Difference Between a Box Fan & Tower Fans

When a single room, office or cubicle needs circulating air, a portable fan is the way to go. Their operation keeps fresh air moving into and through a room, and in comparison to central air conditioning, they are inexpensive and more healthful. Two basic types of portable fan are the box and the tower.

The classic box fan was square, but newer models are often round.

Box Fan

A box fan is a portable fan that is placed within an enclosure, the face of which has a latticework plastic or steel grille that allows the air to move into and through the fan. The box fan can be square, oblong, rectangular or circular in shape. It can easily be moved from one room to the next to cool or circulate the air. Box fans can also be placed in windows to move warm or stagnant air from the interior to the exterior. Used in this way, the box fan helps to rid the room of smoke, dust and odors.

Tower Fan

The tower fan is another kind of portable fan that has a series of small blowers set in a vertical "tower" unit, which can be placed on top of a desk or table and moved easily from one place to another. Tower fans are especially popular in Europe and Asia, where central air-conditioning units are relatively rare for ordinary households.


While box fans simply move air in a straight line from back to front, tower fans can be set so that the air circulates in any direction: upward, downward and through a rotary angle of up to 180 degrees. This allows the user to heat, cool or ventilate a larger area than is possible with a stationary box fan. Tower fans can be controlled with a remote and, like most box fans, have varying speeds.


If there has been a flood or leak that has created damp conditions on a floor or in a room, using a box fan can help to circulate air, dry the wet surfaces and prevent the growth of mold and mildew. The tower fan is also useful for this purpose, as it circulates air from a more varied height through and out of the room.

Tower Features

Many tower fans come with timers, so that their operation can be set for a specific duration and time of day. Some can also be set to "natural breeze" operation, to imitate shifting and intermittent outdoor winds. Some tower units come with ionizers, which change the chemical composition of the various atmospheric elements and, according to some, create a more healthful and energizing atmosphere. Tower fans are generally quieter while operating and also are less hazardous for curious pets and kids.

Costs and Service

Box fans are typically less costly than tower fans, as their mechanics are relatively simple. They are easy to repair or replace, while tower fans often must be returned to the manufacturer or placed in the hands of an experienced electrician or appliance service for any necessary work.

Design Considerations

Tower fans have the advantage of a smaller "footprint," meaning they take up less floor or desk space and are easier to relocate from one position in the room to another. They don't have the ungainly look of box fans; they are also less intrusive on the overall decoration of a room and easier to pair with other elements, such as lights, bookcases and entertainment centers.