Angie's List | Preventing Dryer Fires

Clothes dryers are an appliance that make our lives easier but we often take them for granted, but we shouldn't. We need to maintain them and most importantly have their vents cleaned because if we don't the dryer won't run as efficiently and it's a fire hazard.

Dryer Vent Technician Glen Mayfield explains, "The dryer is designed to exhaust the heat and the moisture while it's drying. If that heat and  moisture cannot get out of the dryer, then the dryer just sits there and keeps working itself but it can't accomplish the drying, which then means the dryer works harder and heat builds up and that is what can lead to a dryer vent fire."

More than 15,000 fires are associated with clothes dryers occur in the U.S. annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Many homeowners depend on their clothes dryer to help provide a more convenient method for completing the task of drying their clean clothing. Unfortunately many times residential property owners do not address the necessity for properly maintaining the dryer vent attached to these appliance units.

Glen says, "The signs that say it's time for cleaning, the primary one is, is the dryer doesn't dry like it used to. If it takes more than one regular cycle for the dryer to dry then that's a sign that the vent is starting to clogged up because that moisture and heat can't get out."

"Dryer vent cleaning should be left to the experts. They have the proper tools and additionally they know whether your dryer vent meets code and they can fix it if it doesn't," advises Angie Hicks.

Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews , asked highly rated dryer vent companies to weigh in about cleaning.

Build-up of debris resulting from clothing lint, nesting birds and other materials accumulate over time in the dryer vent causing problems such as reduced air flow to the dryer, backed up dryer exhaust gases and fire hazards.

Signs it's time to clean:

·         Clothing does not dry completely after a normal drying cycle.

·         Drying time for clothing takes longer than 35 to 40 minutes in duration.

·         A musty odor is noticed in the clothing following the drying cycle.

·         Clothing seems unusually hot to the touch after a complete drying cycle.

·         The dryer vent hood flap does not properly open as it is designed to do during the operation of the dryer.

·         Debris is noticed within the outside dryer vent opening.

·         Excessive heat is noticed within the room in which the dryer is being operated.

·         Large amounts of lint accumulate in the lint trap for the dryer during operation.

·         A visible sign of lint and debris is noticed around the lint filter for the dryer.

·         Excessive odor is noticed from dryer sheets that are used during the drying cycle.

Homeowner Brian Pinkins hired a technician to inspect his dryer vent and says,  "I turned the dryer on and he was outside looking to see what the airflow was like. So he called me out and he was like ‘did you turn the dryer on?' I was like ‘yeah, sure did, its running.' He was like we are not getting any airflow out here so you guys might have a major clog."

Brian continued, "He got out his tools and started to snake through our vent. As he was doing that nothing was happening. He said he could feel a large jam. Well about five minutes later a whole lot of dust and debris and dryer lint started coming out along with a bird's nest."

Technician Glen Mayfield tells us, "In the newer architecture today many times the dryer is placed – the laundry area is placed where it's convenient for the homeowner, which means in the center part of the home, then as a result the vent can run quite a long distance. We see 15, 20, 25 vents all the time. The longer the vent, the harder it is for the dryer to get the lint out, but it is accomplished by the dryer if the vent is clean. But those homes with longer vents are more susceptible to fire."

"I'm sure it was just a matter of time before something would have really happened," admits Brian.

We asked consumers whether they left their dryers running unattended and many people said they hadn't even thought about that being an issue. One consumer in particular who has a family of seven said if she didn't leave it running while she was away from home she'd never get her laundry done. .

Angie cautions, "While it may be convenient, you should never leave a dryer running while you're not at home. According to experts, more than 15,000 fires a year are a result of dryers being left unattended."

Angie's List Tips: Dryer vent cleaning

·         How much does it cost? Dryer vent cleaning is relatively inexpensive given its benefits. A cleaning typically costs between $100 and $150, depending on the length and location of the vent. In addition to the reduced threat of fire, a cleaning can actually pay for itself in less than a year through the improved efficiency with less drying time required.

·         Hire

a pro:  Though there are do-it-yourself vent cleaning kits available, they typically aren't as effective as the tools used by professionals. One advantage to having an experienced, qualified and reliable professional clean your system is that he or she has likely seen just about every make and model and will likely be able to clean the interior components more efficiently than you will. Plus, you'll have the assurance that the job was done correctly and safely.

·         Start with an inspection: A qualified company should do an inspection of the dryer vent prior to a cleaning.

·         Licensing requirements: The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that homeowners look for the Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician designation.

·         Annual cleanings: Dryer vents should be cleaned at least once a year to reduce the risk of fires, gas leaks, and operate efficiently.

·         Do not restrict airflow: The transition vent between the dryer and the wall goes INSIDE the pipe leading to the wall. Also, the length for the transition vent should be as short as possible.


Angie's List Tips: Tips to decrease debris

·         Limit the use of dryer sheets used when drying clothing.  Instead of dryer sheets for liquid fabric softener.

·         Only operate clothing dryers for intervals of 30 to 40 minutes per batch of laundry.  This allows more air circulation within the dryer and less lint build up from occurring.

·         When possible hang clothing such as heavy bedding, pillows and other large articles outside to line dry.


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