The best tower fans in 2020 (and 4 you should skip)

11 Sep, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


The end of summer is just about here — but it’s still pretty hot out, and most of us are staying put at home. That makes it an awfully good time to have a decent tower fan on hand. With upright, vertical builds that typically oscillate from side to side, a well-placed tower fan can quickly cast a cooling breeze across an entire room without taking up too much space or using too much energy. On top of that, tower fans offer a good variety of features and designs to choose from as you shop.

I found plenty of recommendable models after testing several of the things out at my home in Louisville, Kentucky. Here’s what I learned, starting with my top picks, which I’ll update periodically.

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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 that sells for roughly twice as much on Amazon. Alongside the sleep timer and the three speed settings, you’ll find two additional modes that simulate a natural breeze. The remote uses magnetism to stay in place 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 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.

Update: This one has been going in and out of stock in recent weeks, and isn’t available as of writing this, on Sep. 11. Keep reading for additional recommendations.

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Tower fans generate noise, which might be top of mind if you’re planning on using one while you sleep or binge through 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 db Sleep setting and a comfortably quiet, 28 db 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 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.

The $75 price tag makes this model a slight upgrade over your average tower fan, but it looks and feels the part. I wish the warranty ran longer than one year, but that’s just about my only criticism of this impressive tower fan.

Ry Crist/CNET

At $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 60W power draw was second only to 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 you 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 on an auto-pilot mode, where it automatically turns on whenever the temperature rises above 79 degrees. With the exception of Dyson, none of the other fans I tested offered an auto-pilot mode like that. I also appreciated the artificial breeze modes and the removable cover in the back, which makes the fan easier to clean.

Ry Crist/CNET

When it comes to ultra-high-end tower fans, Dyson is awfully tough to beat. Its latest, the Dyson TP04, is a $550 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 microns wide (and before you Google it, a single coronavirus molecule is 0.125 microns wide, and it’s worth adding that the CDC currently notes that most COVID-19 transmission comes from person-to-person contact). 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 ultra-quiet 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 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 (I had seven other fans in my test queue), 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 auto-pilot mode to your liking. The TP04 also supports voice controls via Alexa or via Siri.

All of that adds up to one of the nicest and most fully featured tower fans that money can currently buy. Whether or not it’s worth the full $550 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 as Dyson 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 $160 less than the TP04.

Read our Dyson Pure Cool TP04 review.

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 Tower Fan 41″ 10.0 lbs Low, Medium High, Natural Wind, Sleep No 35 – 46 db 48W 1-8 hours Yes, magnetic Yes None 1-year $50
Vornado V-flow Air Circulator Tower Fan 37″ 8.0 lbs Low, Medium, High No 33 – 50 db 54W 1,2,4,8 hours Yes Yes None 5-year $70
TaoTronics TT-F001 Oscillating Tower Fan 35″ 6.3 lbs Low, Medium, High, Natural Wind, Sleep Yes 38 – 48 db 60W 1-12 hours Yes, dockable Yes None 1-year $80
AmazonBasics Oscillating 3-Speed Tower Fan 41″ 9.5 lbs Low, Medium, High, Natural Wind, Sleep No 30 – 42 db 35W 1-7 hours Yes, dockable No None Unspecified $60
Lasko Wind Curve T42905 Oscillating Tower Fan 42″ 13.0 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 Tower Fan 40″ 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 Tower Fan 40″ 9.3 lbs Low, Medium, High No 36 – 46 db 41W 1-8 hours Yes, dockable No None Unspecified $55
Dyson Pure Cool TP04 Air Purifying Tower Fan 41″ 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-year $550

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 it 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.

tower-fans-group-shot

Ry Crist/CNET

What you really need is a wind tunnel, or some other means of effectively quantifying the amount of air each one is capable of moving. We’ve run tests like that before at CNET Appliances HQ and we’ll 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 and most of those remotes are cheap and bulky, but some tower fans do a better job than others 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 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

lasko-tower-fan

Ry Crist/CNET

I loved the sleek silhouette and wood grain accents of this Lasko model. It was also the third quietest fan that I tested, measuring in just a few decibels noisier than Honeywell. On top of that, it features Bluetooth, which lets you control the 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. 

That might be forgivable if the app offered advanced features like voice controls or the ability to set a custom schedule, but it doesn’t. You can turn it on and off, turn oscillation on and off, adjust among three speed settings or start the sleep timer — the same controls as you’ll find on the fan itself. And, while it doesn’t ask for any permissions aside from Bluetooth access, the app doesn’t seem to offer a privacy policy at all. All of that makes this one easy to skip at $80.

Pelonis FZ10-10JRH Oscillating Pedestal Tower Fan

pelonis-tower-fan

Ry Crist/CNET

Pelonis makes a number of tower fans, including this 40-inch white-bodied model, which shows up on Amazon and at Walmart for a little over $50. It did a decent enough job in my tests, but I came away unimpressed with the ugly design — particularly the slightly wobbly base and the strange, seemingly random array of unnecessary LEDs on the front. Good luck with the warranty, too — Pelonis doesn’t specify how long it is anywhere that I could find in the manual or online. You won’t find much by way of features — just three speed settings, oscillation, and a sleep timer which lets you schedule an auto-shutoff up to 8 hours in advance. That makes for a very simple, four-button remote, but it’s still about as bulky as a TV remote (and the batteries don’t come included).

With a reading of 46 decibels at its highest speed from 30 inches away, the Pelonis was a middle-of-the-pack performer in terms of noise. The 41-watt power draw is a little less than average for a fan of this size, which might add some appeal for energy-conscious shoppers. The price isn’t unfair, but all things considered, I think you can do better.

Vornado V-Flow Air Circulator Tower Fan

vornado-tower-fan

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The Vornado V-Flow tower fan features a neat-looking build that twists the fan’s grill 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 grill. 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 5-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

amazonbasics-tower-fan

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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 hauling 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.

tp-link-kasa-smart-wi-fi-plug-mini

Unfortunately, most tower fans won’t work very well with smart plugs.


Chris Monroe/CNET

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 let you 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.

If you want to control your fan with a smart plug, then you’ll need to use something simpler, like this Lasko floor fan. The key is the dial that you can just leave at your desired setting. Most tower fans don’t use physical dials like that.


Ry Crist/CNET

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 cut the power off and on.

In other words, if you want to use a tower fan with a smart plug, then you’ll need one that’s capable of turning onto 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.

More home shopping guides for 2020



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