Do-It-Yourself: Dryer Vent Maintenance

A clothes dryer is a hard-working appliance in your home. You don’t think about it, but it dries load after load of laundry, day after day. Ideally, you should have your clothes dryer inspected and serviced by a certified professional once a year. He can make sure that the dryer vent is properly installed. He can also make sure the vent is clean and free from lint. He can also check the actual appliance to ensure that it’s operating properly. The remainder of the year, you should do-it-yourself. Here’s what you need to know about dryer vent maintenance.

It used to be, that clothes washers and dryers were installed in the basement of a home. The dryer vent only had a short distance to be run outside through the basement wall. Nowadays, however, laundry rooms are usually located on the main floor of a home. The laundry rooms are often located in the middle of the house. This means that the dryer vent needs to be run a longer distance. Oftentimes, there are bends and curves in the vent pipe. The longer distance, along with the
meanders, allows dryer lint to become trapped inside the vent pipe.

The least the built-up lint can do, is to cause your clothes dryer to run longer by reducing the airflow through the vent. Since lint is a highly flammable substance, the worst problem is, that a fire can easily start. This is especially true with a natural gas clothes dryer. And, with a natural gas clothes dryer, a build-up of lint can also prohibit dangerous carbon monoxide from escaping to the outdoors. The carbon monoxide can back up into your home instead. These are the three main reasons why you need to perform dryer vent maintenance on a regular basis.

To clean a dryer vent out yourself, you can buy a brush that’s specially made for the job. The brush is a long, flexible wire with a handle on one end, and a round bristled head on the other end. To use the brush on a short dryer vent, all you have to do is remove the flapper from the dryer vent on the outside of your house. Then, unhook the vent line from your dryer. Push the brush completely through the line a few times to remove built-up lint. To finish the maintenance job, reconnect the vent to the dryer and replace the flapper on the outside of your house.

If your dryer vent is longer than three feet, you can still use the same brush. You’ll just need to attach it to an electrical fish tape. An electrical fish tape allows electricians to feed wires through conduit where they otherwise couldn’t reach. It can work the same for you by feeding the dryer vent brush through the pipe.

How often you perform maintenance on your dryer vent should depend on how often you use your clothes dryer. But, inspecting it, and cleaning it out with a brush, if necessary, on a monthly basis, is a better idea. This way, lint won’t be able to build-up in the vent pipe. And, you can check to make sure there are no other obstructions in the pipe, such as birds building a nest in the end, for example.

Besides keeping the dryer vent pipe cleaned out, you should make sure that it’s up to code. For example, if your vent pipe is made of foil or plastic, you’ll need to replace it with a safer metal line instead.

Make sure the vent line isn’t smashed or crinkled in any place as this will interfere with the airflow. Be especially watchful that your clothes dryer is not pushed back so far that it smashes or crinkles the vent.

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