Is Your Clothes Dryer Quietly Plotting To Kill You?

A rather startling question to pose considering that most of us, an estimated 8 out of 10 households, have a clothes dryer in our home and that they’re used on a regular, consistent basis without too much thought. What mighty fine pieces of modern marvel they are, too…those ole’ trusty clothes dryers! They certainly make life easier and they’re generally safe to operate. Let’s be honest, though…we take our clothes dryers for granted! We wash our clothes, toss em’ in the dryer, and expect that the end result will be an uneventful load of nice, dry, clean-smelling laundry. Indeed, that is the usual result. However, as with many of the relatively complex systems that comprise a home environment, there are some safety considerations to ponder and of which we need to maintain an awareness dryer repair pasadena.

Again, clothes dryers are generally safe…as long as they’re properly installed, well vented, and receive periodic maintenance. Maintenance, you say? You mean like changing the oil in the family car? Well, yes…precisely that sort of routine maintenance albeit on, perhaps, a less frequent basis. The clothes dryer and its venting system need…no, require, periodic maintenance to keep you safe and to dry your clothes as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. Let’s examine those two concepts as they relate to clothes dryers…those of safety and of monetary efficiency.

As for the safety aspect, it’s really fairly simple. Your clothes dryer has the potential to catch fire and burn your house down. And, most unfortunately, a resulting house fire can kill you! Have I acquired your attention? Between 2004 and 2006, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), there were an estimated 15,600 related residential fires that required a fire department response. Those fires caused an estimated annual monetary loss of $99 Million, 400 injuries, and 15 fatalities. The leading cause of those fires was determined to be a failure to maintain the system. What causes these expensive, and sometimes deadly, clothes dryer related fires in the first place?

Clothes dryers do their job by forcing heated air through a rotating drum that contains your load of laundry. As the moisture is released, lint is created from the fibers of the content…clothing, towels, etc. Most of the lint is filtered by the clothes dryer filter…the one we are familiar with that’s usually located inside the door or on top of the unit; most of us are familiar with the need to clean that filter after every load of laundry. But some of that lint makes it past the filter and can collect in the ductwork between the clothes dryer and the exhaust hood (the discharge end of the duct that should…should, I say, be located be at the exterior of the building). The accumulation of lint inside the ductwork, or in an uncleaned filter, serves to create a restriction to the airflow and a concentration of lint which is a very combustible fuel source.

Often, the types of installed ducts are conducive to venting problems. There are generally four different types of ducts. There are rigid metal ducts that are smooth on the inside; these are by far the safest types of ducts because they aren’t prone to sagging and are relatively easily cleaned. There are semi-rigid, semi-flexible ducts that are not quite as “good” as rigid metal ducts but are also a reasonable choice. And then there are the other two types…flexible foil and flexible plastic. These latter two types account for the majority of deficient issues that I see relating to clothes dryer ducts. They are thin, are prone to sagging and to physical damage, are not able to be readily cleaned, and should just plainly be avoided. Those plastic ducts will not only do absolutely nothing to contain a fire should one start in or near the duct, they will actually readily burn themselves…bad, bad, bad! Then there’s the “failure to clean” aspect where the duct is mostly blocked with lint. It’s these conditions of improperly installed ductwork, the use of unsafe or improper ductwork, or a failure to maintain the cleanliness of the ducts that cause the most troublesome issues. It’s worthy of note that most all manufacturers of clothes dryers disallow the use of those horrid plastic flexible ducts; nonetheless, they continue to be used in many homes…even in newer homes! Also worthy of note is that, in most jurisdictions, those plastic flexible ducts have never been allowed to penetrate floors or walls… but that’s a commonly observed configuration as well.

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