Hand Dryers Buyer's Guide

Hand Dryer's Buyer's Guide

For many years, the battle has raged over which is a better option in a public restroom, paper towels or hand dryers. While evidence mounts to support both sides, hand dryers are a cost-effective solution for many public places.

As with any purchase, you need to keep in mind your regular customer or guest counts and the space you have for hand drying. It may be beneficial to offer both options, especially for places where there may be regular rushes on the restrooms, such as stadiums, arenas, and theaters.

Noise Level

One of the most important considerations when you're choosing a hand dryer for your facility is how loud the unit will be. If you're placing the hand dryer in a library, you'll need one with lower decibels than you would for a sports arena and you'll want to position it in such a way as to limit the noise that spills out of the room.

While noise levels used to be one of the major drawbacks of commercial hand dryers, today's market is filled with models that have smaller, more powerful motors and specially-designed output blades that cause less friction, both of which equal less noise. Several also have noise reduction nozzles and restrictors that help lower the noise level as well. A few units, such as those by American Dryer, have adjustable motors that can be slowed to reduce noise output, too. Dyson has moved their blades to be offset, which helps eliminate a good deal of noise as well.


One of the more frequent complaints users have in regard to these machines is that they take longer to dry hands than paper towels. Some who use them even decide to throw their hands up in defeat and walk out with them damp. That could mean they drip water across your floors, creating a spill hazard, and is likely to leave them a bit grumpy.

Speed is a major concern in crowded restrooms at busy venues where long lines might form as people wait for the hand dryer. Manufacturers have taken this into consideration and have developed machines that dry hands in a few as 12 seconds. Even the slower ones will dry hands in less than half a minute.

Most units have motors that offer 5/8- to 1/3-horsepower, delivering between 20,000 and 92,000 rpm and velocity ranging from 12,000 to 343,000 linear feet per minute.

Energy Consumption

The "green" attributes of hand dryers have caused a surge in their popularity. Hand dryers have a minimal environmental footprint in both their manufacture and operation. That's in stark comparison to paper towels, which can't be recycled and which take considerable wood pulp and energy to produce.

To minimize the footprint even more, there are several models that do not have heating elements, so they use less electricity. They also don't need dedicated power circuits the way heated versions do, so their installation costs less and is easier. Units without heating elements can cost as little as $.18 per 1,000 uses. You'll have to decide whether your customers will be happy with cooler air, or if you need to spend a little extra to get a heated model.

No matter which type you choose, hand dryers run from 6 to 20 amps—resulting in negligible costs when compared to the cost of constant refilling, emptying, and transporting of paper towels. You can potentially save up to 98 percent over the cost of paper towels.

Control Type

Hand dryers are available with push-button and automatic-sensor controls. Research indicates models the user has to actually touch have the potential to spread germs, but they do eliminate the requirement to trigger sensors. On the other hand, one of the largest complaints with hand dryers with automatic sensors is that the user has to place his hands just right to get the machine to blow air. Several manufacturers have stepped up their technology to deal with this issue by featuring microprocessor controls that are "smarter" than those that came before. These controls operate on as little as one watt of power in standby mode. They also monitor the amount of time the dryer blows and cut the units off when they're not in use, thereby minimizing wasted energy costs.

Hygienic Capabilities

With all the controversy swirling around whether hand dryers are sanitary, many manufacturers have tackled the issue head-on. With assumptions that hand dryers actually blow around bacteria in a restroom, the hand dryer is facing an uphill battle.

There are many brands that offer HEPA filters, and some even have more than one, so the air that enters the hand dryer is cleaned before it is warmed and blown onto hands. One manufacturer even uses ionic technology to literally kill germs as the air enters the unit. Many offer antimicrobial agents embedded into the units themselves, to prevent their becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. So if your financial bottom line is not the only bottom line your business considers, you may opt for one of these more hygienic models.


Most hand dryer manufacturers have considered the reality that vandalism is an issue nearly everywhere. In response, they've made their units out of durable stainless steel, polycarbonate, and mild steel with epoxy paint coatings, making them more difficult to deface and destroy. You should also ensure the air vent is covered with a vandal-resistant grill and all screws are recessed. Hex screws offer a further level of security, as they make the unit more difficult to remove from the wall.

ADA Compliance

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that was enacted in 1990 helped to ensure that certain facilities - including places of lodging, education, transportation, dining, and a host of others - are accessible to everyone. One of the stipulations in the law is that anything higher than 27 inches cannot protrude more than 4 inches from a wall. This helps ensure that those with sight issues can detect an object lower to the ground with a cane, keeping them from colliding with the unit and causing injury. In order to meet this specification, you'll need an adapter kit that sinks the unit deeper into the wall, or you can choose a newer unit that already has a narrow silhouette.

Suggested Placement

Excel suggests having one dryer for every two washbasins for a washroom with average traffic and one dryer for every washbasin in those with heavy traffic. They should be placed height-wise in accordance with the clientele that will be using the dryer and according to the type of dryer. Most will follow these guidelines:

  • Men: 44 inches
  • Women: 42 inches
  • Children: 32 to 42 inches
  • Disabled: 36 inches