December 21, 2014

Winter Safety Tip – How to Prevent Dryer Fires

One of the ways that dryers can start household fires is by igniting the excess lint that accumulates around the motor, burner shroud (for gas dryers) and cabinet interior. Lint is composed of very small, dry clothing particles which includes cotton and polyesters–both very good fires starters. Polyesters are particularly pernicious fires starters and are very difficult to extinguish once they ignite. Polyesters, vinyl in particular, pose another fire hazard when used as vent hoses, which we’ll talk more about later.

There are three things you can do to prevent the threat of fire from accumulated lint inside your dryer. First, clean your lint filter before every load. This will minimize the lint blow-by around the filter and save energy by helping the dryer run more efficiently.

Second, inspect your lint filter each time you pull it out. If you see any rips or distortions in the screen, replace the filter immediately.

Finally, have your dryer professionally disassembled and cleaned annually. A thorough professional cleaning removes accumulated lint and dirt from the dryer cabinet interior, motor, and burner or heating elements. In addition to substantially reducing the risk of dryer fires, this type of regular cleaning will help the drum bearings and rollers last longer, preventing or minimizing future service calls.

Many dryer installations use the common, cheap white vinyl vent hose for the dryer exhaust. These hoses were never UL-approved for dryer installations and are increasingly being recognized by local building codes as fire hazards. The American Household Appliance Manufacturers Association (AHAM) recommends the use of either rigid aluminum or steel duct or spiral-wound aluminum flex hose–NOT the white vinyl hose. For any dryer, but especially gas dryers, white vinyl vent hose should never be used and if yours has this installed on it, replace it ASAP with UL-approved materials.

One of the biggest causes of vent hose fires is the ignition of accumulated lint inside the vent hose. Lint gets caught in the folds and creases and sticks there because of the humidity. Over time, the lint builds up to such a degree that the dryer cannot exhaust properly. This results in increased drying times initially and, ultimately, in a fire. Once a fire starts in a vinyl vent hose, the hose itself ignites and burns vigorously creating a fire that is very difficult to extinguish.

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Is Your Clothes Dryer Working Effectively?

We invest a lot of money in our clothes and want them to last and look good. Over-drying and over heating clothes wears them out faster. If your dryer is working effectively, you can dry more quickly, sometimes at lower temperatures. If preserving your clothes, possibly preventing wrinkles and saving energy sounds good to you, try these tips from mrappliance.com:

  • Avoid kinking exhaust vent behind dryer. The shorter the better.
  • Exhaust ducting should be of a metalized semi rigid/flexible material. Do not use vinyl as it can be easily crushed. Vinyl will not withstand heat as well as metalized ducting.
  • Check your outside vent hood. Clean if necessary. It is not advisable to use mesh wire or grates to cover the vent hood. This will definitely help keep rodents or birds out of your exhaust but can easily clog as some lint always makes it through the dryer’s lint screen. The best vent hood has a flapper that opens when the dryer is in use and closes when off. Verify proper operation of the flapper periodically.
  • Clean lint screen between loads and more frequently if drying material with higher cotton content.
  • Do not overload dryer. Too many clothes will inhibit proper circulation of heated air between and through the garments. On the other hand, too few clothes can create a similar problem by bunching and disallowing proper air flow through the clothes. Proper air flow dissipates the moisture from the clothes faster making for a faster dry time.
  • In winter months, dryers located in a heated area of the home will dry more quickly than a non-heated utility room.
  • Drying multiple loads one after the other will reduce overall dry time by utilizing heat retained by the dryer from previous loads.
  • Recheck pockets before putting clothes into dryer. Chewing gum may make it through the wash with little to no consequence but your luck will run out if it is put into the dryer. Gum, pencils, change, nails, needles, jewelry, etc. can damage clothing as well as damage your appliance (as a rule of thumb, do not lay loose change or other small articles on top of your appliances).