Best Window Fan of 2020
The Bionaire 8.5-Inch Reversible Airflow is an all around great performing window fan. Its twin 8" blades have three settings that are reversible allowing air to be pulled into a room or pushed out. The user interface controls are easy to read and operate and cover a wide variety of features. For example, the air exchange function allows users to set a thermostat such that the fan will draw air in or out of a room depending on the desired temperature. The Bionaire produce air speeds as high as 11 mph (measured at 6") and can be felt as a decent breeze at 20 feet.
We found little to complain about with the Bionaire, however there are certain features that will make it a no-go for some shoppers. First off, the window width requirements were measured at 24" to 37" — though one may purchase extensions if needed — and it is best suited to double hung, sliding and casement windows. Additionally, we were less than impressed that the remote control only works within a range of 15 feet. That said, this unit is pretty darn quiet (58 dBa on high) considering that it sports two fans and produces high air speeds.
The Holmes Dual 8" Blade Twin is a high performance dual-fan system that offers users plenty of adjustment with analog controls. The 8" blades are independently controlled to facilitate air circulation by having one drawing air in while the other pushes it out or having them work in unison. Additionally, the thermostat allows one to set the circulation to a discrete comfort level. Finally, the noise level on this model is minimal (57 dBa on high) in light of the powerful twin motors.
The main problem with this window fan is that the unit best fits double hung windows in the fairly narrow range of 24 5/8" x 35 3/4". Additionally, the thermostat does not have actual temperature values but rather a series of discrete levels indicating more or less cooling action. The unit also lacks a remote. Despite these shortcomings, we like what this unit has to offer, particularly the dispersed airflow that seems to better distribute air around a room.
The Comfort Zone CZ319WT is a minimalistic though cost-effective window fan. Installation of this unit is a cinch with the twin sliding panels that fit it to the double hung window gap and it comes with a bug screen effectively sealing the unit. The easy fitting means that, while the fan direction is one-way, you can quickly flip the unit around to exhaust a room as well. Moreover, the directional airflow coming off the twin 6" fans can be felt as a steady breeze at 20 feet.
While we like the savings that the Comfort Zone offers consumers, it does not come without a few cuts in performance and features. As was mentioned above, the fans are unidirectional. In addition to that limitation, the unit only has 2 settings — high and low. However, making up for these shortcomings are feet that support the unit as a floor or table fan.
The Air King is undoubtedly powerful, however the large blades and robust motor produces a lot of noise which we measure to be 76 dBa when turned to the high setting. Additionally, the ability to keep the fan in place when the window is closed is made possible by screwing it into the window trim, thus creating a more permanent fixture than some consumers may prefer. That said, if you want to move a significant amount of air, this unit will likely blow you away.
The 3-fan Holmes Group Bionaire BWF0522E-BU is a uniquely designed machine in that the adjustments in wind speed and temperature are controlled by the number of fans actively spinning. Thoughtfully, the fan's extension panels are capped with rubber, effectively damping the fan's vibrations and helping to further reduce the noise output (50 dBa on high) of this relatively quiet machine. The unit is easily fit to a variety of window types as it can be set vertically or horizontally with adjustments in height/length made with the flip of a locking tab. This fitting also means that, while the motors are unidirectional, the whole unit is easily spun 180º to run as an exhaust fan.
There is a lot to be said for simplicity — particularly in a window fan. However, the fact that this unit is controlled by a single button causes some frustration as you have to cycle through all the settings to get to a particular one. That said, we really like that the Holmes has temperature regulation settings between 60º and 80º F and that it can easily be installed vertically if needed.
The Lasko 16" Electrically Reversible's big fan blades and powerful motor provide sufficient airflow to warrant the label of whole house fan. This unit kicks out 11 mph wind at the source and can be felt as a breeze at 20 feet. However, this unit has a more dispersed airflow as opposed to a direct/focused flow which is preferable for circulation in many cases. Additionally, the unit has three speed settings as well as reverse. As far as the window fitting goes, this unit works on a number of window styles because it mounts to the trim allowing many windows to close behind the unit.
While the Lasko 16" is competitively priced within its subcategory of high volume fans, that is not to say that it is inexpensive. Moreover, the relative savings do not come without cuts in performance. Specifically, the fan lacks a remote and it isn't what we would describe as quiet — we recorded the sound output at 68 dBa on high. The unit also lacks temperature controls and the single fan precludes it from having an air exchange function. Despite these shortcomings, we find the simplicity and effectiveness of this window fan refreshing.
The Lasko W09560 is a reversible twin fan unit that has 3 speeds plus intake, exhaust, and air exchange. The unit also features a temperature control, and the unique Bluetooth connection with a smartphone in lieu of a traditional remote control. The fan is most effectively controlled through the accompanying app. Finally, the fan is easy to install with its extension panels that slide to fit several window types in both the horizontal and vertical orientation.
While we like the Bluetooth option for controlling the fan, the manual controls are less intuitive. The main problem is that the digital interface does not tell you what the setting is until it is changed. Additionally, the fan isn't that powerful, issuing only a hint of moving air at 13 feet. However, some may find that they want air circulation over a stiff breeze, which is just what this fan delivers.
