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Top 7 Most Important Things to Do to Avoid a Dryer Fire

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There are fears that most of us all have in common like, fear of death, fear of looking stupid and fear of losing all of our possessions, or worse, one of our family members in a devastating house fire. Although I could take a shot at helping you with your fear of looking stupid and dying ;-),  I’ll probably do a much better job at helping you with your fear of a devastating house fire caused by your dryer. So I’ll just keep it simple and stick to that! Besides, it’s National Fire Prevention Week anyway (at the time I’m posting this).

After doing research I found out that the NFPA (the National Fire Protection Association) had been sponsoring the public observance of Fire Prevention Week ever since 1922. Yes that's correct! This year is the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week!

Jacob Mills
vehicle 4869772 1920

What is Fire Prevention Week?

Maybe you’re like I was a few weeks ago, I had know idea what FPW (Fire Prevention Week) was all about. I had only heard the term thrown around a few times.

After doing research I found out that the NFPA (the National Fire Protection Association) had been sponsoring the public observance of Fire Prevention Week ever since 1922. Yes, that means that this year is the 100th anniversary of FPW! It’s the longest public health observance in the Nation! Each year FPW is observed for one week starting on October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire (October 8, 1871).

Each year during this week, teachers, adults and kids learn important fire safety tips so they can stay safe in the event of a fire. Fire departments also help to educate and raise awareness in their communities during this  You can read more about FPW here.

What Are We Doing to Help?

Although the NFPA has done a great job at providing detailed fire safety education to the public, I believe much more can and should be done to raise awareness of the safety hazards of a poorly maintained dryer and specific steps we should all be taking to avoid a dryer fire.

According to a report by the NFPA, each year fire departments responded to an average of 15.970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines between the years of 2010 – 2014. These fires resulted in 13 deaths, 444 injuries and $238 million in property damage.

The majority of these fires (92%) involved clothes dryers. In an effort to help out and raise awareness of dryer fire hazards and how to prevent them, we are educating our community with useful tips on social media and here in this blog post.

 

vehicle 4869772 1920

What is Fire Prevention Week?

Maybe you’re like I was a few weeks ago, I had know idea what FPW (Fire Prevention Week) was all about. I had only heard the term thrown around a few times.

After doing research I found out that the NFPA (the National Fire Protection Association) had been sponsoring the public observance of Fire Prevention Week ever since 1922. Yes, that means that this year is the 100th anniversary of FPW! It’s the longest public health observance in the Nation! Each year FPW is observed for one week starting on October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire (October 8, 1871).

Each year during this week, teachers, adults and kids learn important fire safety tips so they can stay safe in the event of a fire. Fire departments also help to educate and raise awareness in their communities during this  You can read more about FPW here.

What Are We Doing to Help?

Although the NFPA has done a great job at providing detailed fire safety education to the public, I believe much more can and should be done to raise awareness of the safety hazards of a poorly maintained dryer and specific steps we should all be taking to avoid a dryer fire.

According to a report by the NFPA, each year fire departments responded to an average of 15.970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines between the years of 2010 – 2014. These fires resulted in 13 deaths, 444 injuries and $238 million in property damage.

The majority of these fires (92%) involved clothes dryers. In an effort to help out and raise awareness of dryer fire hazards and how to prevent them, we are educating our community with useful tips on social media and here in this blog post.

 

bryan woolbright - Fire Truck PHoto

7 Important Steps For Dryer Fire Prevention

In this post I will cover the top 7 most important things to do to avoid a dryer fire. This list is based on my own experience as a certified dryer exhaust technician and the experience of many other professionals in this industry. Let’s get started!

Step 1:

Be Aware!

As they say, “applied knowledge is power.” But in order to apply knowledge you must first be made aware of it, understand it and accept it as truth. I’ve had the pleasure of networking with many other professionals in my industry and almost everyone says the same thing “the majority of our customers call us when a dangerous problem arises.

Some customers call a dryer repair company first, thinking their dryer needs to be fixed, only to be told, their dryer isn’t the problem, it’s the dryer vent that needs to be serviced. The dryer repair technician will then charge them for the diagnosis and tell them to call a dryer vent technician to fix the problem!”

The fact that you’re here reading this post means you’re taking the necessary steps to become aware of the problems and solutions. Prevention is better than cure. The following steps will increase your level of awareness, but here are a few big red flags that something is wrong: Your dryer is taking longer than usual to dry your clothes, the top of your dryer seems to be getting hotter than usual during drying cycles, your dryer is starting to turn off in the middle of a cycle, you noticed a burning smell during a cycle). Once you’re fully aware of the warning signs of a hazardous dryer vent, you will have the power to prevent it from becoming a bigger problem.

Step 2:

Clean That Lint Screen!

Just like good hygiene habits are important for you to maintain a healthy body, you should develop good habits that help you maintain a healthy dryer. Cleaning your dryer lint trap regularly is one of those good habits! It is estimated that during each clothes dryer cycle, roughly 25% of the lint extracted from your clothes bypasses the lint trap when it is regularly cleaned.

