According to CTV News Vancouver, 2016 was the first year that the number of home fires related to dirty dryer vents increased.
How do dryer vent-related fires occur? In a nutshell, the fire starts when there is such an accumulation of lint in the exhaust vents and lint traps that the lint actually catches fire.
Not only are dryer lint fires dangerous (and sometimes deadly), but they can also be very expensive, with an average cost of $200,000.
Unfortunately, the dryer is not one of those appliances that comes with a built-in early warning system to indicate a safety hazard is forming. This contributes to the sense that a dryer can ignite “without warning.” But the warning was there all along, right inside the main lint trap.
In this post, we take a look at how a dirty dryer system affects your health, energy bill and safety, and offer recommendations to reduce your risk.
Your Dryer: A Personal Firestarter
The average dryer is a fairly simple appliance. The motor operates the fan and the clothes drum, which releases moist steam as the clothes are dried. There is a heating element to heat the air that dries the clothes.
Then there is the lint filter, which extracts lint from the air as it leaves the unit. Without regular cleaning, the amount a filter can extract will be greatly reduced over time.
When lint can no longer be extracted by the filter, it will be retained inside the dryer itself. Having nowhere else to go, it may cling to the motor and fan, causing a heat build-up inside the dryer.
When the heat gets high enough, the lint-covered motor can catch fire.
Where the Lint Is: A Simple Dryer Map
So where exactly does lint accumulate inside your dryer?
Of course it accumulates in the lint trap filter until the filter gets full, but there are other places where lint naturally collects as well.
Accumulated lint that gets pushed through the filter travels down the exhaust tube and gets stuck in the creases and folds of the tube. This is exacerbated when your tube is made of more flexible or corrugated tubing rather than a rigid metal.
A longer flexible or corrugated tube can also pose more risk of accumulating excess lint, especially if it has to twist or turn on its route to the outside.
The exhaust vent is the final structure that connects the exhaust tube to the outside. Ideally, this vent will be free and clear of debris or lint so your dryer can fully expel excess moisture to the outside safely.
The danger presented by a dirty exhaust vent comes both from excess lint that is not being filtered out by the lint trap and debris that accumulates around or in the vent from outside. An example might be a bird’s nest in the protective casing of the vent. Winter debris like leaves and twigs that get pushed up into the vent because of snowfall can also block the vent.
Warning Signs That Your Dryer Needs Cleaning
These can serve as a type of early warning system to let you know that your dryer may be at risk of causing a home fire.
- Your clothing no longer dries fully in a single dryer cycle (35 to 40 minutes is average).
- Your clothing smells musty after a dryer cycle.
- The inside of the dryer has a stale, musty smell.
- The dryer itself and/or the clothing is very hot.
- You notice lint actually coming out of the main lint trap.
- You have no record of dryer cleaning service within the last 12 months.
Small Safety Steps to Avoid a Dryer Fire
You can take some preventative steps at home to reduce the risk that your dryer might be the cause of a home fire.
- Line dry large or heavy linens (or take them to a commercial laundry facility).
- Let your dryer rest and cool after each 40 minute dryer cycle.
- Cover the outside exhaust vent with a cap or fine mesh cover to reduce the likelihood that nesting birds or debris will get lodged inside the opening.
- Don’t use commercial dryer sheets or liquid fabric softeners, which can contain toxic or flammable ingredients.
- Remove lint from the main trap after EVERY dryer cycle.
- Use the vacuum attachment on your vacuum cleaner to suck up excess lint and debris from the lint trap and other visible areas around your dryer.
- Move the dryer unit away from the wall and vacuum out excess dust, dirt, debris and lint that may have collected (SAFETY NOTE: disconnect the power before you do this!).
Schedule Your Professional Dryer Vent Cleaning
During a professional dryer vent cleaning service, your technician will vacuum out your dryer vent and lint traps using both a high-efficiency vacuum and a rotating brush that cleans the insides of the vent and traps to remove hardened debris.
Next, your technician will clean out the ventilation pipes and the exhaust vent and vent cover or cap. Finally, your technician will offer you valuable diagnostic information to troubleshoot visible safety issues and recommend preventative steps against a future fire risk.
This economical safety service can take as little as 30 minutes to perform.
Take Part in Our Breathe Clean Air Event!
For a limited time only, Clean Air Solutions Hamilton is offering a 20 percent discount on the purchase of all whole home air filters, whole home ultraviolet filters, whole home humidifiers, and heat recovery ventilators.
Just complete this simple online form to participate! Or give us a call at 905-544-2470.