Buyer’s Guide: Window Fans
Chill out while keeping energy bills in check with the right window fan for your space and budget.
When it comes to keeping your home cool and your utility bills low, you can’t beat a window fan. These devices mount easily to the bottom of a typical window frame and circulate air to bring in a breeze, consuming much, much 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 can be a major 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 top picks:
- BEST ALL AROUND: BOVADO USA Twin Window Cooling Fan with Remote Control
- UPGRADE PICK: Air King Whole House Window Fan
- HONORABLE MENTION: Lasko High-Velocity Window Fan
What to Look for in a Window Fan
Consider these features when navigating the wide and varied array of window options available today.
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.
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.
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 Top Picks
1. BEST ALL AROUND: BOVADO USA Twin Window Cooling Fan with Remote Control
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. Intake mode brings in fresh air from the outdoors, exhaust mode draws out hot and stuffy air, while circulation mode does a little of both—one fan intakes while the other exhausts. The window fans boast 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.
2. UPGRADE PICK: Air King Whole House Window Fan
When your entire home feels like a sauna, flood it with cool air from floor to ceiling with this powerful fan. The Air King fits windows between 27 and 38 inches wide and at low, medium, or high air speed settings, it delivers an airflow of 1010, 1170, or 1360 CFM. That means that on its highest setting, the Air King can cool up to 1,310 square feet. There’s no remote control, but it’s electrically reversible, so all it takes to switch airflow direction is the turn of a dial on the control panel.
3. HONORABLE MENTION: Lasko High-Velocity Window Fan
Designed for folks who live in storm-prone areas, 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 can 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. At top speed, the fan boasts a maximum airflow of 2470 CFM, which is strong enough to cool up to 2,420 square feet.