Hot days can be unbearable without air conditioning. But it can be costly and may not be possible for your living situation. A tower fan is a great alternative -- it keeps you cool while also saving energy and space. These fans are especially handy if you're short on room, funds and if your house or apartment isn't equipped with an air conditioner. Tower fans are different from other box or traditional fans because they have a small footprint that makes them easy to stick in out-of-the-way corners to provide air circulation for the whole room. They're great for cooling down different rooms of your house, creating the perfect comfort zone of cool airflow for your family room, dining room, bedroom or office.
Designed to be upright and vertical, the best tower fans usually oscillate from side to side, so a well-placed one can quickly cast a comfy temperature across an entire room with its cooling breeze. These tower fans also come in a variety of designs, with the best tower fan models sporting varying features like a programmable timer, quiet operation, oscillation or even an air purifier.
I found several tower fans to recommend on warm and sunny days after testing many models out at my home here in often-sweltering Louisville, Kentucky. Here's what I learned about airflow management, starting with my top picks for the best tower fan.
Tower fans generate noise, which might be a problem if you're planning on using one while you sleep or binge-watch your favorite TV shows. Fortunately, the quietest fan I tested, the Honeywell QuietSet, was also a pretty well-rounded appliance across the board.
Along with holding its highest-speed setting to a best-in-class 41 decibels (measured at a distance of 30 inches), the QuietSet was also one of the most energy-efficient fans I tested, drawing just 36 watts at full blast. Speaking of settings, the QuietSet offers a whole bunch of them, ranging from a near-silent, 26-decibel Sleep setting and a comfortably quiet, 28-decibel White Noise setting up to Relax, Refresh, Cool and Power Cool settings that move greater masses of air while keeping the noise at bay. The slim, rocket-shaped design is sturdy and relatively compact, the batteries-included remote control docks neatly in the back when not in use and the upward-angled controls on top are easy on the eyes. You can customize the brightness of those LED lights on top, too.
I wish the warranty ran longer than one year, but that's just about my only criticism of this impressively quiet tower fan. And around $75 isn't that expensive.
At around $80, the TaoTronics TT-F001 isn't an inexpensive tower fan, but it makes up for it with a great mix of features and by packing plenty of cooling power into a compact, 35-inch build. Its 60-watt power draw was second only to the Dyson among the fans I tested, and its highest-speed setting was the second noisiest, ringing in at 48 decibels -- but neither factor is a deal-breaker, particularly if you need a smaller tower fan but don't want to sacrifice cooling power.
As for the features, the TT-F001 includes an ambient temperature reading on the admittedly dated-looking display. Those readings proved to be completely accurate when I used some of the thermocouples left over from my waffle maker tests to double-check them. Better yet, those readings let you run the fan in an autopilot mode, where it automatically turns on whenever the temperature rises above 79 degrees Fahrenheit. With the exception of the Dyson, none of the other fans I tested offered an autopilot mode like that. I also appreciated the artificial breeze modes and the removable cover in the back that makes the fan easier to clean.
When it comes to ultrahigh-end tower fans, Dyson is awfully tough to beat. Its latest, the Dyson TP04, is a behemoth with king-size activated carbon and glass HEPA air filters hugging the base intake. That allows it to purify the air it puts out, removing things like dust and allergens from the air you breathe. Dyson claims it can catch particles as small as 0.3 micron wide. Just know that if it's an air purifier you're after, you can find lots of good options that cost less, as my colleague David Priest can attest.
Air filtration aside, the Dyson boasts 10 speed settings ranging from an ultraquiet 28 decibels up to a 48-decibel blast of concentrated air. It was the most comfortable tower fan I tested, too, with a cool, steady stream of air that feels like a much less forceful version of one of Dyson's bathroom hand dryers. An LCD screen on the front of the device tracks air quality in real time, but you can also set it to display things like the ambient room temperature or the relative humidity. You can also customize the oscillation angle between 45-, 90-, 180- and 350-degree settings, which is a very nice, unique touch. The sleek remote control docks magnetically on top of the fan when you aren't using it, too.
On top of all of that, the TP04 features app-enabled smarts. I'll admit I didn't spend too much time testing all of the features out, but the app offers a detailed look at the air quality in your home and it lets you create custom cooling schedules, too. You can also use it to customize the fan's autopilot mode to your liking. The TP04 also supports voice control via Alexa or via Siri.
