There are still many home owners that fail to comply with current building code requirements concerning their clothes dryer vents.
Unfortunately, the home owner could be the suffering one, not the code …
US Fire Administration report from January 2007 states:
- Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually.
- Eighty percent of clothes dryer fires in structures occur in residential buildings.
- Annually, 12,700 clothes dryer fires occur in residential buildings resulting in 15 deaths and 300 injuries.
- “Failure to clean” is the leading factor contributing to clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
- New home construction trends place clothes dryers and washing machines in more hazardous locations away from outside walls such as bedrooms, second-floor hallways, bathrooms, and kitchens.
Plastic clothes dryer vent hoses were banned from being used for this purpose several years ago, but since we generally don’t like to read warning (or any) labels, some serious accidents happen.
An efficient operation of the clothes dryer depends on regular maintenance of its vent pipe, exterior hood / bird guard, and appliance lint screens (depending on your model, there is usually one or two lint screens installed).
Failing to clean all of the clothes dryer vent components on regular basis might cause the system to clog, significantly extend drying time, it may also overheat the plastic vent (that shouldn’t even be there) and, eventually, start a life threatening fire.
Depending on how often you use your clothes dryer, you should check the exterior hood / damper for lint accumulation and clean it as necessary. Protective screens are not permitted on clothes dryer vent termination.
The lint will stick even to the smooth wall of the clothes dryer vent, especially if you install long horizontal sections (get the maximum length from the dryer manual because its manufacturer might permit longer runs than the local building code).
Don’t use any screws on clothes dryer vent pipe connections. Instead, you can seal them with aluminum duct tape (used to seal forced air heating ducts) and secure sections to the wall, framing or any other structure with straps – screws penetrating duct wall will trap more lint, which will eventually clog the pipe.
Metal foil (thin wall) flexible ducts used for the clothes dryer vent purposes are fire resistant. However, just like the plastic dryer vents, they’re extremely soft and easy to kink or brake behind the appliance. This could happen right after we install it and push our appliance back into its spot.
Even if something heavier falls behind the appliance, it could crush that soft dryer vent wall and block / greatly reduce the airflow. Easy solution – don’t use plastic or metal foil dryer vents, get an offset dryer vent connector (also known as periscope, quick connector and probably some other names), which allows you to connect the appliance directly to the wall outlet, or at least eliminate bending of the flexible pipe behind the appliance.
This article was written by Dariusz Rudnicki
I'm a retired Illinois home inspector, founder and editor of checkthishouse.com, a blog which attracts around 2 thousand readers daily and is dedicated to answering the many questions of home owners and home buyers. Connect with me on Google+ Find me on Google+ Local