by Kelly Holck
on Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 at 10:36am.
Being a homeowner is all fun and games until something happens that incurs a large cost. That's why it's important to stay educated on what you should be doing to make sure you're keeping your home maintenance up-to-date.
This week, I'd like to touch on one essential piece of upkeep that many homebuyers don't address until it's too late: cleaning your dryer vents.
Why is this necessary?
Between 2010 and 2014, an estimated 15,970 house fires were caused by washing machines and clothes dryers EACH YEAR. Of that figure, approximately 97% of those fires were caused by either dryers alone or a washer/dryer combination. The annual loss in direct property damage due to these fires was $238 million each year during that timespan.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading factor in the ignition of these fires was the failure to clean out the dryer vent.
In fact, the US Fire Administrations National Fire Data Center says that 80% of clothes dryer related fires are due to the dryer vent being clogged.
So how do I know it's time to clean my dryer vent?
Your clothing and/or dryer are hot to the touch:clean your vent! If you keep drying your clothes without cleaning your vent, it's likely you'll wear out the heating element and blower in your dryer much faster than usual.
Your clothes are taking longer than usual to dry:dryers work by eliminating the heat and moisture from the air. When your dryer vent is clogged, the lint (or whatever is clogging your vent) is preventing that hot/moist air from escaping. This results in clothing taking much longer to dry.
It smells like something is burning: it's possible the lint that's clogging your dryer vent is catching on fire, as it is extremely flammable. You don't want to be just another statistic in the above chart so CLEAN YOUR VENT.
The vent hood flap, AKA cover for your dryer vent, isn't opening correctly: there seems to be a strange buildup of lint and other fun junk around your vent opening. This is probably because the vent isn't emptying properly. When air flow becomes restricted within the vent, it results in the hood flap not opening as it should. This is the perfect invitation for birds, rodents, and other pests to cozy up in their new, warm home.
You haven't had an inspection or cleaning in over a year: not only can a clogged vent cause a fire, but it could even lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. NFPA recommends that you clean your dryer vent at least once a year. To make it easier on yourself, schedule an annually recurring appointment on your calendar. You can either clean it yourself or hire a professional to come out and do it for you. A professional will most likely cost between $75 and $150. I like to use Dirty Ducts Cleaning & Environmental Inc because they give a free price quote and I know I don't have to worry about another cleaning until next year at this time. If you don't want to spend that kind of money, then buy a kit for some DIY cleaning. Keep in mind, though, that you do run the risk of incorrectly cleaning the vent by doing it yourself.
What are the benefits to me of cleaning my dryer vent?
The obvious benefit is a reduced fire risk. As you saw at the beginning of this post, dryer related fires are a major issue in the United States.
You won't have to dry your clothes twice if your dryer vent isn't clogged. This results in not only shorter dryer times but also less money spent on energy bills.
Just like anything you own, maintaining your dryer means a longer life for said dryer. A yearly cleaning of your dryer vent will likely cost much less than an expensive dryer repair bill. There's even the likelihood of the need to buy an entirely new unit altogether which is not always a very affordable purchase. However, the worst possibility yet is dealing with the loss of sentimental belongings or the home repair bill due to fire damage because you didn't get your dryer vent's recommended yearly cleaning.
What maintenance can I do to exercise dryer safety myself?
One of the easiest preventative measures you can take is cleaning your lint screen between each drying cycle. Without a clean lint filter, your dryer can waste up to 30% more energy! Why wouldn't you take the extra 10 seconds to empty out that lint screen?
Another good practice is vacuuming out the inside of the dryer and the lint trap every so often. Though this doesn't mean you can skip your yearly dryer vent cleaning appointment, it does mean you'll likely be adding time onto the life of your dryer.
To prolong the life of your dryer, avoid running it for several cycles in a row. It's important for your dryer to have time to cool down and ventilate the hot air between cycles. It's also good to avoid drying large items, like comforters, as this will cause unnecessary strain on your dryer. Air drying those large items is a good habit to get into.
Though dryer safety and cleaning probably isn't the most exciting nor is it the first thing on your mind (unless you work for Dirty Ducts), it's extremely important to stay informed as a homeowner. Therefore, call a professional to have your dryer vent cleaned and make it a yearly, recurring appointment. Add some upkeep items into your monthly chores to ensure you're staying up-to-date on your dryer maintenance.
Keep an eye out for Shawn's expert advice video in the next few weeks which will be covering this same topic!
Thanks for reading! See you next week on "All Things Dane County". - K