Should you buy an air conditioner or an electric fan this summer - ipanergy
We’re in the middle of a heatwave, and it’s likely the temperature in your home has risen to an uncomfortable level. Investing in an electric fan or air conditioner can help you beat the heat, but which is right for you?
In most cases, a cheap and reliable electric fan will get the job done. The best electric fans we've tested are a breeze to use, you can easily store them in the cupboard once the typical British weather returns and they use less electricity than an air conditioner.
However, if your home frequently gets ridiculously hot, a fan might not be enough. Our expert lab tests prove that the right air conditioner will cool an entire room in no time.
Below, we've compared electric fans and portable air conditioners on a range of important categories to help you choose which is right for you, and found some example models you might want to take a look at.
Already know you want to buy a fan? Make sure you pick one that's worth your money - head straight to our electric fan reviews.
If you need a quick fix, head to our tips on how to stay cool without air conditioning.
Air cons vs electric fans: how do they work?
An electric fan doesn't cool the air in your home: it moves air around, allowing your sweat to evaporate faster and leaving you feeling cooler. Air conditioners will physically lower the temperature of a room. Both will work wonders on a hot day, but a portable air conditioner will have a more powerful impact.
So, if you're using a fan, you'll need to be close to it to feel the benefit. Whereas, if you walk into a room that contains a Which? Best Buy portable air conditioner, you should feel the effects from wherever you're stood.
Because of the different way these devices work, a portable air conditioner will use much more energy than an electric fan. If your portable air con doesn't come with a window sealing kit - as you'll need to dangle the hose out of an open window - it will be even less energy-efficient, as more warm air will be gushing in for the portable air conditioner to tackle.
Make sure you choose an energy-efficient model: how to buy the best air conditioner
Air cons vs electric fans: size and storage
Portable air conditioners are bulky and unwieldy. If you're short on storage space, an electric fan is the obvious choice.
A compact desk fan, designed to sit by your side on a table or (as the name suggests) desk, could be the way to go if you're overheating while you work from home.
Even if they won't actually be on a desk, they're convenient for positioning close to you while you're sat on the sofa or on a bedside table, for example. So if you're mostly just looking to cool yourself down and want to be able to move the fan around the house with you, a desk fan is a good choice.
Desk fans are generally cheaper than tower fans, too.
Pedestal and tower fans are bigger than desk fans and a bit more cumbersome to move. They are worth considering if you want to make the whole room feel cooler, rather than just one person. They are still smaller and easier to move around than an air conditioner.
Some fans are designed so they can can extend into a pedestal fan or collapsed into a desk fan.
The bottom line: Go for a fan if you're short on space. Choose a desk fan if it's just for you, a tower or pedestal fan or multiple desk fans, if you share your home with others. A portable air conditioner will be a squeeze if you have a small home, and it will be cumbersome to move around.
Find out more about which sort of fan to choose: how to buy the best electric fan.
Air cons vs electric fans: weight
Considering their size, you won't be surprised to hear that portable air conditioners can be rather heavy.
In fact, at the time of writing, the lightest air conditioner we've tested still weighs in at nearly 19kg, while the heaviest is around 34kg which is more than five times heavier than the heaviest fan. So you may well need some help positioning it or getting it back into storage at the end of the summer.
Desk fans aren't particularly heavy. Although pedestal and tower fans are taller and have a weighted base, they're still fairly easy to move around. We're yet to test a pedestal or tower fan that weighs more than 6kg.
The bottom line: Air conditioners are bulky and not easily moved around. You may need help to move it once the hot weather's passed. Go for an electric fan if you need something light you can move around the house.
Air cons vs electric fans: ease of use
Setting up a portable air conditioner can take some time. Some models come with a window sealing kit you''ll need to install, although these are usually only suited to sliding, sash or French windows.
Don't expect to start using your air conditioner straightaway. We've tested some that need to be left alone upright for as long as six hours before being used.
You'll need to attach the connectors to the external hose, which requires some patience. Internet-enabled air conditioners will also need adding to your wi-fi network.
You'll also need to regularly clean the dust filters and fans to keep your portable air conditioner in good condition.
The bottom line: Air conditioners take some time to set up correctly. If you want something straightforward that's ready to go right out of the box, an electric fan will be better.
Air cons vs electric fans: extra features
Some air conditioners double up as dehumidifiers, which might be a handy bonus if you also have a damp problem. But we've found that standalone dehumidifiers are usually easier to use - use our dehumidifier reviews to pick the right one for your budget.
Some air conditioners also have a sleep or night mode, which reduces the noise they make so you can keep snoozing.
More advanced air conditioners can be controlled through your smartphone.
And many have a fan-only mode - although if you plan on using that feature a lot, you might as well just buy a fan.
Electric fans aren't quite as exciting when it comes to extra features. Some do come with remote controls and some give you the option to dim any lights at night. Others have timers to help you save on energy bills.
The bottom line: Compared with electric fans, air conditioners usually have a few more features, but some electric fans also have handy extras.