PUBLISHED: Friday, February 29, 2008 and reposted by Charles Dillard of Dryer Vent Wizard, Oak Park, Michigan
Experts: Clean out dryer vents to prevent fires
By VALERIE WEST
Of The Oakland Press
Earlier this month in Orion Township, Karen Vickers and her two daughters crawled out of their upstairs windows to escape a fire that was caused by a dryer.
The fire extensively damaged their condominium and others in their unit.
But they're not alone.
Clothes dryers caused 523 Michigan fires and more than $5.5 million in property damages in 2006, said Rhonda Howard, National Fire Incident Reporting System Administrator for the Bureau of Fire Services in Michigan.
Most dryer fires occur from lint buildup, said Oakland County Fire Investigator Art Schrah.
Dryers have vents that run through the walls of a home and usually expel the heat outside or into a garage. However, depending on the length of the pipe and how many elbows the pipe has, lint can clog and become a fire hazard. If the fire is not contained in the pipe, it can smolder within the home's walls, which will act as a chimney, Schrah said.
Most homeowners won't detect the smoke until costly damage has occurred.
"That fire looks like it burnt awhile before it was caught," Schrah said of the Vickers fire.
But homeowners can help prevent those fires by getting their dryer vents cleaned on an annual basis.
Glen Haege, talk show host of the Handyman Show, said many people neglect to clean these vents, which can become a fire hazard and also reduce energy efficiency of the appliance, costing homeowners more money.
"It's out of sight, out of mind," Haege said. "It goes into the wall and is forgotten about."
Haege suggests that homeowners either call a duct service cleaner or buy a device specifically made to clean ducts, such as the Gardus Lint Eater. For about $40, owners can clean their vents efficiently in less than an hour. He said that vacuuming the vent alone will not alleviate the problem.
"It's like putting a garden hose into Lake St. Clair and trying to get the levels to rise," he said. "It doesn't work."
A good indication that a dryer is clogged is if the dryer has finished a cycle and still leaves clothes damp. Schrah checks his dryer by taking it apart from the vent and feeling the air pressure while the dryer is operating.
Schrah also added that homeowners can deter fires caused by appliances such as water heaters and furnaces, by not leaving combustible materials near it. He said many will use the areas near these items for storage areas, causing fires.
Both men agreed that homeowners should always have smoke detectors in multiple levels of the home and check the batteries regularly.
Contact staff writer Valerie West at (248) 745-4633 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't let this be your story! Go to http://www.dryerventwizard.com for tips and advice on dryer vent fire safety.
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