Various types of fans are the functional, basic devices that you use to dissipate heat and cool a room or the house. However, using types of fans actually dates back to 3000 B.C. The Romans, Greeks, and Etruscans show pictorial records and evidence of using fans as cooling devices and for ceremonial purposes. On the other end of the spectrum, the Chinese show depictions of fans linked to historical characters or mythical beings.
The first type of fan introduced to the world at large were European folding fans, and they were thought of as a status symbol so they were reserved for the Royals and nobles of the time. We’re going to take you through a quick fan evolution below before diving into 15 popular types of fans you may have and use in your home.
Starting out as simple folding fans and slowly turning into electrical models, types of fans have undergone a surprising evolution over the decades. This includes:
- Dark Ages – During the dark ages, they used the screen fan called pien-mien. It was very popular in China.
- 17th Century – Fix and folding fans were very popular during this period, and this resulted in spending more energy developing folding fans throughout the 17th century.
- 18th Century – Folding fans were still very popular at this point, but printed fans quickly overtook them as they were cheaper to make and buy.
- 19th Century – At this point, small folding types of fans reigned supreme, and they also used small braise fans that started to catch on.
- 20th Century – The 20th century saw a huge advertising explosion for types of fans followed by feather fans gaining popularity.
- 21st Century – The use of decorative fans isn’t observed or seen very much, but the types of fans you find used today for heating and cooling purposes.
15 Types of Fans
You may only know about table and ceiling fans since these are the two most common ones you find used in most households. However, there are dozens of types of fans available, and most of them have use in houses. However, you can find types of fans specialty designed for and used in warehouses and factories. The following list has a mix of all of these types of fans.
1. AC Motor Fans
Generally speaking, AC motor fans are ones that let you rotate them in an anticlockwise direction, and some modern fans will allow you to adjust the blade speed. They come with a hanging string that allows you to pull it to adjust the speed and direction of the blades as needed. However, the most important thing you want to keep in mind before you choose this type of fan is that the fan’s end has to be a minimum of eight feet over the surface of the floor.
2. Attic Fans
Even though this type of fan is a popular way to cook down the attic during the hot summer months, they can cost much more in electricity than they save on running your air conditioner. An exception to this rule is if you power your type of fan using a solar panel, and this can drop the electricity use down to zero.
One big reason why this type of fan isn’t efficient is because they need the existing attic vents to make up the air they exhaust in the ridge, soffits, or gables of the roof. The attic vents are usually not designed for this purpose, and they can’t supply enough replacement air. In fact, they can put the attic at a lower pressure than the upper floor, and this sucks your conditioned air into the attic through holes in your attic stairs, recessed lighting, and whole-house fans. They can also directly suck your conditioned air out of unsealed ducts.
3. Bladeless Fans
As the name suggests, this type of fan is a completely modern and blade-free or bladeless appliance. It comes with a hollow loop that is elongated to look a little like an antenna. This hollow loop has a powerful extracting engine installed that helps suck air through and create a powerful air current. Inside of the loop on this type of fan, you’ll get an inverse vacuum that amplifies the speed of the air up to 18 times before it expels it back out. The hollow loop also contains a filtration system and ionizer, and this helps clean your indoor air. However, this is a more expensive type of fan compared to bladed models.
4. Ceiling Fans
This is the most commonly used type of fan on the market, and you’ll find one in most households. You may hear someone describe it as a mechanical fan that mounts on the ceiling in your room and uses electricity to run. This fan usually has a hum-mounted rotating portion that helps circulate the air and evenly spread it around the room. Since ceiling fans are usually suspended in the middle of the room, the air gets equally transferred through the entire space.
This type of fan has been in use since 500 BC, and they originally came from India. Ceiling fans used to have a manual operation via pull cord. However, during the 1870s, rotary ceiling fans came to the United States, and a stream of running water helped to power them. There are still some rotary types of fans available today that you can find in the southern area of the United States.
In 1882, Philip Diehl invented the electrically powered ceiling fan. Each of these fans came with a self-contained motor unit to help them hook up to electrical power to run. When it comes to usage, these types of fans work for both heating and cooling due to the reverse mechanism that controls the air’s direction.
