Danger Lurks in the Laundry
Red lights bounce off my bedroom walls and wake me. Two fire trucks are parked in front of my house—my neighbor’s house is on fire! Outside the house, a fireman wrestles the dryer through the side door. “It’s another dryer!” he shouts. My neighbor suffers smoke inhalation and, sadly, the house is a total loss.
A 4-year legal battle ensues with the insurance company. My neighbor is a responsible homeowner; she cleans the lint trap after each load, vacuums behind the dryer once a week and cleans the dryer vent hose every Spring. But, without a receipt for the work, she cannot prove it. Because a recipe from a dryer vent cleaning Dallas is not produced, the insurance company claims the fire is due to her negligence.
It is a wake-up call for me. My house sustained damage from smoke and a tree which caught fire and fell on my privacy fence. I had to file a claim through my homeowner’s insurance.
Online there are many articles about house and apartment fires caused by dryers. The National Fire Protection Association keeps statistics on washer and dryer fires. Dryer fires caused 13 deaths, 444 injuries and $238 million in property damage between 2010 and 2014.
Those numbers do not include injuries or deaths to first responders or residual damages like those sustained by my home. Of all major appliance fires, 92% are dryer fires with 26% of those caused by lint ignition in the vent pipe. Equipment failure is responsible for 24% of dryer fires and the top cause of equipment failure is improper dryer vent cleaning.
What to Do
Located in the basement, my dryer is vented with a metal pipe out the window. It was hooked-up less than 5 years ago by a professional installer. I inspected it the night of the neighbor’s fire and discovered the vent pipe was detached from the vent exhaust opening in the window and my dryer wasn’t venting at all. It could have been me.
Emptying the lint trap after each load, vacuuming behind the dryer and inspecting the outside of the vent for bird or rodent nests, need to be done; but, it’s not enough. I called a dryer vent cleaning service and they cleaned the dryer and fixed the disconnected pipe. The amount of lint removed past the lint trap gave me nightmares. Going forward, I will have them out each Spring.
At the End of the Day
Your home is where your life happens. One fire can destroy more than possessions. Have the dryer vents professionally serviced at least once a year; more if you have a large family or have pets. Clean the lint trap after each use because it decreases the amount of lint in the dryer. Keep a fire extinguisher in your laundry area. Landlords and owners of multiple family dwellings also need to be vigilant. It’s cheaper to clean the dryer vent than to clean-up after a fire.