It never rains in Southern California. It’s always sunny in Philadelphia. Oh yeah, and summer happens in the rest of the country too. Whether heat is a daily fact of your life or you’re gearing up for the hottest days of the year, you need a misting fan to stay cool during backyard shindigs when the temperatures rise. Here’s how to choose the best patio misting system for your outdoor entertainment area.
Check where the water comes from
Mist is water, and so to have a “misting” fan, you need to have water. There are two basic types of outdoor misting fans in terms of water supply:
•Tankless – Connects to a running water supply, like a garden
•Tank – Has an on-board container to hold water
Both types have their pros and cons. For example, hose-fed outdoor misting fans are great if you’re having an all-night party and don’t want to worry about refills. You can just turn the faucet on, turn the fan on, and get unlimited evaporative cooling while you dance the night away. These fans aren’t as portable, however, since they must be connected to a running water supply. They can also lead to less conscientious water usage, which means more money spent on utility bills.
In contrast, a portable mister with a tank can be more easily moved around, since it doesn’t need to be tethered to a hose. The size of the tanks averages anywhere from less than a gallon up to about 5 gallons, with the latter providing around 8 hours of use per refill. These misters are great if your water line connections are already housing other appliances or if you have no faucet connections at all. The bad part is that the tank requires refilling, and if you forget to empty it every day, it can get moldy.
So if you’re looking for more portability, you should consider a patio misting fan with a tank. If you want more convenience and less maintenance, go with a tankless outdoor misting fan.
Decide what type of mist you want
All of the best misting fans have three basic parts: fan head, misting system, and base. There are two kinds of misting systems:
•Nozzle Misting System – Mist emits from nozzles on
the fan head
•Centrifugal Misting System – Mist emits from plates in the fan center
Nozzle misting systems usually have between 3 – 6 nozzles spaced evenly on the fan grill. These systems don’t use a pump, and so are generally considered low pressure misters. They produce a slightly wetter spray and the nozzles are more prone to getting clogged than centrifugal misters.
Centrifugal systems use a pump for efficient, high pressure water output through a centrally placed plate on the fan head. The result is a finer, dryer mist. While you’ll get less damp with a centrifugal mister, a major downside is that they’re much more expensive than their nozzle-clad counterparts.
Patio misting fans with nozzles are more suitable for casual home use, and high-pressure centrifugal misting fans are more often found in commercial environments where wide-scale evaporative cooling is needed. Which one is the best patio mister for you really depends on how much you want to spend.
Make sure the fan will fit your yard space
Do you have a backyard that rivals a golf field or do you have a quaint garden nook that you’re trying cool down while you enjoy a book? When choosing the best outdoor misting fan, you have to pay attention to the mister’s coverage area. This is the maximum square area that the fan can effectively cool.
Measure the outdoor space where you’ll be using the fan, and then find a model with a 10-20% greater coverage area than the listed maximum. Manufacturers usually test these fans in optimal weather conditions, with the fan on the highest settings, so you need to have a buffer.
Coverage areas usually range from as little as 10 feet for compact misting fans all the way up to 1000 square feet for commercial centrifugal misters. Most nozzle-based water misting fans for home-use can cover 500 square feet or less.
Find out if the patio misting fan has different speeds
Many outdoor misters will have a control for different fan speeds — generally low, medium, and high. How powerful each speed is will depend on the particular fan. You can find the model’s max air flow listed under its specifications as a certain number of CFMs. This stands for Cubic Feet per Minute and tells you how much air the fan can circulate every 60 seconds. A high CFM means the fan can move a lot of air quickly. That being said, you shouldn’t necessarily get an outdoor misting fan with an ultra-high CFM — it can be too powerful for your space and too noisy for the neighbors.
Variable fan speeds let you control the air flow and misting levels. This is an important feature if you’re using the mister in a multi-functional space. For example, if you’re hosting an intimate patio gathering at dusk when there’s just some lingering heat in the air, then you can set the fan on the lowest speed. If you and the crew are hanging out by the backyard pool with the sun on full blast, then the highest setting would be more suitable.
