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According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2010 over 16,500 home fires were the result of a clothes dryer, and the leading cause of the fires was reported as failure to properly maintain the machine. The basic measures taken for dryer maintenance – not overloading the dryer, cleaning the lint filter after each load, and ensuring the area around the dryer is clear of clutter and debris – there are some measures that require a professional.
Clothes dryers operate by blowing hot air as clothing tumbles in the dryer drum. This evaporates the water in the laundry. The water vapor then leaves the dryer – and the home – through the dryer vent. Building codes require the dryer vent system to exhaust at a point outside the home not to exceed 25 developed feet. The further away the dryer is from the exterior vent, the higher potential exists for a fire.
There are many dryer vent system safety measures to consider. However, the primary measure is to always ensure that the vent is not be obstructed in any way. Any airflow restriction can can result in an increased fire hazard due to the accumulation of flammable lint particles that are carried along with the water vapor. Dryer vents are typically made from flexible foil or plastic material that can kink or sag over time. This can result in bends in the venting that could collect flammable lint.
A properly installed dryer should have a vent of rigid metal duct work with a smooth interior surface to limit the buildup of lint. There should be a limited number of turns that the duct work has to take in order to reach the outside exhaust.
If loads of laundry – in particular, bulkier clothing – are taking longer than what is typical to dry, it could be indicative a restriction of airflow in the vent.
If the lint trap is clear of lint after a full dry cycle, this could be an indication that there is vent blockage. The buildup of air pressure can cause lint to collection the side of the vent, instead of on the lint screen, or collect along the back of the dryer drum. In the event the lint screen does not have at least some collection lint after a dryer cycle, you should have your dryer vent checked.
If the top of the dryer becomes very hot to the touch, or if the clothes seem overheated or even singed, this may point to a ventilation problem. A dryer vent cleaner is able not only to clean your dryer vent but also to check the system’s connections and ensure they are secure.
Dryer Vent Cleaning
To maintain the life of the dryer, vents should be serviced annually by a professional. A typical cleaning will include a visual inspection, removal of any clogs, and cleaning of the lint trap. Some dryer vent cleaning companies also perform mechanical inspections of the vent system and provide repair and installation services.