Public restrooms continue to be the culprit of consumer angst, from wet seats and stall floors to germy door handles and a lack of soap. Facility managers have faced the age-old challenge of providing sanitary, hygiene-friendly washrooms for their patrons.
Complaints have mounted. A recent survey by The Trending Machine found that three out of four adults had at least one complaint about public restrooms. More than one-third cited a lack of proper supplies, including paper hand towels, and 43% of respondents were concerned about germy fixtures.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) cites public health among the most important design criteria for public restrooms. The challenge for building a more desirable public restroom has led electric hand dryer manufacturers to improve on technologies and efficiency, creating faster, more hygiene-friendly products that are replacing the traditional paper hand towels. In the past five years, manufacturers have come up with innovations including touch-free faucets and high-efficiency electric hand dryers using sensors to turn on and off, drying hands in 10 seconds or less.
“Designers and facility managers are placing a higher priority on creating hygiene-friendly public spaces, and this includes restrooms,” says Mike Conlan, founder and CEO of www.handdryersupply.com. “Water and used paper hand towels can be a breeding ground for germs in restrooms. These days, an increasing number of electric hand dryer brands are being designed with bacteria-preventing technologies, meeting LEED and other green building certifications, and could cut costs over time.”
High-efficiency particulate absorption (HEPA) filters, commonly found today in most hand dryer brands, trap mold and germs inside the dryer, reducing 99.9% of bacteria from the air. These benefits, along with cost savings, are leading business owners and facility managers to replace their paper towel dispensers with high-efficiency electric dryers.
A medium-sized business sees around 150 to 200 restroom uses per day. A 12-pack case of 250 towels costs on average about $30, so a restroom that gets a medium amount of usage can expect to use at least one package of paper towels daily, for a total cost of about $75 per month. People typically use at least two towels to dry their hands, and often there is additional waste from extra unused towels pulled out and left on the floor or counter. Towels must also be bagged and removed from the restroom on a regular basis, so the extra cost of trash bags and maintenance are cost factors.
High-efficiency hand dryers have a higher initial cost – on average, they cost $500 – but their operating cost is about a tenth that of standard hand dryers. A typical electric hand dryer uses about 0.03 kilowatt-hour (kwh) of electricity per use. At an average U.S. cost of $0.0995 per kwh, the cost for using an electric dryer averages out to about $14.58 per month, a savings of more than $60 per month over using paper towels.
Electric hand dryers also are being designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and GreenSpec standards, a database of more than 2,000 green products used by architects, construction personnel and other building professionals.
A study by The Climate Conservancy demonstrates hand dryers’ minimal environmental impact by comparing carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), a measure used to compare various emissions from greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. The study revealed that a conventional hand dryer in a restroom emits between 9 and 40 grams of CO2e in 30 seconds or less, depending on the type of dryer, while every time a person uses two paper towels they are responsible for approximately 56 grams of CO2e emissions.
Advancements in technologies give architects, general contractors and facility management executives the opportunity to transition their facilities’ restrooms to more energy-efficient and hygiene-friendly environments. And finally, nothing to complain about.
Windy Campbell is founder of Campbell Communications, an independent public relations practice serving a variety of B2B companies, including www.HandDryerSupply.com.
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