Which Hand Dryer should I buy?
When choosing a hand dryer there are a few considerations that you need to keep in mind.
>Speed < > Efficiency < >Noise Level < >Design < >Cost <
High Speed Hand Dryers
Today’s hand dryers are MUCH faster than previous generations. They are also more energy efficient and much more fun to use. In the old days business owners were afraid to replace paper towels with hand dryers because, while making the change would be good for the environment, save money and reduce maintenance hassles, warm air hand blowers took too long to dry hands. With today’s latest generation of hand dryers, those “just wipe your hands on your pants” jokes go away. (And not a moment too soon for us.)
So we always recommend a high speed hand dryer first. Not only are they better for the user, and not only can you get more users through a busy bathroom, but they are vastly more energy efficient than traditional hand dyers. That is because they use less energy (say 1500 watts vs 2300 watts) and they are on for a shorter period of time. (Say 15 seconds vs 30 seconds.) There is one major trade off to high speed hand dryers: they are louder than slower hand dryers. There is almost a directly proportional relationship between time to dry and level of noise. However the manufacturers are working on this issue and expect to see improvements in the near future. There are a lot of quiet hand dryers available, usually at a good price, but you are giving up performance, which we feel is more important.
We also recommend an automatic / infrared sensor activated hand dryer. An automatic hand dryer is more hygienic since the user never touches it and it also saves energy since it stops running as soon as the you remove your hands (as opposed to continuing to the end of the timer cycle). Automatic hand dryers have become so much more popular than push button dryers that all of the new, fast hand dryers are designed with only an automatic option. Some folks, especially at schools, still feel that push button dryers such as the World Dryer Model A are the most reliable, however we feel that sensor activated hand dryers are more reliable even than the push button hand dryers and we like that there are less moving parts. (Push button dryers are best in environments where people might set off the sensors when they do not mean to.)
At about a 10 second dry time, The Dyson Airblade is perhaps the fastest hand dryer on the market today. It is also a very sexy hand dryer. That’s right, SEXY. Because of its effectiveness and the unique operation of the Dyson, the Airblade is one of the most popular hand dryers on the market, and it is our top pick. The user places his or her hands down into the Airblade and the water is scraped off as the hands are removed. The Airblade also has a HEPA filter so that the air hitting your hands is cleaner than the air in the rest of the restroom. People just love using these dryers and they will talk about their experience even after they leave the establishment. Dyson was originally known for their hands-in hand dryers like the AB04 pictured here (now upgraded to the quieter AB14 model) but they also make a hands-under version, the HU02, also known as the V, which has also been improved to lower the noise level and so is quiet, efficient, comes with two HEPA filters and is ADA compliant at only 4 inches off the wall. The Dyson Airblade is more expensive than other hand dryers, but it lends a very upscale image to the establishment. For that reason we sell a lot of these to high-end restaurants, retail establishments, car dealerships, etc. We think that the improved image for your location is worth the extra cost.
Another top pick is the Xlerator hand dryer. Excel Dryer started the high-speed hand drying craze with the introduction of the Xlerator in 2000. This is the dryer that wrinkles your hands when you put them under it and sounds like a jet plane taking off. “Feel the Power,” is their logo and they really mean it. Made in the USA, (Massachusetts) this is about a 12 second hand dryer. It is well made, very effective and very popular. The Xlerator goes very well in bars, restaurants factories and other commercial environment. We also sell them to high end establishments who all like them.
There are a number of other effective hand dryers that we also like.
The Smartdri is a really great new hand dryer by Illinois based World Dryer. This is a high speed hand dryer that has 5 air outlets instead of one, so it disperses the air more evenly over the hands. At full speed, the Smartdri is on the noisy side, but this dryer can be adjusted to turn the speed of the motor, and therefore the noise level, down. At its lowest level this is a very quiet hand dryer. You can also turn of the heating element and so the Smartdri can be set to a very low energy consumption level. Of course you give up performance when you turn the motor down , but it’s great to have that option in case you install the dryer and then realize it is too loud. The Smartdri has a newer, stronger sister, the Smartdri Plus. The Smartdri Plus is the same hand dryer but with only one air outlet / nozzle. This makes for a faster dry. It is a little louder and a little more forceful.
The smaller sister of the Smartdri is the World Dryer Airforce. This high speed hand dryer does not have a heating element (neither does the Airblade and a number of new dryers now have this option) so it always runs at an energy efficient 1100 watts. It has 11 air outlets, a very reasonable price and is light weight at about 7 lbs. The Smartdri is a little faster, will last longer and has more features, but the Airforce is really nice for the price.
The Fast Dry JA (Jet Air) hand dryer is another adjustable hand dryer and we think this is a really nice alternative to some of the other high speed hand dryers. The brand name isn’t as well known, but we like it a lot. This is similar to the Xlerator but maybe 2 seconds slower . It has a cool blue light that shines on your hands when it is running.
