Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Doing spring cleaning? Did you check dryer vent?

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Greg Peck
Thursday, April 10, 2014

My wife told me a couple of weeks ago that the dryer seemed to be stopping before the timer ran out. I figured either some safety switch was wearing out or our plastic accordion-like hose was plugged—or both.

We started with the hose, which is like a large Slinky wrapped in white plastic. It snakes from the foot of our basement dryer up through the ceiling of the adjacent bathroom before being vented outside, under our back deck.

Rather than try to clean the hose, I had replaced it once, but that was a few years ago. Yes, it had been a while. It seemed fairly full near the dryer, so we used a vacuum and gave that end and the machine a good cleaning.

That didn’t solve the problem. I crawled under the deck to see if I could gaze inside the part of the hose running above the bathroom ceiling, but a vent hood blocked my vision. Worse, however, I discovered that the plastic circular cap under the hood, which is supposed to open when the dryer is running and pumping air through the hose, was so old that it had warped into a permanently open position, leaving a gap of about an inch. We might have had mice nesting in there!

I wound up spending most of a weekend day and making three trips to two different hardware stores before getting everything I needed—including a couple of new tools—to replace the hood and entire hose.

The dryer is still acting up, so it might well be a problem with a safety switch. Rather than fix a machine that’s decades old, we’re thinking about just buying a new one, which likely would be more energy efficient anyhow.

Still, whatever we do, at least we’re confident the hose is clear of dust for now. The National Fire Protection Association http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/causes/dryers-and-washing-machines says dryers and washing machines were involved in one out of every 22 home structure fires reported from 2006-2010. The leading cause of such fires is failure to keep them clean.

In 2010, an estimated 16,800 reported U.S. fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines resulted in 51 deaths, 380 injuries and $236 million in direct property damage. Clothes dryers accounted for 92 percent of those fires, and the leading cause was failure to keep them clean.

Maybe I’ll make a mental note to clean that hose each year when we change our smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and “spring forward” into daylight-saving time.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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