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Clothes dryer problems: A Major Cause of Fires

As a Savannah and Hilton Head regional full-service HVAC and plumbing service company, the Thompson & Thompson staff frequently receives requests from customers to clean vents and ducts (including dryer vents). Asking your heating and air conditioning service company to perform this task for you at least once every one or two years is a very smart precaution! Accidental household fires cause damage around the United States frequently. Some of these conflagrations begin with clothes dryer problems. Have you looked inside your own dryer ducting lately?

The Special Danger Posed by Vent Fires

First, why do fires in vents and ducts prove dangerous? When fires occur in visible locations, residents can take immediate action to evacuate and summon assistance. Sometimes they can even extinguish the blaze themselves.

Unfortunately, a fire in a duct or vent typically starts inside the walls of the residence, out of sight. It may slowly smolder for hours and then erupt into flames when an oxygen source comes into play and spread rapidly. Residents sometimes mistake a ringing fire alarm or smoke alarm as a malfunction in this situation. They may fail to summon help at the first indication of problems. For this reason, vent and duct fires pose a significant threat.

Statistics on Clothes Dryer Problems

The United States Federal Emergency Management Administration has addressed the issue of dryer safety. The site reports some 2,900 fires attributed to household clothes dryer related issues occur across the United States on an annual basis. The government agency recommends consumers take action to clean dryer vents at least every year. It reports over a third of these blazes stem from the failure of owners to clean dryers. Experts estimate dryer fires account for a whopping $35 million in property damage annually (the exact figure varies from state to state).

What types of laundry room cleaning assignments should you perform on a regular basis to reduce fire hazards in your home? FEMA urges families to make a habit of cleaning the dryer’s removable filter with every load of laundry. When clothes tumble dry in a dryer, frequently small threads of cloth called lint become detached from the fabric. This flammable material accumulates in the lint filter and, eventually, inside the dryer vent pipe (a structure which exhausts hot air from the dryer out of the laundry room).

Removing Lint

The government agency recommends homeowners remove lint from the dryer vent pipe itself on a quarterly basis, i.e. every three months or so. You should also consider asking your HVAC service company to perform cleaning of the pipe periodically, too. We use specialized cleaning tools enabling us to fully clean the entire length of the pipe. Most homeowners simply cannot remove lint effectively using household cleaning tools.

FEMA urges consumers to contact a professional repairer whenever a dryer operates sluggishly or inefficiently. Why? This problem might indicate lint buildup in the filter or a blockage obstructing the vent pipe. Particularly if you reside in a building with a deep vent pipe, asking your heating, cooling and ventilation service company technician to clean out this vent on a regular basis offers value. It may help correct conditions which contribute to the chance of a dryer-related fire erupting inside a lint-clogged pipe inside the walls of your home.

Avoid Vent Fires

Consider requesting Thompson & Thompson’s assistance whenever you need any of the vents or ducts in your home cleaned by a skilled technician. Dirty ducts and vents pose a problem in a home for several reasons in addition to being a fire hazard:

  • Sometimes vermin or insects overwinter in residential vents
  • Grime in vents degrades air quality and may entrap pollens, dander, or other allergens
  • Dirty vents and ducts spread lingering odors caused by stale cooking aromas, cigarettes, and pets

Schedule a Service Appointment

Does your home require expert vent and duct cleaning? Contact us now to schedule a ventilation cleaning appointment.

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