11 Reasons Your Dryer Is Not Safe
Almost 15,000 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year. Those fires cause an estimated 9 deaths, 420 injuries, and $222 million in property loss. The leading cause of clothes dryer fires is simply a failure to clean the dryer.
Now, I’m not talking about just cleaning out the lint trap, which you’re supposed to do every time you use your dryer. I’m talking about the vent behind your chimney that gets clogged very easily. The lint can escape and make its way into the heating element. At this point, lint has been shown to ignite in as little as 12 seconds.
There are a lot of dryers that include an indicator designed to alert you when lint has built up and blocked a vent. But a Consumer Reports, Inc. study found that most of the dryers only detect completely blocked vents and aren’t as good at detecting partially blocked vents.
So let’s say that you have a gas dryer. Your big concern, even with partially blocked vents, is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Lint and flue gases use the same exit strategy, so a blocked vent can cause CO fumes to leak back up into your home.
Luckily, dryer fires and dryer-caused CO poisoning are relatively easy to avoid. You just need to follow a few tips to make sure your vent doesn’t get clogged.
The 11 Problems
One: You Installed Your Dryer Yourself
I get it. You’re self-sustainable and you can do things yourself. But having your dryer professionally installed is important for preventing dangerous dryer malfunctions, such as dryer fires, CO poisoning, mold growth, excessive drying times, and overheating.
Whoever installs your dryer should be well aware of the fire safety codes locally and nationally. Certified Dryer vent professionals will have the most up-to-date facts and figures required to safely install your dryer.
Two: You Don’t Clean Your Dryer Regularly
The number one cause of clothes dryer fires is due to the vents being dirty and clogged. It’s not just about the lint filter. It’s about the exhaust and the back of the dryer. You should clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. You should also give the lint filter a nice clean with a nylon brush at least every six months.
Your vent pipe in the back of your chimney should be cleaned every three months. And the dryer should be cleaned by a certified professional annually.
Three: Your Dryer Has Never Been Inspected
Before I got into this business, I had never heard of having my dryer inspected. Forget about having it done by a dryer “professional.” But these professionals spend countless hours learning everything there is to know about the safety of your dryer vent.
For the sake of thoroughness and safety, it is strongly encouraged to have your dryer inspected annually by a dryer vent professional. They can identify any fire, safety, or health hazards that are present due to obstructions, improper vent construction, or non-code compliant materials.
Four: You Have an Accordion Style Duct
Generally, dryers have a 4-inch vent in the back, which connects to the exterior vent with a duct. If you have an accordion style duct connecting your appliance to the vent then you should replace it.
This is because accordion style ducts can sag, making it easier for lint to build up at low points and trapping lint in the ridges. You should use a rigid metal duct. The smooth walls will allow the air to flow and reduce the buildup of lint.
Five: You’re Not Extra Careful with Chemical Stains
Not all dryer safety is relating directly to the dryer vents. Clothes stained with gas, cooking oil, cleaning agents, or other flammable materials need to be handled with extra care. You should wash clothes with those stains more than once to minimize the chemicals that stick to the fabric. Then you should hang those clothes to dry.
Six: Your Dryer is Venting In the House
It’s not uncommon for people to vent their homes. Dryer vents should be independent of all other venting systems and must terminate outdoors — not into your chimney, crawlspace or attic.
As your clothes are drying, moisture is evaporating and venting out of the dryer. If you are venting into your home, you’re pupping warm, moist air, which is just what you want if you’re looking to grow mold. The air from your dryer also contains very small, fine lint particles that you do not want to breath in.
Seven: You Have a Flexible, Plastic Hose to Vent
These hoses are easy to use, but they can cause a lot of problems. First, like with the accordion vents, lint can accumulate pretty easily into the little folds and can’t be cleaned with a normal cleaning. And just like the accordion vents too, the flexible, plastic hoses tend to sag as the wet lint accumulates. This allows more lint to accumulate.
Furthermore, those plastic ducts are no longer code-approved for clothes dryers, since they are normally one of the first things burning lint will ignite.
Eight: Your Exhaust Duct is Too Long
A dryer vent line should be as short as possible. The International Residential Code (IRC) states that a dryer exhaust duct shouldn’t be longer than 25 feet from the dryer to the exhaust vent. When determining the length you should add 5 feet to each 90 degree angle and 2.5 feet to every 45 degree angle.
Clothes dryers need to have good airflow to work properly. If your vent line is too long, the exhaust stays inside the vent line for too long. Your clothes will take longer than normal to dry and the exterior of the dryer will be hotter than it needs to be. If you have a gas dryer, the CO from the exhaust in your vent line can back up and leak into your laundry room.
Nine: Your Outdoor Vent Flap is Covered or Clogged
The outdoor vent flap can easily get covered, whether by snow or by lint that gets clogged up. You need to make sure that the vent pipe is not restricted in any way and the flap will open when your dryer is operating.
Ten: Your Vents are Not Insulated
Of course, if your dryer vent is in a heated space, like inside your home or in your heated basement, then you don’t need to worry about insulating the vents. But if you run your vents through the crawl space, an unheated basement or attic, then you may have a problem.
As I’ve mentioned, the dryer is getting rid of wet lint by pushing it through the vent. If your vent runs through an unheated area, you risk the wet lint freezing inside the pipe, which could lead to potential moisture problems once the ice melts.
Eleven: You Don’t Have a Sensor
Even if you have a dryer that has a built in sensor, you should get another sensor that can detect insufficient airflow inside the ducts. The dyers that do have a sensor do a great job at indicating when the dryer is completely clogged. Not so much when the dryer is only partially clogged.
Independent sensors typically have a heat sensor and an alarm that will notify you when there are airblow problems caused by obstructions as well as overheating problems coming from your dryer.
Additional Benefits to Dryer Vent Cleaning
Keeping your dryer clean isn’t just about providing you protection from fires and water issues. Here are five benefits to keeping your dryer vent clean:
- Your dryer will operate more efficiently, which saves you money in energy bills
- Your dryer will be protected from excess wear and tear. It will last longer if it doesn’t have to work overtime just to dry your clothes.
- You clothes will dry faster, which helps #2
- Helps reduce excess household dust and humidity
- Keeps your clothes from wearing out, too. A lot of fabrics can be damaged easily with excessively high heat.
Clothes Dryer Don’ts
Here are some additional safety tips to keep your dryer in perfect working order:
- Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow, and dirt
- Replace any coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal ducts
- Check regularly to make sure nests are not blocking the outside vent
- Keep the area around the dryer free of items that can burn
- If you’re going to be away from home for an extended time, unplug the dryer
- Don’t use your dryer without a lint filter or with a filter that is loose, damaged, or clogged.
- Don’t overload your dryer
- Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent
- Don’t dry items with foam, rubber, or plastic. And don’t dry fiber materials or any items that state “dry away from heat.”
- Don’t leave your dryer running if you leave home or when you go to sleep
Schedule an Appointment
Patriot Chimney has a few CSIA Certified Exhaust Technicians that you can trust with your home and family. During your service you can expect your technician to inspect, clean, and verify that the venting system is sized and installed correctly.
Fill out the form below and someone from our office will give you a call to set up a date and time.
Your dedicated technician will arrive at your home on the agreed upon time and get to work!
You’ll be so thrilled that your family is safe and your energy bills are cheaper that you tell all your friends!