Vornado Rules the Air Waves

Feb 21, 2002 (Updated Nov 8, 2004)

The Bottom Line The Vornado 510 Air Circulator was quiet, well-engineered, energy-efficient, reliable, long-lasting, stylish, and had a five-year warranty. I highly recommend this product. Their Web site(s), however, can be somewhat confusing.

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Hmmm... I Wonder Why This One's So Expensive!
Maybe I sound cheap -- I'm actually unemployed at the moment, which is a good excuse for trying harder than usual to hang onto my hard-earned moola -- but I never thought I'd be spending close to sixty dollars for a room fan. Why did I do it?

Some Room Fans I've Known...
About four years ago I discovered just how seasonal room fans are. Usually, about after a year or two, the fan I've been using the most will start to gradually seize up before it eventually stops working altogether. They never seem to last longer than a couple of years. This pretty much happens every time, no matter which model I've tried, although before getting a Vornado, I never bought top-of-the-line models.

Also, I've usually just been sort of lucky, I guess, that they've tended to die during the season when they were being used the most. Anyhow, this last time, four years ago, I wasn't so lucky. My fan died in the middle of winter. Why would I be using it then? Well, for one thing, I sometimes use it to dry out a piece of clothing or two that I've hand washed. It's pretty convenient, and often enough saves having to make some otherwise extra trips to the laundromat.

The Quest Begins
I tried calling around to a few hardware stores that normally carry room fans, with not very good results. A few of the people I called must've thought I was a crank caller. "Fans? Why don't you call us back in a few months. We'll have plenty then." was not an untypical response. I ended up spending maybe an hour calling different places, most of which only had a few odd returns or leftovers stashed away in a basement or storage area.

A Whole Aisle of Room Fans
I finally called one store that was something between being a hardware store and a mini-department store. They had a pretty good-sized hardware section in their basement -- and, according to the person taking my call, they had a full aisle of ... ROOM FANS!

I got over there as quickly as I could, assuming that there might actually just only be a few boxes and models leftover from the summer fan season. Wrong. Pretty happily wrong.

There was actually a pretty decent selection of at least a dozen different brands and models, and I walked back and forth, round and round, trying to sort out the differences and come up with semi-rational buying decision. The 'el-cheapo' models were there, along with the mid-range ones, but when you looked at where they were made, they pretty much all seemed to be coming from the same places (China, the Phillipines, etc.), so what was the difference?

Do I Need a 'Fan' or an 'Air Circulator'?
Finally, after much back and forth, something told me to take a chance and to try the most expensive model offered. "Vornado?" Unlike all the others, this one didn't even go by the moniker of 'fan.' No, it was a 'whole room air circulator.' The actual model I purchased was a "Vornado 510-W Air Circulator," for about fifty dollars.

While it was actually one of the smaller fans on display, it came with a five-year warranty, and promised plenty of energy savings, and to be the "quietest of air circulators."

Four Years Later
Well, here it is over four years later, and my Vornado's already lasted well over two or three times longer than my usual room fan. Plus it's quiet as all get out. I think I might be spoiled now.

The Specs
Here's the specs for my model, from the Vornado Web site:

The Vornado 510 Compact Air Circulator is small enough for a desk or table top, but powerful enough for whole-room air circulation. Vortex design provides quiet, complete air circulation for year-round comfort and energy savings; directable air flow; 5-year warranty."

For about ten dollars more you can get the 610, which comes with a lifetime warranty. Here's the specs for it:

The Vornado 610 Air Circulator is a high performance air circulating powerhouse in an exceptionally convenient size. Vornado's unique Vortex Action surrounds you in comfort by circulating all the air in the room, from anywhere in the room. Incredibly efficient, the 610 pays for itself in energy savings with 3-speed control and fully directable air flow for year-round use. Renowned for its superior, quiet operation, the Vornado 610 is perfect for average to large rooms in your home or office. Lifetime warranty."

A Capsule Company History
Vornado's been around for over fifty years now, since the 40's and 50's, and in the mid-80's they launched a new line of 'whole-room circulators,' which were very improved versions of the original 'fans.' The new 'circulators' were conceived by Vornado founder and president Michael C. Coup, who was a former physics instructor, aircraft systems analyst and fan aficionado.

