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Clothes Dryer Fire Prevention

Very few people realize the importance of clothes dryer fire prevention. However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an estimated annual 15,500 fires, 10 deaths and 10 injuries due to clothes dryer fires. Several hundred people a year are also subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning from improper dryer vent setups. The financial costs come to nearly $100,000,000 per year. In some cases faulty appliances are to blame, but many fires can be prevented with proper dryer venting.

How a Clothes Dryer Fire Occurs
Lint accumulation and reduced airflow feed on each other to provide conditions ripe for a fire. Lint is a highly combustible material, which, interestingly enough, is one of the ingredients in a recipe for home-made fire starters. A number of dryer vent problems contribute to this.

1. Dryer vents are too long and/or have too many bends, but don't use a dryer duct booster, resulting in lint buildup. When it comes to dryer vents, shorter and straighter is better.
2. Use of flammable, flimsy plastic or foil duct extenders. Only metal vents should be used, which is what most manufacturers specify. Metal vents also resist crushing better than plastic and foil, which allows the air and lint to be carried out of the system. Reduced airflow from build-up or crushing can cause overheating and wear out the clothes and appliance faster. In fact, many state and local municipalities have placed requirements on new and remodeling projects to include all metal dryer venting.
3. Inadequate clearance space between dryer and wall. Many people create problems by putting their dryer right against the wall, crushing the venting material in the process. The cumulative effect of reduced airflow and the resulting lint build-up prevent the dryer from drying at the normal rate. This causes the high temperature limit safety switch to cycle on and off to control the heater. Most high temperature limit safety switches were not designed to continuously cycle on and off, so they fail over a period of time.
4. Failure to clean the dryer duct.

A growing problem
Traditionally, most clothes dryers were in the basement. However, nowadays many newer homes tend to have dryers located away from an outside wall in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and hall closets. These new locations mean dryers tend to be vented longer distances and vents are generally installed with sharp turns and bends to accommodate the structure of the home. As a result, dryer vents are harder to reach, and also create more places for lint to gather. The ideal solution is to have short, straight, dryer duct venting. However, a dryer vent booster, while not the ideal approach, can improve your dryer venting in cases where your venting is longer and/or has more bends than it should. In addition to creating a fire hazard, if the venting is too long and/or has two many bends, it will cause your dryer to take much longer than necessary to dry loads.


Your Dryer May be Failing If:
The clothes are taking an inordinately long period of time to dry, come out hotter than usual or if the vent hood flapper doesn't open. Maintenance is needed in these cases.


Keep the Dryer Duct in Good Condition
Disconnect, clean and inspect the dryer duct run on a regular basis, or hire a professional company to clean the dryer duct. This will reduce the fire hazard, increase the dryer's efficiency and increase its lifespan. In addition, you are less likely to experience water damage.


Before You Go....

1. Never let your clothes dryer run while you are out of the house or even worse, when you are asleep.
2. Thoroughly read manufacturers' instructions regarding the safe use of their dryers.
3. If all else fails, you can always use an old-fashioned clothesline. There have never been any reported clothesline fires!

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