fire hazard: your dryer ventNow that we’re nearing fire season, I  wanted to pass along a great safety tip related to a little-discussed fire hazard: your dryer. That’s right, your dryer.
The tip comes courtesy of Pillar to Post home inspector Alan Keyes, who notes that lint-filled dryer vents are the most common fire hazard found in a home inspection. In fact, he says that each year dryer fires cause 15,600 house fires, 400 injuries, 15 fatalities and nearly $100 million in damage. The vast majority of these are due to clogged exhaust ducts.
The root of the problem: all that lint that accumulates. It’s extremely flammable — in fact, it’s so flammable that Boy Scouts have traditionally used it to start camp fires. And although a dryer’s lint trap catches some of the lint, much of it gets blown into the exhaust duct, a long 4″ diameter tube connecting the dryer to the exterior of the house.
To make matters worse, the dryer also releases up to a gallon of water from every load into the exhaust duct, which soaks the lint and causes it to stick to the inside of the duct. Then, as Keyes explains, “the lint layer grows steadily thicker, constricting the airflow and eventually causing the dryer to overheat. The overheated dryer bursts into flames and ignites the lint filled duct into a snake of fire winding through walls, crawlspaces and attics — the most inaccessible areas of the house.”
The solution is simple enough: clean the duct. The problem is, most of us don’t do it. That’s why Pillar to Post recommends that home buyers clean the ducts in their new home as soon as they move in, and then again annually. They also recommend replacing vinyl or foil dryer ducting with UL-listed rigid or semi-rigid metal ducting, which is much more likely to contain the fire.
For more tips on how to prevent dryer-related fires, check out this U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission flier.