The other really good, American-made high speed hand dryers are the American Dryer eXtremeAir. These are small and elegant high speed dryers with the really nice feature of Universal Voltage. In other words, the XtremeAir will work with any power configuration that you have – from 100 to 240 volts. There are two versions. The standard is the GXT9. If you remove the heating element, you get the super energy efficient EXT7. The EXT is cold, but it’s also the most energy efficient dryer available measured by dry time (about 13 seconds) and energy consumption. Both the EXT and the GXT have adjustable motors that you can turn down for a quieter and slower dry that uses even less energy.
If you want durability above all else and a high speed hand dryer, we recommend the World Dryer AirMax. While all of the hand dryers are well made and even the polycarbonate cover Dyson AB04 hand dryer is vandal resistant (there’s a nice video showing a burly dude trying unsuccessfully to break it) you can’t beat the Airmax for good old fashioned durability. The AirMax is made from the World Dryer Model A shell that has been tried and tested over the years. As such, it has a push button as well as an automatic version, so if you want both push button and high speed, this is a good alternative. (Summit Coffee in Davidson, NC took out their automatic hand dryers and installed these because the hand dryers in their small restrooms are mounted almost over the sinks and the users kept setting them off by accident. The AirMax is about a 15 second hand dryer.
You can see all of these high speed hand dryers in action in our gritty, but informative hand dryer video. (Dry times will vary from what we show here!)
Standard Speed Hand Dryers
The World Dryer Model A hand dryer is the standard for the regular speed hand dryer, which we define as a 25 – 30 second dry time. This hand dryer is still a favorite among schools and it is a top pick for its basic effectiveness. With a 10 year warranty (pretty much all of the high speed hand dryers have 5-year warranties) and a standard cast iron cover, the Model A is known for its durability and bullet-proof vandal resistance. The model A is also quieter than the high speed hand dryers, so if you can’t handle the noise, this is a good alternative. It comes in the traditional push button configuration as well as automatic.
Excel Dryer has its cast cover series and Lexan series standard dryers and American Dryer has their DR series hand dryers and these are all solid, regular speed hand dryer
Low Energy Hand Dryers
When we first wrote this guide in 2008, the we focused on the World Dryer Airforce as one of the most energy efficient hand dryer. Since then, however, there have been a number of hand dryers that have similar or better performance. We will try to keep up to date coverage of energy efficient hand dryers here. Just remember that in all of our studies, dry time is subjective. Take the AirForce which consumes only 1,100 watts of electricity and compare it to the Nova 1 hand dryer which uses less, 1,000 watts. Does the Nova 1 model 0830 have a higher efficiency rating than the Airforce? It does not. The AirForce is ALSO a high-speed hand dryer, it runs for about 15 seconds whereas the Nova 1 runs for more than 30 seconds to fully dry hands. The combination of high speed and low energy makes the Airforce much more efficient than the Nova 1, and this is why it earns it a Greenspec listing and the Nova 1 does not.
It is important to note that even the standard hand dryers like the Model A (2300 watts for 30 second dry time) still do not use a lot of energy. The cost to run one Model A hand dryer at a fast food restaurant for a year can be about $100 depending on usage and energy costs. That might replace $900 worth of paper towels! And even though hand dryers do use energy, it takes MORE energy to manufacture the roughly 2.5 paper towels that you would have used to wash your hands than it takes to run even a standard 2300 watt dryer.
Hygienic Hand Dryers
We think that ALL hand dryers are more hygienic than paper towels. And when we walk into a restroom that is strewn with paper towels, wet, on the floor, in the sinks and clogging the toilets, we know we are right! The Dyson Airblade is currently the only hand dryer with an NSF rating which makes it popular in the food manufacturing industry - bakeries etc. One of the reason for this is that it has a HEPA filter that cleans the air as it goes in. The Xlerator now has a retrofit HEPA filter as well. A number of hand dryers including the Airblade have an antimicrobial coating. The World Dryer AirForce Hand Dryer and the Smartdi are hand dryers that also have antimicrobial.
The World Dryer AirForce is embedded with Steritouch™ anti-microbial. The anti-microbial is embedded in the painted cover (white or black) and also in the plastic components that are on the bottom (the part you might touch) and the inside of the dryer.
Low Noise Hand Dryers
Most high-speed hand dryers are louder than their lower-speed counter-parts. This is one of the trade-offs of using a high-speed hand drier. In our opinion, the extra noise does not make a big enough difference to counterbalance the benefits of the higher speed, but if the hand dryer is very close to a noise sensitive area, such as an office or classroom, you might want to consider a lower noise hand dryer like the Model A or the Nova 5 hand dryer. Others are even quieter, like the Electric-Aire LE hand dryer which is only 70 dB. The LE hand dryer and others in its class use induction motors, unlike the brush motors of the other hand dryers we have been discussing. This makes them quieter, but you are giving up on speed-of-dry performance at the same time.
