Angie's List: Tips to prevent Clothes Dryer fires

LEWISTON, ID - Does your clothes dryer take one or more cycles to dry clothes? Does the dryer get hot to the touch?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, ask yourself this... when was the last time you had your dryer vents cleaned?

"Clothes dryers are an appliance that make our lives easier but we often take them for granted, but we shouldn't," said Angie's List Owner Angie Hicks. "We need to maintain them and most importantly have their vents cleaned because if we don't the dryer won't run as efficiently and it's a fire hazard."

"The dryer is designed to exhaust the heat and the moisture while it's drying," said Dryer Vent Technician Glen Mayfield. "If that heat and moisture cannot get out of the dryer, then the dryer just sits there and keeps working itself but it can't accomplish the drying, which then means the dryer works harder and heat builds up and that is what can lead to a dryer vent fire."

"Dryer vent cleaning should be left to the experts," said Hicks. "They have the proper tools and additionally they know whether your dryer vent meets code."

Homeowner Brian Pinkins was surprised to see what the technician discovered during a cleaning.

"He got out his tools and started to snake through our vent," said homeowner Brian Pinkins. "As he was doing that nothing was happening. He said he could feel a large jam. Well about five minutes later a whole lot of dust and debris and dryer lint started coming out along with a bird's nest."

"In the newer architecture today many times the dryer is placed - the laundry area is placed where it's convenient for the homeowner, which means in the center part of the home," said Mayfield. "Then as a result the vent can run quite a long distance. We see 15, 20, 25 vents all the time. The longer the vent, the harder it is for the dryer to get the lint out. Those homes with longer vents are more susceptible"

"While it may be convenient, you should never leave a dryer running while you're not at home," said Hicks. "According to experts, more than 15,000 fires a year are a result of dryers being left unattended."

"I'm sure it was just a matter of time before something would have really happened," said Pinkins.

A cleaning typically costs between $100 to $150, depending on the length and location of the vent. In addition to the reduced threat of fire, a cleaning can actually pay for itself in less than a year through the improved efficiency with less drying time required.