Where will you use the fan? The size and type of fan you choose will depend on the size of the space it needs to cool. Larger fans work best in larger rooms, while a tabletop fan can cool a work cubicle. Tower fans can cool a medium-sized room yet fit into a narrow space. Also consider how the noise of the fan will affect your activities in that area. In a family room, you may need a quieter fan that won't drown out the TV. In a bedroom, a slightly louder fan may be desirable because it muffles other noises.
Will you use the fan in multiple rooms? If you plan to move the fan from room to room, it should be easy to lift. You'll also need to check the length of the cord to make sure it can always reach an outlet. Some small fans can fold up and be packed into a suitcase for traveling.
Do you have children? If so, make sure your fan blades are protected from tiny fingers. You might choose a bladeless fan or a tower fan, which has a fine-mesh grate rather than a grille. Another option is a fan with soft blades made of cloth or rubber.
Do you have pets? To keep Fluffy or Fido from knocking the fan over, choose one with a sturdy base. This is especially important with table and pedestal fans. If you choose a fan specifically to keep your pets cool, avoid noisy fans that animals might shy away from. Confirm that the fan is returnable, in case it makes a noise outside of your hearing range but disturbs your pet.
Is it for day or night use? At night, a window fan can be a good choice because it brings in cooler air from outdoors. This means it can actually help lower the room temperature rather than just provide personal cooling. Yet it won't help at all during the day when outdoor temperatures are hot.
Which is more important: airflow or noise level? In general, there's a trade-off between the two: The more air a fan moves, the more noise it will make. However, some fans are particularly loud or quiet for their power level. If possible, test out the fan in the store so you can both hear it and feel it in person.