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The hidden cost of hand drying

Image of hand dryers

Switching from paper towel to a high-efficiency hand dryer could save $100 a month or more

Hand drying can be expensive. If you own a business with a washroom, you know how high paper towel replenishment costs can be. If you have a conventional electric hand dryer in your restroom the cost may not be as obvious, but don't be mistaken: you're being charged for the electricity it consumes, rolled into your monthly power bill.

Restocking paper towel or operating a conventional hand dryer may not be seem like a big expense – especially compared to other operating costs like lighting and heating or cooling – but a penny saved is a penny earned, right?

The tricky thing about hand drying is that you can't control whether one person uses a dozen paper towels to dry their hands, or if another person parks themselves in front of your hand dryer for three minutes or more. Obviously, barging into the bathroom to ask a customer to cut it out isn't an option, but installing a high-efficiency hand dryer is within your control.

Cost comparison: paper towel, conventional hand dryer and a high-efficiency hand dryer

A 2014 study from Thompson River University [PDF] suggests switching to an energy-efficient hand dryer can result in a 50-70% reduction in your carbon footprint, and a 95% cost savings in washroom supply and maintenance.

Wow. Let's do the math.

Paper towel replenishment costs (per month) – about $120

One pack of 4,000 folded paper towels costs on average about $40 (taxes not included), so if your restroom is used 175 times in a day, and each person uses two towels to dry their hands, you'll run out of paper towel in about 11 days, and your replenishment costs will be about $120 a month. Soiled paper towels also need to be bagged and removed from the restroom on a regular basis, so the extra cost of garbage bags and maintenance also factor into the total cost.

Cost to run a conventional hand dryer (per month) – about $15

A conventional hand dryer consumes about 160 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity per month. At a cost of $0.094 per kWh the cost for using a conventional hand dryer 175 times a day averages out to about $15 per month, a savings of $105 per month over paper towels. And that's for the conventional model.

Cost to run a high-efficiency hand dryer (per month) – about $3

A high-efficiency hand dryer, on the other hand, may cost more – for instance, the Dyson Airblade dB is about $1,350 – but its operating cost is about one sixth of that of a conventional hand dryer. An energy-efficient hand dryer consumes about 30 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity per month. At a cost of $0.094 per kWh the cost for using an energy-efficient model 175 times a day averages out to about $3 per month, a savings of $12 per month over a conventional model, and $117 over paper towels.

To see how much money you could save by switching to an energy-efficient hand dryer, give Dyson's Savings Calculator a try. It'll only take 30 seconds.