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Dryer vents 101

Updated: Nov 9

For many, doing laundry is a straightforward chore instilled in our day-to-day living. What many fail to realize is the potential dangers that accompany this unchallenging task. According to the National Fire Protection Association, dryers and washing machines cause an average of 15,970 fires each year, with dryers causing 92% of them, resulting in hundreds of injuries and $238 million in property damage. Many of these dryer fires take place in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.


Clothes dryers work by tumbling damp/wet clothes through heated air in a rotating drum, powered by a heating element. This heating element is made of coiled wire which receives an electrical charge when turned on, creating heat. The heated air evaporates and is pushed out of the dryer with a fan through a vent. This vent carries the moist air to the home’s exterior. These vents are a minimum of 4-inches in diameter and come in a variety of materials. Dryer vent ducts should be no more than 35ft in length, have few bends, and no kinks. Keep in mind that every 90-degree elbow counts as 5ft.


The most seen improper use of dryer vent material is flexible vinyl and plastic tubing. Plastic can easily melt and lead to house fires. This material also tends to allow for lint to accumulate. Most professionals prefer to use aluminum material since it is easier to cut, for proper fit, and never rusts. Aluminum’s smooth surface also helps with catching less lint. Galvanized steel is another great option since it is stiffer and typically available in longer sections. In most cases the cost of replacing the venting material is around $60.00.


Additionally, did you know that most dryer vent exhaust through the roof? Roof dryer vents are typically not recommended for several reasons, including water risks, difficulty to clean, and fire hazards. However, there are situations where venting through the roof may be your only option. Therefore, it is crucial to hire an experienced roofer with plenty of knowledge on proper vent exhaust installation. Rooftop dryer vents can be functional and efficient if homeowners keep up to date on maintenance.


fAnother leading cause of dryer caused fires is restriction of air flow through the vents. Lint filters are found in every dryer and work by catching the small particles loosened by the wash. Unfortunately, these filters do not catch all the lint, allowing it to enter the ductwork which can lead to buildup. This buildup can restrict airflow and cause overheating, which can then spark a fire. Routine cleaning, simple maintenance, and proper installation are the best ways to prevent tragedy. It is imperative that you have your dryer vent inspected by professionals and cleaned once a year.