Among the most varied and versatile inventions, fans come in many shapes and sizes. Depending the type, a fan may also serve an aesthetic purpose as well.

Before you begin shopping, choose a budget.  This will focus your search.  Second, evaluate the space that needs cooling. The size and layout of the room will often dictate the size of fan you need.  And lastly, take stock of style of the room so that the fan can blend in or complement the existing decoration.

Home Fans

Fans used in the home consist of ceiling fans, portable fans and exhaust/ventilation fans. Just like in commercial spaces, home fans provide cool breezes, exhaust stale, warm air and moisture and draw hot air up and out of a room. Ceiling fans are among the most decorative of home fans, available in numerous styles from the ultra modern to the classically elegant.

Ceiling Fans

Available in both indoor and indoor/outdoor units, ceiling fans, perhaps more than any other type, should be chosen based on their design as well as their functionality. Ceiling fans become a part of a room's decor, and in many cases they can greatly enhance a room's aesthetic appeal. Configured with 2 to 5 blades, available with and without lights, ceiling fans can be visually stunning fixtures. Some possess a futuristic sleekness and simplicity or an antiquely ornate design with extravagant inlays and hardware.

Fan blades may be constructed of wood, polished or brushed metal or even natural fibers such as bamboo or woven rattan. Accessories include optional blades, remote control and light fixtures. Reversible ceiling fans draw hot air up and out of a room as well as provide downwardly-directed cool air.

Portable Fans

Whether a pedestal, floor, table or tower unit, portable fans are great for rooms that only need a breeze part of the year. Pedestal fans are distinct in that they sit upon a tall, adjustable stand and generate breezes more at eye level. Floor fans include inexpensive box fans as well as those mounted to simple metal racks. Table fans are smaller and feature shorter bases. Lastly, tower fans are slim, vertically-constructed units that usually feature several small impellers contained in the housing. They often resemble tall, narrow speakers.

Portable fans usually have an oscillating function that allows the fan to swivel automatically over an 85 to 90-degree arc. The oscillator allows the fan to cool a wider area of a room.

Portable fans of all types are usually available in indoor/outdoor models. Outdoor fans have a more rugged construction featuring corrosion-free finishes. Outdoor fans should have a U.L. wet or damp rating.

Exhaust Fans

Exhaust fans are common fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens. They draw out excess heat, water vapor and odors from bathrooms. In the kitchen, they do the same thing but also draw other fumes and smoke when they arise. Bathrooms would get and stay very moist if not for exhaust fans, and kitchens would quickly overheat.

Exhaust fans are either wall- or ceiling-mounted, vent directly or through a duct and are controlled by either a wired switch or pull chain. Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans are rated according the number of cubic feet of air per minute they can draw out, so the size of the fan you need will directly correlate with the size of the bathroom or kitchen.

Commercial Fans

Commercial fans serve either to exhaust hot, stale or particle-filled air from commercial workplaces, to ventilate similar spaces with fresh outside air or help keep a workplace cool. Warehouse, barns, shops, fabrics, garages and other large commercial buildings require fixed wall exhaust fans.

Commercial exhaust fans are either driven directly or with a fan belt and have blades as long as 4 feet in diameter. They are available with and without shutters or louvers and install into exterior walls. For very large commercial spaces, large fans in a steel box housing are used. Ventilation fans can either be fixed or portable and are necessary to supply a workplace with fresh, cool air.

They are especially important when working in enclosed spaces where oxygen can quickly deplete such as manholes and tanks. Commercial cooling fans are generally more powerful than home units and come in pedestal, floor and wall-mounted varieties.

Fan Brands

Many of the following brand names produce fans of different types, so expect to see many of the manufacturers repeated.

Kitchen and bathroom fans used for exhaust purposes are made by BROAN, NuTone, Panasonic, FanTech and Air King. Some of the manufacturers also make attic exhaust fans. Ceiling fans have dozens of producers. Some of the most well known include Casablanca, Hunter, Emerson, Fanimation, Monte Carlo, Minka Aire, Maxim Lighting and Casa Vieja.

Numerous brands offer portable fans including Hunter, Lasko, FlowPro, Aloha, Air King, Dayton, Schaefer, Holmes, Honeywell, Deco Breeze and Windchaser.

Wall-mounted fans are made by Gettington, TPI, Global Industrial and Universal Lighting, just to name a few.

Finally, commercial fan makers include Quorum, FlowPro, Air King, Airmaster, Ventamatic, Westinghouse, GE, TPI and Global Industrial with the last being one of the largest producers of commercial fan products.