U.S. fire departments reported an average of nearly 16,000 fires involving appliances from 2010 to 2014. These fires caused a number of fatalities and injuries, as well as $238 million in property damage. Clothes dryers caused most of the fires.
How safe is your clothes dryer? That probably depends on how well maintained your dryer ventilation is.
How Dryer Fires Occur
Your dryer generates high heat to remove moisture from wet clothing. The moisture is exhausted through a vent system hopefully to the outdoors. Although most of the excess lint is trapped in a filter, some does travel through the exhaust hose and may become trapped, particularly if the hose is long or bent. Sometimes a spark ignites the lint, setting off a fire.
An additional problem involves new home construction, in which, instead of being located against an exterior wall, the dryer is located in the center of the home and the moisture and lint are exhausted through longer vents with turns and bends that make it harder for the lint to escape.
Lint can also be ignited inside the dryer. Traps don't catch it all; some may be distributed throughout the interior of the dryer and even on the heating element. When it overheats, a fire can occur.
Use of foil or plastic duct extenders may also cause fires. Metal vents are sturdier and less likely to be crushed; crushed foil or plastic vents can also reduce airflow and cause overheating.
Signs Your Dryer Vent Needs Cleaning
Signs that it's time clean the lint out of your dryer vent are these:
- It's taking longer for clothes to dry.
- Clothes feel extremely hot to the touch after drying.
- The outside of the dryer feels hot.
- There's a burning smell.
Have your dryer inspected and cleaned annually if the vent is long and hard to access. Even if you can easily clean the duct yourself, you should hire a technician to thoroughly clean the inside of the dryer every couple of years.
Visit the Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar website or call (408) 868-5500.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).