5. DC Motor Fans
This energy-efficient type of fan is a high-tech alternative to the more traditional AC fan. The DC in the name means direct current, and they work with this instead of using an alternating current to help the fan reduce energy usage as it runs. Also, these types of fans will rotate both clockwise and anticlockwise. When the blades rotate in the counterclockwise direction, it will work to cool the room by directing air downwards. They can also suck warm air up by the ceiling, cool it down, and spread it back into the room.
6. Exhaust Fans
An exhaust fan is also a propeller fan, but it differs from other types of fans because the biggest purpose of this unit is to prevent excessive heat from building up instead of circulating the air through the room. You’ll commonly find it used in the kitchen to help pull cooking smells and excessive heat from the room.
It’s also common to find this type of fan in the bathroom because there is a higher level of humidity and moisture to worry about, and it can cause the mirror to fog or mold to grow. This fan can prevent damage to wood or other materials inside your home too.
Exhaust fans can get installed on windows, wall-mounted areas, and ceilings. Window units are meant to expel humid air directly from outside, and they have very resilient spinning blades with a fully metallic body to make them less prone to rust or damage. They usually slot this body into a square or round case. This fan isn’t built with aesthetics in mind as they tend to be very clunky.
7. Floor Fans
As the name suggests, this type of fan helps to cool the air by the floor level, and this is why they sit directly on the floor. They give you exceptional performance when it comes to cooling down a hot house. They’re very convenient as you can place them wherever you like in your home. They also have an advantage over more traditional ceiling fans as they don’t require a permanent installation. You could even pop them out on your balcony, patio, and terraces to cool this smaller area as you sit outside.
A few typical features of this type of fan is a superior grade plastic, metal, or steel body, in-built oscillation, 180° angle rotation, heads that tilt, an adjustable height, and a compact design. You can easily find floor fans in different shapes, sizes, and types to fit your design and space, and box, window, and bladeless fans are all common types of fans in this category.
8. Hand Fans
You’d use this type of fan if you had very limited or no electricity to run a more traditional fan. They were once extremely popular, but they’re rarely used today except for crafting, decorative purposes, or during power outages.
9. Industrial Fan
You may hear this type of fan called an industrial blower, and the main thing you use it for is to let a large flow of air or gas into different spaces or structures. It has several rotating blades that a motor turbine propels. The biggest reason people use them is because they give you a continuous flow of air that you can use for cooling, air-cleaning, combustion, exhaust, drying, ventilation, or aeration.
You can choose from two main types of fan in this category, including centrifugal and axial fans. Axial fans make use of axial forces to get the air to move.. They use a central hub to accomplish this with blades that attach to the fan system. The hub then spins at a very high speed and causes fluid inside of your fan to move to the wheel shaft.
The other type of fan makes use of centrifugal forces that it attains using a rotating disk inside of the machine. It has shaper blades that get mounted at precise angles on the disk to help increase the air or gas pressure when it’s on. You may hear these fans called a squirrel cage or scroll because they sit in a scroll shaped exterior. The basic or primary function is to give you a quick escalation of gas or air as it passes through the fan system.
10. Misting Fans
If purchasing a traditional air conditioner isn’t in the budget, you could consider investing in this type of fan. These fans are a nice way to blow off heat and cool a small space during the intense summer afternoons. Misting fans do require a water supply that it squirts to form a mist using a high-pressure pump that is inside of the fan system. The mist then gets circulated around the area where it slowly mixes with the warm air.
The high-pressure pump in this fan gets coupled with a powerful blower to give you a very efficient way to cool the indoor or outdoor spaces so you can enjoy them. The mist these fans produce is so fine and light that you won’t feel anything on your skin, and the area around them won’t get damp.
They’re very nice cooling appliances, and they’re more energy-efficient than a traditional air conditioning system. If you compare a fairly compact or portable air conditioner with a bigger misting type of fan, the air conditioner will use roughly 900 watts of power while the fan uses 30. Misting fans allow you to enjoy a cooling sensation without driving up your electricity bill.
