Air conditioning vs Portable fans: which is best?

Are you ready for the summer or dreading the heat? Find out whether portable fans or air conditioners are the best way to cool your home.

A smiling woman closes her eyes as she feels the cool air from a portable fan on her face

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It may not feel like now, but summer will soon be here again. And after the record temperatures that the UK has experienced in recent years, you may already be thinking about how to cool down when the sun starts to shine. 

There are lots of simple things you can do to keep cool in summer, but if you really want to cool things down, there are two main options: portable fans or home air conditioning. 

This may also interest you: 25 Ways to Keep Cool this Summer

Either option will help keep you cool and make it easier to get to sleep in summer, but what’s the difference between portable fans and air con? And which is the better option for your home?

What’s the difference between air con and portable fans?

Before we look at the benefits of portable fans and air conditioning units, let’s take a look at the differences between them. Although they both help you to feel cooler, they work in slightly different ways.

The main difference between a cooling fan and an air conditioner is that fans only move the air around the room, whereas an AC unit actively cools the air. 

An air conditioning unit will draw air in from your home, cool it by drawing out moisture, and then release the air back into the room. This brings down the room’s temperature, helping to provide relief from the heat.

On the other hand, portable fans like the ones sold at RS simply push the air around your home. The strength of the fan’s air current encourages the sweat on your skin to evaporate, which leaves you feeling cooler.

A man fitting a grill onto a portable air conditioner in his home

Which is better for cooling a room: a cooling fan or air conditioner?

Both options will provide a cool breeze in your home, which will feel fantastic on a summer’s day. But if you’re considering buying one for your home, you’ll want to know which is more effective.

The air conditioning unit is definitely the better option for cooling your room on a hot day. That’s because it actually reduces the temperature of the air, rather than just moving air around a space.

So you’ll need to be quite close to feel the benefit of a fan, whereas you’ll feel the effect of a portable air conditioner as soon as you walk into the room.

Do cooling fans work in hot weather?

A portable fan will make a warm day more comfortable, but it will struggle on really hot summer days. In fact, on scorching days, a fan will just move hot air around the room, which won’t do much to make you feel cooler.

On the other hand, a portable air conditioner will have much more impact, helping you to stay cool as the temperature rises.

A smiling woman sitting in front of a portable fan, enjoying the cool breeze on her face.

Fans vs air conditioners: which is easier to use?

Portable fans, such as desk fans and pedestal fans, have very basic functions, making them much easier to use than portable air conditioners.

With a fan, you just have to put it into position, plug it in and pick the speed level. If your fan has an oscillating function, you’ll generally have to push a button if you want it to rotate from side to side. 

Portable air conditioners are a bit more difficult to set up and use. You’ll need to place the air conditioner near both a window and a plug socket so that you can direct the hose carrying the hot air out of the room. You’ll also need to fit a window seal to stop air flowing back into the room, making the air conditioner less efficient.

And because portable air conditioners have extra features like timers, sleep mode and dehumidifier settings, it might take a little longer to work out all the settings.

Which is cheaper: portable fans or air conditioners?

Portable fans are cheaper than air conditioners and also cost less to run. Air conditioners use far more electricity due to the way that they cool the air, but you have to balance that against the more powerful cooling effect of an air conditioner. 

If you choose to use a portable air conditioner, you can keep the running costs down by making sure you use a window sealing kit.

Portable fans and air conditioning are both very effective at helping you stay cool on a hot day. And while both have their advantages and disadvantages, ultimately, you need to consider the cost vs benefit of each of these cooling methods.