Vandalism and durability
If you are in a high-use, high-vandalism scenario like certain roadway rest-stops, football stadiums, schools or fast food restaurants then having a tough hand dryer may be your first concern. We recommend the World Dryer AirMax high speed hand dryer. The AirMax is a 15 second hand dryer, so about the same as the AirForce, but still about twice as fast as the standard World Dryer Model A hand dryer - which is closer to 30 seconds. Since it uses the same amount of energy as the Model A but is about twice as fast, the AirMax hand dryer is twice as energy efficient as the Model A, which is why it earns the GreenSpec listing along with the extremely efficient AirForce.
The AirMax is built with the same tried and true and incredibly durable base and cover as the Model A. One of the cover options is the cast iron cover with a white porcelain enamel coating. The cast iron is literally bullet-proof (World Dryer has the squashed bullet to prove it) and the porcelain enamel vitreous coating makes the cast iron cover nearly scratch-proof. This is similar to an old fashioned heavy duty cast iron bath tub with its thick porcelain enamel coating.
The AirMax has a 10-year warranty on parts, 5 years on the motor and sensor and 3 years on the replaceable motor brushes. The AirForce has a 5 year warranty throughout. The Model A is the same as the AirMax but with a full 10 years on the motor.
The AirMax and the Model A hand dryers come with many cover options, including cast iron, stainless steel (both cast and stainless are very good vandal-resistant materials) steel – still quite strong, but easier to scratch or dent than cast iron, and WorldStone, a very nice bulk molded compound. For more on hand dryer cover options, please see: Cover Options. For information on push button vs automatic hand dryers, see push button vs automatic hand dryers. (I like automatic.)
ADA compliant hand dryers / recessed hand dryers
The American with Disabilities Act asks that items that are in a passageway protrude 4 inches or less off the wall. This is primarily to keep a blind person from bumping into something as they are walking. For ADA standards, click here: ADA The easiest way to meet this standard is to mount your dryer out of a passageway at the end of a wall, for example, near a sink or behind a partition. If this is not possible, some hand dryers come in either a recessed version or with a recess kit that will make them ADA compliant. The Dyson Airblade and similar hand dryers are also ADA compliant even though they are more than 4" in depth because they are low enough so that a cane would come into contact with them.
Other than the Airblade, there are a few dryers on the market that are ADA compliant even without a recess kit. For example, you can purchase the Nova 1 or 2 hand dryers, which are 4” off the wall even if surface mounted. These are also lower cost hand dryers, but on the other hand are not as durable or fast as some other dryers, so not appropriate for all settings.
The Xlerator also has an available Xlerator recess kit. World Dryer Model A and AirMax series hand dryers are offered in very durable cast iron or stainless steel recessed versions. (For example, models RA5-Q974, XRA5-Q974, M5-Q974, XM5-Q975.) The recessed kit is included as part of the hand dryer. A space will need to be made in the wall to insert the dryers, so there is a little more construction than a surface-mounted hand dryer requires.
The AirForce hand dryer can be purchased along with an additional recess kit (KJR-973) into which the dryer fits.
You can also purchase a recess kit for the Airspeed and NoTouch hand dryers, but the dryer will still protrude more than 4” and so will NOT be ADA compliant if in a passageway, but will still take up less room.
Quiet Hand Dryers:
Below is a list of the noise ratings for various hand dryers. As a very general rule of thumb, the higher the noise level, the faster and more durable the dryer.
• Electric-Aire LE hand dryers 70 dBs
• Airspeed and NoTouch hand dryers 71 dBs
• Nova 4 hand dryers 74 dBs
• Nova 5 hand dryers 74 dBs
• World Dryer Model A hand dryers 75 dBs
• World Dryer AirMax hand dryers 83 dBs
• World Dryer AirForce hand dryers 85 dBs
FYI, there are some high-speed hand dryers that can spike above 90 dBs when hands are present. (None of the above.)
Low Cost hand dryers:
If cost is your number one concern, look at these two hand dryers which are great values:
Plug-in hand dryers
Having a plug-in hand dryer can be very convenient and a big cost saver. You will not need an electrician to mount the hand dryer for you and you can use an existing wall socket. In t he US, there is only one plug-in hand dryer that I know of that is also a UL certified hand dryer (in the plug-in configuration) and that is the Nova 1 plug in hand dryer, model 0833.
It’s fairly easy to add a plug and cord to a 115 volt hand dryer and you can purchase almost any model in a plug-in version from some vendors. If you are buying a plug-in hand dryer other than the Nova 1, you should check to see if the manufacturer’s warranty and the UL certification are still valid if the dryer was altered outside of the factory. When the Nova 1 plug-in hand dryer was developed, special precautions were made so that the dryer would be considered safer and qualify for UL approval.