Why Is Cleaning Your Dryer Vent So Important?
Why clean your dryer vents? Simple; because it can prevent fires and can save you money.
FEMA and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) estimated 16,800 fires in 2010 involving clothes dryers-including combination washer/dryers. Dryer fires result in an average of 51 deaths, 380 injuries, and $236 million in direct property damage annually. And, the chance of a house fire, if you have an electric clothes dryer, is 250% greater than if you have a gas dryer.
What Causes Dryer Fires?
The single most common cause of a dryer fire is the lack of dryer vent cleaning and not with the dryer itself. Lint is extremely flammable. Heat can build up in a dryer vent if the airflow is restricted which can cause the lint to ignite.
A clothes dryer works by forcing hot air through a turning drum, and wet clothes placed in the drum are then dried by moving hot air. Lint is created from the clothes as they tumble in the drum; and while a lot of the lint is trapped by the dryer's lint trap, some lint is also carried through the vent system along with the moist, hot air. Because lint is a highly combustible material that builds up in both the dryer and the dryer vent, reducing the dryer's airflow, it makes the perfect kindling for a dryer fire.
Additionally, dryer exhaust vent blockage can also occur as a result from birds' nests or other animals, or from damage to the vent itself - the result of which is an overheated dryer leading to a dryer fire.
Warning Signs That You Are Due for a Cleaning
Although regular cleaning or at least inspection of your dryer vents is recommended, there are some indications that your vents need to be cleaned but always consult a professional dryer vent cleaner if you are not sure if your vents need to be cleaned.
The following are indications that lint may be restricting your dryer vent and you could be at risk of a fire:
- Clothes are taking longer than normal to dry
- Clothes seem hotter than usual at the end of a drying cycle
- The flapper on your exterior dryer vent doesn't open when the dryer is on
When airflow is restricted your dryer has to work harder and may take more than one cycle to dry clothes which uses more energy. The tumbling action of dryers is hard on clothes and if your dryer has to run longer to dry your clothes they are experiencing unnecessary wear and tear.
How to Prevent Dryer Fires
To help keep your family safe from a dryer fire, clean the lint screen before or after drying each load of clothes. According to FEMA, failure to clean the dust, fiber, and lint from dryers is the leading contributing factor to the ignition of dryer fires.
Here are a few actions you can take to prevent dryer fires in your home:
- Clean out the dryer lint trap after every load of laundry
- Have your dryer vent cleaned at least once a year (Your venting system should be cleaned out from the inside of the dryer to the outside vent cap by a professional dryer vent cleaning company)
- White vinyl venting should be replaced immediately with aluminum (White vinyl no longer meets national fire code standards in the U.S. and is considered highly flammable)
- Keep the area around your dryer clean and free of clutter
- Make sure to not leave dried clothes in the dryer
Why Isn’t Cleaning Out the Lint Trap Enough?
Most people clean their lint trap after every load of laundry. However, lint also accumulates in the ductwork and vents between your dryer and where the hose vents to the outside. The vent, hose and ductwork should be cleaned or at least inspected annually. To properly clean the ductwork and hose the dryer needs to be disconnected from the hose and moved away from the wall so lint can be removed from the hose and any ductwork which is within the walls, attic or basement of a home.
Contact a certified professional for dryer vent cleaning. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) trains and certifies technicians to perform air duct and dryer vent cleanings. NADCA endorses the use of high powered air pressure and air powered tools know as "air whips" or "skipper balls" attached to air-tubing to properly and safely clean a dryer vent. Air Powered tools are not abrasive and are able to clean the entire length of the dryer duct. This is crucial in preventing dangerous build-up inside the vent which causes dryer fires.
The cost of a certified dryer vent cleaning depends on the length of the vent and how accessible it is. The main thing to remember is investing in routine dryer vent cleanings will outweigh the energy costs of running the dryer multiple times per load, the safety risk, and the cost of property damage in the event of a fire.