You should also check for a fan-only setting. This allows you to enjoy fresh air blown by the fan blades without any moisture, and is useful on days when the humidity is too high for the mister to have a significant cooling effect. It’s also useful if you’re working on a task like painting a fence, and don’t want to get your supplies damp. Best of all, a fan-only option allows an outdoor misting fan to become an “indoor” fan for air circulation inside your home.
See if the fan can be adjusted
While many patio misting fans have customizable fan speed settings, not all have ways in which to adjust the fan head itself. A great feature to look for is oscillation, which means that the fan head rotates back and forth, usually on a less than 180° angle, for a more widespread coverage area.
Another convenient feature is a tilt/pivot option. You can adjust the fan head to point at different vertical angles for a concentrated air flow in a particular direction. For example, if you’re working up on a balcony, you could have the outdoor misting fan set up on the patio below with the head angled upward so the cool, moist air reaches you.
And finally, some patio misters also have an adjustable fan neck. This means you can change the height of the fan to be shorter or taller. Not many models offer this, but it’s a convenient feature for outdoor parties. You can make the fan shorter if you’re lounging on the grass for a picnic, mid-height if you’re sitting and chowing down at the table, and taller if everyone is standing around chatting at sunset.
Choose a patio misting fan that fits your decor
This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but it is important to pick a fan that isn’t going to look like a lost washing machine huddled on your deck. Patio misting fans really only come in four color options — black, grey, white, or brown — so there’s not a lot of wiggle room to go wrong in terms of color. A word of advice though: white isn’t ideal for hardy yard-use.
Misting fans also come in all shapes and sizes. They range from models that look like a traditional pedestal fan, to compact, low-to-the-ground units, to models with a tower-type base (kind of like a gumball machine). Misters with built-in tanks are going to be bulkier than hose-fed misters, with the reservoir area sometimes looking like a regular old bucket. What you pick is ultimately a matter of personal taste, but if you’re looking for something slim and that won’t be an eyesore, a pedestal misting fan is always a safe choice.
Get an outdoor misting fan that will hold up outdoors
Perhaps even more important than the fan’s aesthetic appeal is what it’s made out of. An outdoor misting fan needs to be able to withstand the elements and surrounding hazards. Unless constructed from heavy-gauge metal treated to resist corrosion, fancy metal misters are actually a poor choice because they end up getting rusty. A primarily plastic misting fan that’s weatherproof is a much better choice.
Plastic also means the fan will be more lightweight for movement around your patio space. On average, hose-fed portable misting fans will weigh about 15 pounds –and because they weigh so little, make sure the fan you get has a wide, sturdy base to prevent tipping over.
Outdoor misting fans with water tanks are heavier, and often have a wheeled base and handles on the fan neck so you can cart the appliance around. This adds some portability and is a feature you should look for if you’re taking the tank mister route. Also, note that centrifugal misting fans will be heavier than pumpless ones.
Figure out if you can change the water flow
This applies to outdoor misting fans that are connected to garden hoses. Generally, the fan will have its own short hose, which connects to your existing hose. At the connection point, there should be a ball valve to regulate the water flow. This switch can help you adjust the pressure of the mist output to your spacing needs and in combination with variable fan settings, allows you to calibrate your appliance to provide the perfect level of coolness. Add in features like oscillation and pivot, and you can really tailor the patio misting fan to your space.
Don’t spend too much
Despite everything we just said, sometimes picking the best mister fan comes down to your budget. The obvious goal is to get as many of the above features at the lowest price. A fan like the NewAir AF-520B 18-Inch Ultra Quiet Outdoor Misting Fan is a nozzle system, hose-fed model with oscillation, pivot, adjustable head and water flow, fan-only mode, and a durable plastic construction that costs less than $130. With a maximum 500 square foot coverage area, it’s ideal for most patios and backyard areas. If you’re going to spend significantly more than you would on this patio misting fan, it should be a centrifugal mister with a much wider coverage area. Otherwise, the AF-520B is the most cost-effective and reliable mister in its class.