Your Hamptons Home: Is Your Dryer Vent a Fire Hazard?

Your clothes dryer should do exactly what the name implies—dry clothing. It should not be a life-threatening fire hazard. Yet every year, millions of dollars in damage and numerous deaths occur as the result of clothes dryer fires.

Without proper maintenance, the dryer vent is a potential fire hazard for homeowners—yet the majority are unaware of that the problem even exists. The result is venting systems that clog over time and become a growing fire hazard with each load of laundry.

“It’s hard for people to think of their clothes dryer as a fire hazard,” says John Ryley, Dryer Vent Wizard (DVW), Dry Clothes, Safe Homes franchise owner, whose company specializes in maintaining, cleaning, repairing, replacing and altering dryer vents for residential and commercial consumers.

Clothes dryer fires account for 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths and 400 injuries annually, with an estimated $88 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Data Center in Emmetsburg, MD. Failure to clean lint out of the dryer vent is the leading cause.

“Most people don’t realize that New York State Building Codes changed in 1999 to indicate all dryer vent systems should be of a rigid metal piping, because of the fire hazard,” says Ryley.

According to Ryley, even dryer manufacturers call for a rigid metal piping and an annual cleaning to prohibit lint build up that leads to fires. He attributes the lack of awareness to the fact that dryer vent systems are often out of sight, out of mind.

Servicing the Long Island area, he sees fire hazards from lack of maintenance every day. Most homes he services have white plastic flexible hose or the silver foil flexible hose that are not up to code—a known fire hazard.

Ryley points to trends in homes creating dryer and venting problems. “Homeowners want the laundry area to be out of sight and near bedrooms and bathrooms,” says Ryley.  “While no one wants to drag laundry up and down the stairs, the reality is that longer venting cause dryers to work harder, take longer to dry clothes, use more energy and creates a fire hazard,” he says.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), any vent over 25 feet is considered a fire hazard and installation of a “booster fan” is recommended. Booster fan installation helps dryers function safely and more efficiently and is one of the services DVW also provides.

Ryley believes the solution to the problem is creating consumer awareness in maintaining dryers and dryer vents. He believes his role is as much about educating consumers as it is doing the work itself. He warns consumers that the most common sign of a venting problem is the clothes taking too long to dry.

“If it takes more than one dryer cycle to get the towels dry, you may have a dryer vent problem,” says Ryley. He offers these tips to help consumers keep their dryers up and running, prevent dryer fires and reduce energy consumption.

  • Be sure that dryer vent systems are up to code with city, state and manufacturer.
  • Replace any plastic or foil vent with semi-rigid or solid metal venting.
  • Clean screen lint trays before and after drying a load.
  • Wash lint screens with soap and water every few months to remove residue left behind by fabric softeners.
  • Have dryer vents professionally cleaned and inspected annually.

In addition, here are warning signs to look for:

  • Clothes are taking more than one cycle to dry, especially jeans and towels.
  • No lint visible on lint screen.
  • Dryer repeatedly stops during a cycle.
  • Clothes have moldy smell after dry cycle.

“Consumers who follow these guidelines,” says Ryley, “create a safe environment in their home, prolong the life of their dryer and will lower their energy bills.”

Dryer Vent Wizard, Safe Homes, Dry Clothes is the only national franchise to specialize exclusively in full service dryer venting solutions. For more information call 866-498-7233 or visit www.dryerventwizard.com.

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