“Important things to know about your Clothes Dryer”
August 2016: By Susan Browne Rosenberg, CIH, CIEC (expired 02/2020), CHMM
President, Desert Cities Indoor Air, LLC
United States Government Statistics from 2008 to 2010 documented that fire departments responded to an estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires in residential buildings each year across the Nation. The most recent FEMA report on this topic stated that “These fires resulted in an annual average loss of 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.” The entire report can be read here: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v13i7.pdf
I recently learned about a fire in our community that was believed to have been caused by a clogged clothes dryer exhaust vent. The fire caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage and displaced the homeowner for many weeks. At a recent homeowners meeting at our property, a neighbor told me that he used a local handyman to clean his exhaust vent after he also heard about the fire. I began thinking about the condition of my own clothes dryer exhaust vent, since I did not remember ever having it serviced.
Since I know the importance of using qualified contractors for service, I called Duct Pros of Palm Desert. Their website is http://www.ductpros247.com. Although there is no state license or certification required for cleaning dryer vents, the equipment necessary to do the job properly is beyond the resources of most handymen. I prefer to use experienced vendors who are specialized in the area I am concerned about, so I spoke with Mr. Jackson Bayly from Duct Pros and scheduled a time for him to come out and inspect the condition of our 30 year old exhaust vent.
Mr. Bayly and his partner arrived early in the morning before it got too hot, as they have to go on the roof and it gets very hot in August in Palm Desert. Mr. Bayly explained that at our particular community, the dryer vent exhaust ducting was routed in several different ways in different units, depending on whether the unit is upstairs, downstairs or single story. Most dryers vent to the roof, but several vent out a location directly above the front door. Any community that was built over several years may have had more than one subcontractor doing construction work, so this situation can happen anywhere.
During the inspection of the clothes dryer, it was found that the flex ducting from the dryer to the wall was crimped and Duct Pros recommended replacement. Bends and crimps can prevent the free movement of air and lint and cause clogging.
Next they turned the dryer on and went up on the roof. Long rods are used to snake down the exhaust vent looking for jams. What they found was not good. A screen had been installed over the exhaust to prevent rodents and pests from crawling into the vent pipe and it was completely clogged with lint.
They removed the clogged ¼ inch screen and replaced it with larger ½ inch mesh screen. The work took less than one hour to complete and cost less than $100. I feel much safer knowing my clothes dryer is in good condition and I should start seeing lower electrical bills because the clothes should dry faster.
The FEMA report on clothes dryer fires also has tips to prevent fires, such as never leave the dryer running when you leave the house or go to sleep. Also, never dry foam backed bathroom rugs or anything soaked with flammable solvents like cleaning rags. Of course, make sure you have a smoke detector in accordance with your local city regulations. In general, each bedroom should have one. If you live in Palm Desert, the regulations are listed on the City’s website. http://www.cityofpalmdesert.org/departments/building-and-safety/smoke-carbon-monoxide-alarms
I learned that building codes specify the placement and length of dryer vent exhausts. The FEMA report states that: “In order to prevent possible fire hazards, building codes require that clothes dryers be exhausted directly to the outdoors. Venting a dryer into attics, soffits, ridge vents, or crawl spaces is expressly prohibited. The codes require that dryer vents be made of metal with smooth interior finishes, sections of vent duct be securely supported and firmly sealed together, and the total length of the vent duct not exceed 35 feet (shorter if there are turns or bends). Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system are required to be not longer than eight feet, not concealed within construction, and listed and labeled in accordance with Underwriters Laboratories (UL).”
If your blue jeans and bath towels are taking longer than usual to dry, you should call an expert for a clothes dryer checkup. And of course the lint filter inside the dryer must be inspected and cleaned before and after each load. Duct Pros recommends that you schedule an inspection every two years. If you follow these easy recommendations, you too will Breathe Easier that your dryer is not a fire hazard.