Outdoor Fans


Moving air can feel up to 8°F / 4.5°C cooler on our skin than still air of the same temperature, and when combined with mist, shade, or air conditioning, can feel even cooler.

Outdoor fans cool differently than many other cooling methods, making them more effective in certain settings, and a great companion to other cooling methods.

What are Outdoor Cooling Fans?

How are they different from indoor fans?

Unlike indoor fans, outdoor fans are built to stand up to harsher environments. Damp and Wet ratings for these fans tell you the kinds of outdoor environment each fan is built for. Look for damp-rated fans for semi-enclosed areas with solid ceilings, like the picture above. Look for wet-rated fans for more open areas like patios with slatted or partially open ceilings, or wide open areas like parks. When in doubt, opt for safer wet-rated fans. Manufacturers proudly state if their fans are built with these special safety features. If the product description does not specifically list one of these ratings, it’s safest to assume it is for indoor use only.

If you want to match the look of outdoor and indoor fans, use the outdoor fans indoors.

Comparing Outdoor Fans to Other Cooling Methods

Unlike evaporative cooling solutions – misting systems, misting fans, and swamp coolers – which cool best in dry climates and conditions, outdoor fans cool somewhat better in humid climates and conditions. But their breezes have cooling effects in all climates.

  • Like misting systems, fans can keep you, your guests, and animals cool on a hot day, and help keep flying insects away. Unlike misting systems, they require only electricity, not a source of water as well, so they can be used in more settings. If the electricity comes from a battery, they are more portable than misting systems.
  • They can be as effective at cooling as outdoor shades, but they don’t depend on the location of the sun for that effectiveness. Outdoor fans can keep you cool all day and night, no matter where the sun is.
  • They are less expensive and use far less resources than portable air conditioners, and unlike air conditioners, can provide cooling in both closed and open areas.

Combining Outdoor Fans with Other Cooling Methods

Fans can enhance the cooling effect of most other cooling methods. At low speeds, fans can increase the reach of a spray from a misting system – especially helpful with low-pressure systems. These are often called “misting fans.” Fans can increase the air flow of shaded areas, and help distribute the chilled air from a portable air conditioner.

How Outdoor Fans Work

The way fans cools us – people and animals – is the wind chill we feel. The air of a fan helps evaporate our sweat and draws away our bodies’ heat. Think of how a breeze can cool us, but the air temperature doesn’t change when the breeze isn’t blowing. Unlike other cooling methods, fans do not cool an area or the objects in it, their breezes move the warmth away from our bodies.

Since only people and animals are cooled, there is no need to run the fan if people leave the area for awhile. And when you return and turn the fan back on, the breeze feels great instantly — no need to run the fan before you feel cooler. This can save a lot of energy (especially important if you’re using a generator or a battery to power it).

While outdoor fans are great in dry climates, because they increase air flow, they are especially effective in humidity. Damp, hot, still air holds our bodies’ heat close to us. But moving that air with a fan distributes that heat away from us and can help evaporate the moisture in the air. Breezes plus water equals extra cooling. Consider how much colder you feel when stepping out of a shower into a room with a fan, versus how the room felt before you stepped into the shower. Outdoor fans can have a similar effect in humidity.

Fans use simple technology. A motor powers blades that spin and move the air around us. The cooling effect can be enhanced by the size and angle of the blades and the power of the motor than controls the speed the blades spin. The faster the blades spin, the more cooling effect. But a hard wind can be uncomfortable, so there needs to be a balance, or a way to adjust the wind speed.

The setup of the fan also makes a difference. It needs to be near activities, but out of the way and placed where it can create maximum air flow, This makes overhead or ceiling fans, wall mount or pedestal fans especially effective. Floor fans can be helpful when there is not a lot of foot traffic.

What Makes a Great Outdoor Fan?

Learn all about Outdoor Fans in our In-Depth articles on what to look for in a great fan:
1. the fan, itself: The motor, energy use and air flow determine how much cooling you can expect from a fan. The fan blades determine the size of the fan and can really maximize that air flow.
2. A fan’s features are especially important for outdoor fans since they must be safer and more durable than indoor fans. Look for features such as:

  • safety features and ratings
  • functional features, relating to how the fan is made
  • operating features for ease of use
  • initial and ongoing costs

3. How the fan is setup is critical for effective cooling. Your set-up may involve some trial and error to determine the settings and placement that work best for you. Any fan can provide more cooling, use less energy and be safest when it’s set up well.

Other Outdoor Cooling Methods

Take a look at our comparison page to learn which cooling methods may be best for you.

Outdoor fans work well on their own and combine well with misting systems for added cooling effect. Misting fans are a clear example of how misting systems work with another cooling method to maximize cooling.

Swamp coolers (desert coolers) use a similar technology as misting systems, but in a contained unit.

Outdoor shades are a nearly universal solution that can add to the cooling effect of all cooling solutions.

Portable air conditioners can be the best outdoor cooling solution for special circumstances.