Over the past year, every facility head we have spoken to has confirmed the fact that paper towels are on their way to becoming obsolete, and hand dryers are here to stay. How should one choose a product from a mind-boggling array of options? Here is a practical guide.
Number of units
This should be based on the number of wash basins, as well as the number and concentration of washroom users. If the washroom tends to be used by a large number of people in a short interval of time, more units are warranted to avoid building up queues.
Hands-under vs hands-in
With a traditional hand dryer, the user places their hands underneath the unit, while newer, blade-style models require the user to place their hands within the dryer itself. Blade-style models have quicker drying times and are more efficient; however, they can be less hygienic, since there is a risk of the user making physical contact with the unit.
Manual vs automatic
Automatic hand dryers have an infrared sensor that detects movement and activates automatically. Unlike push-button variants, these hand dryers avoid contact with the device and are highly recommended in terms of hygiene, in case their installation is required in a bathroom or public space.
Drying speed & power
The speed of drying should be the number one criterion. Traditional hand dryers take about 30-45 seconds to dry hands and are some of the most affordable hand dryers on the market. Newer products take around 10-15 seconds, but use less energy. These models are ideal for high-traffic locations like airports, train stations, food service areas etc.
The main downsides of high-speed hand dryers are that they cost more than traditional hand dryers, and are relatively louder. The tradeoff for buying a machine more powerful is that it makes more noise.
A hand dryer that offers more power won’t necessarily use more energy. The fact that it dries hands in half the time or less usually adds up to lower energy costs.
In general, high-speed hand dryers perform much better in terms of energy efficiency than traditional ones. Automatic hand dryers also fare well due since they are only ‘on’ while in use; no energy is wasted. Push-button dryers remain active until the end of the timer cycle, even after the user has walked away.
Many commercial hand dryers are specifically marketed as being eco-friendly since they have been designed to use as little energy as possible. Any hand dryer that doesn’t use heating elements, and simply blows out air without heating it, will perform better in terms of energy consumption.
Energy efficiency is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). The more kilowatt hours (kWh) a hand dryer uses, the less efficient it is. The higher the kilowatt rating of a hand dryer, the more energy efficient the machine will be. A lower kilowatt rating is better both for one’s budget and the environment.
Quick-drying hand dryers are usually less noisy, and ideal for use in public spaces, or environments like schools and hospitals.
Type of motor
Brushless motors are superior to those found in most hand dryers. Their advantages include increased lifespan, no need to maintain brushes that wear over time, greater efficiency using less energy per rotation and quieter operation.
Type of mounting
Wall-mounted units are recessed into a wall while surface-mounted units sit flush against a wall. For smaller washrooms where space is limited and there may be no room for an out-of-sight option, surface-mounted options are ideal as they take up less floor space. If the walls have more space, recessed models will work better as they don’t protrude from the wall, saving valuable floor space around doorways and other areas where people are likely to brush past while using them.
HEPA filters may be washable or replaceable. Replaceable HEPA filters are recommended since washable filters lose efficiency with each wash. The latter type needs to be washed about once a month to maintain the best possible efficiency.
Generally, electric hand dryers are made of plastic (ABS), painted steel (with black or white finish) or stainless steel (with satin or glossy finish). Steel is a more resistant and durable material than plastic and will ensure greater longevity in good condition.
The appropriate size of the hand dryer will depend on the space. If it is a small space, opt for a compact electric hand dryer fixed on the wall.
The aesthetics of the device chosen should depend on the space for which it is intended. Some finishes allow the hand dryer to be installed in a more elegant space – emphasising the design – while other finishes such as white and satin or glossy will allow incorporation in more classic spaces without standing out.