Is it better to have a fan oscillating or still? Experts reveal which is the most effective for keeping cool at home

Make the best decision for beating the heat

russell hobbs scandi wood effect desk fan on a desk with a computer
(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)

Fans have long been around as a tried and tested solution to help us stay cool during hotter periods. However, when deciding between an oscillating or still fan, which is the better option to help you effectively beat the heat?

Many of the best fans now come with oscillation as the standard, with the most modern iterations equipped with several oscillating angles to suit your cooling needs. But, if you've got a trusty, old still fan that you're not yet willing to retire, you might wonder whether it's still a sufficient option for keeping a bedroom cool.

We've asked experts to explain the differences between a still and oscillating fan, and which is the better investment for staying cool.

'A still fan has been around for much longer than an oscillating fan, which is a newer invention,' begins Georgette Beacham at BiGDUG. 'A still fan simply blows the air in the only direction that it’s facing, representing a much more basic design. An oscillating fan, which blows the air across a wider area as it pans, has more complex mechanisms, often with multiple options which usually includes a still feature.'

Now we understand the difference between the two, which is the better option out of the two if staying the coolest is your biggest concern?

Is it better to have a fan oscillating or still?

Starting the discussion, Andrew Carmichael, Dyson's environmental care engineer says, 'Keeping cool is all about maximising the amount of air you have over your skin. A fan with a high peak velocity and moves a large amount of air is bound to keep you the coolest.'

If this cool air is blowing over you constantly, the chances of staying cool for longer is far more likely. This is exactly where an oscillating fan excels in comparison to that of a still model.

Andrew explains that oscillating fans create a gentle breeze sensation throughout the room to keep you feeling comfortable, even after your body has already had the chance to cool down.

Unlike a portable air conditioner, fans cool the person as opposed to actively cooling the room itself (as we've explored in detail in our fan vs air conditioner explainer); therefore, the best way to mimic that consistent cooling sensation that an AC unit brings to a room is to invest in an oscillating fan that covers larger areas of space.

The white AEG Comfort 6000 Portable Air Conditioner in a room with purple furnishings

(Image credit: AEG)

'An oscillating fan is the most effective way to distribute cool air throughout the whole room and increase air circulation, which in turn helps bring the overall temperature of the room down,' explains Jemma Pendlebury, product manager at Russell Hobbs.

On the other hand, using a still fan is best for targeting a specific area at an intense level. For example, if you're looking to cool down rooms serving appliance intensive functions, like a laundry room or cooling down a kitchen during particularly hot weather.

russell hobbs scandi wood effect desk fan on a desk with a computer

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)


Is it better to let the fan oscillate?

If you have a fan that offers oscillation, allowing it to do so will increase air circulation in a room, making all the difference during hot weather. However, if you're looking to simply target a specific area for cooling, then keeping it static is your best bet.

When temperatures rise, keeping the air moving around will help make the room feel more comfortable and fresher due to a gentle breeze.

So, if keeping cool is your primary concern, it's definitely better to have a fan oscillating rather than keeping it still. However, whichever fan mode you decide to go with will depend entirely on the specific purpose you need it to serve.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.