These are the fans and portable air conditioner I'd buy to keep cool in UK heatwave hell

You can even take one out of them out with you into the hellish heat

Hot sun casts orange-red glow over a desert
(Image credit: Getty)

Every year, as summer heats up, T3 warns its friends, relatives and readers that it really is a good idea to buy a fan, air conditioner and large supply of cooling gel packs before it gets really hot. Admittedly even most 'portable' air conditioners are not something you want lying around the house doing nothing, but when the hot weather comes, you'll forget you ever found that annoying, believe me. Well now, the hot weather is here in no uncertain terms. Hottest heatwave ever, many are saying, and while the dire warning of death and disaster will hopefully turn out to be a little overstated, there's no doubt that the next few days will be HOT. 

What should you do to keep cool in the heatwave, then? For starters, we have guides to the best fans and the best portable air conditioners. For those in search of something a little more fancy, there's also a list of the best Dyson fans. If the temperature really does reach the high 30s or even top out at 40ºC as some have suggested, most fans are not going to cut it, and even air con will not work if you're trying to cool too large a room. I've tested an awful lot of fans over the years, and an increasing number of air con units in more recent times. As soon as I've finished pulling all the blinds, closing all the curtains and doing all the other necessary things to cool your home on a hot day, I'll be reaching for my three current favourites.

Best fan for cooling: MeacoFan 1056

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Meaco MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator: was £149, now £104.99 at Amazon (save £45) (opens in new tab)
The Meacofan 1056 (opens in new tab) is one of our best fans and right now it's 30% off – a very welcome hangover from Amazon Prime Day, when it first went on sale. Able to move up to 1056 cubic metres of air per hour, this is essentially like having a cooling summer breeze sat on your table, which can be dialled up to something more like a cooling summer gale.

Best portable air conditioner: Princess 12000BTU

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Princess 12,000 BTU air con: £499, was £549 (opens in new tab)
You could have got this for £399 last week, which does rather prove my point about planning ahead. A-rated for energy efficiency, the relatively stylish Princess portable air conditioner (opens in new tab) can keep even larger rooms cool, because it is rated at 12,000BTU. Lower-BTU – and cheaper – Princess air cons are on the same link.  

Best portable, cordless fan: Meaco 260c

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MeacoFan 260c: £35 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This mini miracle is one of the best value products you'll ever come across. 'How good can a 35 quid fan that weighs 490g be?' you may ask. The answer is: very good indeed. With multiple power settings and a battery life of up to 14 hours, you will not believe how effective this tiny fan is. You can even take it on the train, or walk the streets with it.

Please note: although 14 hours is the maximum battery life, if you run this dinky fan at its higher power settings, you will get considerably less than that – come on, it's only £35, you can't expect miracles. 

The good news is that it works pretty well even on its lowest speed, and can be used plugged in with a standard USB-C cable when you're at home. But do make sure the MeacoFan well charged if you're taking it out, as few things are more unpleasant than losing your cooling breeze all of a sudden, when you're sat on a packed train that's heated to 35ºC.

Why is the Princess 12000BTU air conditioner so good?

Princess smart portable air conditioner

(Image credit: Duncan Bell)

Believe it or not, the full name of this portable aircon is Princess 01.353200.01.001 Smart Air Conditioner 12000 – that really trips off the tongue, doesn't it? I really wanted a 12000 BTU unit and as you can probably guess, the 12000 on the end of that very long name refers to the BTU rating of the machine. In theory, that is enough for a room 100 cubic meters in size, which is about 30 square meters, unless your ceilings are unusually high. This should be just enough for my front room, although as I mentioned, the design of it makes it quite a challenge for air con. 

The first thing I loved about the Princess Smart Air Conditioner 12000 is that I was able to get it working in minutes. Unboxing is a cinch as the box just lifts off and then it was short trundle on its handy casters to the front room. The device paired with the iOS Climate app with great ease, and could also be added to my Alexa voice control system – Google is supported too. 

An interesting sealing system is provided with the Princess – the idea is that you velcro something rather like a small tent to your partly opened window, and run the outlet duct from the air con through a hole in it. Unfortunately, my windows are not suitable for this approach. Truth be told, I didn't really fancy velcroing a small white tent to any part of my lounge anyway, so I opted instead to just run the duct out of the balcony door. It should be said that this is by no means an ideal arrangement, but needs must when the Devil is heating up your living room to a Hellish temperature.

Thankfully, even in this trying environment, with my shoddy setup efforts, the Princess proved able to cool the room to a beautiful degree. With the mercury hitting  32ºC outside, the room, even in direct sunlight, stayed in the mid 20s. Admittedly, that is still quite warm, but it's very bearable. Walking outside, even onto the balcony was a genuine shock to the system, as it was so much hotter than the lounge.

What made this even more impressive was that the unit that arrived wasn't even working properly – due to some kind of damage in transit, it was making a lot of noise, but it still managed to cool the space. Princess later replaced it with a fully functioning one, and this makes just the usual air-con level of white noise – it's rated at about 65dB, which isn't bad at all.