All of that adds up to one of the nicest and most feature-rich tower fans that money can currently buy. Whether or not it's worth the hefty price tag is up to you, but I'll note that it's in the same ballpark as high-end air purifiers from names like Coway and Levoit that don't boast as many features and don't double as tower fans at all. And keep in mind that the original Dyson TP01, which offers the same design and many of the same features, is still available, too. That one currently retails for about $200 less than the TP04.
Usually available at Walmart for less than $50, this Better Homes and Gardens-branded tower fan appears to be a reskinned version of a well-rated model from HomeLabs. Alongside the sleep timer and the three speed settings, you'll find two additional modes that simulate a natural breeze. The remote attaches magnetically on top of the device when you aren't using it -- a nice, high-end touch not commonly found at this price.
The sturdy, understated design features a grill that oscillates within a fixed base, making it less conspicuous than a tower fan that turns entirely from side to side. While I found it plenty powerful enough to cool off a medium-to-large room on a hot day, it still managed to keep things a little quieter than smaller tower fans like the Vornado V-Flow and the TaoTronics TT-F001.
I'd like it better if the warranty ran longer than a single year and if the build weren't quite so plasticky, but those trade-offs are more than fair at this price. If you're looking for a capable tower fan that feels more expensive than it actually is, this one fits the bill better than anything else I've tested.
Tower fans we've tested
|Size||Weight||Speeds and settings||Ambient temperature display with auto mode||Noise range||Energy draw||Shutoff timer||Remote||Remote batteries included?||Smart functionality||Warranty||Price|
|Better Homes & Gardens 5-Speed||41 in.||10 lbs.||Low, Medium High, Natural Wind, Sleep||No||35 - 46 db||48W||1-8 hours||Yes, magnetic||Yes||None||1 year||$54|
|Vornado V-flow Air Circulator||37 in.||8 lbs.||Low, Medium, High||No||33 - 50 db||54W||1, 2, 4, 8 hours||Yes||Yes||None||5 years||$70|
|TaoTronics TT-F001 Oscillating||35 in.||6.3 lbs.||Low, Medium, High, Natural Wind, Sleep||Yes||38 - 48 db||60W||1-12 hours||Yes, dockable||Yes||None||1 year||$56|
|AmazonBasics Oscillating 3-Speed||41 in.||9.5 lbs.||Low, Medium, High, Natural Wind, Sleep||No||30 - 42 db||35W||1-7 hours||Yes, dockable||No||None||n/a||$60|
|Lasko Wind Curve T42905 Oscillating||42 in.||13 lbs.||Low, Medium, High||No||30 - 43 db||48W||1-7 hours||No||N/A||Bluetooth, app controls||1 year||$80|
|Honeywell QuietSet HYF290B Whole Room||40 in.||9.2 lbs.||Sleep, Whisper, Calm, White Noise, Relax, Refresh, Cool, Power Cool||No||26 - 41 db||36W||1, 2, 4, 8 hours||Yes, dockable||No||None||1 year||$75|
|Pelonis FZ10-10JRH Oscillating Pedestal||40 in.||9.3 lbs.||Low, Medium, High||No||36 - 46 db||41W||1-8 hours||Yes, dockable||No||None||n/a||$55|
|Dyson Pure Cool TP04 Air Purifying||41 in.||10.9 lbs.||1-10||Yes||28 - 48 db||180W||Timed shutoff available in app only, 1-9 hours||Yes, magnetic||Yes||Wi-Fi, app controls, voice compatibility with Siri and Alexa||2 years||$535|
How we tested and what we were looking for
Tower fans are a little tricky to test, especially when you're working from home without access to a lab environment. Unlike air conditioners, they don't generate their own cold air -- instead, they take whatever air is nearby and recirculate air throughout the room. That breeze-like effect feels great on a hot, stuffy day, but it isn't something you can easily track with a temperature probe.
What you really need is a wind tunnel, or some other means of effectively quantifying the amount of airflow each fan is capable of moving. We've run tests like that before at CNET Appliances HQ and we plan to do so once again once we're back in the office. Expect an update to this post when that time comes.
