Does your dryer take one or more cycles to dry your clothes?
Does it feel hot to the touch?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, you may need to have your dryer vents cleaned. If you don't, you risk starting a dryer fire.
"The dryer is designed to exhaust the heat and the moisture while it's drying," said Glen Mayfield, a dryer vent technician. "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."
So, is this kind of maintenance something you can do on your own?
Dryer vent cleaning should be left to the experts," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. "They have the proper tools and additionally they know whether your dryer vent meets code and they can fix it if it doesn't."
This homeowner didn't even know he had a problem.
"I turned the dryer on and he was outside looking to see what the airflow was like," said Brian Pinkins. "So he called me out and he was like 'did you turn the dryer on?' I was like 'yeah, sure did, its running.' He was like we are not getting any airflow out here so you guys might have a major clog."
He was surprised to see what the technician discovered during a cleaning.
"He got out his tools and started to snake through our vent," said 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."
However Mayfield is used to it.
"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, then as a result the vent can run quite a long distance," said Mayfield. "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, but it is accomplished by the dryer if the vent is clean. But those homes with longer vents are more susceptible to fire."
Most of us probably turn on the dryer and walk away.
But that is not a good idea.
"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."
A cleaning usually costs between $100-$150 depending on the length and location of the vent.
In addition to the lower fire risk, a cleaning can actually pay for itself in less than a year through improved efficiency.