We have always been fairly responsible about routine maintenance concerns. We make sure to visit the dentist every 6 months. We have our cars serviced regularly – oil changed, tires rotated. We keep up with home maintenance – the furnace is serviced, the chimney is swept, and the gutters are cleared – regularly. So you can imagine my shock to hear there was something important we had been neglecting!
After our routine furnace-cleaning last week, the service man asked me, “When was the last time you had your dryer vent cleaned?” I thought out loud, “The last time? I’m not sure there was ever a first time.” He went on to tell me the dryer vent was completely blocked, creating a very dangerous fire hazard! Something he was so concerned about that he wrote on my receipt, “Dryer vent is a fire hazard. Please have serviced.” Well, I wasted no time addressing the condition of the vent. The minute he left, I sat down at my computer and googled “dryer vent cleaning” – the very first hit out of 550,000 turned out to be Searsclean. I made an appointment to have it serviced the very next day! And then I did some more research…
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), clothes dryer fires are responsible for about 15,600 building fires with 15 deaths and 400 injuries per year. 70% of those dryer fires are caused by a “failure to clean”; the accumulation of lint in the dryer vent restricts airflow, creating a highly-flammable area. There are several things you can do to help ensure this doesn’t happen in your home:
- Be observant – If you notice your laundry loads are taking longer to dry, it may be an indication the vents are blocked (either by lint or another obstruction such as a birds nest).
- Service regularly – Have the dryer duct, components, and venting serviced on a regular basis (dependant on the number of loads you dry and the length of the vent hose).
- Protect the exhaust opening – Be sure to have a covering on the outside wall to keep the elements out, but don’t use wire screen or cloth of any kind to protect the exhaust opening.
- Follow dryer safety recommendations– including:
- Never put synthetic materials in the dryer.
- Clean lint filter regularly.
- Replace lint filter if it is ripped.
- Never leave dryer running when you leave the house or are asleep.
The USFA has a great brochure with more information and safety tips (http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v7i1.pdf).
Without a doubt, I was very lucky the furnace man pointed out our clogged dryer vent. In fact, while I had the vent serviced that next day, I heard that service man ask the very same questions I had heard the day before, “When was the last time you had your dryer vent cleaned? Are you aware it is completely blocked, creating a very dangerous fire hazard?” Wow…we had really been neglecting something very important on our regular home maintenance checklist. Having the dryer vent cleared is definitely now on our yearly maintenance schedule!