For now, I started by focusing on each fan's design and features. I also ran noise tests in the quietest part of my home to get a good sense of which fan runs the noisiest. Most tower fans come with a remote control and most of those remotes are cheap and bulky, but some tower fans do a better job than others of providing a way of docking those remotes when they aren't in use. The wide variety of designs gave me lots to think about, too -- tower fans are large and conspicuous enough that it's worth it to look for one that isn't too ugly or bulky.
On the feature front, I took a close look at how much control each fan offered over the way in which it puts out air. Just about every tower fan offers a low, medium and high setting, but some go further with a greater number of fan speed settings in between those basics for more granular control over the force of the breeze. Others offer artificial wind modes that flutter the breeze for a more natural effect. Some include ambient temperature readings on the display, or autopilot modes that only kick in when the temperature hits a certain threshold. Wherever I found features like that, I tested them and took them into account.
I wasn't a fan of these
Lasko Wind Curve T42905 Oscillating Tower Fan
I loved the sleek silhouette and wood grain accents of this Lasko tower fan. It was also the third-quietest fan that I tested, measuring just a few decibels noisier than the Honeywell. On top of that, it features Bluetooth, which lets you control the oscillating fan via an app on your phone.
The problem is that the app is all you get as far as remote controls are concerned. That isn't ideal for a shared space, as the fan can only connect with one device at a time. In other words, if someone else pairs with the fan, your connection gets cut.
Vornado V-Flow Air Circulator Tower Fan
The Vornado V-Flow tower fan features a neat-looking build that twists the fan's grille around the cylindrical base. It's one of the best-looking tower fans I tested -- but it doesn't oscillate like a traditional tower fan, relying instead on that twisty design to move a wider field of air throughout the room.
It worked well enough in my tests when I had it aimed at me, but coverage varied at those side angles, where the airstream is positioned lower or higher due to that diagonal grille. The bigger issue was that the Vornado V-Flow was the noisiest fan I tested, ringing in at 50 decibels on the highest of its three speeds from a distance of 30 inches. On top of that, my remote wouldn't work, which echoes frustrations I've seen from user reviews at retailers where the V-Flow is sold. That, plus a lack of features beyond the usual sleep timer, has me saying no thanks to Vornado's $70 price tag here (and I'd probably skip it during a sale, too). That's a shame, as Vornado's five-year warranty was the best among all of the fans I looked at for this roundup, and more than twice as long as you get with the $550 Dyson TP04.
AmazonBasics Oscillating 3-Speed Tower Fan
Amazon continues to sell a growing variety of products under its AmazonBasics brand and these days that includes a tower fan. Like the name suggests, it isn't anything too fancy. The remote batteries don't come included, but you at least get a couple of natural wind settings on top of the typical low, medium and high speed settings.
Unfortunately, I didn't have a good experience testing this fan out. For starters, my remote stopped working shortly after I began my tests and the fan itself came out of its flimsy base after I'd hauled the thing back and forth between my bedroom and living room a few times. The 35W power draw was the lowest of all the fans I tested, but I felt that lack of power in the form of an underwhelming stream of air, even at the highest setting. At $60, this tower fan might be selling for twice as much as it's worth.
What if I want to use a smart plug?
A smart plug, such as the WeMo Mini, the Amazon Smart Plug or the TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug, can automate whatever you plug into it, and they work great with things like desk fans, space heaters and air conditioners to let you turn things on and off remotely from your phone or with a voice command. Some can even monitor energy use, which is a terrific feature for something like a fan.
Things get trickier with tower fans, though. Why? Most of them include remotes, and fans with remotes typically don't include physical dials that you can leave in the on position. Controls like those are a must if you want to use a smart plug, because a smart plug won't toggle between different settings or anything like that. They just turn the power on and off.
If you want to use a tower fan with a smart plug, then you'll need one that's capable of turning on to your desired setting as soon as you plug it in -- in other words, a fan with a physical dial. And there just aren't very many tower fans like that on the market these days (here's one I found at Walmart that gets mixed reviews).
Maybe that adds a small bit of extra appeal to a smart fan like the Dyson model listed above, or to fans with built-in smart controls like this SmartMi model or the Lasko model mentioned above, but the better takeaway is that smart plug aficionados will likely need to downgrade to something like a floor fan with a more basic design.