• Gabe Semenza

Dryer vent safety 101: Tips you need to know

" Every year, firefighters across the country respond to around 14,630 home fires caused by clothes dryers, according to the National Fire Protection Association."


That statistic, provided by Consumer Reports, will hopefully hammer home the point that it's important to ensure your dryer vent is clean and properly installed.


Not to mention: "Dryer fires are responsible for nine deaths, 420 civilian injuries, and $222 million in property damage annually."


So what do you need to know to maintain a properly working dryer vent system? This blog will discuss common venting issues. But know the dryer's electrical connection is also important.


First, the obvious: Dryer lint is flammable and should be vented to outside the home. However, I commonly see dryers vented to attics, crawlspaces and, in the case of the photo below, a garage ceiling (nearby there was a water heater and continuous gas flame).


Dryer vents should terminate outside the building.

In addition to creating a potential fire risk, dryers that vent inside the home also pose other problems - namely moisture related issues.


According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, "Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water which, during the drying process, will become airborne water vapor."


If that water vapor does not leave the home, it can negatively affect wood structural members and even cause mold or mildew issues. So for many reasons it's important the vent properly terminate outside.


To take this a step further, you should also know the benefits of using a solid, rigid pipe to vent lint and moisture. I commonly find corrugated vent pipes - or worse, plastic vent pipes - in place of a sturdy, smooth, metal vent pipe.


Low-quality plastic vent pipes have a tendency to kink, form holes and develop other issues. Corrugated vent pipes have a tendency to catch and trap lint in the corrugations.


Corrugated vent pipes are not ideal.

The above photo shows a corrugated vent pipe. Note the kink in the piping. This vent was installed vertically from the main floor laundry room, up through the attic and outside via the roof. The corrugations and gravity most certainly led to lint buildup in the pipe.


Again, according to InterNACHI: " One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames."


On occasion, I will also find vent pipe connections that are loose - or disconnected entirely - and spilling various amounts of lint into the home. The vent pipe must maintain a proper, solid connection.


I've lived 43 years without every experiencing a dryer fire. Chances are, you haven't experienced one either. Still, maintaining a proper dryer vent is one more relatively simple chore you can undertake to better make your home safe. If you need help assessing your venting system, call a qualified appliance repairperson or me at 406-240-7940.


Thanks for reading -


Gabe Semenza, InterNACHI certified home inspector and radon tester