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Best Window Fan

By: Amy Livingston on April 24, 2018

Window fans are fundamentally different from other types of electric fans. While most fans can only cool you directly with a stream of moving air, window fans can actually cool a room by either bringing in cool air at night or exhausting hot air.

The key feature of a window fan is whether it's manually or electrically reversible. A manually reversible fan must be removed and flipped around in the window to change the direction of airflow, while an electrically reversible fan can change airflow directions with the flip of a switch. Some have two sets of blades that can run independently, so stale air can be exhausted and fresh air pulled in at the same time.

One problem with window fans is that many won't fit in a window unless the screen is removed. That means when the fan isn't running, small insects can get in through the spaces in the fan's grille. To prevent this, you may need to either cover or remove the fan when it's not in use.

In fact, it’s probably a good idea to do this even if your fan fits your window perfectly. The longer it spends in the window, the more its motor gets exposed to moisture that can shorten its life. Reviewer Kit Dillon at Wirecutter says most window fan motors get "sticky" after a year or two of use from exposure to weather and dust that’s hard to remove. Dillon recommends sticking to lower-priced window fans – no more than $60 – because even the best-made fan won’t last for long.

In keeping with this recommendation, Dillon names the modestly priced Pelonis FW23-A1 9" Twin Window Fan as the best window fan overall, but that fan has been recently discontinued. Home Depot, the primary retailer for the Pelonis fan, has replaced it with a house branded Home Depot WDF9-2 (Est. $35). It's not been tested by anyone as of yet, and user feedback is very limited -- albeit uniformly positive -- thus far. Because of that, and because it's not quite identical, we can't recommend it at this time. That said, it could very well be worth considering.

If you'd rather not take the chance, we did find a pretty good alternative. The Bionaire BW2300 Remote Control Twin Window Fan (Est. $60) is the only fan that outperforms the Pelonis FW23-A1 in Dillon’s test, making it Wirecutter's Upgrade Pick. It’s nearly twice as expensive as the Pelonis fan and the Home Depot replacement, but it’s also more powerful and fuller-featured. On top speed, the breeze from this fan can be felt a full 30 feet away, besting the Pelonis fan by 10 feet and every other fan in the test by at least 5 feet. The Bionaire also includes a remote control that allows you to adjust the speed or direction of the air without getting out of bed, as well as a programmable digital thermostat, though it proves to not be terribly accurate in testing.

The Bionaire BW2300’s powerful airflow comes with a moderate amount of noise, between 65 and 70 decibels. However, users at Amazon apparently don’t find this noise level bothersome, as most of them say that this Bionaire window fan is quiet as well as powerful. They tend to agree with Dillon's assessment regarding the thermostat's accuracy, and they warn that this fan doesn’t fit all windows. It has sliding panels that adjust its width from 24 to 37 inches, but it can’t fit windows larger or smaller than that, and it needs a special bracket to be used in a casement window.

Reports of this fan’s durability are mixed. Some users say that their fans have given them years of reliable service, but others report that their fans failed within a few weeks or months, most often due to a blown fuse. Replacing this fuse is difficult, as it’s hard to find the proper size, and some owners say it just blows again almost immediately. Users who contacted Bionaire’s customer service line for help say the reps are friendly, but getting a replacement unit or parts often takes months because the company doesn’t have them in stock. This makes the fan’s otherwise impressive 5-year warranty somewhat less useful.

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