The Heated Debate on Energy-Efficient Hand Dryers
  • Category:
    Small Business Energy Savings
  • Published:
    March 13, 2019
  • Updated:
    March 28, 2022

The Heated Debate about Energy-Efficient Hand Dryers

Restroom hand dryers have long had a reputation for being more environmentally responsible than paper towels, and it’s true. Paper towels create excess waste, and small businesses can use hand dryers to slash annual operating costs significantly.

But as more studies roll out about the potential safety concerns of hand dryers, business owners are starting to wonder: are they worth it for my business?

The short answer: yes! Of the many steps to sustainability that you can take as a small business owner, making sure your bathroom is equipped with an energy-efficient hand dryer is a simple but important energy-saving move for your business.

Do Hand Dryers Save Energy?

Yes, newer energy-efficient hand dryers can offer up considerable energy savings when it comes to pure wattage, especially when compared to older models.

In fact, some models of traditional restroom hand dryers can use up to four times more energy than newer, energy-efficient models.

Types of Hand Dryers

There are two varieties of energy-efficient hand dryers: hot-air hand dryers, and cold-air hand dryers.

Hot-air hand dryers

Hot-air hand dryers dry hands by blowing air over a coiled heating element to warm-up the air. The warm air is an efficient way to get hands dry since it uses both heat and circulation to help the water evaporate from your skin.

Cold-air hand dryers

Cold-air hand dryers are very similar in principle to hot-air hand dryers, and they use speed instead of heat to dry your hands. By using fast and cool air, these hand dryers blow away water but don’t have the additional evaporation benefit of heat.

The Pros and Cons of Using Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels in Your Business

There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to drying your hands, ranging from cost, environmental impact and bacteria, to name a few.


Hand dryers vs. paper towels: cost

According to a study by the University of Buffalo, there are stark differences in cost between hand dryers vs. paper towels. Energy-efficient hand dryers can cost $28 or less per year to run. Compare that to an average annual cost of $900 just to purchase paper towels.

Another factor to consider is that paper towels quickly fill up trash bins, and need to be emptied regularly. This adds additional labor expenses, if employees are required to empty trash bins at the end of the day.

Restroom hand dryers, on the other hand, have no need for this kind of daily maintenance. And while it is true that energy-efficient hand dryers have a larger up-front price tag, after four-and-a-half years they will have paid for themselves.

Hand dryers vs. paper towels: convenience

Compared to hand dryers, paper towels are currently faster at drying your hands. However, new models of energy-efficient hand dryers can effectively dry your hands in just over ten seconds. This puts hand dryers at a close second in terms of speed, but the gap is narrowing.

For business owners, hand dryers are more convenient. After all, installing a hand dryer once and then forgetting about it is easier than having to buy, restock and then dispose of paper towels every single day.

Hand dryers vs. paper towels: environmental impact

According to a Texas State University study, hand dryers are the more eco-friendly option when compared to paper towels. In addition to the fossil fuels used during transportation for paper towel delivery and waste removal, the production of two paper towels produces roughly 0.123 pounds of gas emissions.

This number is up to six times more than the .02 to .08 pounds of emissions produced by energy-efficient hand dryers. In short, hand dryers are better for the environment, and paper towels have a larger environmental impact than both hot-air and cold-air hand dryers.

Hand dryers vs. paper towels: bacteria

When it comes to hand dryers, it might be hard for small business owners to ignore one potential pitfall: they may harbor breeding grounds for hordes of bacteria. In fact, a European study examined that very concern and found that, when it comes to hand dryers vs. paper towels and bacteria, paper towels were frequently cleaner.

A likely explanation is that whenever a toilet is flushed in a public restroom, it sprays of a plume of bacteria and microbes up and into the air. Instead of settling onto surfaces, these particles continue to circulate within restroom air currents, and are picked up by hand dryers and blown onto your hands.

However, the most significant sources of germs were from older, inefficient air-hand dryers, with the worst offenders being hot-air models. Since warmth is beneficial to bacteria, these models could increase bacterial growth by as much as 117%!

Fortunately, students at the University of Buffalo found that the newer, energy-efficient hand dryers on campus were much cleaner and less hospitable to hand-dryer bacteria than older models, making them a safer choice for freshly-washed hands.

Hand dryers can spray a plume of bacteria and microbes into the air; however, newer models may have built in HEPA filters to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Are hand dryers sanitary?

Newer energy-efficient hand dryers are significantly more sanitary than older models. Hand-dryer bacteria do not like the fast, cool air that blasts out of modern hand dryers.

If you’re still concerned about germs invading restroom hand dryers, rejoice: some modern hand dryers have special HEPA filters. These filters work to quickly remove bacteria from the air that blows through the hand dryer, so your hands remain squeaky clean.

Tips for buying a hand dryer for your business

If you’re a business owner and on the market for new hand dryers, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind that will keep your energy use low, and your customers and employees satisfied.

1. Choose high-speed dryers for energy efficiency.

If you want to be certain that the hand dryers you’re choosing are energy-efficient, keep an eye out for the green US Green Building Council (USGBC) certification or the ENERGY STAR®️ logo. Also make sure that the restroom hand dryers you choose are high-speed models for more efficiency with less energy.

2. Select silent models for peace and quiet.

Hand dryers in public restrooms are sometimes notorious for being loud. Fortunately, there are many quieter models on the market today as components have grown smaller and engines more efficient. Your employees and customers will thank you.

3. Consider automatic hand dryers for better hand hygiene.

One of the reasons people wonder “Are hand dryers sanitary?” is because of how many freshly washed, and therefore damp, hands have to hit the dryer’s “on” button every day. This is why it is worth looking for an automatic hand dryer, which makes it unnecessary for your customers to touch the device at all.

4. Keep rest areas clean for improved sanitation.

Of course, the job of keeping restroom hand dryers sanitary does not end with your purchase of a great new model. Making sure that the restroom is regularly cleaned will keep hand-dryer germs from thriving on dirty surfaces or circulating through the air.

5. Encourage proper hand-washing with signs.

An additional approach to improving restroom sanitation is giving visitors and employees tips on effective hand washing through clear and prominently placed signs in the restroom. This is a simple and effective way to get those using your facilities to help keep germs to a minimum.

When it comes to improving the energy efficiency of our restrooms, we don’t need to stop at choosing water-saving toilets (although that’s another great way to reduce waste and save natural resources). Improvements in technology have made even restroom hand dryers faster, more energy efficient and easier to keep clean.

When it comes down to air-hand dryers vs. paper towels, cost, environmental impact and other factors all come out in favor of hand dryers. Despite the up-front costs, modern energy-efficient, high-speed and cool-air models are better options than traditional hand dryers and paper towels, both for those who use your restrooms and for your budget.

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Comments ( 3 )

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Chhaperia Electro Components Pvt.Ltd. - 8/31/2019

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this blog. Very Informative post.

Constellation - 6/5/2019

You’re welcome! We’re glad you found our post valuable and informative. Keep checking back for more posts that can help you save energy in and around your home!

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