Most homeowners recognize the importance of regularly scheduled home maintenance. Every year, a homeowner will schedule an appointment to have the gutters cleaned, chimney swept or even the pipes winterized. But many do not know the importance of an annual dryer vent cleaning. Improperly maintained dryer vents are responsible for over 15,000 house fires each year; according to the National Fire Protection Association, this is 1 out of every 22 structural fires. While a professional vent system cleaning is imperative to ensuring the safety of your home and family, there are also steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of a house fire.
Choose the proper equipment
It’s always best to have your washer and dryer professionally installed. A professional will immediately recognize any potential fire hazards, and can recommend tools and products that will prove safer for your family. Several years ago, it was possible to install a dryer simply by plugging it into an outlet and attaching a metal crimped duct between the dryer and the wall. Today, however, professionals have recognized the hazard presented by variations in equipment, whether they be duct length, bolts used for attachment, or the tendency of a duct to catch highly flammable lint in cracks and crimps, thereby increasing the risk of ignition. Gas clothes dryers, if not properly ventilated, can cause a backup of carbon monoxide into the living space of your home. Proper installation and inspection of your dryer vent system can prevent any hazardous condition from becoming a life threatening emergency.
Know your appliances
A dryer works by evaporating as much as a gallon of water per load of wet laundry. In the process of evaporation, your dryer removes lint from the fabric of your clothes, but only a portion of this lint is collected in the lint trap. The remainder will travel through the duct and ventilation system, until it is deposited, ideally, outdoors. If your dryer is taking longer to dry a load, or if you notice an apparent burning smell, it is likely a hazardous condition which needs to be addressed immediately. In addition, your dryer’s external surfaces or the clothes themselves may become hotter than the norm for a load, or the laundry room may become more humid after using your appliances. Any difference you may notice could be an indication that a dryer vent cleaning appointment is necessary.
Choosing a professional
Not only should dryer installation be completed by a professional, but dryer vent cleaning should be as well. Taking action to keep your laundry area as clean as possible and being aware of any, even subtle, changes in your appliance’s behavior are two excellent preventive measures against house fire. However, a professional technician will not only be able to clean your dryer vent system thoroughly, but will also notice any imminent threats to the safety of your home. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors claims that a large number of house fires can be prevented by proper cleaning and inspection for materials. The diameter of the ventilation ducts, the installation of an exhaust vent flapper, and the proper location of a vent’s outlet can all be inspected by your professional. Check local reviews, and review sites such as Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau to learn about others’ experiences with your technician. Hire a professional who holds certifications with CSIA, the Chimney Sweep Institute of America. And finally, choose a professional who has experience with dryer vent cleaning. An annual cleaning and inspection of your dryer vent system will go a long way toward ensuring the safety of your home.