5 Common Reasons Behind Dryer Vent Fires

Whether you’re a property owner or a tenant, it’s essential to reduce the risk of fire in your home.

In any household, a kitchen fire is more likely to occur than any type of fire, including dryer fires. Most people overlook dryer fires and hence take less precautionary measures within the laundry room.

Statistics reveal that thousands of dryer fires occur annually resulting in property damage, injuries, and death. Financial losses run into millions of dollars every year. Other indirect damages include carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty dryer vent. Here, I’ll expound on the 5 most common causes of dryer fires.

How a Dryer Works?

To understand how a catches fire and spreads to adjacent items, it’s vital to understand the drying process.

During cold weather such as winter, using a machine to dry your clothes is the only option available. Otherwise, it would take ages for your clothes to dry on their own. A dryer works by drawing outdoor air through the vents, heating and distributing it throughout the dryer drum. The heated air draws moisture from clothes in form of vapor which is expelled to the outside through a lint screen.

Hence, the drying process provides the vital conditions of how a fire starts. First, there is heat from the heating element and fuel from lint and the clothes. When these two come together and with the vast amount of oxygen blowing in, then you can only expect an inferno.

What Would Likely Start a Dryer Fire?

Having understood how a dryer works and how a fire starts, let’s look into the causes of dryer fires. In most cases, the dryer plays a big role in a fire outbreak, especially if faulty. Besides, improper dryer venting and lint, clogging provide conducive conditions for a fire.

1# Lint Clogged Filters and Vents

The clogging of vents, ducts, and filters with lint is the most common cause of dryer fires in most households. Lint is small pieces of fiber and fluff that are shed from clothes during the spinning and drying process. This stuff usually escapes from the dryer together with moist air. It gets trapped by a lint filter to prevent clogging the vents.

Worn-out filters cause clogging in the vents. When the excess lint lands into the heating elements, it easily catches fire and spread fire to other lint-clogged sections. Lint may also originate from underneath the dryer, as it accumulates there too.

Besides, clogging of the lint filter and ducts prevents the smooth flow of hot air outwards and cool air inwards, which is potentially hazardous. If high temperatures inside the vent get into contact with the ignitable lint, a fire is likely to start.

2# Poor Installation and Servicing

Whether you want to install a new dryer or replace your existing one, the process and technical requirements are the same. A dryer isn’t easy to install, and that’s where most people get it wrong.

It takes more than just plugging a power cable and water supply to dry your clothes. The process involves the proper installation of ventilation ducts and drainage hoses. Poor installation means that your dryer will not work as well.

It may lead to bigger problems, such as short circuits and overheating, which will cause a fire. It’s critical to seek the services of a certified technician for proper installation.

Lack of routine maintenance is yet another reason that can cause a fire. Every machine that runs on bearings and pulleys requires regular maintenance. Servicing helps in identifying worn-out parts before they cause greater damage. Broken ventilation ducts, gas leaks, and clogged heating elements are some areas that will ignite a fire if not replaced or cleaned.

3# Mechanical breakdown and electric fault

Like any other machine, a dryer comes with bearings in the drum, to tumble clothes to distribute hot air evenly. There are also electronic components that power the motors and the heating elements. The electric fan helps to draw moisture-laden air faster to the outside.

An electric fault is difficult to predict, as it may result from within or outside the dryer. A surge in power may cause a short circuit and can blow up a few fuses. If the resistance is high, the circuit may become overloaded, heat and blow off, lighting any combustible material nearby.

A mechanical breakdown may cause the bearings to generate higher friction that would ignite some sparks. And in the presence of lint in the chassis, a fire will start from the chambers outwards. While such a fire is rare, regular maintenance to have these parts repaired is necessary.

4# Inappropriate use

Every dryer comes with specific instructions on how to use and what objects should at no time get inside the drum. These instructions ensure your dryer works effectively and prevents some hazards like fire from occurring. Disregarding these guidelines leads to improper use of appliances.

Over-stuffing the dryer is the most common abuse where users toss in lots of clothes to finish the chores faster. However, this overworks the dryer and limits the adequate flow of hot air out through the ventilation system. After that, it causes the chambers to overheat.

Some dryers have special instructions that prohibit some items from being put in a dryer. More so if these objects are highly flammable. Examples include items made with plastic, rubber, or foam as they are potential fire hazards.

Leaving your dryer running to attend to other duties is also another cause of dryer fires. If the dryer continues to run, it can overheat even after all the clothes have dried.

5# External intrusion

Dryer fires result from lint build-up, but they can also be because of an accumulation of obstacles and debris from outside. The external venting also creates a warm environment in winter for birds and rodents. But other than being well accommodated, they pose a threat to the ventilation system when they build nests.

The nest clogged ducts prevent the lint to blow out, increasing the probability of fire. Most people usually forget to check the duct covers of the external vent in winter. Thus, they are unaware of the looming danger.

I would recommend you install a reliable exterior vent cover like the Imperial 4inch Premium Intake Cap.

This incredible cover prevents pesky birds, insects, or rodents, and dirt from sneaking through. While at it, be sure to check that snow is not blocking the outside vent.

The duct cover is easy to install and comprises a durable poly plastic material, hence a good value for money. Further, it’s paintable and comprises UV stabilizer material that minimizes the effect of direct exposure to the sun.

What to do if your dryer catches fire?

Dryer fires can range from a mild situation to an inferno one. But whichever the case, all fires are dangerous and it’s important to take precautions for your safety and protect property from damage.

Firstly, it doesn’t matter what the cause of the fire is, the safest action is to evacuate your family to safety and call the fire department.

Secondly, noting that many fires start at a low scale, they can quickly spread and become unmanageable if not put off immediately. It’s advisable to always have some fire extinguishers within the laundry room and other places in the house. Hence, if you spot a dryer fire early enough, you can use the extinguisher to put out a fire before it goes ablaze and to prevent property damage.

However, if you suspect your dryer is on fire, unplug the power supply from the wall socket and keep its door closed. This is because the handle can burn your hands. A closed-door prevents more oxygen to flow in and fan the fire.

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Laundry dryers may appear like simple appliances, however, understanding how they function is the first step in preventing fire.

Dryers can be dangerous if you handle them without precaution. They have caused small fires around the world, both at home and on commercial premises.

The small quantities of lint produced each time you dry your clothes are the prime source of a dryer fire. And whether you are using a gas or electric laundry dryer, you will have lint. Its accumulation reduces airflow, drying efficiency, and sadly it’s highly flammable, making it the number one cause of dryer fires.

While some dryers have indicators to alert you on lint build-up and clogged vent, proper installation, regular cleaning and servicing help prevent dryer fires.

If you’re looking for a professional dryer maintenance service, you can contact our office for a free quotation. We have licensed and qualified experts who will address your concerns.

I am a cleaning enthusiast and a writer for renowned cleaners guide sites. I am the Chief Executive Officer for All-City Janitorial and All-City Duct Cleaning. This is where I write about my exploits in detail to share my experience with everyone.

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