It was a 90-degree July day that broke me. The humidity, the stagnant air, the beads of sweat that mixed with my SPF to form an acidic slurry that ran directly into my eyes. I’d had enough. I get mean when I’m hot, and trust me, no one wants to deal with my heat-induced crankiness.
There is no central air in my 100-plus-year-old house, and on particularly oppressive summer days, all of the Popsicles in the world or dips in a kiddie pool can’t cool me off. Wirecutter’s picks for corded fans are fantastic at pushing air to the right places, but they are annoying if you want to move around outdoors. Handheld fans—like the one theme-park journalist Carlye Wisel brings to Disney—can be good if you’re expecting to be totally mobile. But when I’m just hanging out, I don’t need anything super-lightweight.
So when a friend showed me her Geek Aire Fan, a portable, rechargeable, battery-powered wind machine, I ordered one for myself immediately. It arrived two days later, and the first thing I said to my kids was, “My fan. Not yours. Get your own fan.” This is the one thing I truly bought for myself with clear ground rules. That is, unlike my sun hat, beach chair, and every tube of lip balm I’ve ever owned—all of which instantly became my family’s property the minute the box landed on the front porch. If I’m not using my fan, others may enjoy its delightful gusts. But if I need it, it’s mine—though they are welcome to sit in my cool-breeze zone (the fan doesn’t oscillate, so it’s just a direct line of gentle wind). On an especially hot day, Buddy, my dog, has no qualms about sidling up and directly blocking me from my beloved fan.
My 12-inch Geek Aire Fan cost $120, which felt exorbitant at the time, but it quickly proved its worth. The easy-carry handle allows me to pick it up while it’s still running and bring it from room to room and from indoors to outdoors, as well as on camping trips and to gatherings at my in-laws’ house. I plug it in when I’m using it inside, and I keep it unplugged to blow its glorious breezes when using it outside (no cords to trip over!). Its variable speed-control dial allows me to go from light breeze to gale-force winds in seconds, moving from a whisper-quiet 24.6 decibels (the equivalent of rustling leaves) at the lowest setting unplugged and maxing out at 46.9 decibels (about the same volume as many bird calls) at its highest, plugged-in level. (The fan automatically reduces power when unplugged, to preserve battery life.)
My version of the Geek Aire Fan has a plastic face and a metal rear with 3/8-inch safety slats, so little fingers don’t get caught. Other models intended more for garage use are all metal. And there’s a $150 version that comes with a misting function (fun, but not ideal for the indoor/outdoor flexibility I craved, and downright annoying for us glasses-wearers).
This metal-bladed beauty spins 360 degrees, sits in two positions on its legs, and weighs less than 7 pounds. The company says the battery lasts up to 24 hours on a charge, depending on fan speed. In my tests, it took about 4½ hours for the battery to die on the highest setting and more than 24 hours on the lowest—there’s an indicator light that shows you how much juice you have left. Though it takes about 3 hours to recharge to full, you can charge the battery while running the fan, which is extremely handy. The water-resistant compartment for the lithium-ion battery prevents moisture from infiltrating, and it has a USB port to charge your phone or other devices.
Is it cool? Yes. Do I look cool? Who cares. It keeps the mosquitoes at bay, the sweat off my brow, and the grumpiness out of my attitude.
It’s Chill Week at Wirecutter! Read more about ways to cool down and get the most out of summer.