This is a beautiful fan with an understated retro appeal. It's obviously well-crafted—the parts are all metal and seem very sturdy—and I also appreciated its long cord. But this is not the fan to buy if you want to stay cool. At the slowest speed, I felt almost nothing. While the highest speed yields a gentle breeze, it's not enough to cool a larger room on its own—and it makes more noise than you'd expect. At nearly $100, this was one of the more expensive fans I tried out. So, unless you're a fan aficionado, or you're yearning for a vintage-looking accessory for your living room, this expense is probably too big to justify.
Box Fan, $17.98
The box fan will never win a beauty contest, though there's something comforting in its bland utilitarianism. This white 20-inch model from Lowe's looked like every other boring box fan I've seen: square-shaped, with big fan blades and a plastic grill. It's also got a handy handle for easy carrying. Leaving it on throughout the day seemed to cool my apartment fairly well—the dogs didn't complain—and when it was on, I usually didn't need another fan to help it along, unless it was especially hot and humid. But damn, was this thing loud! I found it difficult to talk over, and I had to crank the TV up several decibels above normal. The only perk was that it masked all other urban cacophony—traffic, crying children, barking dogs. At $17.98, this fan is a great value if you're looking for a workhorse fan that will keep things cool. Note: It's probably best for families accustomed to speaking at loud volumes to one another.
Allaire Classic Oscillating Stand Fan, 16-inch version, $199
This fan, available from Restoration Hardware, has a classic, streamlined design and features lots of extras: You can adjust the height as well as the fan's angle, and it rotates. And though I love its look, I don't appreciate the cryptic IKEA-like directions to assemble it. While this fan created the perfect amount of white noise at the lowest speed—that breezy sound perfect for falling asleep—the blades' humming at the highest speed took some getting used to. Nonetheless, I was impressed with its cooling abilities—my pillow was refreshingly dry when I woke up. The price of the fan is steep, but given the great design and power, it's worth the cost.
Bionaire Metal Tower Fan, $79.95
This fan is a godsend. It cooled me down with its soothing, yet surprisingly powerful, breeze, which made a gentle whooshing sound (even at the highest of the three speed settings). I also love the fan's design—tall and thin, with a small footprint, it fit snugly in my tiny bedroom. It's not bad to look at, either, with a sleek chrome case and black grill. The fan's features, including oscillation and the timer (you can set it in half-hour increments up to 7.5 hours, and there's also a sleep function) worked flawlessly, as well. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the breeze feature, which is meant to mimic natural wind by randomly varying the speed at which the fan blows. The only negative was that assembly took a good 15 minutes or so—you have to screw in the base and leg with a Phillips head screwdriver, which was a little awkward and is easiest done with some assistance. But that's a minor quibble. What's most important is that it kept me cool without breaking the bank. The tower fan is the best bet if you're willing to spend a little extra to get a high-quality, high-performance fan. Here's to the tower fan making my summers footloose and A.C.-free from now on.