Another very welcome feature of the Princess is that it has an A energy rating. If we ever get a heatwave that carries on for more than one day, the cost of air con could really start to ramp up, so it's great to know you're getting the best possible energy efficiency with these beasts. 

It also is able to operate as a fan – albeit an unnecessarily enormous one – and a dehumidifier, although you'll need to add a length of hose for that.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the Princess 01.353200.01.001 Smart Air Conditioner 12000, despite its preposterous name. The price of it is pretty reasonable as well, considering how good it is and the fact it could be a life-saver – perhaps even literally – as the temperatures soar.

MeacoFan 1056 Air Circulator in tasteful room

(Image credit: Meaco)

What makes the MeacoFan 1056 so good?

The main thing I love about this fan is that it is extremely powerful, but remarkably quiet and compact. There is also a pedestal version, which naturally lacks that compactness, but the desktop version is, if anything, smaller than your average fan, although a bit longer. I once tried that hack where you place a bowl of iced water in front of a fan, in order to get cooler air blown into the room. I don't know if that was all that effective, but I did have to reposition the bowl several times, as the MeacoFan 1056 kept blasting the water out and onto my coffee table. 

MeacoFan 1056

The complete MeacoFan fan fam, including the pedestal-mounted version of the 1056, naturally called the 1056P

(Image credit: Meaco)

While truly hot days render most fans impotent, the 1056 is powerful enough to make you feel cooler, rather than that you're simply having hot air blown around the room. Better yet, it manages to do this without it feeling oppressive, and without creating a massive racket. 

While the MeacoFan 1056 could not be described as stunning looking, its appearance is nothing to complain about, and it's also very cleverly designed. It can rotate in three dimensions through almost 360º, rather than just oscillating from side to side as a boring old Dyson does. There's a sleep timer, a built-in light, no fewer than 12 speed settings and an 'Eco' setting, which raises and lowers the speed based on the temperature of the room. It's all very simple and yet highly effective, thanks to Meaco's jet engine-style fan technology. 

MeacoFan 1056

(Image credit: Meaco)

All the controls are accessible via a remote, which can also be magnetically attached to the centre of the fan for safe keeping. There's no app control as yet, but that doesn't seem like too big a loss.

There's also another great reason to buy the MeacoFan 1056: for such a design classic, it is extremely cheap. With the heatwave set to continue, and high temperatures apparently likely to become more commonplace in future, thanks to climate change, can you afford to be without one?

Some fan deals right now

Believe it or not, the full name of this portable aircon is Princess 01.353200.01.001 Smart Air Conditioner 12000 – that really trips off the tongue, doesn't it? I really wanted a 12000 BTU unit and as you can probably guess, the 12000 on the end of that very long name refers to the BTU rating of the machine. In theory, that is enough for a room 100 cubic meters in size, which is about 30 square meters, unless your ceilings are unusually high. This should be just enough for my front room, although as I mentioned, the design of it makes it quite a challenge for air con. 

The first thing I loved about the Princess Smart Air Conditioner 12000 is that I was able to get it working in minutes. Unboxing is a cinch as the box just lifts off and then it was short trundle on its handy casters to the front room. The device paired with the iOS Climate app with great ease, and could also be added to my Alexa voice control system – Google is supported too. 

An interesting sealing system is provided with the Princess – the idea is that you velcro something rather like a small tent to your partly opened window, and run the outlet duct from the air con through a hole in it. Unfortunately, my windows are not suitable for this approach. Truth be told, I didn't really fancy velcroing a small white tent to any part of my lounge anyway, so I opted instead to just run the duct out of the balcony door. It should be said that this is by no means an ideal arrangement, but needs must when the Devil is heating up your living room to a Hellish temperature.

Thankfully, even in this trying environment, with my shoddy setup efforts, the Princess proved able to cool the room to a beautiful degree. With the mercury hitting  32ºC outside, the room, even in direct sunlight, stayed in the mid 20s. Admittedly, that is still quite warm, but it's very bearable. Walking outside, even onto the balcony was a genuine shock to the system, as it was so much hotter than the lounge.

What made this even more impressive was that the unit that arrived wasn't even working properly – due to some kind of damage in transit, it was making a lot of noise, but it still managed to cool the space. Princess later replaced it with a fully functioning one, and this makes just the usual air-con level of white noise – it's rated at about 65dB, which isn't bad at all.

Another very welcome feature of the Princess is that it has an A energy rating. If we ever get a heatwave that carries on for more than one day, the cost of air con could really start to ramp up, so it's great to know you're getting the best possible energy efficiency with these beasts. 

It also is able to operate as a fan – albeit an unnecessarily enormous one – and a dehumidifier, although you'll need to add a length of hose for that.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the Princess 01.353200.01.001 Smart Air Conditioner 12000, despite its preposterous name. The price of it is pretty reasonable as well, considering how good it is and the fact it could be a life-saver – perhaps even literally – as the temperatures soar.

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years, during which time he has attended every event going, apart from Apple ones, as he mysteriously doesn't get invited to them. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. 

Duncan's current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. Duncan also edits T3's golf section because fuck it, someone has to. Dave Usher does all the real work on that bit, though. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially Reddit before the invention of Reddit. There was a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."