Every year thousands of structural fires are caused by dryer fires, resulting in over $100 million in property damage. While some of these fires are due to faulty wiring, damaged gas lines, and overheating moving parts, most are caused by obstructed vents. These fires are easily prevented with regular, professional cleaning. The minimal expense of regular dryer service could prevent a terrible disaster and eliminate a hazard for your family.
Appliance manufacturers recommend having your dryer vent cleaned at least once a year – more often if you do many laundries. When was the last time your dryer vent was cleaned? If the answer is “it’s been quite a while,” “I don’t remember,” or “never,” now would be an excellent time to have it done.
There are some telltale signs that you might have an obstructed dryer vent. These include the dryer becoming hot to the touch when operating, laundry that does not dry completely, or accumulated lint on the ground, where your dryer vents to the outside of your house.
Benefits of dryer vent cleaning include:
You might be wondering why you need to run your dryer for a longer time to get your laundry dry. Drying your laundry requires a clear pathway for moisture to exit the dryer. Amazingly, your dryer will extract about a gallon of water from a typical load of laundry. A clogged vent traps the moisture inside, which means your laundry gets hot but does not lose its dampness in the normal amount of time.
When the drying cycle is finished, some people may notice their items are still damp. They might blame the weather, wondering if the humidity is high. They also might wonder if the heating element needs replacement, if it’s an electric dryer, or if the flame isn’t set high enough on their gas dryer. So they set the unit to a “heavy-duty” setting, which is designed to produce more heat and run the appliance for a longer time cycle.
They might even wonder if the washing machine is not squeezing as much water out of the laundry as it used to, and the laundry is coming out of the washer in a “wetter” condition.
You probably don’t wash a sleeping bag or quilt every day, but even a big towel requires more drying than a pair of socks. The heavy fabric holds onto more water. This is especially true of thick items since they have less surface area for a given mass. A clear, unobstructed dryer vent helps laundry come out more evenly dry, as the moisture is exhausted instead of being held by the thick, heavy fabric.
When dryers are set at higher temperatures and longer running times, they use more energy. If you have a large family and are doing several loads of laundry a week, a clogged dryer vent could be costing you up to an extra $30 a month. In addition to the safety benefits, a professional dryer vent cleaning can save you money.
When fabrics are exposed to high heat, especially for long periods of time, they wear out faster. The longer the time spent in a hot environment, the more the fabric distorts, and its fibers begin to break apart and detach from each other. Color dyes also lose their intensity with prolonged heat exposure. A properly operating and ventilated dryer can more than double the lifetime of your clothes.
When any appliance works harder, its useable lifespan gets shorter. Just as the excess heat wears out your clothing, it also reduces the lifespan of motor bearings, drive belts, and seals. It’s a bit like driving your car with the emergency brake on. It will still get you where you’re going, but it will also wear itself out faster.
This has more to do with commercial facilities than residential dryers, but the safety goal is the same. Insurance companies require dryer vent inspections for laundromats. And the goal is to keep everybody and everything safe, including the building itself and the adjacent buildings.
We would all like to prevent our house from catching on fire, of course. But what exactly is it that catches fire due to an obstructed dryer vent? The answer is several things. Sometimes it’s the contents of the dryer, but most likely, it will be the lint itself, and secondarily, the flammable materials in the wall and surrounding area. As the inside air becomes hotter, so does the outside surface of the dryer. If there is additional clothing, a stack of paper, or anything else touching the outside surface, there can be enough heat to set it on fire. But most often, it’s the lint inside the vent hose.
The outside of your dryer can be warm to the touch but should not hot. If it feels hot, that is a definite sign of trouble. Lint fibers are remnants of all the fabrics inside the dryer, which means you have a lot of surface area for a given mass. That means there is a lot of surface area in contact with the air, and oxygen can contact more of the material.
The “fire triangle” is an industry term that refers to the three elements needed to support combustion in any situation:
In this example, the heat source is the dryer. The fuel is the laundry, lint, wall material, or whatever other flammable items are nearby. And the oxidizing agent is the air. If any one of the three elements of the fire triangle is removed, the possibility of fire disappears. Lint is an excellent fuel because of its high surface area. It is more flammable than the t-shirt it came from. Once accumulated inside a dryer hose, it then creates an increased heat source. Cleaning your dryer vent disables the Fire Triangle.
With the increased humidity in an obstructed dryer vent, you have a real possibility of mold growth. Our humidity in the Fort Worth area can present a condition that never allows a damp dryer vent to dry out fully. Mold presents dangerous health risks in your house, including many chronic respiratory symptoms. So-called “toxic black mold” is hazardous and has been found in dryer vents.
Gas dryers can cause carbon monoxide buildup if their vent becomes obstructed. Because gas dryers create heat by means of combustible fuel, they create CO2. The vent is responsible for exhausting heat and moisture; it also sends the CO2 out of the building. An obstructed vent in a gas dryer can produce elevated CO2 levels in the house, causing nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. In higher exposure cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause disorientation, vomiting, seizures, unconsciousness, and ultimately death.
When we perform cleaning and maintenance of your dryer vent, we disconnect the unit from the exhaust hose or pipe. We use a rotating brush system and a vacuum to dislodge and gather all trapped lint from every part of the interior surface. If there are damaged parts of the vent or its connections, we repair and replace them as needed. When possible, we will recommend removing the “accordion” style hoses, which tend to trap lint in their folds and replace them with a smooth-sided exhaust pipe.
If you prefer not to have anyone enter your house, we can clean your dryer vent from outside. After opening the flapper door (and making sure it is in proper working order), we can perform a similar service by accessing the vent from the opposite end. Nobody needs to disturb your privacy.
We look forward to serving you and helping achieve a high level of safety, efficiency, and performance from your dryer.