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The Importance of Keeping Your Dryer Vents Clean

You depend on your dryer to tackle loads of clean clothes and to keep laundry day moving, which is why it’s important to care for your dryer’s vent system. If a dryer vent or duct is not properly maintained, it may lead to a fire hazard. Follow this guide to learn more about how a dryer vent works, what can cause a dryer vent fire, and tips for keeping your dryer safe for use. 

How A Dryer Vent Works

A dryer works by using either electric or gas power to create a system of heat, tumbling and air flow. First, the dryer draws in room temperature air and heats it using a heating element or burner. At the same time, a motor turns the drum of the dryer, allowing the damp clothing to tumble around while air circulates around the clothes. When hot air moves around the damp clothes, it creates steam that evaporates and is pushed out of the dryer by passing through a vent or an exhaust duct that opens to the outside of your home. 

What Can Cause a Fire

As the steam and evaporated air is transferred out of the dryer through its vent, it also carries with it tiny particles of clothing material that fall off during the tumbling process, commonly known as lint. Usually your dryer’s filter collects the majority of lint before it passes through the vent, but it is possible that some lint gets stuck in the vent or exhaust duct. If enough lint becomes trapped in the vent leading outside, this creates a barrier and means evaporated air gets stuck within the dryer system and cannot escape outside. When hot air cannot fully escape, it causes the dryer to overheat, which may result in mechanical failures triggering sparks, leading to trapped lint bursting into flames. 

Tips for Preventing a Dryer Vent Fire

There are some general dryer vent tips that may help to prevent a dryer fire. The first is to routinely clean out the dryer filter after each drying cycle, and to check that your dryer vent is working properly. Also make sure that your dryer vent meets the following three requirements:

  1. The dryer vent usually has a metal or plastic duct tube that leads outside, so make sure that this tube is fully connected to the back of your dryer and that there are no gaps between it and the dryer unit. 
  2. Check that there are no restrictions to the airflow going through the duct tube to the outside. If there are kinks in the flexible metal or plastic tubing, this can prevent air from being fully pushed out of the dryer. There are vent elbows that allow the duct to bend 90 degrees in small laundry room spaces. 
  3. Ensure that there is no lint blockage or accumulation anywhere in the vent duct. When the duct is blocked with lint, it prevents the dryer from expelling heat. This can lead to heat build-up in the unit and possibly result in a fire.

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors estimates that in the year 2005 alone, fires caused by dryer malfunctions resulted in approximately $196 million worth of fire damage; but, these incidents can be prevented if you follow some basic maintenance tips. Call South Sound Inspections if you would like your dryer vent system evaluated to ensure your home’s safety. 

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