What is an Oscillating Fan?

J. Beam

An oscillating fan is a fan that rotates side to side while blowing. A great alternative to box fans for cooling rooms, this type of fan creates a breeze throughout the room rather than just blowing in one direction. Oscillating fans generally have either a base or a stand that is stationary, while the unit that houses the fan moves separately.

An oscillating fan may have settings that allow it to remain stationary or, alternately, to oscillate.
An oscillating fan may have settings that allow it to remain stationary or, alternately, to oscillate.

There are many different sizes of oscillating fans, and a great many of them have different settings. The most versatile kind has a setting that allows the fan to remain stationary, blowing in only one direction, or alternately to oscillate, or move side to side. Another feature of a versatile oscillating fan is the ability to direct the breeze it creates at different angles. This is sometimes achieved with a unit that pivots up and down, or may be accomplished with an adjustable pole-like stand.

Some oscillating fans are a combination unit with both a heat and a cool setting. The unit in these combinations rotates the same way and either blows heated air or operates on the standard fan setting, making these combination space heater/fans practical for year-round use. A few combination models even include digital thermostatic controls for heat operation.

Depending on your summer cooling needs, these types of fans are often much more efficient at circulating air throughout a room than a standard box fan. Most models of oscillating fans or combination heater units are more expensive than standard box fans, but provide more versatile uses and efficiency. Remember to periodically check fans or space heaters as a safety precaution. Pay attention to damaged cords or plugs, make sure to watch small children around any type of fan covered with a grill that allows small fingers to fit through, and never leave a space heater running unattended.

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Discussion Comments


I bought a remote control oscillating fan before the end of last year. It is one of the models that come with the combination heat and cool settings. I love the range on the remote. I can turn the fan off and on and adjust the settings from across the room. Hey, sometimes you just don’t want to get up a bunch of times to get the room temperature set, right?

The heat setting is great. The fan circulates the warmth really well. I saved money on my electric bill by not having to use the floor board heaters in my house as much. It’s great right now for keeping the main room comfortable. I am sure it will really come in handy this summer.


I have an oscillating tower fan. Is it ever a life saver in the summer! I put it in front of the air conditioner and it really speeds up the cooling process. I am able to leave the air conditioner on a higher temperature because the added fan keeps me comfortable. I love that it is portable. Sometimes I will open a window and use the fan in front of it to bring in fresh air. That is also a great way to cool off when the weather isn’t too hot.

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