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5 Important Dryer Vent Safety Tips

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that, in 2010, there were nearly 17,000 structure fires related to clothes dryers or combination washer/dryers (both in confined and non-confined home structures). Further, the NFPA cautions that the main cause of such fires is a failure to properly and regularly clean them.

You might change your lint trap after every load or every couple of loads, but what about the vent that carries hot air away? Have you ever looked inside, much less cleaned it?

Have you ever hired a residential air duct cleaning service to inspect, clean, and maintain your ducts, including the one attached to your dryer? Do you know if your venting meets area building codes for fire safety?

Most people don’t pay much attention to air duct cleaning, at least not until there is a problem. But even aside from the fact that a clogged vent could compromise the efficiency and performance of your clothes dryer, it could also pose a fire hazard.

Tips for Dryer Vent Safety

In other words, you can’t afford to ignore this potential risk factor in your home. At the very least, you should clean vents yourself or hire a professional residential and commercial duct cleaning company to do it for you. Here are a few important dryer vent safety tips to minimize risk.

1. Clean Lint Traps and Vents Regularly

You probably engage in all kinds of regular home maintenance tasks. You may clean your gutters, flush your water heater, and check your HVAC system annually (or, more likely, simply hire professionals to do these tasks for you). The average homeowner might not engage in tasks like trash chute cleaning or snaking the pipes on a regular basis, but there is no shortage of upkeep when you own a home.

Cleaning clothes dryer vents should be on your checklist of regular maintenance chores. You can easily clean the lint traps on your own after every load, and most people do because otherwise they start to see a lot of lint left on clean clothes.

However, you should also clean your dryer vent. This should be done at least annually, and for large families that get a lot of use out of the dryer, perhaps more frequently.

2. Schedule Professional Inspections

You may be able to clean the dryer vent on your own, especially if you’re a handy, DIY type. For the sake of convenience, safety, and thoroughness, though, you might want to hire a qualified air duct cleaning service to do it for you.

For one thing, these professionals can clean all of your ducts at once, ensuring that not only your dryer, but also your HVAC ducts are clean and safe for continued operation. Hiring an appropriate residential and commercial duct cleaning service annually is a smart move for concerned homeowners.

3. Know Your Codes

Whoever installs your dryer should be well aware of fire safety codes and adhere to them, but you might want to check to make sure that your vent is at least four inches in diameter, that it is as large as the dryer outlet, that the exhaust duct is no longer than 25 feet, that dryer exhaust vents to the outdoors (as opposed to, say, an attic or crawl space), and that fittings are secure so exhaust doesn’t seep back in.

Observing all of these safety guidelines will not only ensure that your dryer meets safety codes, but it will help to reduce the risk of fire or other hazards.

4. Keep a Fire Extinguisher Nearby

The positioning of fire extinguishers in your home is a matter of personal preference, but the best placement is near potential fire hazards and escape routes. This means posting fire extinguishers near exits like windows or doors, as well as in the kitchen and the laundry room.

5. Don’t Leave Home with the Dryer Running

You wouldn’t leave the oven, the coffee pot, or the iron on when you’re not at home, but this is a good safety strategy to adopt when it comes to all of your appliances, large or small. This is especially important for appliances prone to starting fires.

Although regularly scheduled residential dryer vent cleaning can go a long way toward ensuring that your clothes dryer is safe to operate, you want to be on hand to take action should anything go wrong. Don’t forget, running appliances during peak daylight hours will also reflect on your electric bill. So keep up with air duct cleaning and maintenance to ensure your dryer is in good shape and safe, but wait until you are home in the evening to wash and dry your clothing.