Dryer Vents And The Chimney Sweep

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Author – Marge Padgitt

According to the National Fire Protection Association over 15,000 house fires are caused annually by lack of dryer vent maintenance.

Dryer vents collect flammable lint, which accumulates inside the dryer, in the flexible connecting pipe, and the dryer vent.  With too much lint in these areas, poor dryer performance will occur and a fire may result.

What many people don’t realize is that only approximately 25 percent of the lint is trapped by the lint trap and the rest goes through the dryer and vent. Without regular cleaning, this is a fire hazard.

Dryer vents should be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep with training in this area. The sweep will disconnect the connecting pipe, clean out the dryer and connection, then run a special dryer vent brush through the vent from the inside and the outside of the house while running a high-powered vacuum.

The technician will also inspect the vent for proper installation and connections and advise the homeowner how often the vent should be cleaned.

Most dryer vents need to be cleaned once a year, but for larger families it may need to be done every six months or more often. Commercial dryer vents in hotels, and laundries should be cleaned at least once a month.

Unfortunately, many homeowners are unaware that the dryer vent needs to be cleaned. In one case in Kansas City, Missouri in 2013 a chimney sweep removed 15 feet of packed lint from a dryer vent. The homeowner had installed two new dryers in an attempt to get the clothes dry before calling the sweep to figure out what the problem was. 

One thing that must never be done is installation of a sock or hose over the exterior vent termination. This can cause more lint to be trapped and is a severe fire hazard. Code requires that nothing block the vent, which opens automatically when the dryer is on.

Dyer vents must be straight pipe installed with an outside termination as close to the dryer as possible. Any bends in the pipe cause resistance to air flow and allow more lint to accumulate.

Chimney sweeps know the International Residential code requirements for vent installation and will advise the homeowner if there are any problems that need to be changed. Some sweeps offer this service, others will refer the homeowner to a trusted HVAC company.

A big sign that the vent needs to be cleaned is that clothes take longer to dry than usual, however, a more accurate method has been developed.  A dryer vent alarm notifies the homeowner when the vent needs to be cleaned out with a series of lights on the alarm face which is plugged into an outlet.  The alarm eliminates guessing when the vent needs to be cleaned out.

The installation only takes a few minutes and can be completed by the technician when he/she cleans the vent.  Ask your chimney sweep about this alarm.

~ Marge Padgitt

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