Hand Dryers Buyers' Guide

Finding the Right Commercial Hand Dryers

Everyone knows it's good business practice to provide guests with an efficient and sanitary hand-drying method. Although the debate over paper towels versus hand dryers is an ongoing one, hand dryers are a cost-effective solution for many public places. As with any purchase, you need to keep in mind your customer traffic and the space you have for hand drying equipment. 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

The noise generated by the unit is one of the most important considerations when choosing a hand dryer for your facility. If you're placing the hand dryer in a library, you'll need one with lower decibels than you would for a sports arena. 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 have noise reduction nozzles and restrictors that also help lower the noise level. A few units, such as those by American Dryer, have adjustable motors that can be slowed to reduce noise output, too.


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 slip 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 as few as 8 seconds. Even the slower ones will dry hands in less than half a minute.

Most units have motors that offer 58- to 13-horsepower, delivering between 20,000 and 92,000 RPM and velocities ranging from 12,000 to 343,000 linear feet per minute.

Energy Consumption

The eco-friendly attributes of hand dryers have caused a surge in their popularity, as their manufacture and operation leave a minimal environmental footprint. Paper towels, on the other hand, can't be recycled and take considerable wood pulp and energy to produce.

To minimize that footprint even more, there are several models that do not have heating elements, so they use less electricity than heated-air models. They also don't need dedicated power circuits the way some heated versions do, so installation is easier and costs less. Units without heating elements can cost as little as $0.18 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. This results in negligible costs when compared to the price of constantly refilling paper towel dispensers and emptying waste baskets. You can potentially save as much as 98 percent over the cost of paper towels.

Control Type

Hand dryers are available with push-button and automatic-sensor controls. Research indicates that push-button models have the potential to spread germs. 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 the concern that hand dryers actually blow around bacteria in a restroom, the hand dryer is facing an uphill battle. However, many manufacturers have taken steps to address this issue.

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/or blown onto hands. One manufacturer even uses ionic technology to kill germs as the air enters the unit. Many offer antimicrobial agents embedded into the units themselves to help prevent bacteria growth. 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) of 1990 helps to ensure certain facilities - including places of lodging, education, transportation, and dining - 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 becoming injured. 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 profile.

Suggested Placement

The engineers at Excel suggest 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