoors, the exhaust mode to draw out hot, stuffy air, and the circulation mode to send one fan into intake mode and the into exhaust mode. Rating four out of five stars on Amazon, the Comfort Zone has an airflow of 431 CFM-powerful enough to cool a 381-square-foot room-and accordion-style locking expansion panels that fit window frames between 23.5 and 37 inches wide. Bonus: It comes with a bug screen that can be attached to the back of the unit to fend off flies and mosquitoes.
Available at Amazon.
2. BEST WHOLE HOUSE FAN: Air King Whole House Window Fan ($144.99)
When your entire home feels like a sauna, flood it with cool air from floor to ceiling with this powerful fan rated 4.2 out of five stars by Amazon customers. This one-fan model, which fits windows between 27 and 38 inches wide, delivers an airflow of 1010, 1170, or 1360 CFM at the low, medium, and high air speed settings, cooling a room up to 1,310 square feet at the highest setting. The Air King is adjustable from the control panel (there's no remote control), but it's electrically reversible, so all it takes to switch airflow direction is a turn of the dial.
Available at Amazon.
3. BEST BUDGET BUY: Holmes Twin Reversible Dual Blade Exhaust Adjustable Portable Fan ($35)
Rated four out of five stars by Amazon customers, this two-fan unit provides a blast of air without blowing your budget. Select from one of two air speeds via the control panel: low speed delivers an airflow of 290±30 CFM, and high speed has 320±30 CFM-CFM, the latter being powerful enough to cool 270 square feet. It's a manually reversible fan, so to change airflow direction you must remove, flip, and reinstall the unit into windows between 22 and 29 inches wide.
Available at Amazon.
4. BEST FOR WEATHER RESISTANCE: Lasko High-Velocity Window Fan ($119.68)
Designed for folks who live in storm-prone areas-who'd ordinarily remove a window fan before a windy, precipitous event-the Lasko boasts Storm Guard for weather protection. Simply close the window, pulling down the sash until it meets the top of the fan, and you'll effectively shut out harsh outdoor elements. When confronting heat, use the control panel on this one-fan unit to set the electrically reversible fan to one of six fan speeds-three each for the intake and exhaust functions. With a maximum airflow of 2470 CFM on the top fan speed-strong enough to cool a whopping 2,420 square feet-you're bound to get comfortable quickly. Amazon reviewers give the high-
velocity fan, which fits windows between 26.5 to 34.5 inches, 4.5 out of five stars.
Available at Amazon.