The Comfort Zone CZ310R has twin fans with 8" blades. The unit has 3 speeds as well as cool, exhaust, and air exchange settings. It has a remote that's super easy to use, as is its onboard controls. The fan installs fairly easily on double hung windows in the horizontal position with accordion extensions on either side of the unit. Also, it is reasonably quiet at 50 dBa.
Conversely, the CZ310R puts out a pretty weak air flow which we measured at 5 MPH on high. This produces just a hint of a breeze at 15 feet. While we like the remote that comes standard with the unit, we always find it frustrating when a company doesn't include batteries which is the case with this model. Also, we found the accordion window fitting extension to be difficult to adjust to its full extension. However, we do like that this model comes with feet to make it function as a floor or table fan.
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer has worked in electronics testing for the better part of a decade. He has tested everything from table fans to air purifiers to portable air conditioning units. The man knows a good quality fan and can back up his conclusions with the data derived from his detailed testing and analysis. Similarly, Senior Review Editor Nick Miley has several years experience in product testing and analysis. His work is informed by his background in original scientific research as well as a previous occupation in wind turbine maintenance and repair.
Together this duo created experiments and evaluations that isolate all the aspects of fan performance. Specifically, the analysis looked at air flow, controls, set-up and noise and more. The result of their work is an easy to digest product comparison with practical information derived from hands-on experience.
Analysis and Test Results
Many fans look alike. As such we bought and tested all the products in our review to see which blew us away and which just blew a whole lot of hot air. To structure our review we separate our investigation in categories or metrics that cover all aspects of a quality fan. These are wind speed, noise, controls, and ease of installation. The following is a detailed delve into each metric including the products that did well in each and why.
We measured wind speed at 6" inches distance from the center of the fan when on high using an anemometer or wind meter. The Bionaire 8.5-Inch Reversible and Lasko 16" Electrically Reversible are considered to be high airflow machines producing 11 mph wind speeds. The Holmes Dual 8" Blade Twin and the Comfort Zone CZ319WT fall into the average category at 8.7 mph and 8.2 mph respectively.
In a less scientific test, we also measure the air movement at distance. This is done by laying a tape measure on the ground perpendicular to the fan measuring out 30 feet. We start at 30 feet and walk towards the fan until we can feel the air it's moving on our cheek. Most models here reviewed register a breeze at 15 - 20 feet. However, the King Air lived up to its name by issuing a strong breeze at 20 feet and noticeable air movement beyond 30 feet. The only model that approached that kind of power is the Comfort Zone CZ3139WT. We were able to feel some air movement with this unit at 25 feet.
No one wants to listen to a fan whine. As such we measured each unit's noise output while running it on the highest setting with a sound level meter (measured in disciples). As you might expect, the most powerful fans are the loudest and you wouldn't be far from the mark. The Air King produces 76 dBa. To put that in context, that's about as loud as an electric lawn mower!
On the quieter end of the spectrum is Holmes Group Bionaire BWF0522E-BU at 50 dBa — quiet enough to go unnoticed. However, this fan doesn't produce much air movement. A good balance between air movement and noise output is struck by the Holmes Dual 8" Blade Twin which kicks out a respectable amount of air while maintaining a moderate noise level of 58 dBa.
The controls metric looks at knobs, buttons, dials and remotes that adjust, set and otherwise operate the fans. Top models with remote controls are the Bionaire 8.5-Inch Reversible Airflow, Comfort Zone CZ310R, and uniquely, the Lasko W09560 which makes use of the user's smartphone to control the fan via an app and Bluetooth connectivity. We found all three of these models very easy to operate, but the Lasko W09560 was a standout with the modern ease of use and customization available through the app.
Those models with push-button controls and digital readouts are the Holmes Group Bionaire BWF0522E-BU and the Lasko W09560. These models offer the most difficulty in operation because you have to cycle through options to get to the sought after settings. Those with control knobs are the Air King 9166F 20", Holmes Dual 8", and the Lasko 16" Electrically Reversible. Finally, the Comfort Zone CZ319WT uses a switch system. The knob and switch models are by far the easiest and most intuitive to operate.
Ease of Installation
It is rare that we set up a test metric and discover that almost all of the products in the review pass with flying colors. Such is the case with the window fans in the ease of installation. Most of these models simply require the user to set them into the window track and expand a panel or just close the window onto them. That's it. The exception is the large fans such as the Air King and the Lesko 16" W16900. While we do not want you to get the impression that the installation of these models is difficult, they do require tools to screw them into place .All in all though, it's quite easy.
This review of window fans looks at all aspects of these products. Specifically, we took a deep dive into the ease of installation, the control systems operating them, the noise output, the wind speed, and the air movement perceived at distance. All of our tests were conducted hands-on in real world situations. All of our results are organized in a way to make direct comparison between the products as easy as possible. So, rest assured that our research will make selecting a new window fan a breeze.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer