Tips to Prevent Dryer Vent Fires

16 April 2013
Dryer Vent
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Results of a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) study* estimate 16,800 home fires are caused annually by washers and dryers in the United States. Household dryers were directly responsible for 92% of the reported fires. The leading cause reported as “a failure to clean”. These fires come with serious consequences including 51 deaths, 380 civilian injuries and $236 million dollars in direct property damage.

These hazards can be greatly reduced utilizing approved installation practices, proper dryer maintenance, installing electronic monitoring, and performing regular dryer vent cleaning. All fires require three things to be present, oxygen (air), heat/ignition source (dryer heat whether gas or electric), and fuel (clothes/dryer lint). Remove any one of these three items and a fire will simply not burn.

Hundreds if not thousands of tiny clothing fibers are released each and every time you use your dryer. These fibers are designed to be collected and disposed of through regular cleaning of the dryers lint trap/filter. Some of these fibers however make it through the lint trap/filter and begin to collect on the moist walls of the dryer vent duct work. Over time these fibers accumulate and restrict the airflow needed to exhaust the dryer. This results in temperatures high enough to ignite these clothing fibers and start a fire in your home.
What are some of the warning signs that you may have a dryer vent that is not functioning properly due to obstructions or installation?

  1. Clothes are not dry at the end of a normal drying cycle
  2. Top of dryer is excessively hot to the touch
  3. Laundry room/area is accumulating moisture

What can you do to prevent your dryer from catching fire?

  1. Clean the lint screen/filter prior to operating the dryer for each load of laundry
  2. Use caution when drying clothes soiled with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, and certain cleaning agents. You may elect to have the dry outdoors on a clothes line
  3. Clean the backside of the dryer and the surrounding areas regularly. Have a qualified service person clean the interior of the dryer if needed.
  4. Replace plastic, vinyl or foil accordion ducting with rigid or semi rigid metal ducting as recommended by the manufacturer.
  5. Have your dryer vent ductwork inspected and/or cleaned regularly
  6. Install a vent monitoring device that will alert you when air flow levels reach a dangerous level

If you have any questions about the performance and/or safety of the installation of your dryer call us now and speak with one of our factory trained technicians. We will evaluate your concerns and provide you with possible solutions and or corrective measures that will help in reducing this potentially devastating event from occurring in your home.

*Home Fires Involving Dryers or Washing Machines, John R. Hall, Jr., September 2012 NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169

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