Two dryer fires were recently reported; both with a very sad outcome. Mrs. Pittman, an animal trainer in Boynton Beach, Florida recently lost 4 beloved pets when her dryer caught fire. She was able to save her dogs, but the cats perished. Another dryer fire occurred the day before in Lexington, MA, where Gena Brown was killed. She died saving the life of her two daughters.
Sadly, this happens all too often, with the US Fire Administration reporting over 15,000 annual dryer fires resulting in 15 deaths and millions in property damages. Most of these fires can easily be prevented by cleaning the dryer ducts and venting system. Consumer Reports, Underwriter Laboratories and the Consumer Product Safety Commission all recommend annual inspections and dryer vent cleaning.
What causes dryer fires? Lint build up in the duct system is the answer. While most lint produced by the dryer is caught in the lint screen, some escapes and is expected to go through the duct system and exit the vent on the outside of your home. Unfortunately, some lint ends up getting caught somewhere in the ducts, where it attracts more lint, causing a build-up to restrict air flow. Eventually, the result is overheating and a fire. Other causes of dryer vent fires include a system that is not up to UL standards or manufacturers codes. Excessive human or pet hair or dust can also clog a dryer vent. Small animals can become trapped in the vent or birds have been known to make this warm, inviting area home and build a nest.
Even if you are one of the lucky ones who do not experience a dryer fire, a clogged vent causes the dryer to work extra hard, run longer and cost more to operate. Cleaning the lint screen regularly and using a dryer with an automatic drying cycle are among the 10 most important rules for conserving energy. Unfortunately, these tips are useless if there is a clogged vent. Studies have shown that drying 6 loads per week, taking 2 hours each (instead of the ideal 45 minutes each) it will cost you an additional $435 per year. This figure varies in areas such as Florida, where electricity is more expensive and an overheating dryer vent system will cause the AC to run longer.
All consumers are urged to have their dryer vents cleaned and inspected annually to prevent fires and conserve on energy costs. A clogged dryer vent causes a dryer to work harder, increasing the amount of energy consumed and eventually, leading to a fire. The service fee for a professional cleaning and inspection is well worth the peace of mind that your home and family is safe from a dryer fire.