Dryer fires are real — and easily preventable

I received a call from a tenant at one of the properties we manage recently.  She said that her dryer started to smoke when she was running a load of laundry and she quickly turned everything off but not before it set the smoke alarms off in the house.

She had recently moved into this property and when her laundry was not drying properly, she innocently assumed it was because she didn’t know how to use “such a fancy dryer” so she never reported it. Instead, she  compensated by running her wash loads up to three cycles in an attempt to dry everything in the hopes that she would eventually figure out how to use the appliance.

Fortunately, she was home when the dryer started to smoke and she was able to turn it off and immediately call us for help.

The situation was handled by having a dryer vent company clean the vents — the picture below shows the amount of lint that had accumulated from years of use by the previous occupants.

Dryer lint

What she also didn’t know at the time was that one of the indications that a dryer is not working right is when it takes longer and longer to dry clothes.

Clothing that is still damp or extra hot when removed from a normal drying cycle can also be a tell-tale sign that lint is building up in the vent ducts.

Birds and small animals sometimes cause obstructions in the vent by building a nest or, as you can see in the picture below, by clever industrious squirrels that use uncovered vents as a place to store their nuts!  (All three photos provided by our vendor, courtesy of James Smith of Dryer Vent Wizard of Modesto)

Nuts in a dryer vent

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that between 2006-2010, clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires with the majority of the fires — a whopping 32% — caused by failure to clean the vents.

Depending upon how often you clean the dryer vent in your home, cleanings can cost anywhere between $100 to $300.  If the vents have to be rebuilt due to age and rust, the costs can go up but when you consider that annually, house fires caused by dryers and washers cost insurance companies between $35 to $95 million in property damage alone, it’s a small price to pay and a wise investment indeed.

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