As I mentioned in my post about the rather unusual methods that Michael Bloomberg is taking to beat the heat this summer, chatter about one of modern life’s most (un)necessary evils, air conditioning, has been constant over the past week. One of the more amusing instances — or snarky, at least — of all this recent AC hoopla has been a point/counterpoint between Gawker's Hamilton Nolan and A.J. Daulerio.

So, what to do? If you’re like me, parting with air conditioning at home seems unfathomable (on a side note, one of my units broke last week, sending me to into a sweaty pit of despair). And if you’re also like me, sticking a miniature refrigerator in the window is a huge source of guilt. I hate the environmental impact, I hate the high electric bills, and I hate the feeling of hopelessness that I experience when one of my window units bites the dust.

But I haven't always been this way.

It wasn’t until I moved to the Northeast that my dependence on air conditioning began. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, residential air conditioning was a completely alien concept to me. When it got real hot out, which it rarely did, it meant that my family opened the front and back doors for cross ventilation, turned the ceiling fan in the front hallway on high, and hung out in the basement a lot. It also meant spending more time outside. It wasn't until a historic heat wave hit Seattle a couple years back that my parents finally installed a window unit after nearly 40 years of home ownership.

The key to kicking the AC habit lies in smarter, more efficient home design — green roofs, natural ventilation, whole house fans, high-performance windows, tighter building envelopes, super-efficient HVAC systems, etc. — and newly built homes are certainly moving in this direction. But for those living in older, inefficient homes and for those who rent, remaining comfortable while keeping AC use at a minimum can sometimes get a bit tricky especially when you aren't in any position to take on any major remodeling projects (oh, the things I would do for a ceiling fan).

In the past, I’ve shared ways that renters like myself can keep cool without running the AC 24/7. Today, I thought I’d revisit the topic with a look at a few standout portable fans. While using a fan doesn't really lower the temperature of a room, the circulation of air against your skin makes you feel cooler thanks to the wind chill effect and, in turn, you can crank the AC thermostat up a couple of notches. With with each degree that you turn up the thermostat, the greater the energy savings. And if your fan is poweful enough and positioned correctly, you can turn off the AC completely. According to the bladeless fan wizards over at Dyson, using a Dyson Air Multiplier in addition to air conditioning can help reduce energy consumption by up to 20 percent. Dyson also recommends employing efficiency-improving no-brainers like keeping blinds and curtains closed during the day.

Below, you'll find nine fans of the floor, pedestal and table varieties that aren’t hideous to look at and are likely to last longer than a cheapo box fan made from plastic. In addition to their good looks, I've chosen models across a range of air-circulating capabilities and price points including an aforementioned Dyson Air Multiplier model. Yes, it’s spendy, but in my personal experience with Dyson products, it’s well worth it. And in addition to the below models, I recommend scouring eBay, Etsy, or flea markets for vintage fans (even though they’re a hallmark of the self-consciously “over-propped” home along with Edison bulbs, terrariums, and taxidermy).

Do you regularly use a portable fan along with an air conditioner in the same room? Have you noticed any significant energy savings?

Dyson AM03 Pedestal Fan @ Dyson ($449.99)

Hunter Classic Table Fan @ Target ($54.99)

Propello Fan @ black+blum ($139.80)


Stadler Form Otto Fan @ Stadler Form ($199.99)

Bionaire Floor Fan @ Target ($49.99)

Vornado 783B Full Size Air Circulator @ Vornado ($139.99)

Arden Pedestal Fan by Fanimation @ YLighting ($329)

Vornado Flippi V10 Air Circulator @ Vornado ($59.99)

Mini Elefan by Yuen'to Design @ The Future Perfect ($75)

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

9 portable fans to help keep your AC in check
When installing a ceiling fan isn't an option, a portable table or floor fan can keep your body cool and prevent you from cranking up the AC. Here are 9 models