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Tower fan vs. window air conditioner: Which is more cost efficient?

Tower fan vs. window air conditioner: Which is more cost efficient?
(Image credit: Home Depot)

When the hot weather hits, most people scramble for a way to cool down. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of the best central air conditioners to keep their homes ice cool. In millions of homes and apartments, cooling off is the job of window units or fans to keep the air moving so that dwellers don't totally melt.

If a heatwave of hot summer has left you looking for a cheap and efficient way to cool off, one of your first stops should be to look for a best tower fan or a best window air conditioners. You'll find plenty of options to help you stop sweating, some of which are super cheap, while others can be pricey. The trick is to find a cooling option that hits the sweet spot which doesn't cost a ton of money to operate but it still keeps you comfortable. Here's what to look out for to keep energy costs down when cooling your home.

Energy Usage

Tower fan vs. window air conditioner: Which is more cost efficient?

Tower fans can be an attractive addition to your home.  (Image credit: Home Depot)

When it comes to a traditional window AC unit, there are three distinct parts: The compressor, a condenser and an evaporator. The unit works by using a chemical (Freon) that basically takes in warm air from the surroundings, cools it and then pushes it back out through the vents, so you get cooler air. Because there are several processes happening at once, a window AC uses more energy than a traditional tower fan. Tower fans work by simply pushing air outward, without actually cooling it. Therefore, they use much less energy than an AC unit. In fact, the average AC uses about 3500 watts, or 3.5 kWh, in just one hour, while a fan uses only 2.4 kWh in 24 hours.

Pricing

Tower fan vs. window air conditioner: Which is more cost efficient?

Window air conditioners often cost more than tower fans. (Image credit: Home Depot)

If you're going for cool air with a window air conditioner unit, you'll pay more than if you were to grab a standard tower fan. Usually, window air conditioner units start at about $300 for a basic model, with prices going up as you add features, like a sleep timer. Tower fans are relatively inexpensive, with one exception. A traditional tower fan will probably cost between $30 and $80, but new designs, such as the Dyson Pure Cool TP04 tower fan, are much more expensive, at around $400. You'll also need to consider the cost of operation. Using up more energy, a window air conditioner will typically cost you more on your utility bill, so make sure you factor in all of the expenses before buying.

Efficiency

Tower fan vs. window air conditioner: Which is more cost efficient?

Window air conditioners are more efficient than tower fans.  (Image credit: Home Depot)

This is the category where the window air conditioner is a clear winner. Since it actively cools the air, you'll drastically drop the temperature in any room where a unit is installed. With a fan, you shouldn't expect dropped temperatures, just a more comfortable sensation. Tower fans might alter the room temperature a few degrees, but it's really the moving air that gives you a sense of coolness. In reality, the window air conditioner unit is much better at giving you a total reprieve from summer heat.

Tower fan vs. window air conditioner: Which should you buy?

If you really want to ramp up the efficiency of either an window air conditioner or a tower fan, use them together. Putting a tower fan in front of your window AC can help push the cold air farther so you get the most cooling. On a 98-degree August day, both factors might be sacrificed to your need for a cool night's sleep.

However, if you're only looking to buy one, opting for a window air conditioner with low running costs, such as the LG Dual Inverter, is a good way of having a reliable and effective air conditioner which can justify its up-front cost. 

That being said, a tower fan is the obvious low-budget option to select if you're looking to keep running and up-front costs low. It doesn't offer as effective cooling, but for not-too-hot days it will definitely do the job.