Dryer Safety - What You Need to Know
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (Division of U.S. Department of Homeland Security), clothes dryers were involved in an estimated 15,600 U.S. structure fires, fifteen deaths, 400 injuries, and $99 million in direct property damage, annually, between 2002-2004. The full 2007 report from Homeland Security can be found HERE.
"Failure to clean" is the leading factor contributing to clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
A clothes dryer works by forcing hot dry air through a turning drum. The combination of tumbling clothes and the rapid replacement of hot dry air dries the clothes. Lint and moisture are bi-products of this process and are pulled from the drum by fan motor and then pushed through the remaining exhaust conduit. The exhaust conduit is comprised of the flex transition hose found immediately behind your dryer, the 4" rigid galvanized pipe and elbow fittings found within the wall framing, and the vent duct termination found outside the house.
Bottom Line: while the majority of the lint is trapped by the dryer's lint filter, a fair portion escapes past the filter and is suspended in the moist heated exhaust air. Lint buildup in the dryer vent reduces air flow and accelerates more lint buildup. Lint blow-back into the appliance is the result and the ultimate ignition concern. Dryer fires can occur within the actual appliance or within the duct pipe. They can smolder for hours or be accelerated by the oxygen rich air that is provided by an operating dryer.
Regular inspections and maintenance of the clothes dryer exhaust is recommended by all dryer manufacturers. For the security minded homeowner, the LintAlert® provides a means to determine if and when your dryer's exhaust is blocked.
For more articles dealing with dryer safety and dryer fires, visit our FAQ page. Combined, these articles help illustrate the dangers and how to avoid a dryer fire. You may know that the Boy Scout manual as well as other outdoor how-to-survive manuals suggests dryer lint as a superior fire ignition source. It's important for you to know your dryer is in an unobstructed state before you dry your clothes to protect your home and family from this fire danger.
Beyond the inherent fire dangers of an improperly venting dryer, the reduction in efficiency that vent problems create should also be a concern. Over time, lint accumulates in every dryer's exhaust system. The result is longer dryer times which waste energy and wear out your clothes. The LintAlert® continually monitors exhaust pressure and shows you how the dryer is performing. When you know how efficiently it's exhausting, you can save money on clothes and energy. And—back to the safety issue—it's good to know how your exhaust is performing and to always keep your exhaust conduit cleaned.
Dryer Safety In-Depth
Improving dryer safety helps prevent dryer fires and helps in living a safer life. Exhuast systems vary from home to home, and there are many variables that should be considered when looking at the dryer's place in your home safety plan. Learning more about Clogged Dryer Vent Syndrome is a good place to start. You'll be more informed and you'll be able to take solid action to make the dryer a positive contributor to home safety.