Most homeowners never even think about cleaning their clothes dryer vent, however a dirty dryer vent is a common cause of house fires. Take a ball of dryer lint outside and try lighting it. It easily ignites. This is what you DON'T want to happen inside your home.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), over 24,000 house fires in the USA resulting in over $100M in damage are attributed annually to clothes dryer vents. This can be from a clogged dryer vent or related issues such as dryer vents that get blocked by vegetation, stored items, snow, dirt, mulch, or a number of other things. Dryer vents should be as short of possible, should only terminate to the home's exterior high enough above ground level so that snow, dirt, mulch, etc. can't block the vent. Dryer vents should be 4" rigid metal duct meeting the UL 2158A standard. They should also be no more than 35' in length.. subtract 5' for every 90 degree elbow/bend. We also see a lot of mylar foil tubing installed during our home inspection travels. Mylar foil is not metal duct, but instead a slinky-like piece of plastic that can easily melt and lead to a fire.
Besides being a fire hazard, a clothes dryer vent that is not clean wastes energy and time as a load of laundry may take 30~45 minutes to dry in a clean system but may take several hours in a clogged dryer vent system. All homeowners need to put cleaning their dryer vent on their regular home maintenance checklist. Depending upon how much laundry you do, cleaning your dryer vent annually may suffice or maybe quarterly if your clothes dryer gets a lot of use. If your dryer vent is fully accessible, you can likely clean it yourself, however if your vent passes within walls or ceilings, a professional may need to be called in to properly clean your dryer vent.
Also, dryer vents should always terminate through either a louvered or dampered exterior cover, never through a screen. Screens installed at the end of the dryer vent catches lint and blocks the vent.
We occasionally see them during home inspections, but dryer vents should never terminate within a basement, garage, or anywhere else within the home. Doing this often leads to mold growth since this setup takes the moisture out of the clothes and dumps it into the home.
Learn what every homeowner or rental tenant needs to know about clothes dryer vents by reading my article: Clothes Dryer Vents: The Proper and the Improper
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Matthew Steger, owner/inspector of WIN Home Inspection, is a Certified Level 1 Infrared Thermographer, an ASHI Certified Inspector (ACI), an electrical engineer, and a US Dept. of Energy Home Energy Score Assessor. He can be reached at: 717-361-9467 or email@example.com.
WIN Home Inspection has provided a wide array of home inspection services in the Lancaster, PA area since 2002. This article was authored by Matthew Steger, ACI - owner of WIN Home Inspection in Lancaster, PA. No article, or portion thereof, may be reproduced or copied without prior written consent of Matthew Steger.