An Estimated 15,500 fires in 2015 were caused by dryer vents according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Unfortunately, out of those fires, 10 people lost their lives with more injured as a result of this neglect. Another possible danger if you have a gas powered dryer is carbon monoxide poisoning due to dryer obstructions. Dryer exhausts are often overlooked as a part of home maintenance until obvious problems with your dryer occurs or when it’s simply too late. The dryer vent/exhaust should be cleaned at every 12 to 18 months, depending on usage.
Warning signs that your dryer vent needs to be cleaned include:
- Drying times are taking much longer.
- Your dryer is getting hot when you’re using it and your clothes are being damaged.
- You can’t see any steam or hear any noise outside your home at the wall vent when your dryer is running.
- Your dryer displays errors about the amount of air flow.
If any of the above are happening, stop using the dryer at once and call a trained technician to come and take a look at your exhaust. Unless the dryer vent goes directly outside on a short line, do not try and clean this yourself, because more than likely, you will only impact the line more without the proper tools or training.
What causes a dryer exhaust to become clogged and how can that start a fire or how can you slowly become poisoned? There are several factors on how dryer lines can become clogged, which are:
- Lint, plain and simple. The lint filters in dryers only catch a fraction of lint that is produced during one dry cycle. The rest falls underneath the lint trap and can gather at the bottom of the dryer near the heating element. Lint is a very combustible material, which once on fire, can travel down the dryer exhaust with a ferocity that catches other portions of your home on fire within minutes.
- Condensation is another factor in friction fire that many do not think of until too late. With the temperature variants within your dryer exhaust from cold/hot or hot to cold, and depending if the exhaust is insulated, moisture can accumulate within the exhaust wetting the lint within. Then the dryer starts again, drying and solidifying the lint and getting hotter and hotter. Now you have a metal or flex tube full of combustible material that is getting so overheated that a friction fire starts in no time.
- Dryer exhaust that is too long or of flex material that can easily be kinked and restrict air flow. That restriction of air flow can overheat a dryer, and if the dryer is a gas dryer can reverse flow of carbon monoxide back into the home.
Dryer vents can be extremely dangerous if not maintained. Try pairing up your dryer maintenance with your air ducts or some other household chore so that it’s easier to remember when it was done last. Your life and your families lives may depend on it.