You may have used them only occasionally. Or, if your workplace has installed them in the public restrooms you use, you may have heard the electronic purr of the hand dryer start up hundreds or thousands of times by now. But how much time have you taken to stop and think about these little accessories?
Electric blowers, often with a heating element combined, substitute for paper towels in the restroom.
According to Wikipedia, as far back as 1921, AirDry Corporation in Groton New York created the “Airdry Electric Towel.” The units were operated by a foot pedal and were somewhat akin to a handheld air dryer.
But sales of hand dryers remained somewhat stagnant until the 1950s after inventor George Clemens created the first all-electric hand dryer.
Initially, World Dryer sold the Model A, a push-button model with a cast iron cover and a swivel that rotated to aim the air.
The model A was an instant hit, and within a couple of years, the company began shipping internationally as well.
The advantage of a hand driver is obvious to those who buy them. For example, according to World Dryer, a restaurant could spend $3,000 per year just on paper towels, not counting charges for waste disposal and janitorial service. On the other hand, the cost of electricity for the dryer would be around $30.
A Bobrick hand dryer might run around $379, so amortized over 10 years, that would amount to an additional expense of $38 per year. As a dryer might cost $68 per year to operate in total, saving $2,932 per year on expenses by buying a hand dryer.
That’s an overall savings of roughly 98 percent per year and can amount to nearly $30,000 in savings just for a medium-size restaurant.
You’d think that such savings alone would get most businesses to convert to electric air dryers but you would be wrong. According to CleanLink.com, while sales of hand dryers are at an all-time high, only about 10 percent of businesses use electric hand dryers in their washrooms.
Part of the reason for this is that it takes longer to dry your hands with an electric hand dryer and people do not want to wait. But according to Clean Link, manufacturers like Excel Dryer corporation have developed hand dryers that can do the job within 15 seconds. Another major complaint about hand dryers is their observed tendency to spread germs.
The COVID-19 pandemic may influence the trend. When businesses open back up, everyday clients using a washroom may second guess the facility’s accessories. With increased attention on cleanliness, this could influence the direction of the great hand dryers vs paper towels rivalry.