Dryer Lint Dangers – The Case for Dryer Vent Cleaning!

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by Harriet Bond
(San Francisco, CA, USA)

Your washer and dryer are supposed to do the cleaning for you, not the other way around, right?.

While this is true, periodic cleaning is an absolute must! Overtime, dryer lint accumulates in the laundry area, the dryer, and the dryer vent. Not only is dryer lint buildup unsightly, it causes your dryer to consume more energy than normal and becomes a dangerous fire risk. Regular cleaningaddresses each of these issues.

Each time you run your dryer, it removes water from your clothes by tumbling your clothes and using heat. Moist air and lint are extracted from the clothes and released through an exhaust system. Most of the lint is trapped in a lint filter, but some lint gets through and is released into the dryer vent where it can accumulate, especially if air flow is weak, the vent is long, or the vent has many corners. The more lint is allowed to accumulate in the lint filter, the less efficient the filter becomes which can lead to lint buildup inside the dryer as well as the expulsion of lint dust into the general laundry area.

While you may be able to live with a thin layer of dust in the laundry area, more compelling reasons to clean the dryer and its dryer vent exist: energy consumption and fire risk.

Proper airflow is needed in order to dry your clothes efficiently. A single cycle should be sufficient to dry a standard load of laundry. If your clothes require two or more cycles to dry, chances are good that the dryer is not exhausting the moist air properly. Not only is this annoying it wastes energy!.

According to the California Energy Commission, the clothes dryer is usually the second biggest energy using appliance in your home (just after the refrigerator) that consumes about $85 worth of energy each year. Using the $85 annual energy use estimate as a guide, a dryer that requires two cycles to dry your clothes is costing you an additional $85 to operate each year while one that takes three cycles is costing an additional $170 per year.

If energy and cost savings don’t motivate you to clean your dryer vents, the fire danger might. The U.S. Fire Association estimates that about 15,600 structure fires each year are clothes dryer fires (the majority of these fires are in residential buildings causing over 300 injuries and 15 deaths each year). Dryer lint is a major factor in clothes dryer fires as not only is it a highly combustible material, when dryer vents are clogged and airflow reduced, overheating occurs. Heat plus combustibles can lead to fire.

Of the clothes dryer fires that occurred between 2002 and 2004, over 43 percent were due to “operational deficiency including ‘failure to clean. “‘The leading items that first ignited in the reported clothes dryer fires were “wearing apparel not on a person” (in other words, the laundry) and “dust, fiber, lint, etc”

Clogged dryer vents can also contribute to dryer damage and household mold. When the dryer’s vent is clogged, overheating can damage the dryer’s motor and its bearings. Plus, running the dryer for two or three cycles more than you normally would adds excessive wear and tear to your appliance.

Household mold requires a moist environment to thrive. When the laundry room is not properly vented, all of the moisture from the laundry is not being exhausted outdoors where it belongs Instead, it remains indoors, contributing to excessive indoor humidity levels and the perfect environment for mold to grow in.

Improving the dryer’s energy efficiency and reducing clothes dryer fire risks, dryer damage, and indoor humidity levels involves frequent lint trap cleaning weekly laundry room cleaning and periodic dryer vent cleaning. Before running a load of laundry, get into the habit of checking and cleaning the lint trap.

Do this for every load and instruct everyone who uses the dryer to do the same. Not only does this help your dryer run more efficiently each time, it also minimizes lint build up inside the dryer and the amount of lint expelled into the dryer vent.

Each week, clean the laundry room. Keep a pack of baby wipes handy and use them to wipe down the appliances and other surf aces where lint has accumulated. Inspect the flexible dryer vent hose to ensure that it is not torn or kinked. If you have a white vinyl hose, replace it with a rigid aluminum, steel duct, or aluminum flexible spiral-wound hose. While you’re cleaning, look for and remove potentially combustible items from the area.

Every one to two years, or more often if your dryer is running inefficiently, schedule a professional dryer vent cleaning session. Aprofessional dryer vent cleaning will cost anywhere from about $60 to over $100. If your dryer vent is clogged, you’ll recoup your money in energy savings. In addition, your dryer will be less likely to overheat which reduces the potential for clothes dryer fires while also reducing the effects of heat on the dryer’s motor and its bearings. Most important of all, your home will be a safer place.

Updated: December 19, 2013 — 7:14 am

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