Hand dryers are less expensive than paper towels in every aspect except initial installation, and the initial cost is quickly recouped. Hand dryers are cheaper for ongoing use, they require less maintenance, and also are more environmentally friendly. The only drawback seems to be one not related to cost--people simply don't like using them.
As of 2008, according to Master Building Specialties, a case of 2,400 paper towels was priced at about $25 and lasted for about 960 hand dryings, since people generally use more than one. In contrast, the electrical use for 1,000 dryings with a hand dryer in 2008 cost about $1.34, on average.
A paper towel dispenser costs around $20 or $30, while newer, more efficient hand dryers typically cost $300 and $400. The hand dryer cost is easily regained, because a business spending $600 on 24 cases of paper towels would only spend about $40 for air drying.
Busy restrooms with numerous stalls, such as in movie theaters, can easily go through a case of towels each week. Air dryers are much more cost-effective.
People often accidentally pull several multi-fold towels from the dispenser and then throw them away.
Further expenses related to paper towels include having employees fill dispensers, pick up litter, empty trash bins and fix plumbing stoppages when people throw the towels in sinks or toilets. A hand dryer needs virtually no maintenance at all.