For many consumers, the clothes dryer has become an appliance of both convenience and necessity. According to the appliance industry, clothes dryers can be found in 80% of homes.
With so many clothes dryers in use, Underwriters Laboratories and others are addressing rising concerns about the risk of fire caused by improper venting and ducting materials, or poor maintenance.
What causes some clothes dryer fires? Based on the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and Canadian Standards Association International findings, lack of maintenance is a contributing factor to clothes dryer fires. Reduced airflow resulting from lint buildup in the screen or other areas around the dryer can cause appliances to perform poorly and operate at elevated temperatures.
Problems can also occur if consumers place improper items in their dryers, such as foam- backed rugs or athletic shoes, or vent their appliances with plastic, vinyl or aluminum foil exhaust materials. To achieve optimal airflow and reduce lint buildup, an all-metal dryer vent or duct is recommended. Rigid or flexible metal venting and ducting materials help sustain full airflow, as well as reduce operating costs and extend the life of the dryer and clothing due to lower drying temperatures.
In terms of proper usage and care, consumers should take the time to read manufacturers’ warning labels on dryers, and care and use manuals.
The increased use of plastic, vinyl and aluminum foil-type venting materials has sparked new concerns. Such flexible venting materials are known to collapse or trap lint, obstructing airflow and posing an increased risk of dryer fires. Unfortunately, corrugated plastic ducting is readily available and used in many applications. Lint can accumulate more easily due to the corrugated configuration and because the product has the potential of becoming crushed. There are concerns that consumers are purchasing the plastic and vinyl-venting materials contrary to manufacturers’ installation guidelines, because the materials are easier to install, particularly where there are various structural obstacles.
It is highly recommended that lint traps and screens, as well as areas around the dryer be cleaned regularly.
For more information on dryer safety, access the AHAM website at www.aham.org