The Number One (and maybe the number two and three) reason people purchase hand dryers is to save money. And it’s a lot of money! Nearly all of the hand dryer manufacturers have cost calculators on their websites to help you calculate your savings. Let’s look at why they are so effective.

There is a wide range of prices you can pay for paper towels. Those linen towels at a fine restaurant can cost 10-25 cents each! Very large institutions that can negotiate deals with the paper companies can get the price down to less than a half-penny per towel. But trust me, if we use one cent per towel, it is not only conservative, it makes the math a ton easier!

Let’s start with the cost of paper. Most of the time when I ask a customer how much they spend in paper, they answer “I don’t have any idea.” It’s like keeping the lights on – you just need them. So then we try to either check (by looking at their purchasing history) or we make an estimated guess. I estimate that the average person uses 2-4 paper towels per dry. That makes each dry around 3 cents in paper cost. If 100 people use that dispenser, that’s $3/day in paper (200 is $6/day, etc.). If you are open 250 days/year, that’s $750 in paper (or $1,500 at 200) – you get the idea. That’s per year. Anyone can do the math. And it’s a ton of cash.

What is not included? Sure, there’s the cost of garbage bags and maybe batteries, but labor costs can be even larger than the paper costs. How about someone to negotiate a paper contract, issue P.O.’s, schedule deliveries, unload trucks, stock janitorial closets, load dispensers, take out trash, and the favorite of facility managers everywhere, unclog the toilets when knuckleheads flush away the towels. Even at $10/20 an hour, this labor adds up fast! And one plumber visit costs a ton.

What about the electricity costs associated with hand dryers, you ask? Well, even in the worst case, it’s really minimal. Let’s compare a low-energy/high-speed hand dryer with 1500 watts and a 15 second dry time and a high-energy hot air hand dryer with 2300 watts and a 30 second dry time. On average, according to the Dept. of Energy, commercial electricity runs around 10 cents/KwHr. Using the 100/200 dries per day and the 250 days per year assumptions we used before, the high-speed hand dryer uses about $15/$30 per year and the hot air dryer uses $45/$90 per year. This is much less than the paper costs, not to mention the labor we discussed.

The US EPA did a nice paper on the savings for a tribal casino that showed an 8 month payback, and this is consistent with our analysis.

Most of the hand dryer manufacturers have easy-to-use cost calculators that you can use. Here are the cost calculators for Excel, World, Dyson and American Dryer.

Hand dryers make a wise investment, and even those at the high end of the price spectrum pay for themselves, usually in 6-18 months.