Things You Should Know: Dryer Vents Can Be a Fire Hazard

Originally posted on BPIhomeowner.org.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 17,000 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year. These clothes dryer fires cause around 51 deaths, 380 injuries, and $236 million in property loss. Unsurprisingly, the leading cause of these fires, at 34%, is the failure to clean dryer vents.

Kim Grugle, Finance Assistant here at BPI, recently hired a technician to clean her house’s ducts. Part of the technician’s cleaning process included checking on her dryer venting. The technician asked her if she had experienced any problems with drying her clothes. She had! Kim's clothes would still be damp after a drying cycle, so she'd turn it back on for another cycle. She blamed it on the sensor in her dryer.

Lo and behold, the issue was actually lint build-up in her dryer vents. The technician told her he had seen much worse than hers (see the picture of what he vacuumed out of Kim’s ducts and venting to the right); some homes had such plugged-up dryer venting that the lint was wet.

Signs that you should clean your dryer vents

Like Kim’s situation, your first hint that you need to check your vents is when your clothing doesn’t dry after a normal drying cycle. If you encounter any other issues, contact a professional right away, such as a BPI GoldStar Contractor or BPI Certified Professional, to inspect your venting.

Look out for the following signs of a clogged dryer vent:

  • A musty odor is discovered in the clothing following the drying cycle
  • Clothes seem unusually hot to the touch
  • Excessive heat is noticed in the room in which the washer and dryer are operated
  • The dryer vent hood flap does not open properly when you use the dryer (this is the slitted vent opening to the exterior of your home)
  • Debris is noticed within the outside dryer vent opening
  • Large amounts of lint build-up in the lint trap during each cycle
  • Odor noticed from dryer sheets used during the drying cycle

How to prevent a dryer fire

Heated air passing through clogged ducting like this one could result in a fire

You can do your part as a homeowner to prevent a dryer fire taking place in your home through proper installation, cleaning, and maintenance. Even if your dryer seems to be running fine right now, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Take these steps to prevent a dryer fire:

  • Read the manufacturers’ instructions and warnings upon installation and be sure that your dryer is installed by a knowledgeable professional and that the correct electrical plug and outlet are used
  • Clean the dryer lint filter before and after each load of laundry
  • Clean the filter with a nylon brush at least once every six (6) months or more often if it becomes clogged
  • Completely clean lint out of the vent pipe every three (3) months
  • Check occasionally through the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it isn’t damaged
  • Put a cover on outside wall dampers to keep out the elements
  • Ensure the outdoor vent cover opens when the dryer is on

What can you do right now?

  1. Take a look inside the venting from the outside of your house
  2. Check your lint traps inside the dryer
  3. Consider having a professional clean all your dryer venting just to be sure you and your family are safe

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