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Best Window Fan

By: Amy Livingston on May 15, 2017

Window fans draw in the cooler air

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 distinguishing 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 TheSweethome.com 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.

Nonetheless, in Dillon's test of window fans, the very best performer is one that's near the top of this range: the Bionaire BW2300 Remote Control Twin Window Fan (Est. $55). This electrically reversible, three-speed fan has two blades that can be controlled independently, so you can draw air in with one and exhaust it with the other. TheSweethome.com found that on top speed, the breeze from this fan could be felt a full 30 feet away – 5 feet farther than any other model in the test could reach.

The Bionaire fan also gives you lots of options for controlling the airflow. You can adjust the speed or direction of airflow either through a panel on the front or with a remote control, allowing you to tweak the temperature without getting out of bed. The fan also includes a programmable digital thermostat, which shuts it off automatically when the air in your room reaches your preferred temperature. Dillon says this thermostat isn't really that precise, but it's useful for maintaining a comfortable temperature while you sleep.

The Bionaire BW2300's powerful airflow comes with a moderate amount of noise, between 65 and 70 decibels. However, users at Amazon.com apparently don't find this noise level bothersome, as most of them say the this Bionaire window fan is quiet as well as powerful. They tend to agree with Dillon that the thermostat isn't particularly accurate, 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 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.

Despite the Bionaire fan's many perks, TheSweethome.com doesn't name it as the best window fan overall, mainly because of its cost. Instead, that title goes to the more basic Pelonis FW23-A1 9" Twin Window Fan (Est. $35). The Pelonis isn't as powerful as the Bionaire BW2300, producing a breeze that can be felt at a distance of only 20 feet instead of 30. However, it's also a bit quieter, at 60 to 65 decibels. Like the Bionaire, this fan is electrically reversible, with three speeds and three settings (intake, exhaust, or exchange). It also has a thermostat, though Dillon says it's even less accurate than the Bionaire's. The only feature it lacks is a remote control.

Home Depot is the primary retailer for this Pelonis window fan. Over 400 owners have reviewed it at HomeDepot.com, giving it a good but not great rating of 4.1 stars overall. Most users consider this fan a good value, saying it's quiet and moves a good amount of air. Their main problem with it is fit. Although the fan comes with an adjustable sliding panel, it only fits windows up to 31 inches wide, and many users had difficulty getting it to stay put in their windows. As for durability, we found the usual mix of comments, with some owners saying this fan has worked well for years while others complain it died in months or even days. The fan is backed by a 1-year manufacturer warranty.

A still cheaper alternative is the Holmes HAWF2021 Twin Window Fan with Reversible Air Flow Control (Est. $20). Although it has twin blades, it's not electrically reversible, so the only way to switch from intake to exhaust is to pull the fan out and flip it – a feature many users find annoying. Moreover, at TheSweethome.com, the Holmes was one of the loudest fans tested, yet also delivered the weakest airflow, detectable only up to a distance of 18 feet. However, it does have one perk: unlike most fans, it can fit vertical-slider and casement windows, as well as double-hung windows up to 34 inches wide. That feature, plus its low cost, could make it a reasonable pick for cooling a small space – like a bedroom, where white noise isn't a problem. It's backed by a 1-year warranty.

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