Comparison: Push Button Hand Dryers -vs- Automatic.
What are the benefits and potential downsides to each.
In the early days, there were no choices. If you wanted a hand dryer (or hand drier, depending on where you live), you got a push button, cast iron dryer, and it did the job. These cast iron behemoths were built on the existing technology of the time which involved relays and mechanical switches! But, they were dead reliable. Eventually, the designs were refined to be more compact and reliable. But they kept the cast-iron cover for vandal resistance.
In the 1980’s, hand dryers began appearing in automatic versions, with infra-red sensors that detected the presence of hands under the dryer’s nozzle. The rotating chrome nozzles made it easier to dry one's face if one desired. However, the early models suffered from less reliability, and the experience of this persists in the public's mind even today.
There were several issues with sensors; Some weren't sensitive enough and did not detect hands reliably. Others falsely triggered (a problem known as "ghosting"). And many had short life spans and needed to be replaced on a regular basis.
Today, though, the electronics have been vastly improved and do not suffer those issues. They are even adjustable and some have built-in diagnostic abilities to indicate when a problem occurs and what component might be involved.
So what is the situation, today? In my experience, sensors, which have fewer moving parts, are more reliable than push buttons. The sensor usually costs more, however, so you may pay more for your automatic dryer than you will for your push button dryer, (but you should be able to make up the difference in energy savings).
The last, and probably the main reason why a lot of push button hand dryers are still purchased or specified today, is that some people feel that they are not as easy to vandalize as motion-sensor hand dryers. This is because some vandals will try to damage the automatic sensor either by scratching it or putting gum on it. I have not seen this problem occur a lot, but my school system friends tell me that anything that could possibly happen in a restroom ... will.
The sensor eye is of course made to resist scratching, and even a scratched or partially covered sensor will still work, but it is possible to do some damage if one were to really work at it. Additionally, if the sensor is covered, with say, gum or tape, dryers are programed to stop running after a period of time if the sensor is blocked, but the substance still needs to be removed from the dryer by a maintenance person.
On the other hand a push button can also be vandalized, but maybe not as easily. It sometimes happens, for example, that you will see the button itself sprung out from the cover. This occurs when the clip holding it in place pops out. It can be fixed by purchasing a new clip.
In the end, I feel that the convenience and hygiene of an automatic dryer (not to mention the beautiful designs and compact footprints) are well worth it, and I would always recommend purchasing automatic over push button. No one these days wants to touch anything in the restroom and I particularly dislike banging those buttons.
And as new dryers are designed, you will find that they are only being designed with automatic versions. Eventually, there will be no more push button hand dryers. For the time being though, they are still popular and, however infrequently, they can right for some applications.
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