That number can almost double if the lint trap is not regularly cleaned! Where does that lint go? It enters your dryer exhaust system and accumulates over time causing a number of complications which I’ll cover in detail below. We recommend cleaning your lint screen after each load to keep the percentage of lint that enters your exhaust system as low as possible!

Step 3:

Check That Flex Hose!

The flexible transition hose behind a dryer is one of the easiest things to check but also one of the most overlooked areas of a dryer vent system. If your dryer is taking longer to dry clothes it could be something as simple as a crushed transition hose. If you aren’t absolutely certain that your dryer’s flex hose isn’t crushed and is properly connected, simply peek behind your dryer to see.

If it looks crushed, unnecessarily long (slithering up and down and back and forth like a snake), disconnected or you find lots of lint on the wall and floor behind your dryer, indicating a hole in your flex hose, you may want to either repair it or replace it. Last but not least, make sure your flex hose isn’t plastic or foil metal.

There’s a sticker with a warning on most dryers that says “don’t use plastic or thin foil duct.” No matter who installed it, check that flex hose and be sure everything looks safe! You could end up eliminating a fire hazard and avoiding other dryer complications in the future.

Step 4:

Check That Vent Cover!

There are many glaring warning signs that can show up on your dryer vent cover. It is important to check your cover once or twice a year to make sure everything looks safe. Depending on where your vent cover is located, checking it could be either easy or hard. If it’s located on the ground level or second story it should be easy to go outside and take a look. If it’s located on your roof, you will either need to grab a ladder and some courage (which may be a walk in the park for some) or call a professional to inspect it for you.

If you’re able to check it yourself, make sure it doesn’t have large amounts of lint stuck to the dampers, a screen (which are non code compliant for dryer vents) or a grate or bird cage with excessive lint build up. Make sure your cover is in good condition. Also make sure the damper(s) open nice and wide when your dryer is on. If possible, put your hand in front of the airflow to see if it feels strong or weak. While you’re at it, peek inside your vent and see if it looks clogged.

You may be able to remove a hazardous blockage while you’re at it (bird’s nest, screen, clump of lint etc) and save you and your family from bigger problems down the road!

Step 5:

Check That Vent!

This is something you should only have to do once. But it is extremely important to do! Checking your vent is like smelling your food to make sure it’s safe to eat, you wouldn’t want to leave that for someone else to do for you! When you check your own vent you can be sure that you know what it looks like. Everything else is much simpler from there.

The only exception to this is hiring a professional that will inspect your vent and show you both video footage of the inside of your vent and pictures of the outside of your vent so you can have peace of mind that everything looks good. Either way, the main thing you want to check is the material.

It should be a solid metal hard pipe with no screws or duct tape as connectors. It shouldn’t be over 35 feet long (each 90 elbow equals 5 feet and each 45 degree elbow equals 2.5 feet). If it’s flexible material of any kind, you need to get it replaced with code compliant hard pipe as soon as possible! The right material makes a big difference in airflow efficiency!

Step 6:

Get That Vent Cleaned!

If you diligently follow the previous steps you will be a well educated homeowner when it comes to your dryer vent. You may also decide, based on what you’ve seen, that your dryer vent needs to be cleaned as soon as possible. But if you’re still not sure, it’s always best to clean it or hire a professional to clean it just to be safe. Dryer vent cleaning can either be really simple or very hard depending how your vent is routed. For more information on the pros and cons of doing it yourself vs hiring a professional, click here.

Dryer vent cleaning is a largely overlooked part of home maintenance. But thanks to the help of the NFPA, local fire departments, news and media companies, heads of HOAs and diligent homeowners the word is quickly spreading. We usually recommend our customers get their dryer vent cleaned once every 1-5 years depending on the length of their dryer vent, the number of occupants in their home, whether or not they have pets that shed and a few other factors. Whatever you do, don’t put it off…Get that vent cleaned!

Step 7:

Get That Dryer Cleaned!

Last but certainly not least, your dryer needs to be thoroughly cleaned at least once every 5 years. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve inspected a customer’s dryer exhaust system and dryer and have found burnt lint inside of the dryer, under the drum and around the heating element! Yes that’s right, lint not only bypasses your lint trap and enters your dryer exhaust system, it also enters your dryer over time and can lead to a dryer fire.

If you haven’t been doing steps 2 and 6 on a regular basis over the course of a few years, chances are, there is a good amount of hazardous lint lodged in dangerous areas of your dryer including your blower wheel and heating element. Cleaning your dryer can range from fairly simple to difficult depending on the type of dryer you have and your skill level with disassembling appliances.

My best tip is, if you decide to take on this task yourself, have your phone handy so you can take pictures of the control board wiring before disconnecting any wires. That way, you have something to reference when reconnecting them. You may want to hire a professional for this task but either way…don’t let your dryer start a fire!

Get that dryer cleaned!

How Can You Pitch In?

Hopefully this list of important things to do to avoid a dryer fire has been helpful to you. If it has, and you see how important these steps are for every homeowner who values the safety of their family and the comfort of their home, you can help by spreading the word and creating awareness in your community! Simply share this post with your family, friends and neighbors and encourage others to do the same. If you have any comments or feedback please do share them in the comment section below. I would love to hear your thoughts! Until next time, take care and God Bless!

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