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by Alliance Environmental · November 23, 2011

Dryer Vent Fire?  That Could Never Happen to Me!

“Dryer fires account for over 15,000 structure fires, 15 deaths and 400 injuries annually” (FEMA).

Dryer fires in non-residential structures like hospitals, schools and stores cause even more loss and injury.

Most dryer fires happen in residences and are totally preventable! 

How do vents get blocked?

Lint from laundry is the most common cause of a dryer vent blockage.  However, there can also be problems with small bird or animal nests and bends in the venting system. 

When do dryer fires happen?

Since people do laundry any time of the day or night, dryer fires can occur at any time as well.  Most happen between 8am and 12 midnight, but fires peak between noon and 5pm and again after dinner.

What are the major causes of dryer fires?

Lint is the major fuel for a dryer fire.  Lint needs to be removed from not only the lint trap in the dryer itself, but also from the vents and surrounding areas.  “Failure to clean” is the official reason for 70% of dryer fires.

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Other causes are mechanical or electrical failure and improper use of the dryer, for example, if it is too full or there are combustibles stored too close by.

How Can I Prevent a Dryer Fire from Occurring in My Home?

* Keep combustibles away from the dryer area.  These can be cardboard boxes, clothing and cleaning supplies.
* Never put anything made of plastic, foam or rubber in the dryer.  They ignite much more easily than natural fibers.
* Vent the exhaust directly to the outside.  Dryer vents cannot be longer than the equivalent of 25 feet and you have to add length for any bend in the vent.  Bends are places where lint can build up and be difficult to clean out.
* Do not use plastic ducts between the vent and the dryer.  Many new homes do use these, but they are dangerous and can provide more fuel to a dryer vent fire.

FEMA recommends that you clean out your dryer ducts and vents every 2 years and whenever a heavy item like jeans seems to be taking an extra long time to dry.  Inspecting more often is recommended if your vent goes more than 6 feet from the dryer to the outside or if your dryer is an older model without moisture sensors or high temperature safety limits. 

They also recommend that you call in a professional inspector once a year if you are using a gas dryer, to make sure that the lines and connections are still doing their job well.

If your dryer vent system is long or complex and difficult to inspect and clean, you should call a professional to properly maintain your system.  Clothes dryer fires are dangerous, damaging and completely preventable.  If you need dryer vent maintenance and cleaning, please contact AirTek, Alliance Environmental Group’s Indoor Air Division, for information and assistance.

We don’t want a dryer fire to happen to YOU!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for Alliance Environmental Group and AirTek Indoor Air Solutions.  She welcomes your comments!  For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!  For updates on indoor air challenges, Like us at AirTek on Facebook!

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