Electric fans include everything from decorative ceiling fans that generate cool, subtle breezes to wall-mounted bathroom exhaust fans designed to draw moisture out. Electric fans also include freestanding box and oscillating units, window fans for warm weather days, stove and kitchen ventilation fans, fan-forced heaters and fireplace blowers. This category consists of a very wide range of units, each of which is designed to serve a different purpose than the others.
Air Circulating Fans
Air circulating fans include ceiling fans, freestanding portable, box and oscillating fans, as well as window fans designed to be held between the sill and opened sash of a double hung window. This type of electric fan is meant to generate comfortable breezes in an overly-hot room by circulating warm, heavy air. While not producing the same level of coolness that air conditioners do, air circulating fans nevertheless are able to stir up enough of the room's atmosphere to make it bearable on very hot days.
Air circulating window fans are designed to draw warm air out of a room. Placed in an open window, the heated internal air is sucked out, thereby lowering the temperature of the room. In addition, air circulating fans make an energy-efficient supplement to AC units. They allow you to run the AC less while spreading the cool air around.
Exhaust and Ventilation Fans
Exhaust and ventilation fans are found in bathrooms and kitchens mainly. Anywhere that a high degree of moisture, heat, odor or airborne particles builds up, some type of exhaust and/or ventilation fan is used. Wood shops and other commercial workspaces always have an industrial-grade ventilator to remove sawdust particles and other irritants from the atmosphere. In bathrooms, exhaust/ventilation fans are used to draw moisture out so mold has no chance to build up, while kitchens use them to ventilate heat and steam from a stovetop.
While fan forced heaters' primary function is to supply warmth to a space by means of a heating element of some kind, without a fan the heated air would go nowhere. Many bathroom fans serve a dual purpose, providing both exhaust and heating capabilities. Likewise, fireplace blowers feature electric fans that distribute the heat generated by the fuel source, whether it is natural gas, oil or wood. In these cases, the electric fan is a component of the whole unit, whereas exhaust fans' and air circulators' central feature is the fan.
Electric fans used for all residential applications are powered by standard 120-volt electricity. Ceiling fans, exhaust/ventilation fans and fan/heater combo units are typically hardwired, while freestanding box, portable and oscillating fans plug directly into a wall outlet. Industrial electric fans require more complex wiring schemes, but residential fans require only 2 or 3 wires to connect to a circuit.
Electric fans comprise a very broad, general category that includes numerous types of air circulating fans, exhaust and ventilation fans and heat blowers. Determine your needs, and then narrow down your search to find exactly the type of electric fan you require.