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Dryer Fires: Common Causes and Prevention Tips

Updated: Mar 11

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that dryers and washing machines cause an average of 15,970 fires each year, with dryers causing 92% of them and an average of $200 million in property damage. More specifically, electric dryers are shown to be more than 2.5 times more likely than gas dryers to cause fires due to the higher heat discharge from electric dryers which increases the problem of lint buildup.

Dryer fires are responsible for several deaths, civilian injuries, and millions in property damage annually, says Marty Ahrens, a spokesperson for the NFPA.

Clothes dryers have at least one operational thermostat, a high-limit thermostat, and a thermal fuse. The purpose of the operational thermostat is to measure the temperature of the air flowing through the dryer.  This is the temperature of the air that is drying the clothes. If the dryer vent has been pinched or has become clogged with lint, the air does not circulate through the dryer.  The operational thermostat is not capable of measuring the temperature of the air flowing across the thermostat.  With no airflow, the heat in the heater box will continue to rise until it activates the high-limit thermostat.

Some important tips to be considered...

1. Clean the Lint Filter

Not once a month, or even once a week: “Clean the lint from the dryer’s lint screen after every load,” says Richard Handel, the test engineer who oversees CR’s laundry appliance lab. “This helps prevent a fire, and it also helps your laundry dry faster.”

2. Replace Accordion-Style Ducts

Generally, dryers are equipped with a 4-inch vent in the back, which homeowners or installers connect to the exterior vent with a duct. But not all ducts will do. If you see a plastic or foil accordion-style duct connecting your appliance to the vent, it’s a good idea to replace it. These are risky because they can sag, allowing lint to build up at low points and trapping lint in their ridges. Rigid metal ducts are recommended. “The smooth walls allow the air to flow, and also reduce the buildup of lint,” he says. “A flexible metal duct should be your second choice.”

One other tip: Use duct connectors and metal clamps or foil tape to join sections of duct rather than sheet-metal screws, which can catch lint and cause buildup inside the duct.

3. Clean the Dryer Duct Annually (at Least)

If you notice that your dryer takes longer to dry laundry than it used to, that’s a clue that there may be a blockage in the dryer vent system. When you’re drying a load, go outside and look at the vent. Do you see or feel exhaust air? If not, the vent or exhaust duct may be blocked with lint.

Start by disconnecting your dryer from the power source. Since Gizmo Appliance Repair do not work on gas dryer please contact your local repairperson for more information.

“Carefully slide the dryer away from the wall so that you can access the vent that’s typically in the back of the dryer,” Disconnect the duct from the dryer, and vacuum both the dryer and the duct—as much as you can access. Where possible, separate the duct into shorter sections for better access, then reassemble and attach the duct to the dryer. Be sure all joints in the duct are properly connected and held together with clamps or foil tape. Then return the dryer to its original spot and reconnect the power. While you’re at it, clean behind the dryer and underneath it—lint builds up there, too. In winter, check after windy weather or snowstorms to be sure that snow isn’t blocking the outdoor vent.

4. Handle Chemical Stains With Care

Clothes stained with gas, cooking oil, cleaning agents, or other flammable chemicals or substances need special care. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends washing such stained clothing more than once to minimize volatile chemicals, then hanging to dry. If you must use a dryer, use the lowest heat setting and a drying cycle that concludes with a cool-down period. In the event that a fire does start, keep the dryer door closed to limit its oxygen supply—a fire needs oxygen to keep it going.

For more information I am attaching a very informative article form ENVISTA FORENSICS.

Feel free to reach out to Gizmo Appliance Repair by calling 321-626-8742 if you have question or if you would like to schedule a time to go our and clean your dryer and dryer vents!

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