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?” Having the dryer vent cleared is definitely now on our yearly maintenance schedule!