(Bob Ruby, Home Inspection Solutions Missoula Montana, 406-646-6182)
House fires caused by dryers are much more common than generally believed.
Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. (National Fire Protection Agency)
Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.
How your dryer works:
Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water that will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct, more commonly known as the dryer vent.
A vent that exhausts damp air to the home's exterior has a number of requirements:
• It should be securely connected to the vent tube. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may it be under it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected.
• It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct tube, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work.
Vent tubes should also be as straight as possible and cannot be longer than 25 feet. If there are any 90-degree turns in the vent reduce the allowable 25-foot requirement by 5 feet, since these turns restrict airflow. Air flow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
However, special vent hardware is available that is designed to turn 90 degrees in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air.
• One of the reasons that restrictions pose a fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton, wool and polyester.
Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine itself. As the dryer overheats, a subsequent mechanical failure can trigger a spark, which can cause the lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to catch fire. Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the home’s walls.
Moisture Problems & Defective Installations
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