NEWS FLASH: Dryer Vent Fires Are More Common Than Chimney Fires
You can increase safety by a wide margin and get your clothes drier quicker, saving money and energy, simply by keeping your home’s dryer vents clean.
Clothes dryer fires and hazardous carbon dioxide emissions often start with problems in the dryer’s venting system or lint trap area. Why these two places? Because the lack of proper vent cleaning and the use of improper dryer venting practices. Mixing the extreme heat of the dryer necessary to efficiently dry clothes and an over-abundance of lint and debris can be dangerous, and sometimes even deadly.
Here is what you need to do for proper maintenance:
- Clean the lint filter/screen after each dryer use.
- Clean the vent and exhaust duct periodically.
- Check the outside vent while the dryer is in operation to ensure that air is escaping and not getting clogged somewhere. It may be necessary to remove the exhaust duct from the dryer to dislodge an obstruction. This lint and debris is highly-flammable particles of cotton and polyester. Once these fibers clog the vent, heated air cannot escape.
- Pull the dryer out from the wall and ensure that lint and other fibers aren’t collecting.
- Hire proper chimney sweep services to come clean and maintain the vent.
Although you can perform many of those tasks yourself, it is a good idea to have a professional come in yearly and give your dryer unit a thorough clean. Because today’s newer homes often place a dryer away from an outside wall, the dryer is vented for a longer distance and inspection and debris removal is complicated to impossible without professional tools. Many apartment/condominium complexes and homeowner’s associations now require an annual or semi-annual cleaning to prevent accidents or fires.
If you have a gas dryer, there’s also CO poisoning to consider. While we hear of deaths from CO once and awhile, death is relatively uncommon. What is extremely common, and much more common that most people imagine, is the low level CO poisoning that keeps people feeling tired or in general malaise for years on end.
All dryers seem to allow a little dust to escape into the air we breathe. This is especially so when the vents are full of lint. Indoor air quality improves dramatically when the dryer vents are clean.
A final advantage to keeping dryer vents free of lint and debris is the dollar savings you will see. When lint traps, vents and exhaust areas are full of debris, heat is not distributed in the drum as it should be. This makes the dryer run longer in order to fully dry clothes. It may also take more than one cycle to completely dry a full or heavy load. Also, as your vent continues to fill with debris, the life expectancy of your dryer is cut in half with each load. Some studies conclude that the cost off professional dryer vent cleaning can be free when offset by the savings. Regardless, the health and safety benefits are well worth having. Even if it means staying on to up vent and gas fireplace maintenance.