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5 Ways To Prevent Dryer Fires

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Dryer fires typically account for around 15,000 structure fires every year in the United States. The primary contributing factor in 70% of these fires is a lack of proper maintenance. Such fires, as well as the tragic loss of life and property associated with them, can easily be prevented.

In a normally functioning dryer, hot moist air is generated in the dryer, forced through a vent system, and then exhausted outside of your house. If this airflow is obstructed at any point the temperature in the dryer and vent system will begin to rise. In addition to increased temperatures, restricted airflow will cause a significant increase in the accumulation of highly combustible lint in both the dryer itself as well as in the vent system. This dangerous combination of increased temperature and highly combustible fuel is a recipe for disaster.

The following 5 measures should be taken, as necessary, to ensure a safe dryer in your home.

Clean Avoid a dryer fire after every load. This is the easiest and yet most important practice to observe. Excessive lint build-up not only provides a fuel source for a fire but also is one of the main causes for restricted airflow.

Check your vent hose. If the vent hose connecting your dryer to the wall is smashed, kinked, or full of lint this needs to be corrected. Plastic or « slinky » type vent hoses should be replaced with rigid metal or semi-rigid aluminum vent hoses. These types of hoses don’t encourage lint build-up as readily and are not as easily smashed. Though somewhat harder to install initially, the increased safety is well worth the effort.

Inspect the vent outlet on the outside of your hose. Inspect the vent outlet to make sure that the opening is not smashed or blocked in any way. Some outlets have a swinging flap that is supposed to blow open when the dryer blows air. These flaps can get stuck. Also there should not be a screen over this opening. Many newer homes today use a vent system that vents through the roof. If this is the case it may not be practical to check this.

Periodically have the dryer itself cleaned. It is normal for lint to slowly build up in the dryer itself. This is especially true if the dryer has to push the air out through a long vent. Increased back pressure forces more lint through the seals in the dryer causing an accumulation in the dryer cabinet. This lint can build up in the vicinity of the heating element or burner setting up a potentially hazardous situation. Most dryers will need to be taken apart in order to clean them. Have a service man do this for you if you are not comfortable tackling this yourself.

Have your vent system cleaned professionally. If you have a long vent or a vent that exhausts through the roof you should consider having the vent cleaned by a professional every couple of years as preventative maintenance. If your dryer is taking longer than normal to dry and the vent hose and vent outlet are fine then you should have this done right away

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