Saving Energy – In the Restroom

April 28, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

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Many efficiencies can be found by energy managers – in the restroom.

More specifically, the choice between paper towels and electric hand dryers is important to an organization. World Dryer President Dan Storto points out that the cost of paper towels is rising and that a new generation of hand dryers is highly efficient.

Thus, organizations are looking at the wash room as a way to generate efficiencies. “I would say it is something that is gaining momentum,” Storto said. “More and more building managers are looking at ways to save total cost and make their buildings more energy efficient. I would say because hand dryers have evolved into what they are today…they are getting more play [with organizations] than they have in the past.”

Storto says that the amount of energy used by the newest generation of electric hand dryers is shrinking. “Hand dryers have  been around for long time – in the late 1940s, the 50s [and onward] they typically took 30 to 40 seconds and ran at 2300 watts,” he said. “It took a lot of energy to dry your hands at that point. Today’s products take 10 to 12 seconds and use 950 to 1200 watts.”

Storto says that the key technical advances of the modern hand dryer include elimination – in some models – of the heating element, multiple settings and motor speed controllers. A company white paper included a savings calculator that featured seven models from World Dryer. The devices take from 10 to 30 seconds to do their jobs and had associated power ratings from 0.8 KW to 2.3 KW. The paper says that a sheet of paper can cost 2 cents to 5 cents and that people often use several. The cost savings – at  least in World Dryer’s telling – can be significant.

The white paper lays out the case for savings:

In terms of cost efficiency, switching to high-speed hand dryers can reduce costs in materials, maintenance in restroom upkeep, and waste up to 99 percent. When high-speed hand dryers replace paper towels in the restroom, you eliminate the cost of purchasing, inventorying and restocking towels—and this can add up to significant savings on time and energy. All of this translates into an significant savings per facility– as high as five figures per year. which can free up resources for critical facility improvements.

Storto said that World Dryer is one of the biggest companies in the sector. Others include Excel Dryer, American Dryer (which Storto said World Dryer has acquired) and Dyson. World Dryer recently acquired the biggest said that business is split between new construction projects and retrofits. Installing electric hand dryers in existing buildings is as simple as replacing light fixtures, he said. New build business is showing signs of rebounding after the recession.

Energy efficiency does not work in a vacuum. Whether or not electric hand dryers are hygienic has been an issue for years. The claims are that the dryers use air from the room which is contaminated. They therefore blow germs and bacteria onto users’ hands with great force and propel germs and bacteria around the room. Others, including Storto, suggest that not coming in contact with paper dispensers makes air blowers more hygienic. This clearly is an issue that an organization must carefully research.

A less obvious advantage that hand dryers offer is visual cleanliness. Many people judge a facility – and the organization that runs it – by the cleanliness of the washroom. Eliminating overflow used paper towels is seen as a benefit.

Storto positions hand dryers as a piece in the energy efficiency puzzle. “In the envelop of the building we can contribute to overall reduction of energy,” he said. “Lighting, roofing, windows, HVAC and those things have a much greater share but we believe we can complement that effort, be part of the effort to make that building and energy efficient as possible.”

One comment on “Saving Energy – In the Restroom

  1. Wow, I had no idea that we have been able to reduce the amount of energy needed to power a dryer by over 50%; that’s pretty impressive! Plus, it sounds like you’re guaranteed so save money since people tend to grab more than one sheet of paper towel. I know that I grab at least two whenever I dry my hands in a public restroom!

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