Whether you’re struggling to keep cool at your WFH setup or to work in an office space with not-so-great airflow, a desk fan is an excellent — and cost-effective — way to keep cool as temperatures rise. To help you find the right one for your workspace and budget, we spoke with experts from Lowe’s and Home Depot as well as long-serving managers at independent hardware stores to discover which of their offerings are truly worth the investment and why. If you’re looking for other ways to stay cool, we’ve written about the best floor fans and ceiling fans too.
What we’re looking for
Width: Because you want to take up as little space as possible on your desktop, you’ll logically want a smaller fan, says Matthew Brown, director of AC and fans at Home Depot. Unlike other situations in which the first thing he looks for is power, Brown says a desk fan’s footprint is in fact the first thing he considers. With a desk fan, you don’t need as much air movement, he says, because it’s really just for individual use.
Weight: Unlike floor fans and air-conditioning units that are intended to stay in the same place all season, desk fans are more likely to be moved from room to room (or desk to desk) on an as-needed basis. For that reason, our experts recommend ensuring any desk fan you buy is lightweight enough to easily transport. None of these fans should be too difficult to maneuver — the heaviest weighs just three pounds, roughly the weight of a MacBook Air or steam iron.
Number of speeds: The desired power of your desk fan will vary depending on the time of year (or even the time of day) you’re using it. With this in mind, multiple experts pointed out that the more speed settings a desk fan has, the closer the user can get to their ideal level of air flow each time.
Best overall desk fan
7.4 inches | 2.1 pounds | 2-speed
Vornado’s desk fans were mentioned by our experts more than any other company’s (its designs feature heavily in our guide to the best floor fans). “Vornado’s great because their entire focus is taking air and channeling it into a cone that blows straight at you — it really directs air, taking a small amount and turning it into a jet,” Brown says, adding that he and Home Depot consider Vornado to be the “premium brand” across the entire fan category. Patrick McDonnell, assistant manager of Brooklyn’s Mazzone Hardware, is another admirer and says this particular Vornado design — a smaller version of its expert-approved 633 floor fan — is his store’s “No. 1 desk fan” because it’s “very strong, quieter than you’d think, and can be aimed either at yourself or into the corner of the room, which will increase the circulation around your whole space.” McDonnell notes that while the fans don’t oscillate, the ingenious design of its “fingerprint-patterned” grill means it will circulate air around the room.
Best smaller desk fan
5.7 inches | 1.7 pounds | 3-speed
This less expensive desk fan, also from Vornado, is Brown’s favorite and one of Home Depot’s best sellers. While it boasts the same cone-of-air technology that made him praise the brand above — including an air flow he says feels “like a reverse jet engine” — Brown says this cheaper fan even has some additional benefits: a “glossy and very elegant” design (helpful if it’s going to be sat next to you all day) and a minimal footprint (even smaller than that of the 133).
Best multidirectional desk fan
4.7 inches | 1.95 pounds | 4-speed
Each year during the first days of summer, Warshaw Hardware in Gramercy Park receives a steady stream of sweat-drenched customers desperate for desk fans to cool their sweltering offices. Manager Megan Warshaw says its top-selling desk fan (which is rarely, if ever, returned) is made by Lasko, a brand that has received even more praise for its fans on our site in recent years than Vornado has. This one, its Platinum Desktop Wind Tower, is “like a mini oscillating fan,” Warshaw says. “The top portion oscillates back and forth, but if you wish to pause it, you can actually get the fan to blow consistently in two different directions.” Warshaw adds that it’s very quiet and, because it’s tall rather than wide, takes up very little desk space. “A lot of people appreciate that they can easily pack it away when not in use,” Warshaw says. “It’s compact and fits into storage areas really well.”
Best oscillating desk fan
6 inches | 3 pounds | 3-speed
This alternative tower desk fan from Vornado may not be able to blow in two directions at once, but what it has over the Lasko is its ability to oscillate a full 360 degrees. (It can also be programmed to turn as little as 90 degrees.) It takes up about an inch less surface area than the Lasko above and comes recommended by Gary McCoy, a store manager at Lowe’s, who calls it the “perfect fan for a desk, nightstand, or table,” adding that it’s one of few desk fans with responsive LED touch controls.
Best clip-on desk fan
6 inches | 1.9 pounds | 2-speed
For those looking to truly minimize the space their desk fan takes up, a clip-on fan will barely intrude on the surface area of your desk. Not only is this one budget friendly, but McCoy says it’s much quieter than you’d expect for a fan of its price. He also says it’s lightweight enough to easily adjust and still boasts “two fan speeds to customize airflow.”
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