11. Pedestal Fans
Pedestal fans are very similar to more traditional tower fans, and it has a lightweight and portable build. However, this type of fan has a tall stand that it sits on, so you may hear it called a stand fan. They work well in medium-sized rooms, and they are much more dominant of the space when you compare them to a tower fan as they can cool a slightly larger area. It has a set of three to five blades located inside of a tight case that a sturdy and long pedestal holds up, and it usually has a heavier disk at the bottom to help support the weight of the fan.
You can adjust most pedestal fans from 16 to 40 inches, or almost four feet off of the floor level. It’s not a good choice if you’re trying to cool a smaller room due to the size, and little kids can slip their fingers between the cage while the fan is on. Most of these types of fans come with an oscillation feature up to 270°, and some have a 180° rotation capability. Also, most of them have five different speed settings, and some offer timers and air filters. The biggest disadvantage of this type of fan is that they produce a decent amount of noise at higher speeds.
12. Table Fans
Table fans are another very popular and preferred type of fan that a lot of households have. You can put your table fans on the table or on the floor, as long as it has a solid, firm base, it’s good to go. They are very portable, compact, and convenient. They’re electrical powered, and they feature a motor unit inside of them. A lot of people prefer these to any other type of fan on the list because they’re inexpensive, very flexible in terms of where you use them, and they don’t drive your electricity bill sky high.
Many of them come with gadget control, and this is one of the biggest advantages of using it. The technical aspects and designs are always being improved and upgraded, they tend to be easier to use and offer more convenience. Today, several fan manufacturers have a range of high-speed table fans with remote controls. This allows you to regulate the speed and direction of the air as it runs. Also, these fans give you a more equal distribution and a wider reach of air since they give you horizontal air ventilation.
13. Tower Fans
As you may have guessed by the name, tower fans are very tall and narrow in the design, and they’re great for smaller rooms due to the compact and space-saving design. They also have a host of features to choose from, including built-in ionizer to help purify the air. This fan usually stands between 30 and 40 inches tall, so you can put it in a corner or a narrow, small space where it won’t get in the way when you move around the room. These fans can rotate from side to side, and they can oscillate between 90° and 95° to allow them to circulate the air to a wider space. Some can oscillate a full 360°.
Generally speaking, tower fans come with a rotating motor that helps move air throughout the room, and you’ll see a panel button on the top that allows you to switch between modes or speeds and set a timer. You can find high-end models that come with remote controls or HEPA filters or humidifier filters. Tower fans have bladed or bladeless designs, and most have motorized blades. The bladeless model features a hollow tube that conducts airflow at a very high speed. They have a quiet operation and safe design that makes them suitable to use around children.
14. Wall Mounted Fans
If space is an issue in your home, a wall-mounted fan is a great choice. They are specially designed for tight and compact spaces that have a very high or low ceiling or that doesn’t have proper wiring. They work well in auditoriums, small offices, warehouses, garages, and huge party halls. They have a different functioning and operating system than the standard ceiling fans because all they do is push air throughout the area where you install them. Ceiling fans work to circulate air by pushing it down.
The biggest benefits associated with this type of fan are that they save a lot of floor space, they help circulate air conditioning, and they’re user-friendly. Some common features you can find on this type of fan include oscillation, a remote control, durability, and multiple speed settings for the blades.
15. Whole-House Fans
The final type of fan on the list is a fan that you mount in the ceiling of an upper floor in your home. They create a very powerful suction that draws air through your windows. They do rely on an attic that has sufficient ventilation to exhaust all of the pressure they create as they run, but they can quickly cool your home down at the end of the day when the temperatures drop off for the night.
There are disadvantages of this type of fan. For example, if you live in a humid climate, the air the fan draws in will be humid and not as cool. You also need to put a large hole in your ceiling that can be a challenge to seal during the winter, and this can cause heated air to leak into the attic. Also, if you don’t open enough windows to balance the suction this fan creates, it can cause combustion appliances like your water heater to backdraft dangerous gasses into the home.
These 15 types of fans allow you to cool your home without installing a window AC unit for people that don’t have central air. Most of them are inexpensive, convenient, and you can pick them up from your local home improvement store and start using them to beat the heat all summer long.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.