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Avoid Fires By Eliminating Dryer Lint

The importance of dryer maintenance is discussed to avoid possible fires within a home.

Most homeowners have a laundry room where their washer and dryer reside, for many of us it is in the traditional location, the basement.  More recently builders and homeowners have placed the laundry room in a main living area like a kitchen, bedroom, hallway or other area of convenience.  The importance of the laundry room location will become more apparent further in the article.  You are asking yourself, “I just need to clean my lint trap before every load, right?” well yes but you need to do more.  Lint traps do catch MOST of the lint that is part of the normal drying process but the operative word is most.  The balance of the lint should be expelled outside through your dryer exhaust vent along with the hot moist air and if you have a gas dryer, combustion gases.  Why the concern over lint?  Well according to statistics from FEMA approximately 12,700 clothes dry fires occur annually resulting in 15 deaths and 300 injuries and 70% of them were due to “failure to clean” the lint.   When your clothes dryer has to work harder to remove lint and moisture it can trigger enough heat to cause some components to malfunction and can sometimes produce sparks or even flames.

Besides cleaning your lint trap before every load what else can you do?  Well you should inspect and clean you entire dryer exhaust vent system regularly and if you have access to the entire venting system it is something you can do yourself.  But if your venting system is hidden behind finished walls and floors then a professional should be called at least every 2-3 years, if not more frequently if you are constantly drying.  Next check the outside vent for obstructions and lint accumulation, you want to make sure that when your dryer is running the flap is open and warm air is being expelled, if not have vent system cleaned immediately.  You should never cover the vent with any kind of mesh in the hopes of keeping out insects or vermin since lint will accumulate around the opening and block air flow. 

While inspecting your venting system, if you notice that you are still using the white vinyl hose replace it.  First, in many areas the building code now prohibit its use, second, it tends to hold more lint and lastly, if a fire does start in the hose the hose itself is flammable and you are only adding fuel to the fire, in all cases it should be replaced.  The American Household Appliance Manufacturers Association (AHAM) recommends the use of UL-listed rigid aluminum or steel duct or spiral-wound aluminum flex hose, NOT white vinyl hose, my preference is the rigid aluminum.  Be careful with the spiral aluminum flex hose so not to crimp it and never use screws to join sections since the screws will catch lint.

I previously mentioned laundry room locations because most dryer manufactures state that dryer vents cannot be longer than the equivalent of 25 feet (each 90-degree bend adds 5 feet to the actual vent length).   When lint laden moist air has to pass through the venting system that is under a floor or through walls and is more than 6-feet long, it is almost impossible to force all the lint out of the vent.  As a result, lint can accumulate and start restricting air flow.  When dryer vents are longer than 25 feet then an inline dryer duct booster fan is normally employed to increase air flow.

The other potentially hazardous condition is when the dryer exhaust is not vented outside.  Dryer vents that exhaust in the attic, crawl space, chimney or interior walls in many cases is illegal and worse case lethal, especially when venting a gas dryer due to carbon monoxide.  You normally do not want the warm moist air to be exhausted within the house since you increase the likelihood of promoting mold growth which is unhealthy for your family and costly to remediate.

In summary, a clean dryer exhaust vent improves the efficiency of your dryer and reduces the likelihood of a potential for fire and diminished indoor air quality.  By performing some proper dryer maintenance you can avoid some costly remediation and potentially life threatening situations.   If you have any questions about this article please do not hesitate to contact me at 631-423-1734 or email me at angel@servproofnorthhuntington.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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