Dryer Dangers

Last month during the early morning hours of a day of inspections while leaving my office in Fort Myers, Florida  I noticed smoke coming from the rear of my neighbor’s home.  The neighbor had put a load of cloths in the dryer and took off to drop her son at school.  Upon arriving back home less than ten minutes later her house was on fire.  When the fire department arrived it was discovered that her dryer was on fire.  This small fire in the garage had damaged the house to the point that they could not reside there until the house is completely mitigated from the smoke damage.  Then a couple of weeks later a family in Cape Coral, Florida had a  dryer fire  and they were removed from their home as well.

On average 2,900 residential house fires are caused by this appliance and 34% of those fires are caused by a failure to clean the appliance and or venting  system.  Those  fires account for about 5 deaths per year, 100 injuries and  $35 Million Dollars in property loss.   These types of fires can be prevented with just a few simple preventative measures.

  1.  Be sure to read all warning labels on the dryer prior to using for the first time. Recommend the dryer be installed by a professional and the proper duct work installed. Never use plastic, try not to use flexible foil and if you must use flexible duct work use aluminum. The best if you can use it is to use rigid metal duct work.
  2. Clean your lint trap before drying each load of laundry.  If you find that laundry is not getting dry per the normal drying time this could be a sign that there is a blocked lint trap or exhaust duct.
  3. Clean interior of dryer and venting system.
  4. Periodically check the exterior exhaust duck work while dryer is running to be sure that there is exhaust air escaping. If your dryer vents out the roof, carefully check the goose neck duct work termination. The termination comes with a screen to keep insects and vermin from entering the duct work. The screen in the cooler months of Florida will condensate from the temperature difference and become moist. The moisture will cause the lint to stick to the screen and clog the termination.  This screen needs to be cleaned once a year.  See the photo to the right of what a clogged termination looks like.

    Clogged Goose Neck

    Clogged Dryer Vent Goose Neck

  5. Disconnect the dryer before cleaning and be sure to reconnect before using again. If you’re not experienced at this have a professional do it, especially if it is a gas dryer.
  6. Clean behind the dryer and keep clear of clutter and lint.
  7. Never dry clothing that has alcohol, cooking oils, gasoline or other flammable solvents on them.  Be sure to wash such items more than once before placing in your dryer to be assured that solvents have been washed out completely.
  8. Lastly but certainly one of the most important precautions – never leave an appliance running while you are not at home or sleeping.  Had my neighbor not come home when she did her house may have been damaged more severely.

Always be sure to have a fully charged fire extinguisher readily available in your home.  Consult a professional for which type would be best for your home and to have it checked for performance at least once per year.

For more information on this subject visits this web site:  NFPA Dryer Vent Fire Prevention 

Fred Sylvester, of Accredited Building Consultants, is a State of Florida Certified Home Inspector and Commercial Building Inspector with over 35 years of construction experience. Fred specializes in Southwest Florida, including Home Inspections and Commercial Building Inspections in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples FL.
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