Vornado also has several related product lines: humidifiers, heaters, and air cleaners, as well as 'whole room air circulators,' compacts (air circulators), and oscillating fans.

'Vortex Action'
One thing that sets the 'air circulators' apart from their distant-cousin 'fans' is their 'Vornado Vortex Action.' Essentially, as I understand it, it means that the unit's been engineered to deliver a tight beam of swirling air rather than a widely dispersed one. This penetrates the room air as a whole, and stimulates it to circulate in a more continuous pattern of currents.

Or here's the way the FAQ on Vornado's site describes it:

"Vornado Air Circulators are highly efficient air moving devices that make ordinary fans obsolete. The system includes a unique combination of aerodynamic elements (Inlet air accelerator or flow straightener, deep-pitch propeller, blade duct and AirTensity. grill). The combination of elements results in a room-penetrating, focussed, swirling vortex or .beam. of air. We call this Vornado Vortex Action. Vortex Action excites all the air in the room into complete and continuous motion. This excitation enlivens room air and delivers comfort to all room occupants anywhere in the room."

Want to Find Out More?
I recommend checking out Vornado's Web site (http://www.vornado.com). Besides FAQs, it has a small online 'museum' with photos taken from the brick-and-mortar Museum of the American Fan Collectors Association (in Andover Kansas). You can check out, for example, Thomas Edison's Bi-Polar (Edison's successful battery fan from 1892). Or the Robbins & Meyers of 1932 (a fancy Art Deco fan).


Where Can You Get Them?
Vornado's Web site offers several purchasing alternatives, which I've listed below. If you're in a hurry, go right to option #3, below (Online Retailers). If you'd prefer to shop around a bit, check all the options (and you'll probably find there are many to choose from).

1. Vornado's Online Store (go directly there with the following URL):


...with the following caveats:

a) Vornado products are shipped to domestic US addresses and US territories only. (through their online store)

b) International shipping is not available through this website.

c) Orders placed after 11:00 AM CST may be shipped the following business day.

d) No processing of shipments occurs on weekends or holidays.

e) Once you're in the 'Online Store' site, it's very hard to find links back to the main company site. I couldn't find any myself, and the 'Home' button on the left-hand side unfortunately works the same as the 'Vornado' button that's directly above it, taking you only to the online store's home page. I ended up having to retype the vornado.com address to get back to their main site.

2. Retailer Listing
This is another place where Vornado's Web sites start to get a bit confusing. When you're in the 'Online Store' site, and you click on the 'Store Directory' link, it's actually a 'product directory,' that lets you read about, compare, and add items to your shopping cart.

- The Real 'Store Directory' -- and How To Find It -
The REAL 'Store Directory,' if you're interested in offline, 'brick-and-mortar' stores, is back at the main Vornado site. First, go to the main Vornado site (http://www.vornado.com), click on the 'Links' button in the left-hand navbar, then, on the 'Links' page, click the photo labeled 'Retailers.'

From the 'Retailer Listing' menu page, you'll need to choose either the 'Spring and Summer Products' button or 'Fall and Winter Products.' These two pages have some very nice charts showing which companies carry each line of product ('Compacts,' 'Whole Room Air Circulators,' and oscillating fans for the warmer months, and humidifiers, heaters, and air cleaners for colder times).

The charts are broken down into Retail Stores (app. 20-25), Catalog Stores (3-6 of these), and Online Stores (4 of these). Each of the company names has an icon to its left linking to either a 'Store Locator' or a Website.

These charts are very informative, and for all the work that's gone into them, it's rather sad from both a shopper's and a Web designer's (I do some of this, at times, for a living) perspective to see them buried so deeply inside the site and so hard to find. Personally I think it might've been better to have direct links to them on at least one of the Home pages.

3. Online Retailers
Again, these are listed on the chart pages in the 'Retailer Listing' of #2 above, but if you're in a hurry, it might be worth noting that you could go directly to Amazon.com, type 'Vornado' into their Search field and get much faster results than following all the menu and page links at Vornado's site in #2 above.

Here are links to all four of the 'online retailer' pages listed at Vornado's site:






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