Clothes Dryer Maintenance and Safety

Home Inspection Washer Dryer Solid State

I could not imagine life without the convenience of a modern washer and dryer for our clothing. Thanks to these appliances, we are able to do in 2 hours what used to take a day (or more) of hand washing and air drying.

Modern dryers use either heat from electricity or gas combined with air flow to dry our clothes. These high levels of heat and humidity though have to be managed or we create some significant risks to our homes and families.

Dryer Lint Management

Incorrect Dryer Vent Material

Corrugated plastic or metal vent lines impair smooth air flow trapping lint. They should be replaced with smooth metal lines.

When we use our washer and dryer on our clothes we are rather hard on the fabrics and inevitably, small amounts of the fabric break off and form lint when drying. Our dryers are designed to capture much of this in the lint trap however some lint will end up in the exhaust air.

Lint is very flammable which makes it important to clean out the lint trap on the dryer and to allow the exhaust air to quickly transport remaining lint out of the building through the exhaust line. Exhaust lines that are damaged, poorly connected, or have leaks into the building create a fire risk where lint may accumulate around hot lights, electrical switches, or even be ignited by hot air from the dryer itself. In Canada, 4,500 house fires  (17,000 in the US) a year are linked to lint fires which makes it a leading cause of house fires.

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Example of failed plastic ducting material leaking highly flammable lint.

Home inspectors will inspect the visible portion of the dryer exhaust line looking for air leakage and dryer lint build up. They will also recommend replacement of any corrugated vent products with smooth metal vent lines which are much better designed to carry out exhaust air and lint. Home owners need to annually clean the lint from dryer lines and inspect around your dryer for lint build up.

Dryer Air Exhaust

Correct Dryer Vent Material

Smooth metal ducting provides the best airflow for lint and humidity to safely exit your home.

Dryer exhaust air has another natural enemy to our homes, excess moisture. Leaky, plugged, ineffective, or poorly sloped exhaust line connections will allow moisture to get into the structure of our homes. Moisture in our homes can promote the growth of mold, allow condensation to form inside walls causing rot, and make our homes uncomfortable to live in.

While dryer lint can in an instant become a fire, excess humidity can take many years for signs of damage to appear. Unfortunately like a fire though, the cost of repairs can be significant as the damage will be widespread and require a lot of disruption of finished surfaces. A professional Home Inspector will look for signs of air leakage in the home and recommend remediation if any signs are detected.

Gas and Electrical Life Safety Risks

Natural gas and electricity both have significant safety hazards if incorrectly installed.

  • Gas - Gas lines can be damaged by moving dryers into place or leaks can develop if gas lines are constantly moved by poorly balanced dryers. Black iron piping gas piping can rust if humidity levels are too high possibly due to bad exhaust connections. Any of these situations can present an explosion hazard if a gas leak were to develop.
  • Electricity - Undersized electrical wiring or improper connections can lead to dangerous conditions with electric supply to high demand dryers. Improper grounding with the nearby washing machine could lead to electrocution and arcing electrical connections could cause a house fire.

A professional home inspector will inspect the gas delivery and electrical systems for appropriate safety devices and correct installation practices to help protect you and your family.

Final Thoughts

Being a home owner includes many regular maintenance cycles from cleaning leaves out of the gutters to fixing caulking around bathroom fixtures. Maintaining our dryer exhaust lines annually and always calling in professionals to work on electrical or natural gas changes can possibly save you thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses and keep your families safe and solid.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.