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Hands Dryer Abuse

Energy Saving Initiative

Ever wondered what it takes to dry hands using a wall-mounted electric hand dryer? I never did until I started visiting a public swimming pool at the newly built Community Center nearby. Like most of the people, I always thought that hand driers were designed and built to cut down or eliminate the usage of paper towels in public restrooms, showers, change rooms, etc. I thought that lowering the usage of paper towels saves forests, saves energy and helps protect the environment. It was a delusion.

My mistake was based on the naive assumption that hand driers are to be used for drying hands. It turned out, however, that drying hands is only one of many different applications. Visitors of Edmonds Community Center proved that the electric hand dryer is actually a multipurpose device. They helped me understand that hand driers are not limited to hand drying only but can offer a much wider specter of services.

One of the innovative approaches, for example, is drying feet. However, since this application implies certain body flexibility it is mostly employed by young folks. Drying flip flops, in contrast, doesn’t have any age limitations and is very popular in all the age groups. Many times I witnessed how the hand driers could be effectively used to dry swimwear or even underwear. Some guys utilize the power and effectiveness of this electrical equipment to speed dry their bottles of shower jell and shampoo before placing them into their plastic bags.

After a short while I became curious and decided to run a few simple calculations to see how much the Edmonds Community Center pays for drying flip flops, a bottle of shampoo or underwear by a hand dryer.

Assumptions & Considerations

Considering that Edmonds Community Center is a very busy facility and accounting that drying swimwear or underwear takes more than 3 – 5 drying cycles, one can assume an average of 100 drying cycles per day. Plus 100 cycles for drying feet, towels, shampoo, flip flops, etc. combined. Assuming 300 active days per year, this facility runs at least 60 000 drying cycles annually.

Calculating the overall impact of electric dryers is easy enough. A fair amount of energy goes into manufacturing metal goods with mechanical parts. But the fact that dryers last so long—typically around 10 years—means that production accounts for a negligible part of the hardware's total energy consumption. The vast majority of a dryer's environmental toll stems from the electricity it needs during the day-to-day use. At Edmonds Community Center we are lucky. We have very efficient XLerator Hand Dryers installed in change rooms. According to manufacturer’s specs, the XL Drier consumes 0.021 KWh per one drying cycle. Multiplying this by 60 000 of cycles per year and our insistence of dry-feet, dry-swimwear and dry-whatever decorum, turns into annual consumption of 1,260 KWh of electricity. At low conservation rate of 0.0.9395 $/KWh the cost of this runs at $118.37 per one change room. This extra expenditure goes on the top of traditional expense that comes from ‘non-creative’ use of the facility – drying hands and hair.

Let’s consider other variables involved in calculating the environmental cost of extended use of our XLerator for drying flip-flops, underwear, feet etc.

Amount of fuel used to generate 1 kilowatt/hour (kWh):

  • Coal = 1.05 pounds
  • Natural gas = 10.10 cubic feet
  • Petroleum = 0.07 gallons

I used an Emission Calculator, provided by CLEANER+GREENER Program of Leonardo Academy, a charitable nonprofit, dedicated to advancing sustainability and environmental stewardship. The Emission Calculator produced the shocking results. The environmental toll of consumption of 1,260 KWh of electricity may be as high as

Emission of Greenhouse Gases

  • Emission of 345 lbs of Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Emission of 0.01 lbs of Methane (CH4)
  • Emission of 0.01 lbs of Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

Generation of Health Effecting Pollution

  • Generation of 0.17 lbs of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Generation of 0.4 lbs of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)
  • Generation of 0.000009 lbs of Mercury (Hg)

One may say that the analysis of how the local power grid generates the electricity showed that the power we use is coming from other than fossil burning plans sources. Therefore, the calculation above is not applicable to our case. This could be partially true.

However, even if the calculations are not precisely accurate and the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases is just a fraction of the numbers above, my questions still holds:


  • Published: 2015-07-29T17:15:50-07:00
  • Author: Harry Cotten